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Your local and regional news for Northeastern Kansas and the surrounding communities, brought to you by the KPR news staff.

KS Victims' Rights Conference Highlights Pending Legislation

The annual 3-day Kansas Crime Victims' Rights Conference wrapped up yesterday (THUR) in Topeka. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says the conference serves as a means for measuring how well the state is providing services for victims of crime:

 

 

The attorney general says several key victims' rights pieces of legislation remain on the agenda for Kansas lawmakers when they return for the wrap-up session later this month. They include the authorization of a Crimes Against Children unit at the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, lifetime "no-contact" orders for severe domestic violence cases, and extending the statute of limitations on certain sex crimes so law officers can take more time to investigate suspected cases.

Bartlett Grain Company Cited for Serious Violations at Atchison Grain Elevator

ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — The federal government has cited a grain company for willful safety violations in a northeast Kansas elevator explosion that killed six workers last October. U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said in a news release Thursday the deaths at the Bartlett Grain Company elevator in Atchison "could have been prevented" if the operators had addressed hazards known in the industry. Kansas investigators previously determined the October 29, 2011, grain dust explosion was accidental. A release from the labor department notes that grain dust is nine times as explosive as coal dust. The agency said problems included a lack of proper preventive maintenance and an inadequate emergency action plan. The president of Kansas City, Mo.-based Bartlett Grain, Bob Knief, said in a statement that the company "adamantly" disagrees with the claims.

Regional Headlines for Thursday, April 12, 2012


UPDATE: Kansas Officials Say Agency Changes Will Improve Services

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and top administration officials say a coming reorganization of three major state departments will improve services for the poor, disabled and elderly. Brownback, Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer and the secretaries for the departments of Aging, Health and Environment and Social and Rehabilitation Services touted the reorganization Thursday. It's part of an overhaul of the state's Medicaid program. Brownback issued an order in February to reorganize those agencies. The order takes effect in July because lawmakers didn't attempt to block it. But doubts linger about the governor's plan to turn management of the $2.9-billion-a-year Medicaid over to three private companies next year. Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, said the Republican governor's news conference shows the administration understands it faces difficulty selling the overhaul.

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Bartlett Grain Company Cited for Serious Elevator Violations

ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — The federal government has cited a grain company for willful safety violations in a northeast Kansas elevator explosion that killed six workers last October. U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said in a news release Thursday the deaths at the Bartlett Grain Company elevator in Atchison "could have been prevented" if the operators had addressed hazards known in the industry. Kansas investigators previously determined the October 29, 2011 grain dust explosion was accidental. A release from the labor department notes that grain dust is nine times as explosive as coal dust. The agency said problems included a lack of proper preventive maintenance and an inadequate emergency action plan. The president of Kansas City, Mo.-based Bartlett Grain, Bob Knief, said in a statement that the company "adamantly" disagrees with the claims.

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Revised Water Rights Program Now Taking Applications

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Agriculture is accepting applications for a revised program that gives water rights holders more flexibility in managing the way they use their allocations. Changes in the state's multi-year flex account are aimed at conserving water and extending the life of the Ogallala Aquifer. The new application form is available on the website of the state Division of Water Resources and at its offices. A multi-year flex account lets water right holders pump more water in any year but restricts the total pumping over the five-year period. Participation in the program is voluntary.

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Judge: State of Kansas Can Join Tribal Land Dispute Lawsuit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal magistrate judge has allowed Kansas to join the fight over the Wyandotte Nation's claim to Park City land where the tribe wants to build a casino. U.S. Magistrate Judge David Waxse ruled on Thursday that the state has a strong interest in exercising its sovereignty over the tract the tribe wants to take into trust. The state sought to intervene in the lawsuit to protect its taxing, regulatory and economic interests. Peninsula Gaming has opened a casino in south-central Kansas just 25 miles from the land where the tribe wants to put one. The Wyandotte Nation lawsuit is seeking to force the Interior Department to accept into trust the Park City land the tribe bought in 1992.

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Hutchinson Anti-Discrimination Ordinance Could Be Amended to Cover LGBT

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The Hutchinson City Council will consider a proposal to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the city's anti-discrimination ordinance. The Hutchinson Human Relations Committee voted Wednesday to recommend the change to the ordinance. The city council will consider the issue in early May. If the council approves the change, sexual orientation and gender identity could not be the basis for discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations. The Hutchinson chapter of the Kansas Equality Coalition asked the council last November to amend the ordinance. The Hutchinson News reports that people who opposed the change said it would have a negative impact on businesses, religious liberty and churches.

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Severe Weather Expected in Eastern Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Severe weather is possible in much of eastern Kansas through Saturday. The National Weather Service in Wichita is predicting strong thunderstorms for a large section of eastern Kansas on Friday. And the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, says the risk for storms that could produce tornadoes is moderate on Saturday in an area that includes the Wichita metropolitan area, along with Salina and Hutchinson. Kansas counties inside the moderate zone include Harper, Kingman, Reno, Saline, Marion, Chase, Harvey, Butler, Sedgwick, Cowley, Sumner, Elk, Greenwood, McPherson and Chautauqua. A slight risk of storms is forecast for most of the rest of Kansas, except the western counties.

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KS Atty General to Hold Town Hall Meeting

ABILENE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt will discuss current legal issues next week during a town hall meeting at the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene. The April 17 program is part of a series at the Eisenhower center featuring officials from across Kansas. Schmidt will discuss the state's involvement in the challenge before the U.S. Supreme Court to the Obama administration's health care reforms. Schmidt, a Republican, was elected attorney general in 2010 after 10 years in the state Senate.

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Judge: ATF Sting Operation Not Racially Motivated

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has rejected defense claims that a firearms sting using a bogus pawn shop in a heavily black Wichita neighborhood was racially motivated. U.S. District Judge Monti Belot refused Thursday to dismiss indictments stemming from the months-long undercover operation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.The sting resulted in federal drug and firearms charges last year against 51 people — 43 of them black, four white and four of races unknown. Defense attorneys argued the storefront targeted black males because it was located in a part of Wichita where blacks accounted for 33 percent of the population. The percentage of blacks citywide is about 11 percent.

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Some Recreational Areas to Reopen at Scorched Grassland Park

ELKHART, Kan. (AP) — Several popular recreation areas in the Cimarron National Grassland in southwestern Kansas have reopened to the public, nearly a year after a fire burned thousands of acres. But the U.S. Forest Service says the campground at the Cimarron Recreation Area will remain closed until rebuilding is complete. The Forest Service said Wednesday it has reopened Cimarron River Corridor, Turkey Trail, River Trail, Race Track, Mallard Pond, Wilburton Pond and the Cimarron Recreation Area itself. More than 19,000 acres of public land and private pasture within the 108,000-acre Cimarron National Grassland burned last May in what became known as the Tunner Fire.

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14 Charged in Connection with Alleged Cocaine Smuggling Ring

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors have charged 14 people in an alleged cocaine smuggling ring in Wichita. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said in a release Thursday that the 63-count indictment alleges that the drug trafficking organization was active in Wichita from October 2010 until this month. The indictment also accuses 30-year-old Juvenal Fernandez Jr., of Wichita, of conspiring with his father, 56-year-old Juvenal G. Fernandez, also of Wichita, to launder about $174,000 in drug proceeds by buying real estate. An attorney listed on the charging documents for Juvenal Fernandez Jr. did not immediately return a call seeking comment. An attorney was not listed for the elder Fernandez. The others charged in the indictment are accused of possessing or distributing cocaine. They are listed as residents of Wichita and Amarillo, Texas.

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Syrian Rights Activist to Speak at KU

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A human rights activist from Syria is scheduled to speak next week in Lawrence about the turmoil in his country. The University of Kansas says that Radwan Ziadeh will be at the university's Dole Institute of Politics on Tuesday for a free afternoon forum. Institute director Bill Lacy said Ziadeh will discuss Syria's current struggle. Ziadeh has been involved in documenting human rights violations since the Syrian uprising began. Last year he was elected director of the Foreign Relations Office for the Syrian National Council, the main umbrella organization for the Syrian opposition. He's a senior fellow at the U.S Institute of Peace and a fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding in Washington, D.C.

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Manning Adds 3 with Kansas Ties to Tulsa Coaching Staff 

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — New University of Tulsa head coach Danny Manning's staff will have a distinct Kansas flavor. Manning announced Thursday that he has hired Brett Ballard and Steve Woodberry to be assistants on his coaching staff. Ballard spent the last two seasons as the head coach at Baker University and was previously on the University of Kansas staff with Manning. Woodberry was an assistant at Missouri State for the past six seasons. Both previously played at KU, Manning's alma mater. Manning also announced that San Francisco assistant coach Justin Bauman will be Tulsa's new director of basketball operations. He, too, has ties to KU as a former student manager and student assistant for the Jayhawks.

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Kevin Costner to Attend Memorial Dedication Ceremony Honoring 2 KS Soldiers

FORT KNOX, Ky. (AP) — Actor Kevin Costner will be at Fort Knox, Kentucky this weekend for the unveiling of a memorial honoring soldiers under the 11th Aviation Command and subordinate units. Costner will speak at the memorial Saturday morning and will dedicate a song, "The Angels Came Down," that he wrote in honor of those who have lost family members in war. A public affairs officer says that the soldiers being honored include two native Kansans:  Chief Warrant Officer 2 Bryan Nichols of Hays, and Specialist Spencer Duncan of Olathe. The other soldiers being honored are Chief Warrant Officer 4 David Carter of Centennial, Colorado;  Staff Sgt. Patrick Hamburger of Lincoln, Nebraska; and Sgt. Alexander Bennett of Tacoma, Washington. They died with 25 other service members in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan last year. The 11th Aviation Command is an Army Reserve headquarters unit stationed at Fort Knox.

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KS Photographer Sues over Totaled Ford Explorer 

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Kansas storm chaser and photographer who said his 1994 Ford Explorer traveled more than 350,000 miles through hurricanes, tornadoes and other extreme weather has filed a lawsuit after the vehicle was totaled in a crash in a Montana snowstorm. The Independent Record newspaper reports Jim Reed of Wichita filed the lawsuit last week against the East Helena, Montana man whose vehicle struck him, seeking unspecified compensation for the "unique value" of his cranberry-colored SUV. He said the SUV was featured in much of his work, including a two-page spread in the June 2009 National Geographic. Reed also is seeking compensation for pain and suffering and his inability to pursue his work while he recovered from injuries suffered in the November 2010 crash.

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KC Police Offer New Text-Messaging Service for Residents

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police are starting a text messaging service to inform residents about law enforcement matters. The Kansas City Star reports Police Chief Darryl Forte announced the new service on Wednesday. The chief says it will help people be aware of safety issues in their neighborhoods and help police solve crimes. Kansas City residents can sign up for the free service by logging onto http://www.nixle.com or texting their ZIP code or "KCPD" to 888777. Users can customize the kinds of alerts they want to receive and whether they want to get them by text, email or online. Police will also use the service in July to provide specific information about the Major League Baseball's All-Star Game being played at Kauffman Stadium.

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Auction Scheduled for Items from Unusual Woman's Estate

WINONA, Kan. (AP) — Items accumulated by a woman who led a fascinating life among the rich and famous before dying as a pauper in northwest Kansas will go up for auction this weekend. Barbara Bishop spent time with movie stars, once dated Johnny Carson and spent an inherited fortune on expensive items and homes. The Salina Journal reports she died last November at the age of 85 as a pauper in Winona, a town of about 160 people. The third and final of a series of Barbara Bishop estate auctions will be held this weekend in Colby. More than 1,000 pieces of jewelry, 34 cashmere, mink and other fur coats, bulk silver and gold and other antiques will be auctioned.

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Why Is Jeff Francoeur So Popular in Oakland? 2 Words: "Bacon" and "Pizza"

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Pizza delivery, courtesy of Jeff Francoeur. The Kansas City Royals' right fielder had 20 personal pizzas delivered Wednesday to Oakland Athletics fans in section 149. The gesture came a day after the second annual "Bacon Tuesday," as it has become known. Last year, Francoeur tossed a ball wrapped in a $100 bill into the elevated seats above his outfield spot, instructing fans to use it to buy bacon or beer. They now love Francoeur and cheer him at every chance. On Tuesday, fans wore "Bacon Tuesday" shirts, and there's a large piece of paper bacon hanging from the railing. They'll have to enjoy the pizza while they can. Wednesday marked the Royals' lone trip to the Bay Area this year. The Royals lost in extra innings 5-4 last night.

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New Grain Elevator Being Built in Atchison

ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — Residents of Atchison are looking forward to the opening of a new grain elevator, which will replace a Bartlett Grain Company elevator destroyed by a fatal explosion. The company announced it would rebuild soon after an explosion last October killed six and seriously injured two others. The concrete was poured last Friday, and the grain elevator is expected to open in September. Bartlett is contracting grain from farmers for this year's harvest. The St. Joseph News-Press reports the elevator will have a capacity of 1 million bushels of grain, 20 percent more than the old elevator. Bartlett officials say new technology will significantly improve unloading speeds. City Manager Trey Cocking says the elevator construction is like a rebirth for the city.

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Mother: Teen Driving RV in Kansas Crash a 'Hero'

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The mother of a teenager who was driving an RV when it crashed in Kansas, killing five family members, is calling her son a hero. Pauline Kerber spoke in a prepared statement from the Minnesota hospital where 17-year-old Adam Kerber is being treated. She said Adam "did everything he possibly could to save 13 lives." Adam is in fair condition at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul, Minnesota. The mother and son were among 18 family members and friends traveling back to Minnesota from Texas on April 1st when their RV broke through a guardrail and concrete bridge rail and crashed in a ditch.

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SRS Says Investigation at Kansas School Not Yet Completed

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services is disputing claims from a military boarding school that the agency investigated and found no validity to abuse allegations made by a 14-year-old former cadet. The boy suffered two broken legs during four days in August that he attended St. John's Military School. SRS spokeswoman Angela de Rocha told The Associated Press its investigation is under way and the agency has reached no conclusions yet. Saline County Attorney Ellen Mitchell said Wednesday that Salina police asked her to review the case for possible prosecution. Mitchell says she concluded there was insufficient evidence to show a crime was committed beyond a reasonable doubt. The teen is among seven former cadets whose families are suing the school. St. John's has settled nine abuse lawsuits since 2006.

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Governor Brownback, Officials to Discuss Medicaid Overhaul

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and top officials in his administration are preparing to reorganize three departments as part of an overhaul of the Medicaid program. Brownback scheduled a Thursday morning news conference to discuss the project. The governor was being joined by Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer, who led the team that drafted the Medicaid overhaul plan, and secretaries of the departments of Aging, Health and Environment, and Social and Rehabilitation Services. Brownback issued an order in February to reorganize those agencies. The order takes effect in July because lawmakers didn't attempt to block it. The administration plans to turn management of Medicaid over to three private companies next year. The $2.9 billion-a-year program covers medical services for the poor, elderly and disabled.

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

USDA Secretary: Agriculture is Underappreciated

Photo credit: USDA / Bruce Fitz
Agriculture is one of the most under-appreciated industries in America today.  So says U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who spoke at Kansas State University yesterday (TUE).  During an interview with Kansas Public Radio, Vilsack objected to a recent online article that suggested the number one most useless degree was in agriculture.

Vilsack also talked about the importance of continued funding for NBAF, the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility.  The federal lab, currently under construction in Manhattan, will study deadly animal pathogens.


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USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack

Vilsack: Stop Disrespecting Agriculture

Agriculture just doesn't get enough respect.  That's according to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, who spoke at Kansas State University yesterday (TUE).  During an interview with Kansas Public Radio, Vilsack said agriculture is one of the most under-appreciated industries in America today.

Vilsack extolled the virtues of farming and ranching - and pointed to the important role agriculture plays in our nation's security and economy.

 

Hallmark Cards Announces Voluntary Job Cuts

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Hallmark Cards officials say they expect a voluntary job cut program to eliminate between 300 and 400 jobs at the greeting card company. The Kansas City-based company announced the employee buyouts yesterday (TUE). Hallmark says the job cuts are prompted by disappointing financial results during the recession and slow recovery. The Kansas City Star reports that the buyouts are being offered to employees who are at least 50 years old and have at least 15 years of vested service with the company. Hallmark, a privately held company, said its consolidated net revenues were $4.1 billion in 2011, the same as in 2010. It said in a news release that the company expects 2012 to be another difficult year. About 1,500 out of Hallmark's 7,500 U.S. employees are eligible for the offer.

Regional Headlines for Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Mistrial Declared after Reporter Tweets Courtroom Photo

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A mistrial was declared in a Topeka murder case after a newspaper reporter sent a courtroom photo via social media service Twitter that showed a juror. The trial for 20-year-old Austin Tabor will be rescheduled. Tabor is charged with killing 20-year-old Matthew Mitchell in 2010 near a Topeka high school. Shawnee County District Attorney Lee McGowan says the photo sent Wednesday with a cell phone by a Topeka Capital-Journal reporter showed one or more of the jurors. The judge had allowed camera phones in the courtroom but ordered that no pictures be taken of the jurors. Topeka Capital-Journal publisher Gregg Ireland said the photo contained a profile of a juror in the background. He says the paper regrets the error and will use the incident as a training tool for employees.

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SRS Continues Investigation of Military School

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services is disputing claims from a military boarding school that the agency investigated and found no validity to abuse allegations made by a 14-year-old former cadet. The boy suffered two broken legs during four days in August that he attended St. John's Military School. SRS spokeswoman Angela de Rocha told The Associated Press its investigation is under way and the agency has reached no conclusion. Saline County Attorney Ellen Mitchell said Wednesday that Salina police asked her to review the case for possible prosecution. Mitchell says she concluded there was insufficient evidence to show a crime was committed beyond a reasonable doubt. The teen is among seven former cadets whose families are suing the school. St. John's has settled nine abuse lawsuits since 2006.

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USDA Secretary Touts Importance of NBAF Project

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says that construction of the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility near Kansas State University is important for agriculture and the nation's security.  After a Landon Lecture yesterday (TUE), Vilsack said having the proposed $650 million research facility was important. And he said it needed to be located in the Midwest near agriculture production.  Vilsack used his nearly hour-long Landon Lecture to discuss how agriculture helps provide greater economic and energy independence for the U.S.  Vilsack planned to attend the afternoon dedication of the U.S. Agriculture Department's modernized Center for Grain and Animal Health Research near the Kansas State campus.  The Landon Lecture series is named for former Kansas Gov. Alf Landon, the 1936 Republican presidential nominee.

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Longtime Shawnee County Sheriff Announces Retirement

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Shawnee County Sheriff Richard Barta will resign next week, after a 44-year law enforcement career.  Barta, who has been sheriff for 12 years, had planned to stay on the job until next January. But he announced yesterday (TUE) that he will retire on April 20.  He said he was retiring to help his current undersheriff, Herman Jones, who has announced that he would run for sheriff this year.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that federal law would require either Barta or Jones to vacate their positions to allow Jones to legally run in the election.  The Republican precinct committee will select a candidate to forward to the governor, who will appoint someone to serve the remaining months of Barta's term.

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Kansas City Police Pay $1 Million Settlement

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Police Department has paid $1 million to a truck driver who was accidently shot by an officer who was having a diabetic reaction.  Court records showed the settlement with David W. Gardner was reached last month.  Gardner sued after he was shot by officer Joel Ritchie in September 2007.  The Kansas City Star reports  that Ritchie went to a store while on duty to get something to eat after realizing he was having a reaction from his type-1 diabetes.  After eating the food, Ritchie walked out of the store and started firing his weapon. A bullet hit Gardner, who was delivering food to the store. Officers found a disoriented Ritchie walking down a nearby street.  Ritchie is no longer a police officer.

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Men's Club Dancers' Employment Status Issue Reaches KS Supreme Court 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Attorneys for a gentlemen's club near Topeka told the Kansas Supreme Court on Wednesday that dancers at the club are not club employees subject to state labor laws. The issue before the court is whether dancers at Club Orleans are under its control or are independent entertainers. The Department of Labor wants the club to pay a tax based on the dancers' wages to help finance unemployment benefits. The club contends the dancers rent its stage and control their own performances. The club doesn't pay the dancers, but the state considers their tips to be wages. According to court documents, the club sets a minimum tip of $1 for a stage dance, $10 for a lap dance and $20 for a private dance.

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Manufacturing Plant Employee Dies When Hit by Equipment

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — An employee in a manufacturing plant in the Fairfax area of Kansas City, Kansas, died after he was hit by a falling piece of equipment.  The Kansas City Star reports that emergency crews were called to the Harlan Corporation yesterday (TUE) afternoon. They found a man in his early 60s pinned underneath equipment he had been assembling.  The man, whose name was not released, was declared dead at the scene.  Harlan makes tractors used for towing aircraft.

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Hallmark Cards Announces Voluntary Job Cuts

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Hallmark Cards officials say they expect a voluntary job cut program to eliminate between 300 and 400 jobs at the greeting card company.  The Kansas City-based company announced the employee buyouts yesterday (TUE).  Hallmark says the job cuts are prompted by disappointing financial results during the recession and slow recovery.  The Kansas City Star reports that the buyouts are being offered to employees who are at least 50 years old and have at least 15 years of vested service with the company.  Hallmark, a privately held company, said its consolidated net revenues were $4.1 billion in 2011, the same as in 2010. It said in a news release that the company expects 2012 to be another difficult year.  About 1,500 out of Hallmark's 7,500 U.S. employees are eligible for the offer.

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Drought Eases Across Kansas 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Steady rain over the past few months has dramatically eased the drought in Kansas. Larry Ruthi, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Dodge City, told The Wichita Eagle that the recent rain in southwest Kansas has eased the drought considerably. Part of the southwest corner of the state...or less than one-half of 1 percent of Kansas... remains in extreme drought, compared to more than 28 percent of the state in late September. Dodge City has recorded 7.39 inches of rain since December 1. That's the third-highest total over that stretch since records began more than 100 years ago. Medicine Lodge logged 10.37 inches and Cimarron received 8.44 inches. About 11 percent of Kansas remains in the three worst drought categories. That's a significant improvement since last September, when nearly half the state was classified in those categories.

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Wichita Boy Accused of Gun Threat

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Wichita have arrested a middle school student accused of threatening other students with a gun. KWCH-TV reports officials at Hadley Middle School learned of the incident Wednesday from police. A district spokeswoman says the confrontation took place across the street from the school late Tuesday afternoon. The 14-year-old boy is accused of confronting three other Hadley Middle School students and pointing a gun at one of them, threatening to shoot. The three went home and told their parents. Police don't believe the boy had the gun with him in the school, and they're not sure what the teen was upset about.

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Judge Denies Request by Ex-KU Official

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former University of Kansas athletics official convicted in a ticket scandal has lost an effort to have his probation cut short. Brandon Simmons was director of sales and marketing in the athletics department. He pleaded guilty to failing to tell authorities about the $2 million scalping scandal and was sentenced in March 2011 to two years' probation. U.S. District Judge Monti Belot on Wednesday rejected Simmons' request to terminate the probation early. Simmons has paid nearly $26,000 so far of a $157,000 restitution order. Belot followed the probation office's recommendation to continue the probation to ensure Simmons continues to make payments. Simmons was among seven Kansas athletics officials convicted in the unlawful sale of Jayhawk football and basketball season tickets to ticket brokers and others.

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Payment for Pizza Includes Bag of Meth

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita delivery driver got more than cash when she brought a pizza to a customer at a hotel. Tucked among the bills the man handed over was a plastic bag containing a suspicious white substance.  The Wichita Eagle reports the 22-year-old Pizza Hut driver called police after making the discovery late Monday upon leaving the Sunset Hotel.  Police tested the substance and discovered it was methamphetamine. Officers went to the hotel and searched the customer's room, where they reported finding meth and cocaine.  The 35-year-old man was booked into jail pending charges. Police say they don't believe the man realized he had given the Pizza Hut driver drugs along with cash.

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Abortion Provider Seeks End to KS Criminal Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Defense attorneys are asking a Kansas judge to dismiss the remaining criminal charges against a Kansas City-area Planned Parenthood clinic accused of performing illegal abortions.
Attorney Pedro Irigonegaray said yesterday (TUE) that the Planned Parenthood clinic in Overland Park has strong legal arguments for dismissal. Defense attorneys argue the allegations boil down to differences of medical opinion about how abortions were handled.  Forty-nine charges against the clinic, including felony counts of falsifying records, were dismissed in November. Fifty-eight remain, concerning 29 abortions performed in 2003.  Planned Parenthood attorneys filed multiple requests under seal last month in Johnson County District Court to have the remaining charges dismissed. The Associated Press obtained copies, after the judge handling the case unsealed them.  Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe declined comment.

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Brownback Participates in Tax Policy Forum

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A conference in New York City has given Kansas Governor Sam Brownback a chance to outline his tax-cutting proposals for economists and officials from other states.  Yesterday's (TUE) gathering, called "Tax Policies for 4 Percent Growth," was hosted by the George W. Bush Presidential Center.  Brownback's office said, in a news release, that the governor spoke at a roundtable with several other governors about plans for what his administration calls a flat tax with a small business accelerator.  Brownback has pressed lawmakers this year to make reductions in the state income tax a top priority. The House and Senate have both approved measures that reduce tax rates and eliminate the income tax for some businesses.  Negotiators are expected to finish work on a compromise later this month.

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UPDATE: Mother Says Teen Driving RV in Kansas Crash a 'Hero'

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The mother of a teenager who was driving an RV when it crashed in Kansas, killing five family members, is calling her son a hero. Pauline Kerber spoke in a prepared statement from the Minnesota hospital where 17-year-old Adam Kerber is being treated. She said Adam "did everything he possibly could to save 13 lives." Adam is in fair condition at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul. The mother and son were among 18 family members and friends traveling back to Minnesota from Texas on April 1 when their RV broke through a guardrail and concrete bridge rail and crashed in a ditch.

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Kansas Senator Plans Aviation Events in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts will be meeting today (WED) with aviation industry leaders in Wichita.  The Kansas Republican is holding an off-the-record discussion with general aviation manufacturers at the Double Tree Hotel in Wichita.  Roberts plans to talk to reporters at 11:30am, following the closed discussion. He will later address the Aero Club.  The roundtable discussion is similar to others Roberts has been holding with community leaders on health care and agriculture throughout Kansas.

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KC Police Ticket 90 Young People for Seatbelt Violations

KANSAS CITY, MO. (AP) — Kansas City police ticketed nearly 90 young people during an enforcement campaign geared toward making teens wear seatbelts. The department worked with other law enforcement agencies across the state during the two-week effort last month. Authorities say only 67 percent of Missouri teenagers wear seatbelts while inside a vehicle.

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Reno County Approves Shooting Ban Near River

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Reno County commissioners have made public shooting illegal along much of the Arkansas River in the county.  Yesterday's (TUE) vote came after a stray bullet believed to be fired from along the river went through a window and landed near a mother and her baby last month near Nickerson. No one was injured.  The county will ban shooting within the banks of the Arkansas River or from public or private property when the target is within the river banks. A violation would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a fine up to $1,000.  The Hutchinson News reports that the ban exempts law officers who are on duty. During hunting season, those with a hunting license in areas designated for public hunting also would be exempt.

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KS Democratic Candidates Plan Primary Debate

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Four Kansas Democrats seeking the nomination in the state's 4th Congressional District were scheduled to debate this (WED) morning at Wichita State University.  Esau Freeman, Kent Rowe, Robert Tillman and John Willoughby are vying in the Democratic primary to run for the U.S. House seat now held by Republican Mike Pompeo.  The debate was to be held in Lindquist Hall on the Wichita State University campus.

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US Sales of Combines, Tractors Down in March

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Association of Equipment Manufacturers says retail sales of combines in the U.S. fell by nearly 26 percent in March.  A report from the trade group says 563 combines were sold in March, compared with 759 in the same month last year. Year-to-date combine sales are down 43.2 percent to 1,319 combines.  The association also says tractor sales were down 3.4 percent nationwide in March, with 14,982 sold. A breakdown shows sales of four-wheel-drive tractors were up, while those of two-wheel-drive models fell.

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Kansas Wheat Benefiting from Recent Rain

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Recent rain in Kansas has been good for the state's wheat crop, but agriculture officials say they're still concerned that a late freeze could hurt the harvest. The lack of rain in Kansas last year was rough on the state's wheat crop. But this year, thanks to spring rains the crop has potential. State Climatologist Mary Knapp told The Hutchinson News that since September, some southwestern Kansas farmers have recorded nearly 9 inches of rain on their thirsty fields — well above the nearly 7-inch average for the period. John Holman, an agronomist with Kansas State Extension based in Garden City, said the crop is so ahead of schedule it's vulnerable to a spring freeze. He said the recent damp, wet days also make the wheat ripe for rust fungus.

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KS High Court Ponders Legal Status of Strip Club's Dancers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court is being asked to settle a legal dispute between the state and the owner of a gentlemen's club outside Topeka.  The court will hear arguments today (WED) on whether the women who dance at Club Orleans are employees of the business.  The club contends they're tenants who rent its stage and control their own schedules and performances.  The Department of Labor disagrees and wants the club to pay a tax based on the dancers' wages to help finance unemployment benefits.  The club doesn't pay the dancers, but the state considers their tips to be wages. According to court documents, the club sets a minimum tip of $1 for a stage dance, $10 for a lap dance and $20 for a private dance in the so-called champagne room.

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

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2 Injured in RV Crash Leave Kansas

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A Minnesota woman and her 17-year-old son who were injured in a motor home crash that killed five family members have left a Kansas hospital.  Overland Park Regional Medical Center said in a statement that 46-year-old Pauline Kerber of Jordan, Minnesota, has been released from the hospital and returned to her hometown. The statement said her son Adam Kerber has been transferred to a hospital "closer to home."  The mother and son were among 13 people injured April 1 when their recreational vehicle hit a guardrail and a concrete bridge rail on Interstate 35 near the northeastern Kansas town of Williamsburg.  Five family members, ages 10 through 25, died in the crash. Several other people who were injured have also been released from hospitals.

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

 

Scrambling to File Federal Taxes Can Mean Missed Deductions

The deadline for filing federal tax returns is now less than a week away. Keith Hall is a tax advisor with the National Association for the Self-Employed. He says when people wait until the last minute to file, it's easy to forget important deductions amidst all the rush.

Hall says today's tax software makes it simple for most people to file their own returns, but it may still be worthwhile to seek out the advice of a tax professional to take advantage of all possible deductions. The tax filing deadline has been pushed back to April 17th this year, because the 15th falls on a Sunday, and Monday the 16th is Emancipation Day...that's a legal holiday in Washington, DC. It celebrates President Lincoln's signing of an act that released the slaves held in the District of Columbia, some nine months before the Emancipation Proclamation was issued.

 

Kansas Lottery Players on a Winning Streak

After gaining a bit of national attention for having a winning Mega Millions jackpot ticket, Kansas Lottery officials say the lottery has been on a roll of its own in the past week. Cara Sloan-Ramos says that in addition to the $110-and-a-half million winning Mega Millions ticket purchased at an Ottawa convenience store, there was a $1 million winner last Wednesday...and this past weekend, there were other winning tickets.

Sloan-Ramos says the Mega Millions win may be having a positive impact on other Kansas lottery sales. Officials will have to wait a few weeks before they can analyze sales figures.

Astronauts Help Celebrate 50th Anniversary of KS Cosmosphere in Hutch

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Four former astronauts will attend the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Hutchinson Planetarium, which became the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center.  Astronauts Charlie Duke, Harrison Schmitt, Joe Engle and Steve Hawley will discuss their space missions during an April 28 celebration at the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson.  The Hutchinson News reports the celebration is a tribute to Patty Carey, the driving force behind the creation of the planetarium and its development into the Cosmosphere.  She died in 2003.  The celebration coincides with "Lift-Off," a three-year campaign to raise $1.6 million to improve and expand the facility.


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