These are the regional headlines for Thursday, February 2nd, 2012.
Grain elevator explodes; 1 injured
ARLINGTON, Kan. (AP) — Federal inspectors have arrived at the scene of a central Kansas grain elevator explosion that injured one worker.
The explosion was reported early this morning at the Cairo Coop in Arlington, about 15 miles southwest of Hutchinson.
Reno County Sheriff Randy Henderson said one employee was taken to a Wichita hospital with burns. The Hutchinson News reports that the worker was seriously injured, and that investigators from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have arrived at the scene.
Bill Guy, Reno County emergency management director, said the injured employee was at the base of the elevator when the explosion occurred. He said another employee at the elevator wasn't hurt.
He said the cause is under investigation.
Fire crews were also assessing the explosion site.
Blue Cross Won't Bid for KS Medicaid Contract
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state's largest insurance company says it will not bid to be part of Governor Sam Brownback's proposal to overhaul the state's Medicaid program. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas said Wednesday that the effort to shift Medicaid programs to private health insurance companies would require it to dramatically change its businesses practices in less than a year. The governor wants the state to contract with three companies to manage Medicaid, which provides health coverage to poor families and disabled and elderly Kansans. Rep. Jim Ward, a Democrat from Wichita, says Blue Cross' decision raises questions about the financial feasibility of the governor's plan. The Wichita Eagle reports that Ward introduced a bill to require annual audits to ensure that private companies don't reduce benefits to Medicaid recipients.
Overland Park Woman Missing for 2nd Time in One Week
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Overland Park police are looking for a woman who is missing for the second time in a week. Molly Jones was last seen near her home in Overland Park Wednesday evening. Police say Jones suffers from medical conditions that can cause her to become catatonic and unaware of her surroundings. She was last seen wearing a pink sport shirt and blue jeans. She is 5-feet-4 and 155 pounds, with red hair and blue eyes. She left with no purse or phone and her family says she has not taken medication that she needs. Jones reportedly went missing Saturday from the University of Kansas Hospital. She was found safe on Monday several blocks away from the hospital.
Immunization Bill Unlikely to Get Vote in KS House
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bill that would expand the number of exemptions allowed for parents who don't want their children to be immunized apparently will not go to a vote this year. State Rep. Brenda Landwehr of Wichita said Wednesday that she doesn't intend to have the House Health and Human Services Committee work on the bill. She told The Kansas City Star that she sees little support on the committee for allowing more exemptions from mandatory immunizations. The bill drew a large crowd for a public hearing two weeks ago. Dozens of parents said they wanted to be allowed to reject the immunizations for reasons of personal conscience. But health officials told the committee that mandatory vaccine laws are critical to stopping the spread of disease.
Blizzard Takes Aim at US Midsection, Could Affect NW KS
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A powerful winter storm system that could dump a dozen inches of snow and produce blizzard conditions has been forecast for Nebraska and portions of adjacent states. Forecasters say a blizzard is possible for three southwest Nebraska counties and nearby portions of Kansas and Colorado. The National Weather Service says the blizzard warnings take effect at 11 o'clock tonight (THUR). Winter storm warnings and watches have been issued to take effect later for the rest of Nebraska and much of southeast Wyoming, northeast Colorado, northwest Kansas and western Iowa. The service says the storm is expected to move into Nebraska late Thursday night and last into Saturday. Rain is expected to precede the snowfall in many areas.
Auditors May Revisit Kansas Biosciences Report
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An investigator from an auditing firm that examined the Kansas Bioscience Authority says a supplemental report may be done to explain emails from the authority's former CEO. Jim Snyder, an auditor with BKD Forensic and Valuation Services, tells the Topeka Capital-Journal that an additional document may be produced to explain details about emails on a second computer used by Tom Thornton. Snyder says some 52,000 email files were discovered on the laptop. Thornton's second computer was mentioned in the January 23 report, but not in great detail. The audit looked at the KBA's operations and expenditures since it was established in 2004. While it largely found that the KBA was investing state dollars properly, it criticized Thornton's destruction of files on his main state-issued laptop.
KS Water Policy Proposals Advance in Legislature
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two pieces of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's proposal to revise the state's policies on water use have cleared legislative hurdles. The House voted Thursday to eliminate a requirement that rights holders use a prescribed allotment of water or lose their rights. The 124-0 vote sent the measure to the Senate. Later in the day, the Senate voted 39-0 for a bill modifying a program that gives water right holders flexibility in how much of their allotment they use each year. It also provides for a percentage of that amount to be held in conservation. Brownback says his proposals would encourage conservation of groundwater, including the Ogallala Aquifer, to sustain agriculture production and related industries.
KS Secretary of State Confirms He's Unpaid Adviser to Mitt Romney
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (KOH'-bahk) confirms that he's serving as an unpaid adviser on immigration issues to Republican Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. Kobach told The Associated Press Wednesday that he's been advising the former Massachusetts governor since the beginning of this year. Kobach said he started serving as an adviser even before he formally endorsed his fellow Republican last month. The Kansas secretary of state is a former law professor who's known nationally for advising state and local officials about cracking down on illegal immigration. He helped draft tough laws in Alabama and Arizona. Kobach said he advised Romney during Romney's unsuccessful 2008 campaign for the GOP presidential nomination.
KS Senate Panel Approves Congressional Redistricting Plan
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A redistricting bill approved by a Kansas Senate committee would give the state's senior Republican congresswoman a slightly more Democratic U.S. House district. The Reapportionment Committee endorsed the measure Wednesday, sending it to the full Senate for debate. The Kansas Republican Party and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce quickly denounced the map as an attempt to hurt Republican Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, who represents the 2nd District of eastern Kansas. A key feature of the bill is that it would expand the 1st District of western and central Kansas to take in Manhattan — a change that Jenkins opposes. Figures from legislative researchers show 30 percent of the new district's voters would be Democrats, compared with 29 percent now. GOP voters would decline to 40 percent, from 42 percent. The measure had bipartisan support.
Kansas National Guard Unit to Deploy
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas National Guard unit is preparing for its first deployment since Operation Desert Storm, heading to Southwest Asia for a base security mission. A public departure ceremony will be held February 12 at 10am in Salina for approximately 80 members of the 170th Maintenance Company. The soldiers will go first to Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center in Mississippi for more training specific to their assignment. The exact location of the deployment has not been announced. The unit was originally scheduled to go to Kuwait for a security mission. The 170th Maintenance Company is headquartered in Norton, with a subordinate unit based in Colby. The company is part of the Hays-based 287th Special Troop Battalion.
Federal Inmates in KS Participate in Art Show
LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A group of artists who spend little time mingling with the public will be showing their works at an unusual exhibition and sale in northeastern Kansas. This weekend is the 30th annual "Hidden Art Locked Away" show in Leavenworth, featuring works by inmates at the U.S. Penitentiary and the military's U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth. The Leavenworth Times reports last year's show featured more than 150 works, including paintings, drawings and other two-dimensional forms. The show opens with a preview from 4 to 8 pm Friday and continues with a sale from 9 am to 5 pm Saturday at the Riverfront Community Center. The artists keep 80 percent of the sale price, with the rest going to the River City Community Players, a theater company that sponsors the art show.
KS Abortion Insurance Case Assigned to New Judge
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A challenge to a new Kansas law restricting insurance coverage of abortion has been assigned to a new judge following the death of the federal judge who had been overseeing the case. U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown died last week at the age of 104. Nearly 100 civil cases that Brown was handling were reassigned Wednesday to other judges in the Kansas federal district. U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia in Kansas City, Kansas, will now preside over the abortion-related lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri. The ACLU questions the constitutionality of a Kansas law barring insurance companies from offering abortion coverage as part of general health plans.
Former Security Guard Admits to Robbing Missouri Bank
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas man has admitted holding up a western Missouri bank where he once worked as a security guard. The U.S. Attorney's office says 38-year-old Daniel Bryant Hill pleaded guilty Wednesday to robbing a Commerce Bank branch in the Kansas City suburb of Grandview, Missouri. Prosecutors said Hill, of Kansas City, Kansas admitted entering the bank on November 18th, 2011, and handing a teller a note demanding money. He fled with about $4,400. He was arrested the same day and told investigators he chose the bank because he was familiar with it, having worked there as a guard in 2005. Hill also admitted robbing a branch of U.S. Bank in Kansas City, Missouri in September 2011.
Feds Plan to Reassess Earthquake Risk at Nuclear Plants
CHICAGO (AP) — The federal government says nuclear plants throughout the central and eastern U.S. must be reassessed within four years to determine how well they might withstand earthquakes. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission this week released an updated seismic risk model that plant operators must use to recalculate risks. Officials say the model has been in development for four years but took on a greater urgency after last year's nuclear disaster in Japan following an earthquake and tsunami. The NRC says plants in Illinois and Iowa are in areas where new geological data suggest earthquakes could be more frequent than previously believed. Exelon Energy's Dresden Nuclear Power Plant southwest of Chicago and NextEra Energy's Duane Arnold Energy Center outside Cedar Rapids, Iowa, also use the same type nuclear reactor that failed in Japan.
Wichita Zoo Needs to Make Room for One More Elephant
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Sedgwick County Zoo needs to make its elephant exhibit larger or risk losing its two pachyderms. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is requiring that all zoos it accredits have space for at least three elephants by September 2016. Elephants are social animals, and the organization doesn't want them living alone. The Sedgwick County Zoo is trying to decide what it needs to do to keep the elephants that have lived there since 1972. A new exhibit would cost about $16 million, while a temporary fix — renovating the existing exhibit — would cost about $1 million. Officials say a full remodel would be tough until the economy improves, but there are concerns about putting money into such an old exhibit.
KS Lawmakers Choose Acting Research Director
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An assistant director of the Kansas Legislature's nonpartisan research staff will serve as acting director for at least the next several months. Legislative leaders decided Wednesday that Raney (RAY'-nee) Gilliland will hold the top job while they seek a permanent replacement for Alan Conroy. Conroy is stepping down as research director February 10 to become executive director of the pension system for Kansas teachers and government workers. Gilliland has been an assistant legislative research director since 2004, overseeing staffers who handle policy issues. He joined the research staff in 1979.
KS Town of Reading Continues Economic Recovery
READING, Kan. (AP) — Residents of an east-central Kansas town hit hard by a tornado last year are seeing more signs of recovery. More than half of the 101 homes and almost all of the businesses in Reading were destroyed May 21 when the EF-3 tornado smashed parts of Lyon County. One person was killed. KVOE-AM reports that residents held ribbon-cuttings this week for three businesses. The Miracle Café and Citizens State Bank and Trust had both been closed by the tornado. The third business — the Head, Hands and Feet Salon — is new to the town. Two churches are also being repaired. Reading's Methodist Church plans a rededication on February 19, and the Baptist church is getting new siding.
Weis Assembles Unique Staff at KU
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Charlie Weis believes the biggest mistake he made during his failed tenure at Notre Dame was putting together a coaching staff that didn't quite fit. He is confident he hasn't made the same mistake at the University of Kansas. The new staff met with the media for the first time Thursday. Among them is new defensive coordinator Dave Campo, the longtime member of the Dallas Cowboys who won three Super Bowl rings as an assistant and rose to become head coach. Other assistants include former Chiefs offensive lineman Tim Grunhard, former Notre Dame quarterback Ron Powlus and former Akron coach Rob Ianello. The staff landed its first recruiting class Wednesday, and plans to begin preparing for spring football next week.
K-State Again Looks for Quick Fix from Recruits
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State coach Bill Snyder hopes to get the same kind of immediate contributions from this year's recruiting class as he did last season. High-profile transfer Arthur Brown, junior college cornerback Nigel Malone and freshman Tyler Lockett were part of a group that contributed to a 10-3 season and a berth in last month's Cotton Bowl. Snyder once more tapped into the junior colleges for the recruiting class that he unveiled Wednesday. Six players will arrive at Kansas State with college experience, including Marquez Clark, a highly sought wide receiver from Navarro Junior College. The Wildcats also reeled in Tavarius Bender, a quarterback from Lincoln, Nebraska. He fits the dual-threat mold of Collin Klein and others who have played the position at Kansas State.
KU Football Recruiting Class Heavy on Transfers
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Charlie Weis is willing to go wherever necessary to find the talent to rebuild Kansas. The new coach of the Jayhawks unveiled his first recruiting class Wednesday, which he pulled together in the less than two months since he took over for the fired Turner Gill. The class of 20 includes high-profile transfers in former Irish quarterback Dayne Crist, Jake Heaps and Justin McCay, but also eight junior college transfers who Weis hopes can help immediately. Kansas finished just 2-10 last season, leading to Gill's ouster. Only three players are from the Kansas City area, and four from Missouri and Kansas. The rest are from as far away as Washington, South Carolina and California, though the most by state are the six players Weis landed from Texas.
KC Club Attempting End-Run Around Adult Entertainment Laws
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A Kansas City adult entertainment business is showing videos of naked dancers next to the stage in an apparent move to get around new regulations concerning what dancers can wear. The Kansas City Star reports that Bazooka's offers videos of its nude and seminude dancers next to the stage while a dancer performs live with her intimate areas covered, as the law requires. The strategy may help the business sidestep a new state law requiring "sexually oriented businesses" to close at midnight. If the dancers exposed private areas they would have broken the law, or forced the club to close at midnight. The club's owner, Dick Snow, says they are legal because they appeared on screen. Others say Bazooka's may still be improperly open past midnight.