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Regional Headlines for Friday, February 24, 2012


KS Senate Rejects Health "Freedom" Proposal

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has narrowly rejected a proposed amendment to the state constitution aimed at challenging a key federal mandate on health care.  Yesterday's (THUR) vote on the so-called health care "freedom" amendment was 26-14 in favor, but backers needed a two-thirds majority, or 27 of 40 votes.  The Senate's decision came after members revised the measure so that a statewide vote on the proposition would have occurred only if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the federal health care overhaul of 2010.  The amendment would have declared that Kansans have the right to refuse to buy health insurance. A provision in the federal health care overhaul requires most Americans to buy insurance, starting in 2014.  Critics argue that if the federal law is upheld, the Kansas measure would be meaningless.


KC Star Newspaper Building Windows Shot at, Damaged by Vandals

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police are reviewing surveillance footage hoping to learn who has been shooting out windows at the Kansas City Star's downtown production facility.  The newspaper reports the most recent damage was discovered yesterday (THUR) morning on the west side of the building. Two other incidents since late January involved windows shot on the facility's north side.  The Star says it costs about $7,000 to fix each of the large windows. Vandals targeted the large, mostly glass building just south of the Sprint Center dozens of times before its opening in 2006. In two years before the facility opened, 46 of its windows were damaged.  No employees were hurt in any of the shootings, but Star officials say the building is occupied almost around the clock.


KS Senator's Office Receives Suspicious Letter

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The FBI is investigating a suspicious letter sent to the downtown Wichita office of Kansas Senator Pat Roberts, one of several congressional offices around the country receiving similar letters in recent days.  KWCH-TV reports the letter containing a white, powdery substance arrived at the office yesterday (THUR).  Traffic was restricted in the area while police and hazardous materials crews investigated.  The FBI says no hazardous material has been found so far in similar letters sent to district offices of members of Congress around the country.  Roberts' communications director, Sarah Little, says the Kansas Republican was in Topeka yesterday (THUR), and two staff members were in the Wichita office. Little says the office will reopen today (FRI).  


KS House Approves Bill on Unemployment Insurance

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has approved a bill that could reduce benefits to some unemployed Kansans while cutting unemployment rates paid by new employers.  Under the bill, unemployment benefits would be reduced for a person who receives a lump-sum separation or severance payment. The reduced benefits would continue for the number of weeks that the lump sum represents.  The bill also would reduce the unemployment insurance contribution rates.  The Lawrence Journal World reports that supporters tout the bill as a way to create jobs in Kansas. Critics said employers' contributions rates shouldn't be cut at a time when the state already is struggling to pay unemployment benefits.  The measure now goes to the Senate for consideration.


Suburban KC Man Held on Charge of Making Child Porn

PLATTE CITY, Mo. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City man has been accused of creating child pornography involving a 9-year-old girl.  The Platte County prosecutor's office says 30-year-old Raymond Appling of Ferrelview, was charged with promoting child pornography and invasion of privacy. He was being held in the county jail on $75,000 cash bond.  Authorities said Kansas City police searched Appling's home earlier this month and found a camera they allege was used to make pornographic pictures found last year in the home of a Denver man. FBI agents in California said a San Diego man told authorities he had given the camera to Appling.  Online court records did not list a lawyer for Appling. A call to a phone number listed for that name was unanswered.


Mars Candy Company Can't Build Wind Turbine at Topeka Plant

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Mars company won't be allowed to build a wind turbine at its Topeka plant because it would interfere with airspace at nearby Forbes Field.  Topeka Airport Authority officials say any tall structure built at the Kanza Fire Commerce Park where the plant is located would severely limit use of Forbes Field.  Mars had planned to build a 300-foot-tall turbine before being told by the Federal Aviation Administration that it was not allowed.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Mars officials say they are now seeking permission to build a solar field at the plant. The company has said it plans to build the $250 million manufacturing plant to include high environmental standards.


KC Parks Board: Budget Cuts Could Devastate City Parks

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Members of Kansas City's parks board say proposed cuts of $5 million will devastate parks and community centers.  Board members told the City Council yesterday (THUR) that the cuts could mean closed pools, minimal tree trimming and few repairs to community centers, among other things.  The Kansas City Star reports that the City Council has to adopt a budget next month.  Parks board members also point out that park staffing has already dropped by 170 positions, a 35 percent reduction since 2000. They also say the elimination of the greenhouse has left some park landscaping in poor shape.  City Manager Troy Schulte said finding $2 million for parks will require cuts from some other worthy department, and there's no easy source for those funds.


KS Nurse Faces Sentencing for Drug Tampering

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas nurse who diluted morphine solutions at a Salina nursing home is due in court for sentencing.  Melanie Morrison is scheduled be sentenced today (FRI) in federal court in Topeka for consumer product tampering and adulteration of a drug at the Holiday Resort Nursing Facility in Salina.  Morrison admitted putting sodium chloride into solutions of morphine sulfate, reducing the painkiller's quality and strength. Sodium chloride is dangerous to some patients, particularly those with congestive heart failure or severe renal insufficiency.  Morrison struck a deal with prosecutors that could send her to prison for three years. She also agreed to surrender her nursing license and never work in health care again.  Prosecutors are recommending she be admitted to a drug addiction program, which could get her out of prison early.


Bill Changing Court Appointments Stalls in KS Legislature

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Many abortion opponents and conservative Republicans in Kansas are pushing to give the governor and legislators more influence over the appointment of appellate court judges.  But a proposal seen as a step toward accomplishing their goals has stalled in the Legislature.  The state Senate has rejected a bill to have the governor appoint new Court of Appeals judges, subject to Senate confirmation. The measure would end the screening of applications for the court by a nominating commission controlled by attorneys.  The Senate's 22-17 vote against the measure Thursday showed Democrats and moderate Republicans still have misgivings about changing how Court of Appeals judges and state Supreme Court justices are selected.  However, there are concerns that the process is dominated unfairly by lawyers and not open enough to the public.


USPS Consolidating 7 Mail Processing Centers in KS

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The United States Postal Service plans to consolidate seven mail processing centers in Kansas to reduce costs.  The Postal Service said in a news release that the processing center in Topeka will be consolidated with one in Kansas City, Missouri. Centers in Hays, Salina, Dodge City and Hutchinson will be consolidated with the processing and distribution center in Wichita.  Officials say work at the Liberal processing center will be moved to Amarillo, Texas and the Colby processing center operations will move to North Platte, Nebraska.  No specific dates have been set for the consolidation. Once the centers are consolidated, mail processing work will end but retail and business activity at the seven centers will continue.


So-Called "Fake Beard Bandit" Admits to Robberies in 4 States

FORT SMITH, Ark. (AP) — An Oklahoma man nicknamed the "Fake Beard Bandit" has pleaded guilty to eight bank robberies in Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.  Jason Andrew Day entered his plea yesterday (THUR) in federal court in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Day was arrested on August 26th, three days after a Liberty Bank in Fort Smith was robbed.  Court records show that Day is accused of taking more than $70,000 from banks in Fort Smith; Oklahoma City; Coweta, Oklahoma; Shawnee and Olathe (oh-LAY'-thuh), Kansas; and Joplin, Missouri.  Prosecutors say Day entered the banks wearing a large, obviously fake beard. He demanded money while brandishing what police later learned was a BB gun that looked like a handgun.  His sentencing has not yet been set. A public defender representing Day didn't immediately return a message seeking comment.  


KS Senate Approves Increased Fines for 2 Highways

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has approved a bill that would double fines on two busy state highways. The bill approved Thursday would double fines on Kansas Highway 10 between Lawrence and Johnson County and U.S. 54 in Wichita. It now goes to the House of consideration. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the Kansas Department of Transportation would add signs alerting drivers that they were on safety corridors and telling them about the increased fines.





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