U.S. House to Vote on Drought Relief, Farm Bill
WASHINGTON (AP) — The House next week will take up legislation to provide disaster relief to livestock producers and others hit by the drought. The legislation will also extend for one year the long-term farm and food bill set to expire at the end of September. House Republican leaders have been under pressure to take action to relief farmers and ranchers struggling under the worst drought to hit the nation in decades. The dry weather has been particularly hard on cattle, poultry and pork raisers who generally do not participate in crop insurance programs. The main federal livestock disaster relief program expired last year, and the administration has been urging Congress to revive it before leaving for the August recess at the end of next week.
Kansas Governor Touts New Technical Training Program
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback is promoting a new state program that encourages high school students to get technical training for jobs in industries that need skilled workers. The Lawrence Journal World reports Brownback visited the Washburn Institute of Technology in Topeka on Thursday to publicize the $20 million program created this year. The program covers tuition for high school juniors and seniors taking certain courses at Kansas technical and community colleges. It will also pay public school districts $1,000 for each student who obtains a technical certificate for a high-need occupation. Those occupations include carpenters, electricians, computer specialists, cement masons and bus and truck mechanics.
UPDATE: Army Leaders Examine Mental, Physical Health of Force
FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — The Army's vice chief of staff is taking the best practices he's found for mental and physical health services from Fort Riley and five other installations back to the Pentagon as he assesses the health of the force. General Lloyd Austin visited Friday with Fort Riley and 1st Infantry Division leaders about what is being done to meet the health care needs of 18,000 soldiers and their families assigned to the Kansas post. The officers have spent the week touring Army posts in Georgia, North Carolina and Texas. Programs reviewed by the team include suicide prevention, care of wounded soldiers, prevention of sexual assault and evaluation of disabilities. Austin says suicides and behavioral health issues remain a focus, calling suicide an American problem, not just an Army problem.
Toxic Algae Continues to Plague Kansas Lakes
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Health officials say five Kansas lakes continue to have high levels of harmful blue-green algae. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has warnings about algae blooms at Chisholm Creek North Lake in Sedgwick County, Harvey County East Lake, Logan City Lake in Phillips County, Memorial/Veterans Lake in Barton County and South Lake Park in Johnson County. The warnings mean the lakes contain high levels of the algae and contact with the water is prohibited. Two new lakes, Deanna Rose Farmstead in Johnson County and Scott State Park in Scott County, have been added to the lower level advisory status for blue-green algae, which means direct contact with the water is discouraged for people, pets and livestock. Warnings or advisories were lifted this week for Herington Reservoir and Lovewell Reservoir.
Lynn Jenkins Seeks 3rd Term in Kansas 2nd District
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A minister, an attorney and a farmer are bringing their diverse backgrounds to the Kansas Democrats for the August 7 primary in the state's 2nd Congressional District. The winner will face Republican incumbent Lynn Jenkins this fall in a district that looks different than it did two years ago. Three federal judges drew new House districts after lawmakers failed to complete the task during the last legislative session. The 2nd District saw some of the most significant changes, shedding Riley County and Fort Riley and adding all of Douglas County and the city of Lawrence. Democrats Scott Barnhart of Ottawa, Robert Eye of Lawrence and Tobias Schlingensiepen of Topeka are seeking to reclaim the seat the party lost to Jenkins in 2008.
97 Employees Accept University of Kansas Buyout Offers
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas has announced that 97 employees have accepted buyouts and will retire by the end of this year. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the university expects the buyouts announced Friday to save $4.9 million. Spokesman Gavin Young told the newspaper the positions will be held open for at least a year before decisions are made on refilling them. Young says 11 faculty members, 66 university support staff and 20 other staff members accepted the buyouts. About 650 of the roughly 5,000 employees at the Lawrence and Edwards campuses qualified for the offer. Young says the buyouts were offered to 106 of the 149 employees who applied. The program provides a lump-sum payment of one year's salary, up to $100,000.
Chick-fil-A Controversy Reaches Kansas Universities
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Some students at two Kansas universities want Chick-fil-A removed from the campuses because of the fast-food chain's stance on gay marriage. Online petitions began at Wichita State University and the University of Kansas after Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy said he opposed gay marriage. Some groups are boycotting Chick-fil-A, while others are supporting the fast-food chain. The petition at Wichita State had about 530 signatures early Friday. The KU petition had nearly 1,800 signatures. Another petition to keep Chick-fil-A at KU had about 560 signatures. Wichita State officials say if they hear of anyone being refused service at Chick-fil-A because of sexual orientation, the school would address the situation. The Wichita Eagle reports that KU officials say they are discussing the issue with people on campus and off.
Ex-Riley County Detective Drops Lawsuit
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A former Riley County police detective has dropped a lawsuit he filed against the department after he was fired. Mark Bylkas sued the department and other officers last July, alleging he was fired and falsely accused of a crime after he reported misconduct by other officers. WIBW reports police officials announced Friday that the lawsuit had been dismissed but gave no reason for the dismissal. Riley County officials say no settlement was paid. Bylkas was fired in 2010 amid allegations over missing cocaine evidence and other charges. Riley County Attorney Barry Wilkerson says a special prosecutor is reviewing a Kansas Bureau of Investigation report to determine whether Bylkas could face criminal charges.
Former Kansas Sheriff Pleads to Meth Charges
STOCKTON, Kan. (AP) — A former northwest Kansas sheriff has pleaded guilty to four felony counts of distributing methamphetamine. Randy Axelson was the sheriff of Rooks County when he was arrested in December 2011 following an investigation by Kansas authorities. He was accused of distributing meth over a period of four months at the Rooks County Fairgrounds and within 1,000 feet of Stockton High School. The Hays Daily News reports that prosecutors dropped five counts in exchange for Axelson's guilty pleas Friday to four counts in Rooks County District Court. The plea agreement includes a recommendation that Axelson serve five years and four months in prison. Ellis County Attorney Tom Drees served as a special prosecutor in the case. Axelson had been free on bond and resigned as sheriff in June.
Kansas Man's Suicide Attempt Linked to Synthetic Marijuana Use
ASSARIA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas sheriff says an illegal synthetic drug apparently contributed to the suicide attempt of a 53-year-old man. The Salina Journal reports deputies went to the man's home in Assaria on Wednesday and found he had shot himself in the head. Saline County Sheriff Glen Kochanowski says the man was conscious and fighting as he refused help. Six deputies held the man down while an emergency medical technician gave him sedatives. The sheriff says the man was flown to a Wichita hospital, where he was in critical condition Thursday. Kochanowski blamed the man's irrational behavior on so-called herbal potpourri he was thought to have been mixing with tobacco and smoking over the previous couple of days.
Mother Charged After Daughter Swallows Drugs
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 25-year-old Lawrence woman is charged after her 5-year-old daughter died when she ingested drugs. Rebecca Lynn Wynne is charged with reckless involuntary manslaughter. She is also charged with two counts of aggravated child endangerment of her two other children, ages 6 and 4. Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson says the girl died in April after ingesting opiates that were left in the family's house. Wynne appeared in court Thursday, where her bond was set at $25,000. She was ordered to have no contact with her children, who are in protective custody. Wynne is scheduled to appear next in court August 2.
10-Year-Old Kansas Girl Dies in RTV Accident
LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A 10-year-old Leavenworth County girl has died after her rough terrain vehicle went into a farm pond. The Leavenworth County Sheriff's office says Shelbee Heim, of rural Leavenworth, was driving the four-wheel vehicle on a dirt path next to a pond Thursday evening. The vehicle dropped off the pond edge and rolled onto the driver's side, trapping Shelbee under water. Officers say the girl's father tried to lift the vehicle off his daughter, but was unsuccessful. Undersheriff Ron Cranor says Kickapoo Township firefighters removed Shelbee from the water about 15 minutes after the accident. She was pronounced dead at a Leavenworth hospital. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the death is being investigated as an accident. An autopsy will be performed.
Learjet to Suspend Production of Midsize Plane
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita aircraft maker Bombardier Learjet says it will suspend production of one of its midsize planes sometime this fall. A company spokeswoman told The Wichita Eagle on Thursday the move is prompted by weak demand for light aircraft. Annie Cossette says production of the Learjet 60 XR business jet might resume if the market improves. Cossette says the company is also evaluating the positions of the 275 people who work on the 60 XR. Learjet has more than 3,000 employees at the Wichita plant. The Learjet 60 XR carries up to eight passengers, with a maximum range of about 2,400 nautical miles. The Eagle reports the company delivered 19 of the planes last year and three in the first quarter of this year.
Judge Delays Decision on Hawker Beechcraft Bonuses
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A bankruptcy judge wants more information before deciding whether to approve Hawker Beechcraft's request to pay eight top executives more than $5.3 million in bonuses. But a company spokeswoman says the judge did allow $1.9 million in bonuses for 31 other lower management-level employees during a hearing Thursday in New York. The judge asked for a written summary of the day's testimony. It wasn't immediately clear when he may rule on the larger bonuses. The Wichita-based plane maker filed for bankruptcy in May. Machinists Union spokesman Frank Larkin says the case should be about what's best for the company, its employees and Wichita — not executives. Hawker Beechcraft declined comment beyond its court filings, which say its managers are a "talented and capable group" with much work to do.
TransCanada Receives Approval for Southern Part of Proposed Pipeline
HOUSTON (AP) — A Canadian company that wants to build an oil pipeline from Alberta's tar sands region to Texas refineries now has a final permit for the Gulf Coast portion of the project. TransCanada announced Friday that construction on the 485-mile section of pipeline would begin in the coming weeks. President Barack Obama encouraged the company to pursue the segment that will run from a refinery in Cushing, Okla. to Texas after he rejected the broader plan, saying it needed to be rerouted around Nebraska's sensitive Sand Hills region. For that project, TransCanada needs presidential approval because it crosses an international border. The shorter portion only requires permits from state and federal agencies. The shorter line will help relieve a bottleneck at the Oklahoma refinery.
Bowe's a No-Show in St. Joseph for KC Training Camp
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City's leader in receptions and receiving yards the past three years, was not on the field Friday as the Chiefs opened training camp. Bowe, a Pro Bowler in 2010, was given the franchise tag when he refused to sign the Chiefs' tender. If he eventually comes in and plays this year, as the Chiefs expect, he will get about $9.5 million. The sixth-year pro, a first-round pick in 2007, had 81 catches for 1,159 yards and five TDs last year. In 2010, he led NFL wide receivers with 15 touchdowns while making 72 receptions for 1,162 yards.
Small Kansas Town Gets Cafe Up and Running
ALDEN, Kan. (AP) — The central Kansas town of Alden was so determined to have a cafe that residents raised money to refurbish an existing eatery. At the same time, Sharyna Reece, who lived down the road in Lyons, was praying for a way to fulfill her dream of opening a restaurant. The two dreams came together when Alden officials heard about Reece. The Hutchinson News reports that since mid-July, the restaurant, called Reece's Cafe, has been offering homemade foods Wednesday through Sunday. The first day the restaurant opened, it served more than 150 people. Tom Frederick, an Alden community leader who contacted Reece, says the town of 150 people couldn't support a cafe alone. He says it was important to get a cook good enough to attract people from throughout the region.
Kansas Father Arrested in Baby's Fatal Abuse
DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — A southwest Kansas man has been arrested following what authorities are calling the abuse death of his 9-month-old son at a Wichita hospital. Family members took Brandon Villa to a Dodge City hospital on Sunday. He was flown to Wesley Medical Center the same day. The Dodge City Police Department was informed of his death early Thursday. The Hutchinson News reports the case is now being investigated as a homicide, although Dodge City Police Chief Craig Mellecker declined to comment on the baby's injuries. Mellecker says the 24-year-old father was arrested Wednesday in Texas County, Oklahoma on a warrant for abuse of a child. The News reports the father was out of jail on bond in a robbery case when the baby was injured Sunday.
Trial Set for Kansas Commune Leader
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Sedgwick County judge has rescheduled the murder trial of the leader of a Kansas commune that lived off life insurance payouts on its dead members. Daniel U. Perez had been scheduled for trial next week. District Judge Clark Owens on Thursday reset the trial for November 26. Perez is charged with premeditated first-degree murder in the 2003 death of Patricia Hughes at the group's compound near Wichita. The death was initially listed as accidental. Perez was known for years under the false name of Lou Castro. He also faces multiple counts of rape, sodomy, sexual exploitation of a child and lying on applications for life insurance and auto credit.
Wichita State Alumna Breaks Women's Bowling Record
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Katie Verbil had the best three-game score in women's bowling history, finishing with an 879 series in a Battle of the Sexes league competition. A former Wichita State bowler from Phoenix, Verbil opened with 33 consecutive strikes Wednesday night, then left a 10 pin on a solid pocket shot in the 10th frame. The left-hander had games of 300, 300 and 279. She broke the previous record of 878, which was set by Karen Rosenburg of Rolla, Missouri on December 12th, 2001.
Army Leaders to Discuss National Military Health Review
FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — A group of top Army officials is in Kansas to wrap up a national assessment of the physical and mental health of soldiers and their families. The officers have spent the week touring Army posts in Georgia, North Carolina and Texas. They'll discuss their findings Friday afternoon at Fort Riley after reviewing services and facilities at the northeastern Kansas post. The delegation is led by General Lloyd Austin, the Army's vice chief of staff. Programs reviewed by the team include suicide prevention, care of wounded soldiers, prevention of sexual assault and evaluation of disabilities.
**This story has been updated. Please see above.