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Regional Headlines for Friday, May 4, 2012


UPDATE: Kansas House Advances Anti-Abortion Measure 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has given first-round approval to a bill designed to keep the state from subsidizing abortions even indirectly through tax breaks. Friday's vote advances the measure to final action, expected Monday. The House has a strong anti-abortion majority, so the measure is likely to pass and go to the Senate. The bill would prohibit Kansas taxpayers from including abortion expenses among personal deductions for medical care. Other provisions would block tax breaks for abortion providers. The measure would also declare abortions illegal if they're performed only because a woman doesn't like the gender of the fetus.


Kansas Lawmaker Accuses KU Medical Center of Breaking Deal

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An influential Kansas House member is accusing the University of Kansas Medical Center of going back on a deal on abortion. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lance Kinzer made the allegation Friday during debate on a bill barring state employees from performing abortions on state time or property. Officials of the Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas had opposed the ban. Kinzer says the center agreed to a compromise that would let its medical residents perform abortions off-site and on their own time for the next year. Kinzer says the center has now reversed course by arguing to make the exception permanent. A spokeswoman for the Medical Center says the school wants to ensure that its obstetrics and gynecology program remains accredited.


UPDATE: Kansas House Panel Cancels Senate Map Meeting 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee has put off a hearing on a new Senate redistricting map until next week. The House Redistricting Committee canceled a scheduled meeting Friday as the chamber conducted a lengthy floor debate on abortion issues. The committee plans to hold the hearing Monday. The panel is considering a map that differs from one the Senate approved earlier in the week. The move breaks from the tradition of each chamber redrawing its own districts. The Senate approved a new map of its 40 districts Wednesday, only to see it defeated Thursday in the House over concerns that it diluted minority votes by collapsing two western Kansas districts. That map put Republican Senator  Garrett Love of Montezuma in the same district as Democratic Senator Allen Schmidt of Hays.


Kansas Senate Tables Vote on Concealed Weapons Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas Senate has indefinitely tabled a bill allowing gun owners with concealed-carry permits to bring their weapons into more public buildings.  Thursday's 22-17 vote tabling the measure leaves its chances for reaching Republican Governor Sam Brownback up in the air. The House had approved the bill in March.  The measure would prohibit many state and local agencies from banning concealed guns on their premises unless they could show they had adequate security.  Hospitals and colleges could ban concealed weapons, but would have to explain their reasons to the attorney general's office.  The bill was prompted by the Kansas Board of Regents' ban on firearms on state university campuses.

Kansas Senate Rejects 401(k) Measure but Passes Pension Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas Senate has rejected a proposal for a 401(k)-style retirement plan for some public employees but approved other changes for the state pension system.  An amendment creating a 401(k)-type plan for teachers and government workers hired after 2013 failed Thursday on a 20-20 vote.  But a larger bill meant to bolster the state pension system's long-term health passed on a vote of 32-8 and now goes to the House. The measure is not a 401(k)-type system, but it does require new hires to join a plan that departs from the traditional guarantee of benefits based on salaries and years of service.  Officials of the pension system expect an $8.3 billion gap between anticipated revenues and benefits through 2033.


Bill to Ease Smoking Restrictions Sent Back to House Committee  

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas House has ducked a debate on loosening the state's restrictions on smoking in public places. The House voted 62-49 on Friday to send the smoking measure to its Health and Human Services Committee rather than debate it. The bill would create an exception to a statewide ban on smoking in bars, restaurants and other public places for businesses catering only to adults 21 or older.  Representative Bill Otto, a LeRoy Republican, said he returned the bill to committee even though he supports it partly because the Senate isn't likely to approve it this year. Public health advocates pushed for the 2010 law, but critics contend it has hurt businesses and that restrictions should be left to cities and counties.


Bankruptcy Court Allows Hawker Beechcraft to Pay Workers

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Hawker Beechcraft says a federal bankruptcy court has granted approval for the Wichita aircraft maker to continue paying its workers. Friday's ruling from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York comes a day after the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Hawker Beechcraft said in a news release that it also received permission to pay all vendors and suppliers for goods and services delivered after the bankruptcy filing. The requests were part of various procedural "first-day motions" granted Friday. The company says it will use a commitment for $400 million in financing negotiated as part of its restructuring to meet those obligations.


Analysts Say Debt, Not Market, Led to Hawker Beechcraft Bankruptcy

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Economic turbulence has shrunk the market for business jets and is causing an especially bumpy ride for Hawker Beechcraft. The Wichita-based aircraft maker filed for bankruptcy protection this week, seeking approval for a plan that would write an estimated $2.5 billion in debt off its books. It's the latest piece of bad news for Wichita's aviation economy. But it carries a special significance for Hawker Beechcraft, which has not only suffered as the aviation market soured but has done so with a large amount of debt. Sales of small and midsize business jets have fallen by more than 50 percent in recent years. Wichita is home to three makers of such planes, and Kansas has lost more than 13,000 aviation jobs since 2008.


Rubbermaid, Winfield Leaders Celebrate Expansion

WINFIELD, Kan. (AP) — Newell Rubbermaid's decision to expand its plant in Winfield was a cause for celebration in southern Kansas town. State, local and federal officials were in Winfield Thursday for a groundbreaking of Rubbermaid's new, 500,000-square-foot distribution center. Rubbermaid announced in December that it would build the new distribution center, as well as closing its Greenville, Texas, plant and moving those jobs to Winfield. The Winfield Daily Courier reports the distribution facility is scheduled to be completed by the end of October. About 30 new jobs are expected to be created when the center opens. Rubbermaid is increasing capacity to add production of outdoor refuse and home organization products. About 170 jobs are expected to support the increased production.


Lansing Escapee Still on the Lam 

LANSING, Kan. (AP) _ A child sex offender who escaped from Lansing Correctional Facility on April 18 is still eluding authorities. State prison officials said in a news release Friday that 59-year-old Gary Leslie Furthmyer is believed to be in the downtown Kansas City, Missouri area. Possible sightings have been reported at Kansas City homeless shelters. Furthmyer escaped from his minimum security assignment at a steam plant at the Lansing prison. He was serving a six- to 25-year sentence out of Sedgwick County for indecent liberties with a child and aggravated failure to appear.  Furthmyer is 5-foot-9 and 185 lbs, with brown hair and blue eyes. He also uses the alias of Frank Schell.  Officials say it's possible he has grown his hair and has additional facial hair.

School Named in Abuse Lawsuit Denies Destroying Evidence

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas military school embroiled in a lawsuit alleging abuse of cadets is denying it destroyed photos and videos on students' cellphones related to the case.  Families of former cadets who have sued St. John's Military School in Salina have asked a federal judge to issue an order protecting any remaining photos and videos.  The plaintiffs also want a computer forensics expert appointed as a "special master" at the school's expense to attempt to recreate material they say was deleted from student cellphones.  In its response Thursday, St. John's called the request a fishing expedition and an attempt to "sling mud"' at the school. It says it has a longstanding policy barring students from taking pictures or videos on cellphones, but has recently modified the policy.


TransCanada Reapplies for Oil Pipeline

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Canadian company that wants to build the disputed Keystone XL pipeline in the U.S. says it has submitted a new application for the project after changing the route to avoid environmentally sensitive land in Nebraska. TransCanada says it filed a new application Friday for the project to carry oil from western Canada to Steele City, Nebraska, to link up there with other pipelines to carry oil to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. President Barack Obama blocked the project earlier this year, citing uncertainty over the environmental impact of the route, and drawing fire from Republicans. TransCanada proposed a new route last month that would veer east around the groundwater-rich Sandhills region of Nebraska.


Native Kansan Stationed at Fort Riley Dies in Afghanistan; Army Investigating

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — The Army says it's investigating the death of a Fort Riley soldier from Wichita who was found unresponsive in his living quarters in Afghanistan. Thirty-two-year-old Staff Sergeant Zachary Hargrove died Thursday at a medical facility at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. Fort Riley officials said Friday the cause of death was under investigation. Hargrove was a wheeled vehicle mechanic assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the 84th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, part of the 1st Infantry Division. He served three combat tours in Iraq before his deployment to Afghanistan. Hargrove joined the Army in September 1998 and was assigned to Fort Riley in August 2008. His military awards include six Army Commendation Medals, six Army Achievement Medals and the Iraq Campaign Medal with two campaign stars.


Kansas City-Area Toddler Dies after Being Left in Hot Car

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. (AP) — A 13-month-old suburban Kansas City baby has died after accidentally being left in the car all day while his mother worked. Lee's Summit police say the boy's mother thought she had dropped him off at daycare, but instead he spent the day in the car in unseasonably hot conditions. Authorities say the toddler's death was a tragic accident and there are no signs of foul play. The mother discovered her child was in the car and not breathing around 4:30 p.m. Thursday and called for medical help. Paramedics and police arrived at the scene and found the mother trying to revive the child, but neither she nor emergency responders could do so. Temperatures reached the low 80s, meaning the car's internal temperature could have easily reached 100.


Drug Convict Seeks Reinstatement of Kansas Teaching License

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former Kansas middle school teacher who served prison time on a federal drug charge is asking to have his teaching license reinstated. Forty-year-old Terrance Vick was teaching in Wichita when he was arrested in 1997 and accused of being a middleman between a drug buyer and supplier. He accepted a plea deal the next year and was sentenced to three years in prison. He had his teaching license stripped by the state of Kansas. Vick now lives in Grandview, Missouri. Since leaving prison he has taught at a Missouri charter school but was fired for posting a video on YouTube of his students chanting praise of Barack Obama. A commission that advises the Kansas Board of Education has recommended that the board reject Vick's application to regain his license.

Experts Predict Big Increase in Kansas Wheat Output

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Experts who spent three days viewing Kansas winter wheat fields are predicting sharply higher production this year over the drought-damaged 2011 crop.  Participants in the Kansas Wheat Quality tour on Thursday forecast total production of 403.9 bushels _ 40 percent higher than the 276.5 million bushels harvested last year.  Average yields across Kansas were forecast at 49 bushels per acre.  Members of the tour traveled about 4,000 miles throughout Kansas before convening Thursday at the Kansas City Board of Trade to offer forecasts.  The warm spring has hastened ripening by two to three weeks, making it easier to predict potential production more accurately.  Kansas Wheat marketing director Aaron Harries says the crop looks better than average. But he also says drought-stressed southwestern Kansas needs rain in the next week to reach projections.


Judges Dismiss Parts of Lawsuits Against Priests

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Some plaintiffs and allegations have been dismissed from three civil lawsuits filed against priests and the Kansas City-St. Joseph Catholic diocese. The Kansas City Star reports each ruling this week was a victory for the diocese or an accused priest. In federal court Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Gary Fenner dismissed parents from two lawsuits filed against the Reverend Shawn Ratigan, who allegedly took lewd photographs of their daughters. Fenner ruled that only the alleged child victims could collect damages. On Monday, Jackson County (MO) Circuit Judge Peggy Stevens McGraw threw out all allegations against the diocese in a suit filed last year against the Reverend Michael Tierney. The judge also dismissed eight counts against Tierney, who still faces civil allegations of childhood sexual abuse and battery.


KC Art Museum Loses Longtime Curator

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City is losing its curator of American art.  The museum said in a release Thursday that Margaret Conrads is leaving to become deputy director of art and research at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth.  Conrads has been at the Nelson-Atkins for 21 years and also served as interim director of education. The museum says her major achievements include the reinstallation of the American Galleries.  She begins her new job in Texas in September.


UPDATE: Injured Star Pitcher Says He'll Return to Baseball by 2013

UNDATED (AP) — Baseball's all-time saves leader has a torn ACL in his right knee and could be facing the end of his career. New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was injured before last (THUR) night's game in Kansas City while shagging fly balls during batting practice. The 42-year-old right-hander hinted during spring training that this could be his final year in the major leagues, but also said that he wouldn't announce his long-term plans until after the season. However, Rivera said on Friday that he will return to the mound by 2013, saying he does not want his career to end this way. Rivera told reporters: "I can't go out like this."

Big 12 Hires Stanford AD Bowlsby as Commissioner

LAS COLINAS, Texas (AP) _ The Big 12 Conference has made it official, announcing the hiring of Stanford athletic director Bob Bowlsby as its new commissioner.  The North Texas-based league announced the hire on Thursday, a few hours after Bowlsby broke the news to his staff and coaches at Stanford. He will take over from interim Commissioner Chuck Neinas on June 15th.  The 60-year-old Bowlsby spent the past six years at Stanford, helping it rebuild its football program into a national power. He will now take over a BCS conference that seems to have found some stability after losing four schools over the past two years. The league will head into this fall with 10 members, including new additions TCU and West Virginia.


Kansas House Debating Anti-Abortion Measure

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House members have rejected an attempt to narrow the scope of a bill designed to prevent the state from subsidizing abortions even indirectly through tax breaks. The House rejected an amendment on a voice vote during a debate Friday to eliminate any provisions in the bill dealing with tax laws. It was offered by Representative Judy Loganbill, a Wichita Democrat and abortion rights supporter. The House is expected to vote on the bill Friday. The measure would prevent individual income tax filers from including abortion expenses when claiming a deduction for medical costs. It also would declare abortions are illegal if they're performed only because a woman doesn't like the gender of the fetus. It prohibits public school courses in human sexuality from using materials from groups providing abortions.

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


Kansas House Panel to Meet on Senate Map

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas House committee is expected to hold hearings on a new Senate redistricting plan similar to one that failed to get enough votes from senators.  House Speaker Mike O'Neal said the House Redistricting Committee would hear testimony Friday with the goal of endorsing a plan early next week. The move breaks from legislative tradition where each chamber draws its own political boundaries. A new Senate map approved by that chamber Wednesday was defeated Thursday in the House over concerns that it diluted minority votes by collapsing two western Kansas districts. That map put Republican Senator Garrett Love of Montezuma in the same district as Democratic Senator Allen Schmidt of Hays.  Legislators must redraw political boundaries to account for population changes.

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

Hawker Beechcraft Files for Bankruptcy Protection

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Aircraft maker Hawker Beechcraft has filed for bankruptcy protection as it works to restructure its massive debt amid sluggish demand for the military planes and business jets it makes. The Wichita, Kansas-based manufacturer said in a statement Thursday that it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in New York City.  Hawker Beechcraft says it entered agreements with a majority of its senior secured lenders and bondholders to eliminate $2.5 billion in debt and $125 million of annual cash interest expenses. It says it obtained a commitment for $400 million in financing to enable it to continue paying employees, vendors and others.  It says it filed for bankruptcy to implement the terms of its prearranged restructuring.  The company listed a total debt of more than $2.3 billion at the end of 2011.

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

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