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Regional Headlines for Monday, July 2, 2012



Reorganization of State Agencies Marked with Kansas Statehouse Ceremony

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback marked a milestone in his administration's efforts to curb the growth in Medicaid spending by reorganizing state agencies. A ceremony Monday at the Statehouse highlighted the completion of reorganization of social services agencies that provide programs to families, children, the elderly and residents with disabilities. Kansas now has a Department of Children and Families, replacing the former Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, which is narrowing its mission. The former Department on Aging has been expanded into the Department on Aging and Disability Services, picking up former SRS programs providing long-term care for the disabled. Brownback's administration issued contracts last week to three private companies to manage the $2.9 billion-a-year Medicaid program, which covers health care for the poor, disabled and elderly.


Report: KS Authorities Wiretap Approval Requests Hold Steady 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The number of law enforcement requests for court-approved wiretaps fell last year by 14 percent nationwide, while the number in Kansas remained relatively steady amid aggressive narcotics investigations. The latest report by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts shows 2,732 intercepts were approved last year by federal and state courts. Federal authorities account for 792, while 1,940 came from the 25 states that provide reports. Judges in the two federal judicial districts in Missouri approved 23 wiretaps in 2011, down from 46 the prior year. In Kansas, federal judges authorized 22 wiretap applications in 2011, compared to 25 in 2010. Among the investigations was a Kansas wiretap operation that ran 172 days in 2010 and intercepted 15,578 communications, costing nearly $350,000 and leading to 17 convictions.

Kansas Insurance Chief's Health Care Reform Stance Runs Against GOP Grain

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger is at odds with Governor Sam Brownback and other fellow Kansas Republicans over what they deride as "Obamacare." She's trying to preserve a role for the state in a federally mandated online health insurance market. But the conflict runs deeper than a disagreement over tactics in responding to the health care overhaul championed by Democratic President Barack Obama. Praeger stands out among Kansas Republicans for not condemning the 2010 law with its individual mandate that requires Americans not covered by their employers to purchase health insurance. Brownback wants to wait on making decisions about an online health insurance market until after the presidential election. But after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law last week, Praeger praised it as step toward ensuring access to health care for all Americans. Within the Kansas GOP, she often appears to be a faction of one.

Kansas Man Accused in Fort Bragg Shooting Dies

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) — Military officials say a soldier who shot and killed his superior officer at Fort Bragg and then turned the gun on himself is also dead. The Army said in a news release Sunday that 27-year-old Specialist Ricky Elder of Hutchinson, Kansas died on Friday. The statement from Fort Bragg said Elder was recently charged with larceny of a toolkit valued at $1,700 and had been awaiting court martial. Lieutenant Colonel Roy Tisdale of Alvin, Texas, was fatally wounded Thursday during a safety briefing. A third soldier, 22-year-old Specialist Michael Latham of Vacaville, California also was wounded and has been released from the hospital. Elder enlisted in the Army in 2004. He deployed to Iraq from October 2006 to November 2007 and to Afghanistan from September 2010 to July 2011.

Toxic Algae Blooms Keep Some Kansas Lakes Closed

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — High levels of toxic algae are closing several Kansas lakes heading into the Fourth of July holiday. The Kansas City Star reported that lake management officials have posted warning signs prohibiting recreational activities at four lakes. They are the Marion Reservoir in Marion County, Old Herington City Lake in Dickinson County, Logan City Lake in Phillips County and Memorial Veterans Lake in Barton County. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment also has also issued health advisories for South Lake in Overland Park and Lowell Reservoir in Jewell County. Under an advisory, fishing and boating may be safe. But the department still strongly discourages swimming or any other direct contact with the water. A health advisory at Cedar Bluff Reservoir in Trego County was lifted this week.

Kansas Getting $500K in Law Enforcement Grants

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The federal government has awarded more than $500,000 to law enforcement agencies in five Kansas communities for new equipment, staff and services. The largest grant — about $363,000 — goes to Sedgwick County prosecutors, the sheriff's department and the Wichita Police Department. The money will go toward investigative equipment, computers and software for court hearings and other purposes. Police in Kansas City, Kansas are getting $93,000 for a unit that takes reports on non-emergency offenses such as shoplifting and minor property damage. The other grants are $47,000 for video equipment in Douglas County; $32,000 for technology upgrades in Leavenworth County; and more than $28,000 for new equipment for Hutchinson police and the Reno County Sheriff's Office.

GM Worker Critically Injured in KC Plant Electrical Blast

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A maintenance worker has been critically injured in an electrical explosion at the General Motors' Fairfax Assembly Plant in Kansas City, Kansas. The Kansas City Star reports that the accident occurred at the auto plant early Sunday while a contract employee was working on an electrical substation breaker box. The man was hospitalized with burns on his torso. GM spokeswoman Lauren Indiveri Fitapelli said Monday that the injured man sustained significant burns, but she did not have his hospital condition. She says the cause of the accident is under way and that work there was not affected because the plant is shut down until July 16 and running with a minimal staff. She also says the blast caused only minor damage to the building.

Flags to Be Lowered for Kansas Soldier

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Flags will be lowered throughout Kansas on Tuesday as a soldier from Johnson County is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Army Sergeant Michael J. Knapp, of Overland Park, was killed May 18 during his third tour of duty in Afghanistan. The 28-year-old graduate of Shawnee Mission North High School had become a father last year when his wife, Abby, gave birth to a girl. Knapp was a member of the 1st Battalion (Air Assault), 377th Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Fires Brigade based out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington. Governor Sam Brownback ordered that flags be flown Tuesday at half-staff from sun-up to sundown.


Overland Park Drowning Victim Identified 

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Northeast Kansas authorities have released the name of a man who drowned in a hotel swimming pool. Overland Park police identified the man Monday as 51-year-old Chinubhai Mathurdas Patel of Ahmedabad, India. He drowned Friday night in a pool at an Econolodge. Later in the evening, a 6-year-old boy was found at the bottom of an apartment pool and rushed to a hospital in critical condition. Authorities have used the twin accidents to remind people to be extra cautious during the summer swimming season. Emergency officials urged people to swim with a buddy and reminded parents to keep a watchful eye on children at all times.


Fireworks Blamed in Wichita Fire Injuring Two

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Fireworks are getting the blame for a Wichita fire that seriously injured a woman and her young child. The Wichita Eagle reports that the blaze started early Sunday in a plastic trash can near the house where people had dumped fireworks remnants. The trash smoldered for hours before sparking a fire that spread to the house. Fire Lieutenant Kelly Zane says a 37-year-old woman and her 2-year-old son were the only ones in the home at the time of the fire. They were able to escape. The mother and son have been taken to the burn unit at a Wichita hospital, where they are both in serious condition. Zane says neither the mother nor her son set off any of the fireworks.


Sparkler Bomb Destroys Mailbox, Damages Kansas Home

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say it's lucky nobody was hurt when a homemade "sparkler bomb" destroyed a mailbox and damaged a home. Lieutenant Doug Nolte says a woman who lives in the south part of the city heard a loud explosion around 9:15 pm Sunday and went outside to investigate. The Wichita Eagle reports she found her mailbox destroyed and debris from it had struck the side of her house. Nolte says the department's bomb squad determined someone had built an improvised explosive device using sparklers and set it off inside the mailbox. He says the force of sparkler bombs is strong enough to kill anyone who is nearby when they explode. The case is being investigated as an arson.


Assaria Man Convicted in Wife's Death

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A 41-year-old central Kansas man has been found guilty in the 2010 death of his wife. A Saline County jury on Monday convicted Michael Andrew Paulson of second-degree murder in the July 6, 2010, death of Valerie Paulson. The Salina Journal reports that Paulson, who uses his middle name, also was found guilty of attempted second-degree murder in connection with injuries inflicted on his sister-in-law, Jessie Putman. Prosecutors said Paulson was facing the prospect of divorce and took a knife upstairs with him when he hid in the loft of their Assaria home as his wife was returning to pick up her belongings. Defense attorney Richard Ney told jurors that Paulson may have spontaneously picked up a knife that had been left in that area.


Low Kansas Water Levels Partly Due to Drought

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Water levels on some Kansas rivers are approaching record lows amid a drought and heat wave. The Hutchinson News reported that water in the Arkansas River is stagnant from limited flow. U.S. Geological Survey officials say this will be the river's lowest June flow in 53 years of record keeping. On Friday, the flow was down to about 27 cubic feet per second, far below the typical flow of 475 cubic feet per second. And the Arkansas River isn't alone. Several other rivers were recording lower-than-normal water levels, prompting state officials to curtail junior irrigation rights in some areas. Reservoirs also are hurting. The U.S. Interior Department's Bureau of Reclamation says Cedar Bluff is only 43 percent full.

Kansas Man Dies in Accident on Arkansas Lake

EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) — Authorities are investigating a watercraft accident that killed a Fort Scott, Kansas man in Beaver Lake in Carroll County, Arkansas. Corporal Matt Guthrie with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission said that 33-year-old Corey Larson died in the accident in the Hogscald Hollow area about 6 pm Friday. Guthrie says Larson and a friend were riding personal watercraft when Larson stopped abruptly in front of his friend. He says the friend didn't see Larson stop and his watercraft struck Larson from behind. The Carroll County coroner pronounced Larson dead at the scene. The accident is under investigation.

KCK Police Investigate 2 Fatal Motorcycle Crashes

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police are investigating two fatal motorcycle crashes that occurred about an hour apart in Kansas City, Kansas. The first crash happened around 11 pm Saturday when a pickup truck near-ended a motorcycle. Police said in a news release that responding officers found the man who was driving the motorcycle dead from his injuries. The driver of the truck wasn't injured. The second crash happened just after midnight Sunday, and the motorcycle was the only vehicle involved. Police said the male driver was dead, and a female passenger sustained non-life-threatening injuries. The names of the victims weren't immediately released.

Fleeing Driver Dies in Fiery Junction City Crash

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — A suspected drunken driver has died in a fiery crash while fleeing from Geary County deputies. The Geary County Sheriff's Department said deputies attempted to stop the driver around 2:40 am Sunday. About a minute later, the vehicle struck a tree and caught fire in Junction City. The deputy and a Junction City police officer tried unsuccessfully to get the driver out of the vehicle. After firefighters extinguished the blaze, the Geary County Coroner pronounced the suspect dead. The Kansas Highway Patrol is investigating. No other information was immediately released.


Wichita Teen Hopes to Revamp Defunct Park

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita teenager has launched a multi-million dollar campaign to renovate the city's long-closed amusement park. The Wichita Eagle reports that 18-year-old Alex East's project to restore the Joyland amusement park has raised about $6,000 from public donations. But that's a fraction of the $10 million East estimates will be needed to buy and renovate the 40-acre park. His organization, Restore Hope Inc., recently got a boost when it was granted nonprofit status, which will allow it to apply for grants and accept tax-deductible contributions. Joyland owner Margaret Spear ran the park for decades with her husband but closed it permanently in 2006. The city's future role in the project — if any — remains unknown. But the city council turned down his request for $10 million last year.

Economy Slowing in 9 Midwestern and Plains States

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new monthly survey suggests the economy in nine Midwest and Plains states will continue to slow down but continue growing even as Europe's woes persist. The region's overall economic index dipped to 57.2 in June from May's 57.6 and April's 60. Any score above 50 suggests growth. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says businesses in the region are still benefiting from healthy farm income and exports, but the activity is slowing. Global economic problems are hurting export orders. Hiring remains strong in the region as the employment index climbed to 61.8 from May's 61.2. A quarter of the managers surveyed say the biggest hurdle in the next year is implementation of health care reform. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.


Fort Hays State Banks $1.5M Yearly from China

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — Fort Hays State has been collecting about $1.5 million a year from the tuition that students in China pay to attend Fort Hays' classes at universities in China. The Kansas City Star reports Fort Hays State has sent faculty members to two Chinese universities where about 3,500 Chinese students are taking courses leading to U.S. bachelor's degrees. Students in the People's Republic of China pay to take courses for their Chinese degree while enrolled in a separate track for their Fort Hays coursework. Fort Hays charges those Chinese students more for classes than Kansas students pay, but less than non-Kansas residents who attend the Hays campus in western Kansas. The China students also pay an international fee of about $30 per credit hour.


Atchison Sees Interest Spike in Amelia Earhart

ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — Interest in aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart is high in her early childhood home and birthplace of Atchison on the 75th anniversary of her disappearance. The St. Joseph News-Press reports that an influx of visitors have been flocking to the city about 45 miles northwest of Kansas City. One popular destination is the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum, which is housed in the home where Earhart was born in 1897. Helping to fuel the flow of visitors are renewed efforts to learn what happened to Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan. They disappeared July 2, 1937, while flying from New Guinea to Howland Island. The flight was part of Earhart's attempt to become the first female pilot to circumnavigate the globe.

Horse Makes Escape from KC Birthday Party

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A horse named Kizzy is back with her owner after making a dramatic escape from a child's Kansas City birthday party. The Kansas City Star reported that Kizzy took a two-mile jaunt through the heart of the city's Waldo neighborhood. Her owner, Rodney Stanley, says the 5-year-old managed to escape through an opening in a fence. He tracked her by following the marks her shoes made on the pavement. Ultimately, Kizzy was stopped on 69th Street by two women who followed her in a vehicle. A man who lived nearby and had grown up on a farm then led her to a shady spot and tied her to a tree. His wife filled a bucket of water for the horse, and the couple hosed her down as they waited for animal control.


Mother Heading to Iowa Reunion Crashes; Daughter Dies

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A 13-year-old girl has died when the vehicle her mother was driving crashed and rolled into a field near the Nebraska-Kansas state line. The Kansas Highway Patrol says Taylor Isaac died in the Saturday morning accident. KETV television reports her mother, 39-year-old Nicki Isaac, was driving from their home in Hydro, Oklahoma to a high school class reunion in Underwood, Iowa, when their SUV went out of control and rolled. Isaac and two children, Taylor, and 14-year-old Jacob, were trapped in the vehicle for four hours. The youngest son, 10-year-old Mackenzie was thrown out and waved down a passing car for help. Nicki Isaac and the two boys were injured. The Underwood High School class of 1992 is raising money for the family. Isaac grew up in Underwood.

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