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Regional Headlines for Monday, March 5, 2012




Kansas Secretary of State Draws Criticism for Forming PAC
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has formed his own political action committee. Kobach faced bipartisan criticism Monday from legislators who said it's inappropriate for the state's chief elections official to possibly get involved in partisan election campaigns through a PAC. The Republican secretary of state did not immediately return messages seeking comment. Records of the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission show that Kobach created the PAC — called Prairie Fire — on February 15, with himself as its chairman. State Senator John Vratil, a Leawood Republican, said Kobach is supposed to be an unbiased elections official. Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, said creating a PAC is highly inappropriate. But House Elections Committee Chairman Scott Schwab, an Olathe Republican, says he's not bothered by Kobach's PAC.

Kansas Democrats Urge Change in Corporate Influence on Campaigns
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Democrats in the Kansas Legislature say they'll push for a resolution urging Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to limit independent corporate campaign expenditures. The proposal comes from House Minority Leader Paul Davis, of Lawrence; Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, of Topeka; and Senator Tom Holland, of Baldwin City. It would urge Congress to endorse a constitutional amendment overturning the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 decision in the case that's come to be known as "Citizens United.'' The court said corporations have the same free-speech rights as individuals, and their independent campaign expenditures can't be limited. The lawmakers say corporations shouldn't be treated as people. Kansas House Speaker Mike O'Neal, a Hutchinson Republican, calls the proposal an attack on small businesses and says the 2010 ruling ended limits for labor unions as well.


Gingrich Names Kansas Election Team

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has named the members of his Kansas leadership team ahead of the state's upcoming GOP caucuses. The former U.S. House speaker from Georgia announced Monday that Beverly Gossage and Mike Pirner will head his campaign efforts in Kansas. Kansas Republicans are holding caucuses on Saturday to determine who wins the state's delegates to the party's national convention this summer. Gossage will serve as statewide chairwoman for Gingrich. She is the owner of HSA Benefits Consulting and serves on the Kansas GOP executive committee. Gingrich named Pirner as the state director of the campaign, assisted by Travis Couture-Lovelady and Rhandi Pendergrass. Gingrich also named coordinators in each of the state's four congressional districts, as well as a 12-member legislative leadership team.


Weekend Shootings Claim 3 Lives in Kansas City, Kansas 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas City, Kansas police have identified three people who died in two separate shootings over the weekend.
Police say 21-year-old Keith E. Barnett and 21-year-old Ranisha Jones died at the Rosedale Ridge Apartments early Sunday. An 8-month-old was injured in the shooting. Police have said the infant was related to the deceased woman, but aren't saying how. No suspects have been arrested. In a shooting early Saturday, 48-year-old David E. Garner was found dead and a woman in her 30s was seriously injured. Police found them after responding to a home just after 1:30 am. Further information on the shootings has not been released.


AP Analysis: Support Drops for KS 401(k)-Style Pension Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's support is keeping alive a proposal to start a 401(k)-style pension plan for new Kansas teachers and government workers as even fellow Republicans in the Legislature lose interest.  Public employee groups, their allies and increasingly skeptical GOP legislators have all but killed chances that Kansas will start a retirement plan similar to ones now common for private companies as a way of controlling the state's long-term pension costs.  House and Senate committees are working on alternatives to a 401(k)-style plan.  But their work will amount to little if they don't get Brownback on board, and he's not backing away from his support for a 401(k)-style plan. The possibility of a veto is a powerful incentive for Republicans who control both chambers to return to the 401(k) fold.  


Compromise Seen on KS Hunting and Fishing Fees for Seniors

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A compromise may be in the works on a plan to start making older Kansans pay for hunting and fishing licenses.  The annual licenses cost $20.50 each. Kansas adopted a license exemption for people 70 and older in 1937, then dropped the age to 65 in 1971.  Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Secretary Robin Jennison says the exemption will cost his department more than $1 million in the coming years as the population ages. He has proposed ending the exemption — an idea that lawmakers say is highly unpopular.  But at a Senate committee hearing last week, Jennison said he's open to alternatives, such as raising the age for free passes to 75 or creating a half-price license for senior citizens.  Repealing the exemptions requires legislative action.


Fire Burns More Than 2,000 Acres Near Fort Riley

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — Fire officials say a grass fire burned more than 2,000 acres near Fort Riley but did no damage to the fort or any of the fort's assets. More than 40 firefighters from Fort Riley and the Geary County Rural Fire Department fought the blaze Sunday afternoon. Fort Riley Fire officials say the blaze was a natural vegetation fire, but it is unclear how it started. KCLY News reports the fire occurred at US Hwy 77 and Kansas Hwy 82 along the northwest perimeter of the Fort Riley military training area. About 2,036 acres burned and fire crews spent nearly 4½ hours on the fire line.


Brownback Signs Water Policy Changes into Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has signed two bills he initiated to prolong the life of the state's water resources.  The Republican governor and key legislators visited Garden City Monday to sign the measures that change how water-rights holders use their water.  One bill repeals a 1945 law that required use of a certain amount of water each year under a so-called "use-it-or-lose-it" doctrine.  The other bill gives rights holders more flexibility in how they use their water each year. Brownback says it will allow for more water usage in dry years, with an eye toward conservation in wet years.  Both measures were part of the agenda Brownback outlined in January for the 2012 legislative session.

Sedgwick County Escapee Still at Large

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Sedgwick County authorities are asking for the public's help to find a man who escaped from the Sedgwick County Jail two weeks ago. KFDI reports that 33-year-old Sean McKenzie is still on the loose after walking away from the jail February 25. McKenzie was a trustee at the jail. He and two other trustees were taking out trash when McKenzie fled. He was being held on burglary, theft and drug charges. McKenzie is 5'11", 175 pounds, with blue eyes and brown hair. He has several tattoos, including the Alpha and Omega symbols on the rear of his calves, the English Lion on his right bicep, a large cross with circle on the left bicep, and the words "never, never, never give up" across his upper chest. 


KC Hospital Offers Intestinal Center for Children

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City has opened a center to treat young children with relatively rare intestinal conditions that can be life-threatening.  And later this year, Children's Mercy plans to become only the third medical center in the country to perform bowel transplants on children.  The director of the center, Joel Lim, says the clinic sees children who need special feedings because their bowels have malfunctioned for different reasons. About 45 children currently are being treated at the clinic.  The Kansas City Star reports that some the children were born with intestines that cannot absorb nutrients adequately, while others have malformed bowels.  Lim says the children have complicated medical conditions that need specialized help, but many of them can eventually lead normal lives.


KS Doctor Sentenced to Probation in Bogus Research Data Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka doctor who conspired to falsify data in a 2010 clinical trial of an allergy pill on human subjects won't go to prison, but must make restitution to the pharmaceutical company that paid for the research. The U.S. Attorney's office says 73-year-old Dr. Wayne Spencer was sentenced Monday to one year of supervised release and $36,000 in restitution. Spencer pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to defraud and failing to maintain records in a clinical trial as required by the Food and Drug Administration. Another defendant, Olathe nurse Lisa Sharp, will be sentenced March 23. Both worked for Lee Research Institute, which was paid by Schering-Plough to conduct the clinical trial on the allergy medication. Spencer was the principal investigator and Sharp was the lead research coordinator.


Jury Selection to Begin in 2002 Double Slaying

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Jury selection gets underway this week in the trial of a former Kansas woman accused of killing her ex-husband and his girlfriend nearly a decade ago.  Prosecutors say 51-year-old Dana Chandler fatally shot the two July 7, 2002, after her ex-husband, Mike Sisco, told her he was going to marry his girlfriend, Karen Harkness.  Chandler is facing two counts of premeditated first-degree murder. Prosecutors say 47-year-old Sisco was shot seven times and 53-year-old Harkness was shot five times while they slept.  Chandler was living in Denver at the time of the killings, but was staying in a tiny Oklahoma trailer when she was arrested last July.  Both sides have said there has been no physical evidence linking Chandler to the murders. Jury selection begins today (MON) and is expected to last at least two days.


Lawrence Officials Eye Policies in Ticket Scandal

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence officials are planning to review city policies after a scandal in which at least one police officer fixed speeding tickets in exchange for University of Kansas men's basketball tickets.  Police Chief Tarik Khatib says it's harder to fix tickets since his department started using electronic ticketing in 2006.  One police officer who was suspended resigned last month after the ticket-fixing issue was made public. City officials say the university official gave basketball tickets to the officer, who either dismissed or asked other officers to dismiss six tickets between 2000 and 2008.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports the city has said the person whose speeding tickets were dismissed is one of four Kansas Athletics employees in federal prison for their roles in a broader ticket scandal at the university.


Former Cessna Mechanic Sentenced to 18 Months for Thefts

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Cessna Aircraft Company mechanic who fled to Ecuador after being charged with stealing aircraft parts has been sentenced in Wichita to 18 months in federal prison. Diego Alejandro Paz Teran got the low end of sentencing guidelines for stealing parts and selling them on eBay. U.S. District Judge Monti Belot also ordered him to pay restitution of $130,000. The 31-year-old defendant was on the lam for two years before returning to the U.S. to face charges. He'll be deported after leaving prison. Teran said in court Monday he could not in good conscience avoid responsibility. He said he was a man of good moral character who made a mistake. But Belot said he would not impose a sentence that did not reflect the seriousness of the crime.


Michelle Obama Makes Fundraising Visit to KC 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — First lady Michelle Obama was in Kansas City on Monday for a fundraising trip for her husband. During a luncheon at the American Jazz Museum in the 18th and Vine District, she extended her thoughts and prayers to the victims of the recent spate of deadly storms before delivering an endorsement of Barack Obama's presidency. The predominantly female crowd of about 300 people paid $200 and up for tickets. "Your president has worked very hard to dig us out of this mess," she said. "We have a long way to go. We have work to do." Michelle Obama's speech touched on immigration, health care, education and the president's nomination of two women to the Supreme Court. She also praised the auto bailout and said the president has the backs of American workers. Some of the biggest applause came when she mentioned the killing of Osama bin Laden during last year's raid in Pakistan. Afterward she met one-on-one with some guests. Jillian McCallister, 11, of Kansas City, asked what it was like to meet pop sensation Justin Bieber, who has performed at the White House. Her father, attorney Brian McCallister, said the photographer hired to take pictures of the first lady with guests was giving Obama "the evil eye to move it along." "She says to him, 'We are talking about important things here, Justin Bieber. I'm not talking about health care right now. I'm talking about Justin Bieber.'" From Kansas City, Obama was flying to St. Louis to attend a reception at the Peabody Opera House in St. Louis.


Crews Contain Propane Leak in Northern Oklahoma

MEDFORD, Okla. (AP) — Officials say Oklahoma Natural Gas crews have contained a propane leak that prompted a voluntary evacuation of a northern Oklahoma town.  ONEOK (WUN' oak) spokeswoman Megan Washbourne and Medford City Manager Dea Kretchmar said Sunday workers are still trying to cap the leak, but they were waiting on a part to finish the job. Washbourne said she couldn't identify what the part is.  The leak began last Tuesday at a fuel-storage plant owned by ONEOK, which is ONG's parent company. Residents were evacuated out of concern the vapors could pose a fire risk if a pocket of propane ignited.  The Environmental Protection Agency said contractors planned to pump a brine and mud mixture into an underground well to stop the leak.  Kretchmar says residents who left their homes in the Oklahoma town near the Kansas state line returned by Sunday.


NWS Reviews Decisions on Tornado Warnings

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Meterologists in the Topeka bureau of the National Weather Service say the tornado that hit Harveyville last week formed too quickly to give them enough time to issue a warning.
The EF2 tornado killed one person, injured 11 others and damaged about 40 percent of the Wabaunsee County town last Tuesday.  Chad Omitt, meteorologist in charge of the Topeka branch, says the storm that had produced two tornadoes in Reno County appeared to be weakening. And radar did not show the rotation until the tornado was directly over Harveyville.  The Wichita Eagle reports that another problem was how quickly everything happened. The storm went from looking like a thunderstorm on one radar scan to showing a tornado in another scan four minutes later. On the next scan, the tornado was gone.


Higley's "Home on the Range" Cabin Receives Grant

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The 140-year-old cabin where the words to what became the Kansas state song were written has received a grant to help restoration efforts, but more money is needed.  Brewster Higley wrote the words to "Home on the Range" in a cabin along Beaver Creek in Smith County in north-central Kansas. It is badly in need of repairs.  The Kansas State Historical Society recently announced a $24,600 grant to help with the restoration. But supporters say it will take an additional $50,000 to fix the cabin.  Two Kansas senators have sponsored a resolution that recognizes the historical significance of the cabin, and encourages Kansas students and others to help raise money for its restoration.


Kansas Jayhawks Dominate Voting by Big 12 Coaches

DALLAS (AP) — Kansas forward Thomas Robinson has been voted the Big 12's best player by league coaches, while Bill Self was picked as co-coach of the year along with Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg.  Robinson was joined on the All-Big 12 first team on Sunday by teammate Tyshawn Taylor. The Cyclones' Royce White, Marcus Denmon of Missouri and J'Covan Brown rounded out the five-member squad.  Baylor's Quincy Acy and Pierre Jackson made the second team along with Missouri's Ricardo Ratliffe, Oklahoma State's Keiton Page and Rodney McGruder of Kansas State.  Bears forward Perry Jones III was joined on the third team by Iowa State's Scott Christopherson, the Jayhawks' Jeff Withey and Missouri guards Kim English and Phil Pressey.  Baylor's Quincy Miller and Oklahoma State's Le'Bryan Nash were co-freshmen of the year. White was the top newcomer, Withey the top defender and Michael Dixon of Missouri the best sixth man.


KS Gov Announces Date for Annual Easter Egg Hunt at Cedar Crest

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and first lady Mary Brownback have announced the date for the annual children's Easter egg hunt at Cedar Crest, their official residence.  The event will take place at 11am on April 7, the Saturday before Easter. It's open to children ages 1 through 9, and a local radio station plans to broadcast live from the hunt and give away a bicycle.  Sponsors include the National Guard, the Kansas Capitol Police, Russell Stover Candies and Security Benefit Group, which has its headquarters about three-quarters of a mile to the west.  Shuttles from Security Benefit's parking lot to Cedar Crest will begin at 9am.  The governor's office says if there's rain, all candy will be donated to a local children's charity.


School Tranfer Case with Implications for Kansas City District Begins

CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) — A St. Louis County judge has begun hearing arguments in a case that has the potential to allow thousands of Kansas City and St. Louis students to leave their unaccredited school systems. The hearing, which began Monday, involves a state law that requires unaccredited districts to pay tuition and transportation for students within their boundaries to attend accredited schools. After the St. Louis district lost its accreditation in 2007, several families in that district that had been paying to send children to the suburban Clayton School District decided they were owed free transfers. They sued when Clayton refused to send the tuition bills to St. Louis. The Missouri Supreme Court ruled in 2010 in the parents' favor, but sent the case back to St. Louis County Circuit Court for further consideration.


Chiefs Receiver Dwayne Bowe Gets Franchise Tag

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Chiefs have made Dwayne Bowe their franchise player, keeping the impact wide receiver off the free-agent market this offseason. Kansas City made the move less than an hour before Monday's deadline, even though it had long been expected. Bowe is guaranteed a salary of about $9.5 million next season, though the Chiefs have indicated they would like to sign him to a long-term deal. Bowe could still field offers from other teams, but the Chiefs would have the right to match. If they decline, they would lose Bowe but receive two first-round draft picks. Bowe had 81 catches for 1,159 yards and five touchdowns last season, even though Kansas City struggled with injuries to quarterback Matt Cassel and running back Jamaal Charles. Bowe had 72 catches for 1,162 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2010, when he made the Pro Bowl.


Former Cessna Mechanic Faces Sentencing for Thefts

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A mechanic who fled to Ecuador after he was charged with stealing aircraft parts is due back in federal court in Wichita to be sentenced.  Former Cessna Aircraft Company mechanic Diego Alejandro Paz Teran has asked for leniency at his sentencing today (MON) for selling stolen parts on eBay.  Teran was on the lam for two years before returning to the United States to face the charges.  His sentencing comes a week after U.S. District Judge Monti Belot angrily postponed a hearing over the testimony of a government witness.  The judge at the time berated the prosecutor over a Cessna employee who was unable to answer questions on the stand about the value of the stolen parts. The amount of the loss affects the possible sentence.



KS Doctor Faces Sentencing for Bogus Research

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka doctor who conspired to falsify data in a 2010 clinical trial of an allergy pill on human subjects has asked a judge to spare him from prison.  The doctor, 73-year-old Wayne Spencer, faces sentencing today (MON) in federal court in Topeka.  He pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to defraud and failing to maintain records in a clinical trial as required by the Food and Drug Administration. Sentencing for Olathe nurse Lisa Sharp is March 23rd.  Both defendants worked for Lee Research Institute, which was paid by Schering-Plough to conduct the clinical trial on the allergy medication. Spencer was the principal investigator and Sharp was the lead research coordinator.  Spencer voluntarily surrendered his medical license in December.  

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