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Regional Headlines for Monday, September 17, 2012




UPDATE: Obama's Spot on Kansas Ballot Set as Challenge Ends 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — President Barack Obama's place on the November election ballot in Kansas is now secure. The all-Republican State Objections Board on Monday formally ended its review of whether the Democratic president should be listed as a candidate for re-election. The board's action came after Manhattan resident Joe Montgomery dropped his objection. Montgomery said Friday he was withdrawing his challenge because of what he called intimidation directed at him and people around him. But California lawyer and dentist Orly Taitz showed up at the meeting demanding to speak. She told board members they were ignoring evidence questioning Obama's citizenship. That brought an angry response from Topeka progressive activist T.J. Gaughan. He and a few other Obama supporters shouted at Taitz. A security officer ordered them outside.


Council Approves Kansas Employee Pay Raises

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Raises for thousands of Kansas state employees have cleared a final step. The increases were given formal approval Monday by the State Finance Council, made up of Governor Sam Brownback and top legislative leaders. Kansas lawmakers approved $11.2 million for the raises in May as part of the state budget for the fiscal year that began in July. Nearly 4,300 state employees will benefit, including some Highway Patrol troopers and corrections officers at state prisons and juvenile detention centers. This is the fourth round of annual raises under a plan approved by the Legislature to bring the salaries of state employees closer to those of private sector workers. The raises were suspended for one year in 2011 because of budget constraints.


Former Lawmaker Named as Shawnee County Elections Official

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has named a former state House member as the top elections official in one of the state's most populous counties. The appointment of 43-year-old Andrew Howell as Shawnee County election commissioner was announced Monday. Howell replaces Elizabeth Ensley Deiter, who stepped down last week to become a magistrate judge for four northeast Kansas counties. Shawnee County is home to the city of Topeka and the state Capitol. Howell runs a small home-renovation company in the Topeka area. He served in the Kansas House from 1995 through 2004. He, like Kobach, is a Republican. Elections in most Kansas counties are run by elected clerks. But Kansas law requires the secretary of state to appoint election commissioners for the state's four most populous counties.


Cool Temperatures, Scattered Rain Help Kansas Crops

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Cooler temperatures and scattered rainfall in Kansas over the past week helped improve the condition of row crops a bit. But the picture remained fairly dismal. The Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service said in its weekly update Monday that about 69 of the state's soybeans and 68 percent of the sorghum crop are in poor to very poor condition. The agency also said range and pasture conditions have improved somewhat, with 86 percent now rated poor to very poor. Meanwhile, the corn harvest is rapidly progressing. Fifty-one percent of the corn crop was harvested as of Sunday, about three weeks ahead of last year's pace. Kansas growers have begun planting winter wheat. Five percent of seeding is now complete.


Copper Thieves Cause $750K in Damage in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Copper thieves tore out electrical systems at a Wichita industrial park, causing about $750,000 in damage. The theft was reported Friday at Kamen Industrial Park in Wichita. Police said the vandals stole about 2,000 feet of copper wiring. The Wichita Eagle reports that police received the call Friday afternoon after someone with the company found a large pile of heavy-strand copper wire on the ground. The thieves hit the roof of the building tearing out electrical systems to get to the copper wiring. Sergeant Bart Brunscheen, a spokesman for the Wichita Police Department, says detectives are looking at a potential suspect.

Mission Mulls Ban on Drivers' Hand-Held Phones

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas City suburb has been considering a ban on the use of hand-held cellphones while driving. A proposed ordinance under consideration in the Johnson County suburb of Mission would allow people to talk on hands-free cellphones. But police would be able to pull over drivers who are holding phones within about 8 inches of their heads. The ordinance is before the Mission City Council's finance and administration committee and will come up for discussion, possibly in November. The Kansas City Star reports that the only city in Kansas to ban cellphone use by drivers is Manhattan. Mission Mayor Laura McConwell said the council recognizes the safety issues involved. But she says the ordinance may require workshops and public hearings, and other activities aimed at educating the public.

Lawrence to Utilize Effluent for Irrigation

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has recently approved a plan for Lawrence to use treated wastewater for irrigating city shrubbery and plots of land. Jeanette Klamm, utilities program manager for Lawrence, says this summer's drought influenced the city's decision to seek approval for the plan, which calls for integrating effluent — or treated wastewater — into the city's irrigation plan. The Lawrence Journal World reports that Lawrence will soon be getting water for trees, grass, flowers in medians, roundabouts and other plots of land from the wastewater treatment facility instead of from a fire hydrant. Wichita also pumps effluent water from Cowskin Creek Water Quality Reclamation Facility to recreational ponds. Many other towns across Kansas have been pumping effluent water to golf courses for years.

National Catholic Group Calls on KC Bishop to Resign

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A national Catholic organization is pushing for Bishop Robert Finn to resign after he became the highest-ranking U.S. church official convicted of a crime related to the child sexual abuse scandal. The Kansas City Star reported that the National Survivor Advocates Coalition made the demand during a news conference Sunday in downtown Kansas City. Coalition chairwoman Kristine Ward says a criminally convicted bishop "cannot lead." Finn leads the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. He was convicted earlier this month of one misdemeanor for failing to report child abuse suspicions. The charges stem from a case in which church officials knew about child porn photos on a priest's computer but didn't turn him in until six months later. A diocese spokesman says the bishop continues to focus on his work.


Duncan Due in Kansas on Tuesday

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is getting a visit from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Duncan is due in Emporia Tuesday for a town hall meeting at Emporia State University. He's also scheduled to visit Topeka, with a stop planned at the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic site. Duncan is on a 10-day national tour that ends Friday in Washington. In Emporia, he plans an afternoon town hall at Emporia State University as well as a visit to the National Teachers Hall of Fame, which is located on the Emporia campus.


Lenexa Man Pleads No Contest in Wife's Death

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A northeastern Kansas man has avoided a trial by pleading no contest in the killing of his wife earlier this year. Thirty-seven-year-old Dominic Camacho had been scheduled to go on trial Monday in Johnson County District Court on a charge of first-degree murder. The Kansas City Star reports the Lenexa man instead pleaded no contest to a charge of second-degree murder. Camacho's wife, 35-year-old Leslie Camacho, was found strangled March 13 in the couple's suburban Kansas City home. Police went to the home when relatives became worried after being unable to reach Leslie Camacho. The victim worked at the University of Kansas Hospital's Cancer Center, processing outpatient registrations in breast imaging. Sentencing for Dominic Camacho is scheduled for October 22.


KCK Police ID Men Killed in Shooting, Suicide 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas City, Kansas police have released the name of a man killed in a shooting and the suspect who committed suicide during a police standoff. Police said Monday that 27-year-old Gabriel Valedivia was the person whose body was discovered Thursday outside a home. While responding to the homicide, police were told that a possible suspect was in a nearby home. After a more than seven hour standoff, police went inside the home and found the suspect dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. The suspect was identified as 31-year-old Michael Brothers. Both men were residents of Kansas City, Kansas.

Naturalization Ceremony Set for KU

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas is scheduled to host a naturalization ceremony Monday at the Dole Institute of Politics. About 100 prospective U.S. citizens are expected to attend the event Monday afternoon. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the ceremony is an annual event and will be presided over by U.S. Judge John Lungstrum. University of Kansas Provost Jeffrey Vitter and Kansas business school dean Neeli Bendapudi will also be on hand to greet the new citizens.


New WSU President to Be Inaugurated Next Month

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The public is invited to next month's inauguration of Wichita State University's new president. John Bardo succeeds Donald Beggs, who stepped down over the summer after 12 years in the job. Governor Sam Brownback is scheduled to speak at the ceremony the afternoon of October 12 in the Hughes Metropolitan Complex, about a mile north of the Wichita State campus. Bardo began his academic career at Wichita State. He chaired the sociology and social work department from 1978 to 1983. He later worked at the University of North Florida and Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts. More recently, Bardo served as chancellor of Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina from 1995 to 2011. He returned to the classroom last year as a professor of education.

PSU Named as Top-Tier Regional School by National Magazine

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — Pittsburg State University has been recognized as a top tier regional university by U.S. News and World Report. The Pittsburg Morning Sun reports that the magazine has also ranked Pittsburg State highest among the state's three regional universities in its 2013 Best Midwest Regional Universities list. The 12-state Midwest region includes Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin. Bill Ivy, associate vice president for enrollment management and student success at Pittsburg State, says it's the second year in a row that the university in southeast Kansas has been named a top-tier institution by U.S. News and World Report.


No Driver's Licensure Changes Pending for Elderly Kansas Drivers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — More elderly drivers are on Kansas roads and the nation as a whole, as baby boomers age and continue to take to the highways. In Kansas, once residents reach age 65 they must renew their licenses every four years instead of six as they did when they were younger. The issue of older drivers and their competence has emerged again after a 100-year-old driver backed over a group of Los Angeles schoolchildren last month. An Associated Press review of state laws nationally shows a hodgepodge of rules, reflecting scientific uncertainty and public unease over when it's time to stop driving. Kansas doesn't have any pending changes to driving requirements, but programs exist to help keep older drivers current. Transit services are also growing, providing rides for those who've given up their keys.


UPDATE: No Foul Play Suspected in Missouri Remains Case 

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — Investigators say no foul play is suspected in the death of a man whose remains were found over the summer along the Little Blue River. The Jackson County Sheriff said at a news conference Monday that the remains were those of 28-year-old Christopher Porter. The Kansas City Star reported that the mentally disabled Independence man walked away from a hospital in February. Porter's phone was found on a bridge over the river. Authorities began investigating in June when kayakers came across bones from a hand while walking along the Little Blue River. Then eight days later, a shoe with a foot inside turned up about 10 miles downstream. The foot was taken to the county crime lab, and the hand was sent to the University of Texas for identification.

KS Family Among Those Honored at Reno Tragedy Commemoration

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Spectators and racers paid tribute Sunday to 11 people who were killed when a plane crashed into box seats at last year's Reno National Championship Air Races. A moment of silence was held on the anniversary of the accident at Reno-Stead Airport for pilot Jimmy Leeward and 10 victims on the ground. The emotional ceremony before a crowd of tens of thousands also featured the release of white balloons and a flag presentation after each victim's name was read. Among the injured in attendance were members of a Kansas family. The crash killed 73-year-old Cherie Elvin, of Lenexa, Kansas. Her husband Chuck, two sons and daughter-in-law were injured. Leeward's P-51 Mustang fighter reached 530 miles per hour before pitching towards the sky, then slamming nose-first into box seats.

Fewer Butterflies at Monarch Watch's Kansas Event

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — There were fewer monarch butterflies found during an annual event aimed at tracking their migration through Kansas. Chip Taylor, director of the University of Kansas-based Monarch Watch conservation group, told The Lawrence Journal World that this summer's drought meant a much smaller population of monarchs at Saturday's event at the Baker Wetlands. Monarch Watch organizes the tagging to track migration through the U.S. and into Mexico for the winter. This is the group's 21st year of tagging, and it's been inviting the public to take part. Taylor says this year's monarch population was the smallest he'd seen in northeast Kansas. Consistently dry conditions led to fewer flowering plants and milkweed, which the butterflies need to survive. Taylor says, however, the nation's northeast coast population...which is normally doing well.


89-Year-Old Driver Hits 3, Killing Baby in KC

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An 89-year-old churchgoer speeding backward out of a handicapped parking spot struck and killed a baby and injured her grandparents. The Kansas City Star reports that the driver also slammed his car into another vehicle and overturned a fire hydrant Sunday morning outside First Baptist Church. The car traveled about 50 feet before coming to a stop. Witness Patty Reed says the elderly driver's vehicle shot out of the parking space "like a cannon." Her husband, Cec Reed, says one woman started CPR on the injured baby. But investigators said the baby died shortly after the accident at an area hospital. The conditions of the other two victims weren't available. Officials said the driver of the vehicle was cooperating with the investigation. The victims' identities haven't been released.

Kansas Couple Bequeath $474K for MWSU Scholarships

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Western State University has received a $474,000 gift from the estate of a northeast Kansas couple. The money from the late Earl and Elmyra "Susie" Euler of Blair, Kansas will be used to provide about $19,000 a year worth of scholarships. The money will benefit graduates of Central High School in St. Joseph. Missouri Western President Robert Vartabedian says the university is "extremely grateful." Susie Euler attended Central High School and later Missouri Western when it was still known as St. Joseph Junior College. She and Earl Euler wed in 1945. Besides running a farm, Earl Euler taught grade-schoolers, and Susie Euler worked for Doniphan County, Kansas Agriculture Conservation Services and a bank. Earl Euler died in 2011 at 88. Susie Euler was 81 when she died in 2008.


Chiefs RB Charles Dings Reconstructed Knee

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles dinged up the same knee that needed reconstructive surgery last season during Sunday's 35-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills. Charles, who tore his left ACL in Week 2, carried only six times for three yards against the Bills. He could be seen riding a bike on the sideline and asking to play the rest of the game. Kansas City coach Romeo Crennel said Monday that the decision was made to rest Charles, who has yet to show the same burst that carried him to more than 1,400 yards rushing in 2010. Crennel said he expects Charles to be ready for Sunday's game at New Orleans, another team that is winless through its first two games.


Big 12 Warm-Ups Draw to Close; Intraconference Rivals to Face Off

The Big 12's big bore is about to finally come to an end. The league that dominated headlines for a variety of reasons during the offseason, not the least of which was whether it would continue to exist, has been a blip on the national radar once games finally started against a dismal lineup of non-conference weaklings. That should change starting Saturday night. Sixth-ranked Oklahoma plays number 15 Kansas State in a game between two of the league's top teams, one that could go a long way toward determining who wins the conference title. It's a far cry from the likes of James Madison, Western Illinois and Grambling State that the league's programs have been beating up the past few weeks.


 Titanic Exhibit at KC's Union Station Exceeds Goal

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Titanic exhibit that coincided with the 100th anniversary of the ill-fated voyage drew nearly 123,000 people to Kansas City's Union Station. The Kansas City Star reports that it wasn't immediately known how much the exhibit netted. But the station's chief financial officer, Jerry Baber, says the break-even point was about 75,000 tickets. A 2001 version of the Titanic exhibit attracted about 280,000 people. Officials did not expect to match that with an encore show. They were hoping for 100,000 or more visitors. In October, Union Station will open its next traveling exhibit, "The Science of Rock 'n' Roll."


Kansas Expects to End Challenge to Obama Ballot Spot

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas elections officials expect to formally close a challenge to President Barack Obama's listing on the state's November general election ballot. The State Objections Board had already scheduled its Monday meeting before the Manhattan resident who objected to Obama being on the ballot dropped his challenge last week. The board is the secretary of state, attorney general and lieutenant governor. The resident, Joe Montgomery, said Friday he was withdrawing his objection because of what he called animosity and intimidation directed at him and people around him. The all-Republican board had a hearing Thursday on Montgomery's objection, which questioned whether the Democratic president is eligible to hold the office. The board postponed a decision then, saying it wanted documents certifying the authenticity of Obama's birth certificate from Hawaii.

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

Jackson County Sheriff to Announce Identification of Remains

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — The Jackson County Sheriff plans to hold a news conference Monday to reveal the identity of human remains found along a river. Authorities began investigating in June when hikers came across a decomposed human hand while walking along the Little Blue River. Then eight days later, a shoe with a human foot inside turned up about 10 miles downstream. The foot was taken to the county crime lab, and the hand was sent to the University of Texas for possible identification.

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

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