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Regional Headlines for Thursday, August 30, 2012



Jenkins Draws Criticism for Comment About Unemployed 

COLUMBUS, Kan. (AP) — A Democratic challenger is taking exception to comments made by 2nd District Representative Lynn Jenkins at a forum in southeastern Kansas. Jenkins said in Columbus Wednesday that some people are happy to collect unemployment benefits rather than work. The Joplin Globe reports that Jenkins made the statement during a gathering with a handful of candidates and residents in Cherokee County. She is being challenged in November by Topeka minister Tobias Schlingensiepen. He said the comment showed that Jenkins has spent too much time in Washington and is out of touch with her district. The 2nd District stretches from far southeastern Kansas north to the Nebraska border. Jenkins is seeking her third term.


General Motors Plans Expansion at Fairfax Plant

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — General Motors is planning a major expansion at its Fairfax assembly plant in Kansas City, Kansas. Unified Government officials said the company plans to seek $120 million in industrial revenue bonds to fund a new paint shop at the plant, where the Buick LaCrosse and Chevrolet Malibu are assembled. Mayor Joe Reardon says the project would be the largest expansion at the plant since it was built. He says the plans could ensure Fairfax's future for years. That's good news for the more than 3,700 employees at the plant. The Kansas City Star reports that a GM spokeswoman confirmed the company is seeking $120 million in bonds for the addition and upgrading at the plant. The Unified Government will consider the request at a meeting next Thursday.


Senate Panel Raises Issue of Kansas Public Defender Funding

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A group of senators used a confirmation hearing as a chance to raise their concerns about the level of support for funding the Kansas public defender system. The Topeka Capital Journal reports that questions were raised Wednesday during hearings to confirm appointments by Governor Sam Brownback to various state agency positions. Among them were Paul Eugene Beck and Kevin Mark Smith, who were named to the Board of Indigent Defense. Senator Tim Owens, an Overland Park Republican, asked the pair if they would be willing to press Brownback for funding to keep the public defenders' office functioning. Beck and Smith indicated they would push for funds to make certain that defendants had access to competent legal counsel.

Kansas Sponsoring Meetings on Medicaid Overhaul

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's administration will sponsor meetings in 12 cities next month on its plans to overhaul the state's Medicaid program. Administration officials say the meetings are designed to educate Medicaid participants and health care providers about the coming changes. The $2.9 billion-a-year program covers medical services for the poor, disabled and elderly. Brownback plans to turn management of the entire Medicaid program over to three private insurance companies beginning in January. The first meetings will be held September 24 in Manhattan, Pittsburg, Colby and Dodge City. Other sessions will be held September 25 in Atchison, Chanute, Russell and Pratt, and on September 26 in Olathe, Emporia, Hutchinson and El Dorado. In each city, Medicaid participants and health care providers will have separate meetings.


Tree-Killing Beetle Detected in Eastern Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A beetle that has killed millions of ash trees in the eastern U.S. and parts of the South has now been detected in Kansas. The Kansas Department of Agriculture said Thursday a live emerald ash borer was found in a tree in Wyandotte County. Trees there were being inspected after the presence of emerald ash borer was found last month in nearby Platte County, Missouri. The U.S. Department of Agriculture notified Kansas of the confirmation Wednesday. Kansas has imposed an emergency 90-day quarantine in Wyandotte County in hopes of keeping the insect from spreading throughout the state. All ash trees and materials in the county must be treated or disposed of, and the transport of firewood out of the county is prohibited. Ash trees become infested when adult beetles lay eggs on the bark, leading to larvae that bore into the tree. For more information, visit the Kansas Department of Agriculture website. You can learn more about how quickly pests move through the transport of firewood at

Report: Corn Belt Benefits from Recent Rains

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Some key farm states punished by the nation's worst drought in decades benefited slightly from recent rains, with a bigger dousing forecast from the remnants of Hurricane Isaac. The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor map released Thursday shows that the section of the continental U.S. in the worst two categories of drought — extreme and exceptional — remained relatively unchanged at 23.2 percent as of the report's Tuesday cutoff. But thanks to rains last weekend, the amount of Iowa in the two worst drought classifications fell by 9 percentage points to 58.3 percent. Illinois saw a 7 percentage point drop-off while Kansas's numbers slid 6 points. Forecasters expect portions of the Midwest to get as much as 12 inches of rain within days due to Isaac, now a tropical storm.

Group Warns of Continued Kansas Fire Danger

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Residents of drought-stricken Kansas are being urged to continue observing local burn bans as the risk of wildfires remains high. A multi-agency group called the Kansas Wildland Fire Prevention and Education Team said Wednesday that recent, scattered rain did little to lower the threat. The Education Team says Kansans should be especially careful using equipment that may create sparks. Meanwhile, the Kansas Forest Service reports that more than 41,000 acres and 26 structures have burned statewide since May. The agency says the past week alone saw seven fires that scorched more than 8,000 acres. Officials say this summer's fires are burning especially hot, making them harder to suppress. Rain chances are in the forecast over the Labor Day weekend, but the precipitation isn't expected to eliminate the drought conditions.

Kansas Propane Company: Flames Part of Valve Project

LECOMPTON, Kan. (AP) — Officials at a northeastern Kansas propane facility say there's no reason to be alarmed by large flames shooting out of the plant. Motorists reported seeing fire shooting into the air Wednesday at the Heetco plant near Lecompton. Branch manager Gregg White told the Lawrence Journal-World the flames are part of a project to replace relief valves on the facility's 20 propane tanks. White says vaporized gas has to be burned out of the tanks to remove pressure before anyone can work on them. The valves have to be replaced about every 10 years. White says the project is expected to be finished by Friday.

Census Finds More Kansans Without Health Insurance

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Census Bureau says more Kansans under the age of 65 are living without health insurance. The bureau issued a report Wednesday showing that more than 380,000 Kansas residents under age 65 did not have health insurance in 2010. That's 15.8 percent of that age group, an increase from 14.6 percent in 2009. The Wichita Eagle reports  that the census for the first time estimated health coverage for people between ages 50 to 64, who are more likely to use health insurance than younger age groups. In 2010, about 60,800 people ages 50 to 64, or 11.4 percent of that group, did not have health insurance.

Salina Lighting Firm Announces Layoffs

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Salina company says it will lay off 22 employees because of a drop in demand for fluorescent lamps. Philips Lighting announced Wednesday that the employees who will lose their jobs in November help make fluorescent lamps. Philips Lighting spokesman Silvie Casanova says Philips will employ just under 400 people in Salina after the layoffs. She says the plant also is not filling open positions. The Salina Journal reports the city and state have given Philips hundreds of thousands of dollars to expand and bring jobs to Salina. Plant manager Dan Mendicina says the jobs being eliminated were not among those added with the city and state money. And he says jobs added through those programs likely saved the plant from more layoffs.


Kansas Man Gets Probation for Copper Thefts

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man who admitted stealing copper from dozens of air conditioning units won't be going to jail. KAKE-TV reports  that 41-year-old Byron Stuckey was sentenced Thursday to a year in prison, but the judge suspended the sentence to 12 months of probation. Stuckey was arrested by Wichita police in July, allegedly while trying to steal an air conditioner from a vacant home. He pleaded guilty in Sedgwick County District Court to one count each of felony theft and trying to elude officers. Police have said they believe Stuckey vandalized or stole 68 air conditioners from homes and churches in the Wichita area since January. The cost of replacing the damaged units was estimated at more than $100,000, while the stolen scrap metal was valued at roughly $6,800.

Lawsuit Claims Washington State Woman Unfairly Convicted

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A woman from the state of Washington who is serving a 26-year sentence for hitting and killing two highway workers in Kansas says she did not receive a fair trial. An attorney representing 53-year-old Ramona I. Morgan of Chewelah, Washington argued Wednesday that jury instructions and other factors in Morgan's 2008 trial in Douglas County created a prejudice against her. She is suing the state of Kansas, alleging she is wrongfully imprisoned. Morgan was convicted of two counts of reckless second-degree murder and one count of aggravated battery. Prosecutors allege Morgan was driving recklessly through a construction zone on U.S. Highway 59 near Lawrence before hitting and killing the two workers in 2007. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Morgan claims she thought people were chasing her and trying to rob her.

More Charges, New Attorney for Shooting Suspect

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A Fort Riley soldier charged in the shooting of a Kansas National Guard member in Manhattan has a new attorney and faces expanded charges. Specialist Daniel Parker was originally charged with first-degree felony murder in the death of 21-year-old Frederick Beverly in a New Year's Day shooting at a motorcycle group's Manhattan clubhouse. Prosecutors have expanded the charges to include first-degree premeditated murder. Both charges carry possible life sentences but differ in the number of years required before parole is possible. During a court hearing on Wednesday, Parker's public defender, Larry McRell, said he had a potential conflict of interest that prevented him from representing Parker. The Manhattan Mercury reports that Ron Evans, chief attorney for the Kansas Death Penalty Defense Unit, was appointed to replace McRell.

Hawker Beechcraft Seeks to Extend Exclusivity

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Aircraft maker Hawker Beechcraft has requested more time to file a plan to emerge from bankruptcy. The Wichita-based company wants to extend until at least December 29 the exclusivity period to file its Chapter 11 plan. Expiration of the exclusivity period allows creditors to file competing plans. Hawker Beechcraft also wants until February 27 to solicit acceptance of the plan from each debtor. No objections to either request were filed ahead of a hearing Thursday in federal bankruptcy court in New York. Hawker Beechcraft says it needs more time to pursue possible emergence from bankruptcy as a stand-alone company or through a third-party sale. The company has noted the complexity of its bankruptcy, which involves 18 entities, 5,400 employees and $2.4 billion in debt.

KC Recycling Center Fire Damage Estimated at $1.5 Million

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Investigators are trying to determine what caused a two-alarm fire at a recycling plant in Kansas City, Kansas. The fire early Wednesday at the Deffenbaugh Recycling Company plant did an estimated $1.5 million in damage. Fire department spokesman Craig Duke says the fire occurred in a steel building that was a sorting and processing center at the plant. Crews had to use heavy equipment to cut a path through the material so firefighters could get to the fire. No injuries were reported.


WikiLeaks Case Set for Trial in February, March

FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) — An Army private accused of handing over a trove of classified documents to the website WikiLeaks is scheduled for trial in February. Army Colonel Denise Lind is the judge handling the case. She said Thursday that Private First Class Bradley Manning's trial is now scheduled to take place between February 4 and March 15. The 24-year-old Manning faces a possible life sentence if convicted of leaking hundreds of thousands of documents, including cables and war logs, to the secret-spilling website. Lawyers have discussed various evidentiary issues during a three-day pretrial hearing that concluded Thursday in Fort Meade, Maryland. Both sides are scheduled to return to court in October for another hearing. Manning is being held in Fort Leavenworth ahead of his trial.


Accused KC Catholic Bishop: 'Boys Will Be Boys'

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An employee of the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph says the bishop commented that "boys will be boys" when he was told about lewd images of children on a priest's laptop computer. The Kansas City Star reports that diocese computer director Julie Creech described her conversation with Bishop Robert Finn during an August 17 deposition. A partial transcript of the deposition was filed Thursday in a civil lawsuit in Jackson County Circuit Court. That lawsuit alleges the Rev. Shawn Ratigan abused a 9-year-old girl months after the diocese learned of the photos on his computer. Ratigan has pleaded guilty to federal charges of producing child pornography. Finn and the diocese are charged in state court with misdemeanor failure to report suspected child abuse. Finn has pleaded not guilty.

Kansan Pleads No Contest in Fatal Nebraska Crash

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) _ A 34-year-old Kansas woman is scheduled to be sentenced in October for vehicular homicide in south-central Nebraska's Hall County. The Grand Island Independent reportsthat Kathy Teichmeier, of Almena, pleaded no contest on Tuesday. In return prosecutors dropped a charge of driving on a suspended license.  The charges stemmed from a June 25 collision between Teichmeier's vehicle and two motorcycles on Interstate 80 near Grand Island. Officials say Teichmeier was driving east when she tried to make a U-turn. The Hall County Sheriff's Office says Teichmeier's vehicle clipped the rear wheel of a motorcycle driven by C. Lloyd Hermanson. He avoided crashing. But the motorcycle driven by his wife, 58-year-old Nancy Hermanson, crashed into Teichmeier's vehicle. She died at a hospital.  Teichmeier's sentencing is scheduled for October 11.

Eisenhower Memorial to Include High-Tech Features

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Despite ongoing disagreement over the design of a national memorial to President Dwight D. Eisenhower in Washington, planners are creating a high-tech virtual memorial to accompany the monument.  A congressional commission developing the memorial has quietly launched a preview of an "e-memorial" being developed online to show how multimedia features would complement Frank's Gehry's design for a National Mall memorial.  The e-memorial will eventually include a mobile app using "augmented reality'' technology to superimpose historic images and recordings onto the memorial scene. It will include stories of Eisenhower as president and as World War II general.  Media design firm Local Projects LLC is creating the e-memorial after developing interactive features for New York's 9/11 Memorial. Founder Jake Barton says the new technology will introduce Eisenhower to a new generation.

Statue Stolen from Wichita State Recovered in Missouri

LAMAR, Mo. (AP) — A valuable statue stolen in 1987 from Wichita State University has been recovered in southwestern Missouri, and one man is under arrest. The Missouri State Highway Patrol says the bronze bust of American poet Robert Frost by famed sculptor Walker Hancock is currently valued at about $25,000. News reports from 1987 indicate the statue was one of three stolen early that year from an outdoor collection on the campus of the Kansas school. The Highway Patrol says troopers and officers of the Lamar Police Department recovered the Frost bronze Wednesday. A 44-year-old Lamar man was arrested and jailed on suspicion of receiving stolen property. Wichita State campus police contacted Missouri authorities after receiving information about the sculpture's possible location in June. No further details of the recovery were released Wednesday.

Retired AP Communications Chief David Young Dies

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — David Young, a former Associated Press chief of communications in Kansas City, Chicago and Des Moines, has died. He was 71. Young collapsed Wednesday near his home in Lee's Summit, Missouri. His brother Tom Young, lead systems administrator for The AP's Kansas City Technical Center, said doctors believe he suffered a heart attack. Young, an Air Force veteran and native of Salinas, California retired from the news cooperative in 2002. He joined The AP in Kansas City as a technician in 1965, then worked in New York, Raleigh and Wichita before becoming Kansas City's assistant chief of communications in 1969. Young went on to serve as chief of communications in Des Moines, Chicago and, starting in 1991, Kansas City. Survivors include his wife, Deanna, and their three children. Services are pending.


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