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Regional Headlines for Thursday, February 16, 2012


Want to Run for Office in KS?  Prove Your Citizenship

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Candidates for state and federal office in Kansas would have to prove their citizenship under a bill approved by a Kansas House committee.  Critics say the bill approved Wednesday by the House Elections Committee is inspired by the so-called birther movement, which has questioned President Barack Obama's U.S. citizenship.  But Rep. John Rubin, a Shawnee Republican who voted for the bill, says if the state is going to ask its citizens to prove they are U.S. citizens, candidates should face the same requirement. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Rep. Ann Mah, a Democrat from Topeka, called the bill "silliness to get at the president."


Governor Brownback Confident NBAF Will Be Built

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Governor Sam Brownback says members of President Barack Obama's administration still support building a new biosecurity lab in Kansas. Brownback said Thursday that he spoke with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano about the future of the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan. The president's budget proposal for 2013 didn't include construction money for the project, though it included $10 million to transfer some research from an aging facility at Plum Island, New York to a Kansas research lab. Brownback says the state is looking at all alternatives for funding the project and getting it built. President Obama's budget proposals say the $50 million appropriated by Congress toward the $650 million project isn't enough to start construction, and DHS will reassess NBAF this year.

Man Accused in Phone Threat Incident to Face Felony Charges

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A man accused of making a threatening phone call to Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's office may face a felony charge.
A Shawnee County prosecutor told a judge Thursday that her office is considering a criminal threat charge against a 37-year-old man who was arrested at a Topeka motel Wednesday. The man, a construction worker whose last known home was Columbia, Missouri, had his first court appearance by video conference from the local jail. District Judge Steven Ebberts set the defendant's bond at $25,000. The Associated Press is withholding the man's name because no criminal charges have been filed. His arrest was one of two unrelated incidents Wednesday in Topeka. In the other, police found a pickup truck with homemade bombs in a parking lot near the Statehouse. The owner of the pickup was arrested.


Suspect in Kansas Capitol Homemade Bomb Incident Released 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A spokesman for the Kansas Capitol Police says a man whose pickup was found to contain homemade bombs near the Statehouse has been released from custody. Capitol Police spokesman Patrick Saleh says the man remains a suspect in connection with Wednesday's discovery of the bombs. He was released from custody late Wednesday. Saleh says the Kansas Highway Patrol, which operates the Capitol Police, plans to talk to the Shawnee County district attorney's office about possible charges by early next week. The Capitol Police refused to release the man's identity, except to say that he lives in Topeka. Saleh said authorities searched his home and seized items there, but Saleh refused to discuss what was found. Saleh said the man isn't considered a flight risk.


Ticket-Fixing Investigation Leads to 2 Suspensions on Lawrence Police Force

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Two Lawrence police officers have been suspended after an FBI investigation into traffic tickets being fixed in exchange for University of Kansas basketball tickets. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that City Manager David Corliss confirmed Thursday that the person whose traffic tickets were fixed is serving time in a federal prison for crimes related to a broader Kansas ticket scandal. Seven university employees, including top business officials in the athletics department, were convicted in the thefts of more than 17,000 Jayhawk basketball tickets and at least 2,000 football tickets. The tickets were illegally sold to brokers and others, with the defendants pocketing the money. Corliss referred questions to Police Chief Tarik Khatib in an email to The Associated Press. Khatib didn't immediately return a phone call from the AP seeking comment.

Labor Grievance Filed Against Spirit AeroSystems

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ The union representing engineers and technical workers at Spirit AeroSystems has filed a grievance with the National Labor Relations Board over changes to the company's employee evaluation process. The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace said Thursday that it filed the complaint because the company did not negotiate before starting a performance improvement process for employees whose evaluations drop. SPEEA Midwest director Bob Brewer says nearly 1,000 employees dropped in performance ratings without justification. The union contends management concocted a scheme to blame employees for management's poor decisions. Spirit AeroSystems did not immediately return a message left for comment.
SPEEA represents 760 engineering employees and 2,270 technical and professional workers at Spirit AeroSystems.


Missouri Students Get Tuition Break at KU's Edwards Campus

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Missouri students attending the University of Kansas campus in Overland Park will get a tuition break, starting next fall.  The Kansas Board of Regents on Wednesday approved a proposal to allow students from 11 Missouri counties to pay the same tuition that Kansas students pay on the Edwards Campus.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports  the current Metro KC Tuition Waiver applies to students from only four counties. Undergraduates from Missouri get a discount but still pay more than Kansas residents.  Starting next fall, the tuition break will be available for Missouri students from Clay, Cass, Jackson, Platte, Buchanan, Clinton, Ray, Lafayette, Johnson, Henry and Bates counties.


KC Brewer Offers Refunds for Batch of Bad Beer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City brewer is offering refunds on a limited number of batches of its popular chocolate beer because it didn't taste right.  The Kansas City Star reports that Boulevard Brewing Co. has announced it will give refunds to people who bought its Chocolate Ale from three batches that didn't meet company standards.  This was the second year Boulevard offered the chocolate beer ahead of Valentine's Day. After quickly running out last year, Boulevard more than doubled the amount of chocolate ale it produced.  That didn't prevent its supply from running out well before Valentine's Day. The company says checks of the beer after it was released showed a few batches had an unwanted flavor.  Those seeking a refund must prove they purchased beer from the affected batches.


Protest Targeting Koch Brothers Could Draw Hundreds to Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Organizers of a weekend protest in Wichita targeting billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch say about 500 activists have confirmed their plans to attend. Event coordinator Yvonne Cather told The Wichita Eagle that people are coming from as far away as San Francisco and Washington, D.C., for the three-day "Occupy Koch Town." Wichita is the home of Koch Industries. Organizers of the protests that begin Friday contend the Koch brothers exemplify corporate dominance of politics and distortion of science. Cather says participating groups oppose the proposed Keystone-XL oil pipeline but it was not the chief motive for the event. Koch Industries calls the protest a politically motivated attack on the company, which has 50,000 U.S.-based employees. It contends it has no financial stake in the Keystone pipeline.


Company Donates Hutchinson Houses to Charity

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A company that bought out the owners of 37 Hutchinson houses that were near sinkholes has donated five of the houses to a housing organization.  One of the homes was moved Wednesday from the Careyville neighborhood in south Hutchinson. VigIndustries bought the 37 homes in 2009 because of concerns they would sink because of nearby brine wells.  Most of the homes were demolished. But VigIndustries donated five homes to Interfaith Housing Services and moved them to locations in Hutchinson and Newton.  Interfaith officials say the homes will eventually be sold to first-time home owners through a program that teaches financial literacy.  The Hutchinson News reports that the house moved Wednesday belonged to Milda Friesen, who was allowed to stay in her home after the buyout until her death last August.

Development on Former Marymount College Campus Site to Use Geothermal Energy

SALINA, Kan. (AP) _ New condominiums on the former Marymount College campus in Salina will go underground for heating and cooling. The building is being converted to condominiums, called Marymount Properties. Architect Donnie Marrs says developers turned to geothermal heat in part because of high prices in Japan for roof-mounted air conditioning systems. Now, workers are drilling 52 300-foot deep, 8-inch diameter shafts into the ground. Then a loop of 1.5-inch pipe is put into the hole, which is filled with a grout mixture. All 52 wells will be hooked together, and water/glycol will circulate through a heat pump in each residence and then back into the ground. The Salina Journal reports Marrs expects the extra upfront cost to be paid back in about three years. Marymount closed in June 1989.


Kansas Woman Pleads Guilty to Stealing from Employer 

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — A former bookkeeper for a northwest Kansas car dealership has been given a year's probation after pleading guilty to theft. The Hays Daily News reports that Janet Stauth was accused of stealing more than $325,000 from Lewis Chrysler between January 2006 and mid-2010. The 47-year-old Hays woman pleaded guilty to theft by deception Wednesday in Ellis County District Court. The charge was reduced from a more serious one that could have carried prison time. Besides serving a year of probation, Stauth was also ordered to pay restitution. Her attorney said Stauth has already repaid $23,000 to her former employer and $40,000 to the dealership's insurance company.


Brownback Argues for Keeping Federal Wind Energy Tax Credit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback and several wind energy officials are asking that a federal tax credit for the industry not be allowed to expire.  At a news conference Wednesday, the Republican governor said Kansas is among the national leaders in wind energy production, with several new wind farms scheduled for completion this year. But there's concern that Congress won't extend a tax credit that makes it worthwhile for wind developers to invest in new turbines. One industry official said Wednesday that without the tax credit, construction of wind equipment at a plant in Hutchinson could end next year.  Brownback said that while the tax credit shouldn't be permanent, it's important to provide support as the renewable markets grow.


Kansas Board of Education OKs No Child Left Behind Waiver

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Board of Education has approved the state's request for a waiver from some provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind law.  Members voted Wednesday to support the waiver's submission to the U.S. Department of Education. If granted, Kansas schools would no longer face a 2014 deadline for ensuring that 100 percent of their students perform well on state tests.  After Congress failed to change the law, President Barack Obama told states last fall they could seek a waiver around the unpopular proficiency requirements in exchange for actions his administration favors.  Kansas officials plan to submit it by February 28th, the deadline for the second round of requests. Ten states were granted waivers last week from the first round of requests.


KC Bishop Seeks Dismissal of Criminal Charges

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Attorneys for a Missouri Catholic bishop are asking a court to dismiss a misdemeanor charge that he failed to report suspected child abuse by a priest. On Wednesday, attorneys of Bishop Robert Finn filed four motions seeking dismissal of the charge, each based on different legal arguments. Another motion seeks to have the bishop tried separately from the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, which faces the same charge.  The Kansas City Star reports that a spokesman for Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said the office was not surprised by the motions and would oppose them.  Prosecutors say Finn and the diocese waited five months before telling police about pornographic photos of children found on a priest's computer.  Finn has pleaded not guilty.


Kansas SRS Forms 3rd Problem Gambling Unit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services has created a new task force on problem gambling in the northeastern part of the state.  The state-owned Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway opened earlier this month near the NASCAR track in Wyandotte County.  The task force is looking for community leaders to participate, including law enforcement officials, treatment providers, veterans and minority advocates.  SRS has already established task forces on problem gambling near the Kansas Star casino in Mulvane and the Boot Hill Casino in Dodge City. The groups meet monthly.  The problem-gambling programs are funded with 2 percent of the revenue from the three state-owned casinos.


Prisoner Transport Van Hits Utility Pole

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office says a van carrying county inmates has been involved in an accident in southeastern Kansas.  The two deputies and nine inmates in the van were injured when it hit a utility pole in Cherokee County shortly after 10am Wednesday.  The inmates and one deputy were treated at regional medical facilities and later released.  Cherokee County Sheriff David Groves says the van was the only vehicle damaged, but he declined to say if another vehicle may have contributed to the accident.  Sedgwick County houses some of its inmates at facilities elsewhere to manage the population at its detention center in Wichita.


Pilot Project Aims to Help Veterans Start Farming

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A pilot program partly funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is starting to help returning veterans begin careers in farming.  The Veteran Farmers Project is kicking off in Kansas and Nebraska with a series of workshops in March. Farm tours planned for the summer are aimed at attracting veterans from Missouri and Colorado as well.  The project includes individual consultations, mentoring and help finding financing.  Special projects coordinator Nick Levendofsky of the Kansas Farmers Union says the project is funded by the USDA's Risk Management Agency and the Center for Rural Affairs in Nebraska.


Trucking Company Moving 120 Jobs to Overland Park

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Trucking company YRC Worldwide says it will move 120 jobs to its headquarters in Overland Park.  Kansas officials announced Wednesday that most of the jobs will be moved from Akron, Ohio, the site of the headquarters of Roadway Corporation, which YRC acquired in 2003.  YRC Worldwide said last month that it was selling the former Roadway headquarters and moving some jobs out of Ohio.  The Kansas Department of Commerce said the new jobs in Overland Park are mostly in accounting, customer service and cargo claims.  The Kansas City Star reports that YRC Worldwide owned Yellow Freight and Roadway before combining them into one carrier, now called YRC Freight.


Sports Company Brings 100 Jobs to Edwardsville

EDWARDSVILLE, Kan. (AP) — The action-sports company Zumiez (ZOO'-mees) plans to open an order-filling center and bring 100 jobs to Edwardsville.  Zumiez, based in Everett, Washington, announced Wednesday that the center will open in May. Company officials say the central location in the Kansas City suburb will allow it to more quickly fill its online orders.  The company caters to fans of skateboarding, surfing, snowboarding, motocross and BMX.  The Kansas City Star reports that 35 workers in Everett were offered jobs in the Kansas City suburb but it was unclear how many of those workers will move here.


US Agency Moving to Downtown Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The federal General Services Administration says it will move its roughly 1,000 employees in Kansas City from a complex in the southern part of the city to leased offices downtown.  The Kansas City Star reports that GSA employees were told Wednesday of the decision to move them out of the Bannister Federal Complex by the end of 2014. The GSA's regional administrator, Jason Klumb, says about 400 employees of eight other federal agencies at the complex will be moved to leased offices in the metropolitan area.  The 5.1 million-square-foot Bannister complex first opened in 1943 to make engines for warplanes. Most of the space is currently occupied by Honeywell Federal Manufacturing & Technologies' nuclear weapons parts operation, which is moving to a new facility.


Pompeo Plans One-On-One Meeting with Constituents

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo is planning to hold one-on-one meetings with constituents next week in Wichita.  The Republican lawmaker represents the 4th Congressional District of Kansas in the U.S. House.  His office says Pompeo will hold individual meetings with constituents February 22 from 4pm to 5:30pm at his office in Wichita. The individual meetings are being scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis. People requesting meetings with Pompeo can call his Wichita office at 316-262-8992.


Kansans United in Voice & Spirit Stage Rally Outside KS Statehouse

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Several hundred people have rallied outside the Kansas Statehouse against various Republican legislative proposals and some of Secretary of State Kris Kobach's initiatives.  Wednesday's event was organized by Kansans United in Voice and Spirit. Standing in a cold drizzle, the protesters spoke out against proposals from Republican Governor Sam Brownback to change the state's school finance formula, income tax structure and social service programs.  The group is also concerned about Kobach's initiatives on voter registration and immigration. Kobach is a former law professor who helped draft laws cracking down on illegal immigration in Alabama and Arizona.  Last fall, the group brought more than 300 people to the Statehouse for a similar rally against Brownback's policy proposals.


Protesters Plan Event in Wichita Called "Occupy Koch Town"

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Protesters are hoping to draw people from across the nation to Wichita over the President's Day weekend for an "Occupy Koch Town" event.  Wichita is the home of Koch Industries and the three-day event is billed as a protest against Charles and David Koch. The group contends the brothers exemplify corporate dominance of politics and distortion of science that is perpetuating bad energy policy.  The heart of the protest is the proposed Keystone-XL pipeline, which would carry western Canadian oil to Texas refineries. Opponents say the dirty, highly corrosive oil endangers the Ogallala (oh-guh-LAH'-lah) Aquifer and farms along its route.  Koch Industries calls the protest a politically motivated attack and an attempt to "harass and demonize" a company with 50,000 U.S.-based employees. It contends it has no financial stake in the Keystone XL pipeline.


KS Governor Faces Questions about Fate of NBAF in Manhattan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback is likely to face questions about plans by Kansas to pursue funding for a new federal biosecurity lab.  Brownback has scheduled a news conference today (THUR), only three days after President Barack Obama released a proposed budget that didn't include money for construction of the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility -- or NBAF -- in Manhattan.  Workers have cleared a site near Kansas State University for the lab, which would research dangerous animal diseases and replace a facility at Plum Island, New York.  Obama's budget proposals say the $50 million appropriated by Congress toward the $650 million project isn't enough to start construction, and the Department of Homeland Security will reassess NBAF this year. But U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told Congress on Wednesday that the lab remains necessary.


Explosives Found in Vehicle Near Kansas Statehouse

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Police say they've arrested the owner of a suspicious pickup truck that was found parked near the Kansas Statehouse with several homemade explosives inside. Authorities said the truck had specialty license plates issued only to U.S. military paratroopers.  Capitol Police Spokesman Patrick Saleh says officers arrested the pickup's owner Wednesday in an underground tunnel that connects the Statehouse to a nearby state office building.  Saleh also says the incident isn't connected to another arrest Wednesday of a man who allegedly phoned in a threat to Governor Sam Brownback's office from a Topeka motel.  Saleh said the Topeka Police Department's bomb squad was called to investigate the pickup after an officer saw suspicious objects inside. He says they found explosives made with household materials and designed to spray shrapnel upon detonation.

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