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Regional Headlines for Thursday, November 22, 2012


Nation's Drought Worsens, Intensifies in Kansas

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A new report shows that the nation's worst drought in decades is getting worse again, ending an encouraging five-week run of improving conditions.  The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor report shows that 60.1 percent of the continental U.S. was in some form of drought as of Tuesday. That's up from 58.8 percent the previous week.  The portion of the lower 48 states in extreme or exceptional drought — the two worst classifications — also rose, to 19.04 percent from last week's 18.3 percent.  The stubbornly dry conditions intensified in Kansas, the top U.S. producer of winter wheat. The latest update shows that while 77.5 percent of that state remains in extreme or exceptional drought, the amount of land in the most-dire classification rose nearly 4 percentage points to 34.5 percent.


Shipments of Cherry Tomatoes Recalled in KS, Missouri

NORWALK, Iowa (AP) — A central Iowa fruit and vegetable distributor is recalling several lots of cherry tomatoes after the grower notified the distributor that Salmonella was found in random sample testing by the Food and Drug Administration.  Capital City Fruit Incorporated of Norwalk, Iowa says the recalled cherry tomatoes from Rio Queen Citrus are packaged in one-pint containers as Capital Brand Clamshell Cherry Tomatoes. They were shipped to retail stores from November 14th to November 18th and sold in stores in Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin.  No illnesses have been reported. Capital City Fruit has asked retailers to remove the product from their store shelves.  Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.


Century-Old Home in KCK Destroyed by Fire

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Thanksgiving Day fire has destroyed a century-old home in Kansas City, Kansas. No injuries were reported. The Kansas City Star reports that the fire was reported Thursday morning and that a family of four escaped the blaze before fire crews arrived. Investigators say they think the fire may have started in an attached building and then spread through the rest of the structure. Officials estimated the fire caused $125,000 in damages to the contents and structure. The homeowner told fire investigators that the residence had been in their family for more than 100 years.


Westar to Partner with City of Lawrence to Cut Energy Use

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence city leaders are teaming with Westar Energy and others to cut the amount of power being used downtown. Westar, the largest electric utility in Kansas, will be helping government and business leaders develop a pilot program that will attempt to make downtown properties more energy efficient. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the goal is to get about a dozen businesses to participate in the Green Business Leaders Program. Westar will provide free energy audits to the businesses to see where money can be saved by making improvements to heating, cooling, lighting and other practices. Businesses will be expected to take one action identified by the audit. Businesses will also receive a window decal identifying them as a Green Business Leader.


Topeka Man Faces Capital Murder Charge

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 21-year-old Topeka man faces a new capital murder charge in the death of an 18-year-old Topeka woman. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Shawnee County Prosecutor Chad Taylor on Wednesday filed an amended criminal complaint against Dustin Leftwich, who's accused of using a vehicle to kill Brenna Morgart in May. Leftwich has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping and murdering charges. The amended complaint includes the count of capital murder and the additional charge of rape. Leftwich had previously been charged with premeditated first-degree murder. If Leftwich is convicted of capital murder, a jury would decide whether to recommend the death penalty. If the jury recommends the death penalty, the judge would make the final decision on whether to sentence Leftwich to death or to life in prison without parole.


Sedgwick County Stakes Out Legislative Agenda

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County commissioners plan to vote next month on their legislative platform. Commissioners this week hashed out a draft of the platform, which outlines the county's priorities. The Wichita Eagle reports that one of those priorities is getting money for Judge Riddel Boys Ranch. The county wants the state to pay the actual operating costs for running the facility for juvenile offenders. The ranch offers a temporary home for boys and young men where they can also take classes and learn job skills. The ranch also provides the juveniles with therapy and intensive supervision. In a move to keep the facility open, the county has reduced its capacity, cut staff and moved to 12-hour shifts. The county commission's formal vote on the platform is scheduled for December 12.


Flint Hills Discovery Center Director Resigns

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The Flint Hills Discovery Center is losing its director. Bob Workman, director of the center, is leaving the post with the city of Manhattan to become director of the Ulrich Museum of Art at Wichita State University. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Manhattan city manager Ron Fehr announced the move Wednesday. Workman will stay on at the Flint Hills Discovery Center through mid-January and will help with the search for his replacement. During its first six months of operation, the Flint Hills Discovery Center has exceeded its 2012 attendance and revenue goals. As of October 31, nearly 47,000 people have paid admission to the center, and another 7,100 have attended special events and programs.


Black Friday Gets Different Meaning for Kansas Humane Society

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — For a 12-year-old Wichita girl, Black Friday is taking on a whole new meaning. Madison Bell volunteers at the Kansas Humane Society and says too many black dogs are staying in shelters longer because adopters often end up preferring lighter-colored animals. Bell wants to change that. The Wichita Eagle reports that on Friday, Bell will help host the Black Dog Adoption Drive to help darker pups find homes. During the nine-hour event, the Humane Society will waive adoption fees for all black animals. Society spokeswoman Jennifer Campbell says a bias exists against black dogs, often because their facial expressions are harder to see and to photograph.


SE Kansas Students Building Shelter for Bicyclists

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — A project under way in Pittsburg is being called a win-win-win for area students, local residents and hundreds of cross-country bicyclists who pass through the southeast Kansas community. The Joplin Globe reports that Pittsburg is a regular stop each spring and summer for riders on the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail, which stretches from Oregon to Virginia. There's no designated campsite or shower space for the riders, so they usually pitch tents in Pittsburg's Lincoln park. Now, students from Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg High School and Fort Scott Community College are building a combined shower-restroom and a pavilion for the bicyclists at another city park. There's also space for camping. The students come from construction management and masonry programs. The project will also give Pittsburg new amenities built for free.


2 More Charged in Deadly Western Missouri Shooting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two more people have been charged in an Independence home invasion that left three people dead and a 12-year-old boy critically injured. The Jackson County prosecutor's office said Thursday that 22-year-old Raul Soto, of Kansas City, Kansas, and 37-year-old Bobbie Jo Phillips, of Independence, face nine felony counts, including three counts of first-degree murder. Two other men, 32-year-old Antonio Cervantes III, and 33-year-old Kevin M. Finley, were charged Wednesday with first-degree murder and other counts. All four defendants are accused in the November 16 shootings that killed 48-year-old Maria Hernandez; her 20-year-old son, Antonio Hernandez; and Tomas Dominguez, previously identified as Tomas Madrigal. A 12-year-old boy is recovering from critical injuries. Police said robbery and drugs were the apparent motive. No information was available on whether the suspects had lawyers.


Student Dies after Accidental Fall in Missouri

ROLLA, Mo. (AP) — An engineering student at the Missouri University of Science and Technology has died of head injuries he suffered in a fall.  The Rolla Daily News reports that police said Wednesday they believe the fall was accidental and alcohol-related.  Police say 23-year-old Andrew Menner of Ellisville, Missouri, fell and struck his head the night of November 15th. He was taken first to Phelps County Regional Medical Center and later to a hospital in St. Louis, where he died Tuesday.   The circumstances of the fall were not released.  Menner was the second member of the Sigma Nu fraternity at the university to die in less than a month. Twenty-one-year-old Aaron Cobb, a senior engineering major from Olathe, Kansas was killed in a car crash on November 9th.


Two KC Area Men Charged in Triple Homicide

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — Two Kansas City-area men have been charged in a triple homicide in Independence that prosecutors say was motivated by robbery and a search for drugs.  Jackson County prosecutors announced charges of first-degree murder and other counts against 32-year-old Antonio Cervantes of Independence, and 33-year-old Kevin Finley of Kansas City.  Both are accused in the early-morning home invasion and shootings November 16th at a small Independence house. Killed were 48-year-old Maria Hernandez; her 20-year-old son, Antonio Hernandez; and her boyfriend Tomas Dominguez, previously identified as Tomas Madrigal.  Police said in court documents that Cervantes was the stepson of Dominguez and had previously robbed him of $30,000.  A 12-year-old boy was also shot and continues recovering from critical injuries.  No information was available late Wednesday on whether the suspects had lawyers.


Cigarette in Potting Soil Blamed for KC House Fire

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Investigators in Kansas City have traced a fire that left a home in ruins to a cigarette someone put out in a container of potting soil.  The cigarette and the potting soil smoldered for at least four days before igniting last week and setting the house on fire. No one was injured, but the flames quickly spread through the house and the roof.  Investigators reported their findings this week. Authorities say it's a good reminder that potting soil is flammable.  Tricia Roberts is an education specialist with the fire department in Overland Park.  Roberts says potting soil looks like dirt, but it actually contains a large proportion of organic matter, such as peat moss, that easily catches fire when it dries out.


Hey, Someone's Stealing Hay in Southern KS, Yes... HAY!

EL DORADO, Kan. (AP) — Frustrated farmers in a south-central Kansas county are coping with a rash of hay bale thefts.  KAKE-TV reports Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet has ordered his deputies to patrol rural roads, aiming to halt what's become an almost daily crime.  Herzet blames the thefts on the severe drought, which has tightened supplies of hay and driven up prices.  Butler County farmer Orville Carver says that someone cut the lock to his gate and stole nearly $500 worth of hay. Carver says the economy has something to do with the crime, but it doesn't justify stealing from others.  Authorities and some farmers have set up deer cameras, hoping to catch the thieves. Herzet is also encouraging farmers and ranchers to move hay from their fields closer to their homes.


Kansas Court Disbars Former Navy Lawyer

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has disbarred a former Navy lawyer convicted of charges that he mailed secret information about Guantanamo Bay detainees. Matthew Diaz has been seeking to have his license reinstated so he can practice law in New York. He earned his law degree at Washburn University in Topeka in 1994.  




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