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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, April 10, 2012


UPDATE: USDA Secretary Touts Importance of NBAF Project

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) _ U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says that construction of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility near Kansas State University is important for agriculture and the nation's security. After Tuesday's Landon Lecture at K-State, Vilsack said having the proposed $650 million research facility was important. He also said it needed to be located in the Midwest, near agriculture production. Vilsack used his nearly hour-long Landon Lecture to discuss how agriculture helps provide greater economic and energy independence for the U.S. Vilsack planned to attend the afternoon dedication of the U.S. Agriculture Department's modernized Center for Grain and Animal Health Research near the K-State campus. The Landon Lecture series is named for former Kansas Governor Alf Landon, the 1936 Republican presidential nominee.

Abortion Provider Seeks End to Kansas Criminal Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Defense attorneys are asking a Kansas judge to dismiss the remaining criminal charges against a Kansas City-area Planned Parenthood clinic accused of performing illegal abortions.
Attorney Pedro Irigonegaray said Tuesday that the Planned Parenthood clinic in Overland Park has strong legal arguments for dismissal. Defense attorneys argue the allegations boil down to differences of medical opinion about how abortions were handled. Forty-nine charges against the clinic, including felony counts of falsifying records, were dismissed in November. Fifty-eight remain, concerning 29 abortions performed in 2003. Planned Parenthood attorneys filed multiple requests under seal last month in Johnson County District Court to have the remaining charges dismissed. The Associated Press obtained copies Tuesday, after the judge handling the case unsealed them. Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe declined comment.


Health Officials: Rabies Cases up 300 Percent in KS

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas health officials say 13 rabies cases have been confirmed so far this year, a 300 percent increase over the same time period last year.  The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says it had only four confirmed rabies cases in the same time period in 2011. Kansas has averaged 68 confirmed cases of rabies a year since 2007.  State health officials have confirmed rabies in a coyote, a raccoon, four skunks, two bats, two horses, two cows, and one cat.  KDHE officials say the cases are most prevalent in skunks. They encourage the public to watch their pets and livestock and be aware of wild animals. And they encourage owners to vaccinate their animals against rabies.


State Reminds Drivers of Turnpike Storm Shelters

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State officials want to remind drivers that nearly 30 public tornado shelters are available along the Kansas Turnpike.  Turnpike spokeswoman Lisa Callahan says most of the shelters are in the restrooms of service areas in Belle Plaine, Towanda, Matfield Green, Emporia, Topeka and Lawrence.  Smaller shelters also are available at the turnpike's toll plazas. The Wichita Eagle reports most of the shelters are underground. They are accessed by opening a hatch and climbing down a short ladder.  Callahan says at least 20 people can fit comfortably in the smallest shelters, and more if circumstances require it.  Every turnpike toll plaza has a tornado shelter except Tonganoxie/Eudora. There are no storm shelters along I-70 or any highways controlled by the Kansas Department of Transportation.


KS Gov Protests Regulatory Bills Forced by Feds

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has allowed bills changing how Kansas regulates banks and real estate appraisers to become law without his signature.  Brownback says he refused to sign the two measures to protest what he calls federal intrusion into the state's regulation of businesses. Both measures were required for Kansas to comply with a federal law approved by Congress in 2010 to strengthen regulation of the financial system.  One of the bills requires companies that manage groups of appraisers who review properties for decisions on loans to register with the state Real Estate Appraisal Board. Brownback noted the board already regulates individual appraisers.  The other bill makes technical changes in laws dealing with state-chartered banks.  Brownback had opposed the 2010 federal legislation when he served in the U.S. Senate.


Delay in Kansas Breast Cancer Bill Criticized

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) —Some Kansas lawmakers say a political rivalry is holding up a bill designed to improve the diagnosis of breast cancer. The bill would require medical personnel to inform women that their dense breast tissue could hide cancer detection during a mammogram. The measure was unanimously approved in the Senate in February, but has stalled in the House. Critics say it's stalled because Rep. Brenda Landwehr, chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee, wants to run later this year against the bill's sponsor, Jean Schodorf. Both women are from Wichita. Landwehr says the bill was simply in line behind bills related to Medicaid reform. Schodorf says she suspects politics is the reason Landwehr won't give the bill a hearing before her committee.


2 Injured in RV Crash Leave Kansas 

A Minnesota woman and her 17-year-old son who were injured in a motor home crash that killed five family memebers have returned home from Kansas, where the accident occurred. Overland Park Regional Medical Center said in a statement Tuesday that 46-year-old Pauline Kerber has been released from the hospital and gone home to Jordan, Minnesota. Her son, Adam Kerber, has been transferred to a hospital closer to Jordan. The mother and son were among 13 people injured April 1 when their recreational vehicle hit a guardrail and a concrete bridge rail on Interstate 35, near the town of Williamsburg. Five family members, ages 10 through 25, died in the crash. Several other people who were injured have also been released from hospitals. 


Pizza Payment Includes Bag of Meth 

A Wichita delivery driver got more than cash when she brought a pizza to a customer at a hotel. Tucked among the bills the man handed over was a plastic bag containing a suspicious-looking white substance. The Wichita Eagle reports the 22-year-old Pizza Hut driver called police after making the discovery late Monday upon leaving the Sunset Hotel. Police tested the substance, and discovered it was methamphetamine. Officers went to the hotel and searched the customer's room, where they reported finding meth and cocaine.  The 35-year-old man was booked into jail pending charges. Police say they don't believe the man realized he had given the Pizza Hut driver drugs along with cash. 


2 Men Killed in St. Joseph Car Crash

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — Police in St. Joseph say speed apparently contributed to an early-morning wreck that left two men dead.  The crash happened shortly before 3am Monday when an SUV went off a road and careened about 150 feet through trees and shrubs before landing in a ravine and hitting a large tree.  The St. Joseph News-Press reports the victims were identified as the driver, 33-year-old William Williams, and a 34-year-old passenger, Robert DeGrote. A second passenger survived.  Investigators were checking if the SUV was the same one that a police supervisor had tried to stop for speeding a short time earlier. The supervisor broke off the chase when the SUV turned onto the road where the crash occurred.


Pilot Injured in Crop-Duster Crash in SW KS

LAKIN, Kan. (AP) — A Colorado pilot is hospitalized in Wichita after the crop-dusting plane he was flying crashed in southwestern Kansas.  The Kansas Highway Patrol says the 1999 fixed-wing plane went down around 9:30am Monday about two miles east of the Kearny (KER'-nee) County town of Lakin.  The pilot is identified as 58-year-old David Burr, of Montrose, Colorado.  He was taken to Kearny County Hospital and later to Wichita's Via Christi-St. Francis Hospital, where he was listed in critical condition.  The patrol says the aircraft's right wing clipped a support line on a 305-foot cell tower. The plane hit the ground nose-first near U.S. 50 and flipped over.  The Hutchinson News reports that the crop-duster was registered to Tri Rotor Spray and Chemical, in the southwestern Kansas town of Ulysses.


Contractor Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Disabled Vets Program

KANSAS CITY, KS (AP) — A western Missouri contractor who claimed to be a wounded war hero has pleaded guilty in Kansas to defrauding a federal program that steers business to companies owned by disabled veterans.  The U.S. Attorney's office in Kansas says 70-year-old Warren Parker, of Blue Springs, Missouri, pleaded guilty Monday to five counts including major program fraud and money laundering.  Parker admitted his company, Silver Star Construction LLC, received roughly $7.5 million in government contracts reserved for businesses owned by disabled vets.  Prosecutors say Parker served in the Missouri National Guard from 1963 through 1968, but spent only six months on active duty to attend basic training and his military occupational school.  He could face up to 30 years in prison on the conspiracy charge.


National Sales of Combines, Tractors Decline in March

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Association of Equipment Manufacturers says retail sales of combines in the U.S. fell by nearly 26 percent in March. A report from the trade group Tuesday said 563 combines were sold in March, compared with 759 in the same month last year. Year-to-date combine sales are down 43.2 percent to 1,319 combines. The association also says tractor sales were down 3.4 percent nationwide in March, with 14,982 sold. A breakdown shows sales of four-wheel-drive tractors were up, while those of two-wheel-drive models fell.


Illinois Mega Millions Jackpot Winner Identity Still a Mystery

RED BUD, Ill. (AP) _ Holders of two of the winning tickets of last month's record Mega Millions jackpot claimed their shares, but the person with the third ticket bought in southern Illinois still hasn't made a peep. Illinois Lottery spokesman Mike Lang says the person with a winning ticket bought at a convenience store in the 3,700-resident town of Red Bud still hasn't come forward for his or her three-way share of the $656 million jackpot. Illinois Lottery Superintendent Michael Jones says the lottery will work with the Illinois winner of the March 30 drawing to conceal their identity "if there are good and rational reasons'' to do so. Illinois law gives winners one year to claim a jackpot. The Kansas winner claimed a share of the prize from the March 30 drawing last Friday. Two public school teachers and a school administrator did the same Monday in Maryland. All of those winners have opted to remain anonymous. Each ticket is worth more than $218 million before taxes.


KU Med Center Leader to Retire in June

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A prominent leader of the University of Kansas Medical Center and the School of Medicine will retire in June, more than a year earlier expected.  Barbara Atkinson will step down as executive vice chancellor of the medical center and as executive dean of the School of Medicine on June 30.  In November, Atkinson said she planned to stay on as dean of the medical school until a new dean was chosen, and as executive vice chancellor until December 2013.  Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said Monday that she has named Steven Stites, chairman of internal medicine, acting executive vice chancellor and executive dean, effective immediately.  She had said earlier that she wants to separate the two jobs Atkinson held. A search for a new medical school dean has already begun.


Rains Boost KS Winter Wheat Condition

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new report says the Kansas winter wheat crop continues to develop two to three weeks ahead of normal, with roughly 6 percent of the crop statewide already headed.  Today's (MON) report from Kansas Agricultural Statistics also says that 79 percent of the wheat is now jointed. That compares with 30 percent last year and a five-year average of 32 percent at this point in the season.  Recent rain has helped improve the wheat's condition. The crop is rated 1 percent very poor, 5 percent poor, 29 percent fair, 52 percent good and 13 percent excellent.  Kansas farmers have also begun planting this season's corn crop, with about 6 percent in the ground statewide.


Search for Amelia Earhart Heats Up as 75th Anniversary of Disappearance Nears 

HOUSTON (AP) — On the 75th anniversary of the disappearance of Kansas native Amelia Earhart, competition to solve the mystery has reached fever pitch. Two parties with diverging theories hope to lay to rest later this year the issue of what happened July 2, 1937, when Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan disappeared. Jon Thompson says he will be the sonar operator this fall, when an expedition headed by David Jourdan and the deep-sea exploration company Nauticos begins a third mission to search near Earhart's destination, Howland Island. They will search depths of 18,000 feet. In July, Ric Gillespie, a longtime Earhart seeker, heads to an island where he believes they may have survived for a short time. He has a photo analyzed by the U.S. State Department that appears to show a landing gear.


State Rep from Salina Won't Run Again for KS House Seat

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Charlie Roth of Salina won't run for another term in the Kansas House. He has represented the 71st House District since he took over in 2005 for Carol Beggs, who passed away while in office. Republican J.R. Claeys (klayz) announced yesterday (MON) that he intends to run for the seat.


KS Man Spared Prison in Harper Building Demolition

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A south-central Kansas man who demolished a historic building containing asbestos floor tiles has been sentenced to probation for failing to notify environmental regulators. The U.S. attorney's office says Hugh Allen Barker, of Harper, must also pay a $1,000 fine under the sentence he received yesterday (MON) in federal court in Wichita.  Barker pleaded guilty in January to one felony count, admitting he failed to file required notifications before he began demolishing the Buckeye Building in 2008. The 1885 building was owned by The Balmer Fund, a nonprofit group that restores historic Kansas buildings.  Barker owns Barker Sand and Gravel.


Weis Suspends KU Football Player for 3 Games

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas coach Charlie Weis has suspended James Sims for the first three games of the 2012 season after the Jayhawks' leading rusher was arrested on suspicion of operating a vehicle under the influence.  Weis announced the suspension yesterday (MON), citing a violation of team rules. The Kansas athletics department declined to specify the rules.  But The Kansas City Star reports the 20-year-old junior was arrested by campus police around 2:15am Sunday. The arrest occurred on campus.  Douglas County court records show Sims posted $500 bond and has an April 25 appearance scheduled in municipal court.  Sims started all 12 games in 2011, rushing for 727 yards and nine touchdowns on 182 carries. As a freshman the previous year, the Texas native led the Jayhawks with 742 yards rushing.


Red Cross Seeks More Blood Donors in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The American Red Cross says its blood donation center in Wichita is running low on some necessary supplies.  The Wichita Eagle reports the center needs about 500 pints of blood daily to meet the needs of the 100 hospitals it serves in Kansas and northern Oklahoma. About 30 of those pints are collected at the center. The rest come from statewide mobile drives.  Wichita's center is running very low on whole blood and platelets. Nationally and locally, Red Cross blood supplies hit a 12-year low last summer. The Wichita center is about 12 percent below its need and is on track to come up 12,000 pints short for the year.  The shortage has led the Wichita center to expand its Saturday hours this month.


US Ag Secretary Visits K-State Campus, Delivers Landon Lecture

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is heading to Kansas State University to give a lecture about the industry's importance.  Vilsack is scheduled to give a Landon Lecture this (TUE) morning at McCain Auditorium, with a news conference to follow.  Vilsack also planned to attend the afternoon dedication of the U.S. Agriculture Department's newly modernized Center for Grain and Animal Health Research near the Kansas State campus.  The Landon Lecture series is named for former Kansas Governor Alf Landon, the 1936 Republican presidential nominee.  The USDA said Vilsack would use his morning address to discuss the importance of agriculture to the U.S.

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



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