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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, April 23. 2013


EPA Again Questions Keystone XL Pipeline Impact

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency again is raising objections to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would carry oil from western Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast. The EPA said that despite more than four years of study, the State Department still has not done sufficient analysis of the project's environmental impact In a letter to the State Department on Monday, the EPA urged State to conduct a more thorough analysis of oil spill risks and alternative pipeline routes, as well as greenhouse gas emissions associated with the pipeline. The concerns are similar to objections the EPA raised about the project in 2011. The State Department has authority over the pipeline because it crosses a U.S. border. A draft report in March said the project would not create significant environmental impacts.

Kansas Innovative School District Law Signed

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new Kansas law will designate some school districts as innovative and make them exempt from certain state education rules. The law, signed Monday, establishes a pilot program that will allow 10 percent of the state's 286 school districts to be designated as innovative school districts for five years. The law goes into effect July 1. The innovative districts will be exempt from several state education laws but still must conduct annual testing of students and comply with state finance laws. Governor Sam Brownback and chairmen of the House and Senate education committees will approve the first two applicants seeking innovative status. Those applications will go to the State Board of Education to receive final approval within 90 days.


Cool Spring Temperatures Delay Grazing, Hay Crop

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Cool spring temperatures in Kansas are squeezing drought-weary cattle producers even further by delaying the growth of pasture grasses and the first cutting of alfalfa fields. Steve Hessman, hay market reporter for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's office in Dodge City, says development of all forage grasses is running almost three weeks behind normal. That means the grass in pastures has not grown enough for ranchers to turn their cattle out to graze as usual. Some ranchers in western Kansas and eastern Colorado are running out of winter-stockpiled hay to feed their cattle and have begun selling off some animals again. The hard freeze earlier this month also nipped alfalfa fields and damaged winter wheat crops in parts of southwest and west-central Kansas.

Rain Halts Early Corn Planting in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Several days of rain have been a mixed blessing for Kansas farmers and ranchers. Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service said Monday the past week's rain halted early corn planting in eastern sections. Corn planting is only 5 percent complete statewide, far behind the late-April average of 20 percent. But the agency also reports the much-needed moisture is helping replenish farm ponds and soil moisture. In its weekly update, the agency said supplies of topsoil moisture are running short to very short in about 38 percent of Kansas, down from 40 percent one week ago. It will take longer to replenish subsoil moisture, now rated 68 percent short in Kansas. The condition of Kansas rangelands and pastures is still rated poor to very poor across 68 percent of the state.

Report: Warm Temps Needed to Assess Wheat Damage

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new report says warmer temperatures are needed before Kansas farmers can assess the freeze damage to their winter wheat crop. Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that more than half the state's wheat acres had no freeze damage. But the agency also says growers in the western third of Kansas are still evaluating the impact of freezing temperatures. The weekly snapshot shows 43 percent of the winter wheat has now jointed. That's well behind the 96 percent of a year ago and the late-April average of 63 percent. Overall, the agency pegged the condition of this year's wheat crop as 37 percent poor to very poor. It estimated that 33 percent was in fair shape, with 27 percent rated as good and 3 percent as excellent.

Rain Leads to Unusual Accident That Injures 4

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say rain and speed contributed to an accident that left three emergency responders and a driver with minor injuries. Police say two firefighters and a paramedic were carrying a driver up a hill on a spine board after a car had gone into a ditch in front of Newman University late Monday. Police Lieutenant Mike Hennessey says the driver of a second car lost control at the same spot. The car spun around, hit a concrete wall and then hit the emergency crews and the first driver. All four were treated and released at Wichita hospitals. Police reports indicate speed, the weather conditions and possibly drunken driving contributed to the accident.


Claim: Kansas Pill Mill Tied to Soldier Overdoses

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas doctor has been charged with operating a pill mill for pain killers and antidepressants after Fort Riley officials raised concerns about soldiers who overdosed. The U.S. attorney's office alleged in a criminal complaint Tuesday that 53-year-old Michael P. Schuster conspired to illegally distribute controlled substances. The affidavit says the investigation began last year when police received reports that Schuster was issuing high-dosage prescriptions based on limited physical examinations, leading to several overdoses. Medical staff at Fort Riley also reported that Schuster had treated active duty soldiers and family members who died from overdoses. More than 500 prescriptions were written while Schuster was out of the office. A phone message left for Schuster's attorney, Barry Clark of Manhattan, wasn't immediately returned.


Kansas to Launch Rebranded Trademark Program

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Forget the old "Simply Kansas" brand. State officials are about to launch a new trademark program dubbed "From the Land of Kansas." The program officially takes off Saturday with events in Kansas City, Wichita and Topeka hosted by Governor Sam Brownback and Secretary of Agriculture Dale Rodman. "From the Land of Kansas'' is aimed at supporting Kansas agricultural products and services. A news release touts this weekend's public launch, which includes stops at Original Juan Specialty Foods in Kansas City and the Wichita Brewing Company and Pizzeria. The tour wraps up at the Kansas State Capital Building in Topeka, where the governor is expected to sign a proclamation officially declaring "From the Land of Kansas'' the state food and agricultural trademark.


Kansas Prosecutor to Pursue Retrial in Capital Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas prosecutor says he's planning to retry a capital murder suspect rather than ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate the man's convictions for killing two women in Topeka. The Kansas Supreme Court overturned Phillip Cheatham Jr.'s convictions in January, finding that his lawyer did a poor job at his 2005 trial. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor announced Tuesday his conclusion that it would be "ill-advised" to appeal the state court's ruling. Cheatham was sentenced to die for the 2003 shooting deaths of two women at a Topeka duplex. He was also convicted of lesser charges for wounding a third woman.


Suspect in Kansas Dog Expert's Death Charged

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A suspect in the death of an internationally known dog show handler and judge is being held on $1 million bond after making his first court appearance in the case. Fifty-year-old Darrell L. Broxton is charged with first-degree murder in the death of 69-year-old Peter Belmont Jr. Belmont was found dead at his Kansas City, Kan., home last December. The Kansas City Star reports that Belmont was known internationally on the dog show circuit for his breeding of Afghan hounds under the kennel name of Elmo. He also taught art for years in Kansas City, Kan., schools. Broxton, who was paroled in May after serving time on burglary charges, was arrested Friday. He was not required to plea during Monday's court appearance.


Kansas Judge Blocks Use of 'In Cold Blood' Files

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas judge has ruled that a businessman and the family of a deceased investigator cannot use the investigator's files on the 1959 Kansas murders that inspired the book "In Cold Blood.'' Shawnee County District Judge Larry Hendricks on Tuesday blocked Ronald Nye of Oklahoma City and Seattle memorabilia dealer Gary McAvoy from using documents gathered by Nye's father while he investigated the murders of the Clutter family in Holcomb. The Kansas attorney general's office sought the order, arguing that the records belong to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. Nye's father was a KBI agent in 1959. Richard Hickock and Perry Smith were executed for the killings in 1965. Nye and McAvoy had planned to auction off the documents but now say they want to write a book.


Juneau Symphony Conductor Takes Topeka Job

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The conductor of the Juneau Symphony has accepted a job in Topeka. KTOO reports that Kyle Wylie Pickett will become the new music director and conductor for the Topeka Symphony Orchestra. He was selected from among 125 applicants. Pickett has worked with the Juneau Symphony since 2000. He will stay on as the symphony's music director through next season, dividing his time between Juneau and Topeka. He currently serves as the itinerant director for both Juneau and the North State Symphony in Chico, California. 


Mother Sentenced to Time Served in Son's Death

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A Leavenworth woman whose conviction for involuntary manslaughter was overturned pleaded no contest to a lesser charge and was sentenced to time served. Thirty-one-year-old Monica F. Rivera spent 28 months in prison while appealing her conviction for involuntary manslaughter and endangering a child in the 2009 death of her 4-year-old son. The boy died of blunt force trauma while he was being cared for by Rivera's boyfriend, Jason L. Jones. The Leavenworth Daily Times reports that Rivera pleaded no contest Friday to aggravated endangering a child and was sentenced to time served. The Kansas Court of Appeals ordered a new trial after finding errors in jury instructions during Rivera's 2010 trial. Jones is serving more than 38 years in prison for second-degree murder in the boy's death.

Park Service Offers Bus Tours of Topeka Sites

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The National Park Service is offering free bus tours of Topeka sites tied to the Bleeding Kansas era and the civil rights movement. The Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site says the first tours will be Saturday, with tickets available starting around 9 am. The first 90-minute tour begins at 10:30 am, the second at 12:30 pm and the final one at 2:30 pm. The featured stops tell a messy racial story that begins in 1854, when Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act that allowed settlers to decide for themselves whether to permit slavery. Fighting ensued as people for and against slavery rushed to the Kansas Territory. A century later, Topeka was involved in a U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned segregated education.


KU Endowment Gets $2.7 Million from Hall Family

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Hall Family Foundation has donated $2.7 million to support research at the University of Kansas's Hall Center of Humanities. The Kansas University Endowment Association announced the latest gift from the Hall family on Monday. It said the donation will fund a new distinguished professorship and create two new research fellowships at the center. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that $500,000 of the donation will be used to attract a leading researcher to the new distinguished professorship. Another $1 million will create a postdoctoral fellowship for a researcher in digital humanities, and another $1 million will create a mid-career fellowship.

NE Kansas School Wins Federal Green Honor

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas elementary school has been named a Green Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education for its environmental activities. The Shawnee Mission District's Bluejacket-Flint Elementary in Shawnee was among 64 schools nationwide receiving the honor Monday. The designation recognizes efforts by individual schools to reduce the impact on the environment, lower energy costs and promote better health. Bluejacket-Flint used federal energy standards to reduce utility use by 52 percent, resulting in a 29 percent cut in energy costs in one year. A parent-teacher group also spent $50,000 on an outdoor classroom to teach students to be better stewards of the environment, including increasing recycling and composting.


Display of George Washington's Papers in Abilene

ABILENE, Kan. (AP) — An exhibit featuring some of the most important papers in U.S. history is on display through May 3 at the Eisenhower Presidential Museum. The exhibit, which opened to the public Monday, includes some of President George Washington's papers, such as a signed copy of the Acts of Congress, as well as the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. The Salina Journal reports that Abilene is the book's fourth stop of 13 it will make at presidential museums and libraries. The tour ends September 21 at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri. The book eventually will be kept permanently at a museum dedicated to Washington in Mount Vernon, Virginia. The Abilene museum will be open for extended hours — 9 am until 8 pm — through May 3.

SE Kansas Murder Suspect Due in Court

CHANUTE, Kan. (AP) _ A 21-year-old woman charged in the death of a southeast Kansas woman is due in court this week. Michelle Voorhees is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated burglary in the January death of 36-year-old Cristy Wiles, whose remains were found in a burned Chanute home. A public defender appointed to represent her didn't immediately return a call seeking comment Tuesday. Neosho County Attorney Linus Thuston says a preliminary hearing Friday will determined if there's enough evidence to try Voorhees in the case. A second suspect, 26-year-old Brian Shields, has been hospitalized since he crashed his vehicle while trying to avoid capture in northwest Missouri last week. Shields is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated burglary. Online records don't list a lawyer for Shields.


KC to Help Residents with Water Bills

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City officials are moving to help low-income residents as the city adds significant increases in water bills. The Kansas City Star reports that the city council voted to boost its annual water assistance fund from $240,000 to $300,000 beginning May 1. The fund will provide help to about 1,050 families over the next year, an increase from 800 in the past year. The average monthly residential water and sewer bill is expected to rise 11.5 percent in the coming year as the city fixes aging water mains and complies with federal requirements to overhaul its sewer system. City officials say average monthly bills are expected to increase from $65 two years ago to $82.50 in the coming year.

Kansas Club Owner Sentenced for Tax Evasion

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Salina man has been sentenced to three years of probation for filing false tax returns on his income from a strip club he owned. The U.S. Attorney's Office says 49-year-old Kirk Roberts must also pay taxes totaling $153,000 under the sentence he received Monday in federal court. Roberts pleaded guilty in January to failing to report nearly $538,000 in cash receipts at his Wild Wild West club from 2006 through 2008. Investigators said the club charged customers a nightly cover charge. It also charged nightly cash fees from dancers for performing onstage or using private rooms. Roberts admitted depositing the cash into a personal account rather than putting into the club's bank account.

Woman Meets Circus Tiger in Bathroom

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Salina woman likely won't remember her first circus for the clowns or performances -- it'll be the tiger in the bathroom. The big cat escaped briefly after its turn in the ring Saturday at the Isis Shrine Circus. Staff members blocked off the concourses at the Bicentennial Center as the tiger wandered into the bathroom, where one of the doors was blockaded. About that time, Salina resident Jenna Krehbiel decided she needed to use the restroom. When she walked in the door that hadn't been blocked off, she found a tiger standing about 2 feet away. Krehbiel is a social worker and tells the Salina Journal she didn't scream or run because she's trained to stay calm. She simply walked out. The tiger was returned to its cage a short time later. No one was injured.

Sentencing Delayed for Canadian Man Who Took Girl

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has agreed to delay sentencing for a Canadian man who was found in Michigan with a 12-year-old Kansas girl he met on the Internet. Stewart Kenneth Cody McGill, of Bewdley, Ontario, had been scheduled to appear Wednesday in federal court in Wichita on a charge of traveling with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct. But U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten granted on Monday a delay because of a scheduling conflict. The sentencing is now set for May 8. The 21-year-old man pleaded guilty in February under a deal with that will lock him up for eight years, if the judge accepts it. Authorities say McGill traveled last year to El Dorado to meet the girl. They were found a few days later near Potterville, Michigan.

Former KS Corrections Head Faces Long To-Do List as Interim Colorado Prison Chief 

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Colorado's interim prisons director says he will review early prisoner releases, the death penalty and other issues but won't predict whether he will make any changes. Roger Werholtz told a news conference Monday he will address those issues, which rose to the fore after the shooting death of corrections chief Tom Clements. Werholtz is a former corrections director in Kansas. He came out of retirement to temporarily take the place of Clements while a permanent replacement is sought. Monday was Werholtz's first day on the job.


Flight Delays Pile Up

NEW YORK (AP)  Thousands of air traffic controllers forced to take an unpaid day off because of federal budget cuts has caused flight delays to pile up this week. The sequestration cuts are forcing the furloughs. Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo, a Republican from the Wichita area, says the FAA could have made better choices for cuts to keep services on track. FAA officials say they had to make cuts to worker hours because of the sequestration.


Missouri Man Gets 2 Life Terms for Killing 2 Women

PLATTE CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 32-year-old northwest Missouri man has been sentenced to two life terms after pleading guilty to killing two sisters while he was high on methamphetamine. Clifford Miller, of Trimble, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Platte County Circuit Court to two counts of first-degree murder. A judge sentenced him to two life terms without the possibility of parole in the July 2012 deaths of 19-year-old Britny Haarup and 22-year-old Ashley Key. Authorities began searching for the women after Haarup's fiance came home and found that their 5-month-old daughter and her 18-month-old sister had been alone for hours. Prosecutors also said there was blood in the Edgerton residence, located about 35 miles north of Kansas City. Prosecutors say Miller told investigators he went to the home intending to rape Haarup.


Chiefs Hold No. 1 Pick in NFL Draft for First Time

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs have been on the clock since the end of last season. The Chiefs went 2-14 to land the number-one choice in the NFL draft for the first time in franchise history. But there's no clear-cut player available this year, and certainly no star quarterback such as Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III to make the pick an easy one. Kansas City is likely going to shore up its offensive line with the selection Thursday night. Most draft experts believe the Chiefs will go with Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel or Central Michigan's Eric Fisher, a pair of left tackles who could protect quarterback Alex Smith. The Chiefs are also open to trading their number-one pick.



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