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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, January 22, 2013



40 Years After Roe v. Wade Ruling, Abortion Foes Continue Fight

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Abortion opponents are marking the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling with a push for still more restrictions after a string of legislative victories that have narrowed access to the procedure. The 1973 Supreme Court decision established the legality of abortion. Hundreds of anti-abortion activists are gathering in Topeka for workshops and prayer services Tuesday. They also plan to rally outside the Kansas Statehouse with Governor Sam Brownback, a Republican who signed tough, new anti-abortion laws during his first two years in office. Much to the dismay of abortion-rights advocates, the pattern in Kansas has been repeated in other states. Meanwhile, the anti-abortion group Kansans for Life plans to ask state lawmakers to enact legislation ensuring Kansas doesn't finance abortions, even indirectly, through tax breaks.


Insider Criticizes Kansas Judicial Selection Process

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A member of the Kansas commission that screens applicants for the state's appellate courts says it was biased against conservative candidates in its most recent deliberations. Commission member Felita Kahrs of Topeka said Tuesday the panel finally advanced one conservative's nomination to the governor last month to avoid angering legislators seeking to change the selection process. Kahrs provided a copy of testimony for a Kansas House committee to The Associated Press before it met Tuesday. It's unusual for someone involved in that process to advocate change. Kahrs is among four non-lawyers on the nine-member commission and was appointed by Republican Governor Sam Brownback in 2011. The commission nominates three finalists for appellate court vacancies. The governor makes the appointment, with no role for legislators. Supporters say that process eliminates politics.



IRS Agent Charged with Theft of Public Money



KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors have accused an Internal Revenue Service agent in Kansas of receiving more than $26,000 in salary and mileage payments for meetings with taxpayers that never took place. Becky L. Book was charged Tuesday in a criminal information filed in federal court in Kansas City, Kansas with one count of theft of public money. Such a charging document is filed with the defendant's consent and typically indicates a plea deal in the works. Prosecutors allege Book claimed she worked 744 hours between March 2010 and April 2011, when she actually took those hours off as unauthorized personal time. It's unclear whether she's still an IRS employee. Court documents do not list a defense attorney. A message left at a phone listed under the same name was not immediately returned.


KDOT Seeks Comments on Biking, Walking Needs

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials are gauging public opinion about opportunities for bicycling and walking around the state. The Kansas Department of Transportation said Tuesday it has posted an online survey on its website for residents to identify statewide biking and pedestrian needs. There are two versions of the survey — one to be filled out by adults, the other by parents on behalf of children. Becky Pepper, KDOT's bicycle-pedestrian coordinator, says the responses will help the agency decide how to use what she calls limited resources for bicycling and pedestrian facilities in Kansas. Pepper says one key issue is whether urban, rural and suburban residents have different views on biking and walking. The survey will be used in a study scheduled to be completed this fall.


Kansas School Efficiency Panel Releases Final Report 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas task force has presented its final report on ways to get public schools to devote more of their state funding to classrooms. Governor Sam Brownback created the School Efficiency Task Force last fall, filling it mostly with accountants but no teachers. The panel released its final list of 12 recommendations Monday. Brownback already included many of the suggestions in the proposed budget and the State of the State address he presented to legislators last week. Among other things, the task force recommends that the state adopt a two-year budget cycle to give schools more stability and predictability in funding. It also suggests conducting an efficiency study or audit of the State Department of Education.


Kansas Pastor Delivers Sermon at National Cathedral Prayer Service

WASHINGTON (AP) — On the first full workday of his second term, President Barack Obama has heard a rousing, spiritual appeal for unity and strength, from church leaders of different faiths. President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were joined by their wives today (TUE) at the Washington National Cathedral for the traditional post-inaugural national prayer service. There were prayers for those who govern, those in the armed forces and the nation as a whole. Reverend Adam Hamilton, senior pastor at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, delivered the sermon. He told the president, "When you feel your lowest, don't give up."  Hamilton also said the nation, its leaders and people need to rise above their differences and find a national vision that unifies the country. Speakers represented the National African American Clergy Network, the Rabbinical Assembly and the Islamic Society of North America, among others. This was the third day of religious worship for Obama surrounding his second inauguration.

Judge Rules for City of Manhattan in Water Dispute

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Court of Appeals judge says the city of Manhattan does not have to provide free water to the city's schools. The Manhattan Mercury reported Monday that an appeals court judge upheld a lower court ruling in a case involving an arrangement between the city and school district that dates back to the 19th century. In 1887, a couple deeded land to the city for operation of a public water supply, with the stipulation that the city would provide free water for churches and public schools. The appeals court judge ruled that the city is no longer obligated to provide free water because the land is no longer being used for a public water works system. The original water works facility was demolished in 1993.

Kansas Judge: Use Tax Refunds to Pay Court Fines

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A judge in Topeka has a suggestion for taxpayers wondering how to spend their refunds: Pay off your fines in Municipal Court. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that nearly 7,700 of the city's Municipal Court cases are in collection. The Collection Bureau of Kansas is under contract with the city to pursue payment on those cases. Municipal Court Judge Vic Miller says many people with unpaid fines are surprised to learn their balances have grown because of interest and the addition of fees for collections. Miller says people with outstanding balances should contact the court and arrange for payment. He says using a tax refund to reduce or eliminate fines is a good way to start the year, especially if the debt is preventing reinstatement of a driver's license.


Continuance Granted in Hearing for Suspects in Football Player's Death

MCPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — A preliminary hearing for two suspects in the death of a Tabor College football player was continued because prosecutors are searching for a key witness. Former McPherson College football players Alton Franklin and DeQuinte Flournoy, both 19, are charged in the death last September of 26-year-old Brandon Brown, a redshirt defensive lineman for Tabor. Brown died about a week after being found unconscious after a fight at a party in McPherson on September 16. The Hutchinson News reports that four witnesses testified Monday before the hearing was postponed until January 31 while prosecutors locate Taajon Richardson, a witness at the fight. He moved back to Texas and prosecutors say a subpoena for Richardson was returned as undeliverable two weeks ago.


Wichita Police Investigating Unusual Robbery

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police are looking for a man who allegedly threatened to blow up a clerk with a bomb before robbing a convenience store. Police say the man parked at a gas pump at a Quik Trip last Friday and told the clerk that he couldn't pump his own gas because he was disabled. When the clerk came out to help, the customer reportedly flashed a gun and then handed the employee a box that resembled a bomb. The suspect called the store and said he would detonate the device if he didn't get money. Police say another employee brought money to the suspect, who drove away. Investigators say the man was driving a blue Chevrolet Impala. He didn't get out of the car, so investigators do not have a good description.


Remains of Missing Kansas Man Found in Field

WINFIELD, Kan. (AP) — A south-central Kansas sheriff says human remains that turned up in a field are those of a man reported missing eight months ago. KAKE-TV reports that Cowley County authorities used dental records to identify the remains Monday as those of 37-year-old Corbin Wilt. The Winfield man's wife had reported his disappearance last May. The Cowley County sheriff's office says it doesn't suspect foul play, but the cause of death is under investigation. A dog discovered a human bone in the field Friday, prompting authorities to search the spot northwest of Winfield over the weekend for more remains. Police had looked in the same area shortly after Wilt's disappearance after detecting a signal from his cellphone.


Wichita Police Investigating Baby's Body in Trash

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a teenager mother told them her baby was stillborn before she left the child's body in a trash bin. Police Lieutenant Randy Reynolds says the 17-year-old girl gave birth to a girl January 10 and then put the baby in the trash. A relative who didn't know about the baby later took the trash to a Dumpster at a Wichita shopping center. Reynolds says the girl became ill early last week and was taken to the hospital, where it was discovered that she had given birth. The hospital notified police, who found the baby's body. Police have talked to the child's father, who knew about the pregnancy. Reynolds says the girl could face charges even if the child was stillborn.


Nebraska Governor Approves Keystone XL Route Through State

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman has approved a new route for the Keystone XL oil pipeline that avoids the state's environmentally sensitive Sandhills region. Heineman sent a letter Tuesday to President Barack Obama confirming that he would allow the controversial project to proceed in his state. The pipeline has faced strong resistance in Nebraska from a coalition of landowners and environmental groups who say it would contaminate the Ogallala aquifer, a massive groundwater supply. Canadian pipeline developer TransCanada and some workers' unions say the project is safe and will create thousands of jobs. The original route would have run the pipeline through a region of erodible, grass-covered sand dunes. The new route skirts that area.



Wheat Futures Fall; Rain Heads to Drought-Stricken Kansas

Wheat futures are ending lower as forecasters call for rain to come to drought-stricken Kansas. Crude oil is closing at its highest level in four months. Wheat for March delivery settled down 12 cents to $7.7925 a bushel Tuesday. Mike Zuzolo, president of Global Commodity Analytics and Consulting, said the rain would be "very welcome" to producers in the southern part of Kansas and Oklahoma still being affected by extreme drought. Soybeans rose on forecasts for dry weather in southern Brazil and Argentina, which are major producers of the bean. The March contract rose 22.5 cents to $14.5175 a bushel. Crude oil rose 68 cents to $96.24 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil has risen nearly $3 a barrel over the last four days.


Iola Receives Settlement from Herbicide Lawsuit

IOLA, Kan. (AP) — The east-central Kansas town of Iola has received a nearly $200,000 settlement from a manufacturer of the herbicide atrazine. The Iola Register reports that a class-action lawsuit was brought by water treatment plants against agriculture chemical company Syngenta Crop Protection. Iola is sharing in a $105 million settlement. Iola water and wastewater superintendent Toby Ross insists that the city's water is safe. Legally, the amount of the herbicide in the water must be lower than three parts per billion. In Iola, the water coming through the plant averaged .11 parts per billion. The nearby city of Humboldt is receiving $73,000 from the settlement. The last reported amount of atrazine in Humboldt's water supply was .46 parts per billion. That's also well below the legal limit.

Kansas Crew Trains for Grain Disaster Rescue

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — Firefighters in Pittsburg have been training to rescue people who may become engulfed in grain at storage facilities. The Pittsburg Morning Sun reports that the practice was conducted in the Kansas Fire and Rescue Training Institute's mobile trailer, which can simulate rescues of people trapped in grain bins. Pittsburg Fire Battalion Chief Jeff Kavanagh says he hopes firefighters never have to respond to that situation. In February 2011, an Erie man got his leg caught in the operating auger of a grain storage building in Walnut. It took a rescue team of firefighters several hours to get the injured man out of the bin.

Charity for Veterans Opens in KC Area

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A national charity that helps military service members has opened an office in the Kansas City area. Operation Homefront said in a release Monday that it opened an office in December in Overland Park, to serve the Missouri and Kansas region. The Texas-based nonprofit was founded in 2002 to provide emergency financial aid and other help to families of service members and wounded veterans. The organization says its Missouri and Kansas operation will be led by Paul Cupach, who retired last spring after 30 years in the Air Force.


Kansas City Building Employs Universal Design Renovations

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — When The Whole Person agency moves into its new headquarters in downtown Kansas City this week, it will find a building that is an architectural rarity. A $5 million project renovated the structure to serve predominantly disabled people, using what is called universal design. The Kansas City Star reports that the building includes wide hallways, color-coded walls and voice-controlled elevators. It also offers a resource center with computer stations at wheelchair height, a theater that will always show movies with captions and even a shower to wash the paws of service dogs. The Whole Person serves those in wheelchairs or who live with sensory or mobility problems. It is consolidating its offices in Kansas City, Gladstone and Prairie Village, Kansas, moving about 85 employees into the new space.


Kansas City Man Has 2 Vehicles Stolen on Same Day

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man who left his SUV running in a convenience store parking lot not only had that vehicle stolen, but his second car was taken from his house the same day. Tommy Barker thinks the same people took both vehicles Monday. He says he left his Chevrolet Blazer idling outside a QuikTrip while he ran inside to pay for fuel, and someone took off in it before he knew what was happening. Barker tells KMBC-TV that he drove his wife to work in another car and went home to do laundry. When he went back outside, the second car was gone, too. He thinks whoever stole his SUV found a spare set of keys to the other car and a paycheck stub that told them where he lives.

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