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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Deadline Arrives for Kansas Primary Voter Registration

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Residents wanting to vote in the upcoming Kansas primary election have until the close of business today (TUE) to register. Voters statewide will be deciding primaries in numerous Republican and Democratic races for the Kansas House of Representatives and Senate, as well as the Democratic primaries for two of the state's four U.S. House seats. Advance voting for the August 7 primary begins Wednesday and closes at noon August 6. Eligible Kansas residents who aren't registered to vote can register for the November general election between August 8 and October 16.


Some Kansas Incumbents Passed Over for Expected Endorsements 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Some Republican incumbents for House and Senate seats are dismayed that the anti-abortion organization Kansans for Life has not endorsed them, despite their records on the abortion issue. The Topeka Capital Journal reports Tuesday that redistricting for House and Senate districts that placed two or more incumbents in the same district has complicated the endorsement process. That's the case for Republican Representative Trent LeDoux of Holton and Representative Richard Carlson of St. Marys, who are competing for the 61st District in northeast Kansas. Kansans for Life endorsed Carlson over LeDoux and Daniel Brenner, also of Holton. LeDoux says he's been a staunch supporter on anti-abortion issues. Kansans for Life officials say they endorsed Carlson because he had seven years of voting in support of their issues.


KDHE Urges Kansans to Stay Alert to Heat Dangers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Health officials are urging residents to stay alert to the extreme heat and drought conditions as Kansas bakes under the summer sun. Temperatures are forecast to hit 100 degrees or higher for the next several days with little or no precipitation likely. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says recent modest winds are expected to dissipate by week's end, increasing concerns about air quality in the state. Residents are encouraged to remain vigilant in the coming days, keeping up what has become a summer routine of staying hydrated and limiting exposure to the heat. Tom Langer, KDHE's director of the bureau of environmental health, says the danger in extended periods of high heat is that residents let their guard down and become vulnerable to heat injuries.

Governor Brownback Touring Drought-Stricken Areas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is touring areas of the state hit hard by drought. The governor's office says Brownback made a stop in Saline County on Tuesday and then will be in Neosho and Labette counties on Wednesday. Brownback will tour northwest Kansas next week. Brownback is joined by Tracy Streeter, director of the Kansas Water Office, and Dale Rodman, state agriculture director. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has declared 82 counties in Kansas federal disaster areas because of the ongoing dry conditions.

Report: Majority of Kansas Corn Crop in Poor Condition

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new government report is painting a grim snapshot of the drought's effects on farms across Kansas. Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that more than half of the state's corn crop is in poor to very poor condition. Soybean and sorghum crops are faring only slightly better with more than 40 percent of both those Kansas crops also in poor to very poor condition. The misery extends beyond the field crops as well, as livestock producers struggle with dried up pastures and shrinking hay and stock water supplies. The agency estimates 78 percent of the range and pasture land in Kansas is in poor to very poor shape. Hay and forage supplies are 57 percent short. Stock water is short to very short across 55 percent of Kansas.


Atty General: Record Number of Concealed Carry Applicants in Kansas 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A record number of people applied to carry concealed weapons in Kansas during the last fiscal year. Attorney General Derek Schmidt says more than 12,408 people sought a Kansas license to carry a concealed firearm during the fiscal year that ended June 30. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that's a 24 percent increase over the approximately 9,400 applicants for concealed weapons in fiscal year 2011. The concealed carry program in Kansas began in 2006. The attorney general also says the number of first-time permit applications his agency received averaged 49 each work day and didn't' include applications for renewal of existing permits. There are more than 44,000 existing concealed weapons permits that have been issued in Kansas.


Kansas Soldier Dies in Afghanistan

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — Army officials say a Fort Riley soldier from southeast Kansas has died in Afghanistan. The 1st Infantry Division said in a release Tuesday that 26-year-old Sergeant Erik May of Independence died July 14 at a medical facility in eastern Afghanistan. The cause of his death is under investigation. May joined the Army in September 2007 and was assigned to Fort Riley in February 2009. He was on his second deployment when he died. May also served in Iraq in 2009. His awards include an Army Commendation Medal, an Army Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghan Campaign Medal with one campaign star, and the Iraq Campaign Medal with one campaign star.


UPDATE: Court Approves Talks on Sale of Hawker Beechcraft

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Hawker Beechcraft says the bankruptcy court has approved its request to enter into exclusive negotiations with a Chinese company interested in acquiring the Kansas plane maker. The decision handed down Tuesday allows Hawker Beechcraft to enter into talks for the next 45 days with Superior Aviation Beijing Company Ltd., despite the objection filed by the machinists union. Hawker Beechcraft says as part of the exclusivity deal, Superior must make a $25 million payment before the end of the week and a second $25 million deposit within 30 days. Hawker Beechcraft CEO Robert Miller says the agreement provides funding to preserve jobs while they simultaneously negotiate a potential sale to Superior and prepare to emerge as a stand-alone entity if those talks fail.


Judge Rules to Allow DNA Testing in Topeka Homicide Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has ruled that DNA testing will be allowed on potential evidence in the killing of an 18-year-old Topeka woman. District Judge Cheryl Kingfisher approved a request from prosecutors for DNA testing in the first-degree murder case against 21-year-old Dustin Leftwich. Leftwich has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping and murdering Brenna Morgart, whose body was found in a field near Topeka on May 25. Prosecutors say Leftwich intentionally hit Morgart with his vehicle. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Kingfisher said the DNA test results could change the case from a first-degree murder case to a capital murder case. Leftwich's preliminary hearing is scheduled for September 4-6.


Kansas Teen Gets 6 Years for 'Sexting' Minor

BURLINGTON, Kan. (AP) — A 19-year-old eastern Kansas man has been sentenced to more than six years in prison for using text messages to solicit a 12-year-old girl for sex. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Coffey County District Court Judge Philip Fromme sentenced Dylan T. Redding, of Gridley, to six years and five months last week after he was convicted in June of using text messages to solicit sex from a minor, which is a felony. Coffey County Attorney Doug Witteman says the investigation began in March after the 12-year-old victim's parents called authorities to report inappropriate text messages. Redding will also be required to register as a sex offender for 25 years after he's released.

Wichita to Lose Frontier Airlines Service

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Frontier Airlines has announced plans to halt its flights between Wichita and Denver. The Wichita Eagle reports that Frontier's two daily flights from Wichita will end on November 16. Frontier spokeswoman Lindsey Carpenter says the flights have been performing below average. Carpenter says the airline will contact travelers who have booked flights after November 15, and offer them a flight on another airline or a refund. The move will leave United Airlines as the only airline flying from Wichita through Denver to western destinations. Allegiant operates flights from Wichita to Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Phoenix-Mesa.


KSU Foundation Raises Record $121 Million

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas State University Foundation raised a record amount during the last fiscal year. Foundation officials say the foundation received $121 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30. That beats the previous record of $107 million, which was set during the 2011 fiscal year. Curt Frasier, chairman of the KSU Foundation board of directors, said 51,400 donors contributed this year, an increase from 44,700 donors last fiscal year. The Manhattan Mercury reports that $76 million of the total was outright gifts and $45 million was pledges and deferred gifts. The foundation received 13 gifts or commitments of $1 million or more, and established 92 new scholarships and four professorships or chairs.


Plans for KC Hotel Disaster Memorial Struggling

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The organization raising money for a memorial to the victims and rescuers of the 1981 Hyatt skywalks disaster in Kansas City is still short of funds. No formal observation was planned on Tuesday to remember the 31st anniversary of the disaster, which killed 114 people when skywalks at the Hyatt Regency hotel collapsed during a dance. Frank Freeman, one of the founding members of an organization working to raise funds for the memorial, resigned recently. Freeman says he was upset with plans to change the design in order to save money. The promoters are trying to raise $800,000 for the memorial. In December, the effort was $200,000 short. The Kansas City Star reports that it was not clear how much still needs to be raised.


Work on Interstate Electric Transmission Line Progresses

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Officials say the first phase of an electric transmission line from Kansas to Nebraska is up and running, and construction of the second phase is ahead of schedule. A spokesman for ITC Holdings says 90 miles of the high-voltage line from Spearville to an area near Hays was energized June 29 and is operating smoothly. That line ties into Midwest Energy's system at Post Rock. The Hutchinson Daily News reports that construction on Phase II, an 85-mile segment from Post Rock to the Nebraska border, is on schedule to be finished before the end of the year — more than six months ahead of schedule. ITC is building the line to the Nebraska border. The Nebraska Public Power District will build the final segment from border to Axtell, Nebraska.


Man Who Hit, Killed Lawrence Bicyclist Grateful for Forgiveness

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A man who was driving drunk when he hit and killed a bicyclist in Lawrence says he's grateful that the victim's family has forgiven him. Joel C. Hernandez was 22 when he was sentenced in 2010 to six months in jail for driving drunk and hitting 20-year-old Rachel Leek. Hernandez has said he didn't stop to help Leek because he didn't realize he hit anyone. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Lee's father, Jim Leek, hugged Hernandez after the sentencing and told him the family forgave him. Leek says that is what his daughter would have wanted. After getting out of jail, Hernandez re-enrolled at Haskell Indian Nations University and was elected Student Senate president. He'll be a senior this fall, finishing up a business administration degree.

Federal Government Expands State Access to Immigration Data

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Federal officials are expanding access to an immigration database so that several states can use it to cleanse voter rolls. The Homeland Security Department first notified Florida officials last week that they could check to see if registered voters are actually noncitizens who should not be eligible to cast a ballot. State officials said Monday that Homeland Security representatives are now offering similar access to other states who had been requesting the information. Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler had renewed his request for the data last week, writing a letter with the support of several other states. He said Monday he was pleased that the federal government had agreed to work with states on the issue. Elections leaders in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio and Utah have also requested database access.

Kansas Attorney General Opposing Gulf Dead-Zone Lawsuit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas attorney general is opposing efforts by environmental groups that want new regulations on farm runoff that flows into the Gulf of Mexico. Attorney General Derek Schmidt said Monday he's seeking to intervene in opposition to a lawsuit filed in federal court in Louisiana earlier this year. The lawsuit aims to force the Environmental Protection Agency to impose new regulations on runoff that flows into the Gulf from farms, ranches and sewage systems in Kansas and other states in the Mississippi River basin. The lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups says the runoff hurts the Gulf's commercial and recreational fishing industry. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Schmidt says he wants to defend the state's interests. Other states and agriculture interest groups have also sought to intervene.

IU, KU and UNC Scientists Receive Grant to Study Autistic Communication

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — An assistant professor at Indiana University is leading a four-year project aimed at improving autistic toddlers' ability to communicate. The U.S. Department of Education has awarded a nearly $3.5 million grant to IU special education specialist Hannah Schertz, Kathleen Baggett of the University of Kansas, and Samuel Odom of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The three plan to test the effectiveness of an approach that targets pre-verbal social communication between toddlers younger than age 2 1/2 and their parents. Schertz says the idea is to intervene before the children's social patterns have become set and develop their communications skills through back-and-forth play with their parents. The project will involve toddlers from diverse groups in Indiana, North Carolina and Kansas.

UMKC Receives $8.3M Federal Grant for Studies on Aging

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The University of Missouri-Kansas City has received an $8.3 million, five-year federal grant to study certain aspects of aging. The grant from the National Institute on Aging will go toward building on new evidence about how bones and muscles communicate and could lead to new ways to treat aging bones and muscles. The Kansas City Star reports that the research team will be led by Lynda Bonewald, director of the bone biology research program at the UMKC School of Dentistry.


Man Charged in Kansas City Triple Homicide

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 46-year-old man has been charged with killing a mother, son and a family friend at a Kansas City house in January. Anthony Walker of Kansas City is charged with three counts of first-degree murder, three counts of armed criminal action and first-degree burglary. Prosecutors allege Walker shot and killed 62-year-old Donna Pike, her 41-year-old son Herschel Pike, and 57-year-old Edward Williams on Jan. 16. Prosecutors say Williams was coming to the Pikes' home to check on them when he was shot. Walker is currently in federal custody. A $250,000 cash bond was set in the murder case. Online court records do not indicate whether Walker has retained a lawyer.

Union Files Objection to Hawker Beechcraft Deal

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The machinists union is opposing Hawker Beechcraft's efforts to enter into exclusive talks with a Chinese firm for the sale of its civilian aircraft operations. A motion filed Monday in U.S. bankruptcy court in New York asks the judge to deny a request seeking up to 45 days to negotiate with Superior Aviation Beijing Company, for the sale of the Kansas manufacturer for $1.79 billion. Superior has agreed to pay $50 million during the exclusivity period to cover operating costs for the business jet company while the deal is finalized. The union contends the proposed sale to a Chinese government-backed entity has implications for the U.S. economy and national security. It also objects because Superior would not assume pension obligations. Hawker Beechcraft said it would issue a statement on the issue at a later date.

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


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