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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Siemens Energy Plans 146 Layoffs at Hutchinson Facility 

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Wind power equipment maker Siemens Energy says it plans to lay off nearly half its Kansas workers. Siemens announced Tuesday that about 146 employees at its wind turbine plant in Hutchinson are among 615 being laid off company-wide. The others are at plants in Iowa and Florida. The Hutchinson plant opened in 2010. Siemens said it's restructuring its wind power business because of changing market conditions and uncertainty about a tax credit for new wind turbine installations. The credit expires at the end of this year. The energy credit has split the all-Republican Kansas congressional delegation. Senator Jerry Moran blames the layoffs on the uncertainty coming from Washington. But U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas has joined a Republican push in Washington to end all energy tax credits.


UPDATE: US Education Secretary Addresses "Opportunity Gap" in Kansas Remarks

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says the nation must work to close what he calls an "opportunity gap" among students if children are going to reach their potential. Duncan came to Kansas on Tuesday as part of a 10-day national bus tour. In Topeka, Duncan spoke on the steps of the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site. He says the Supreme Court's 1954 ruling in that landmark case moved the nation toward education equality. But he also says more is needed to have equity among students regardless of race, gender or where they live. Duncan was heading later Tuesday to Emporia for a town hall meeting on educational issues at Emporia State University.


Kansas School Students Slipped on Standardized Tests

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new report on Kansas public schools shows that students slipped in their performance on standardized tests during the past school year. Deputy Education Commissioner Brad Neuenswander says officials are studying why the percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards in reading and math fell slightly in the 2011-12 school year. The figures from the Kansas Department of Education were presented Tuesday to the State Board of Education. They show 85.7 percent of students taking reading tests met or exceeded standards last year, compared with 87.6 percent the previous year. In math, 83.7 percent of test-takers met or exceeded standards, down from 84.7 percent in the previous academic year. Some educators believe the figures suggested the state's past budget problems are hindering schools.


Federal Appeals Court Upholds Kansas Election Law

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal appeals court has upheld the way Kansas deals with small political parties. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday for Kansas in a lawsuit by the Constitution Party of Kansas, which is not among the parties recognized by the state. The Constitution Party filed suit over the secretary of state's refusal to allow people to affiliate with it when registering to vote. In a summary judgment last year, a federal judge said the state's system of tracking party affiliation did not unconstitutionally burden the rights of the Constitution Party. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach argued the case before the appeals court. Kobach says in a news release that Tuesday's ruling spares the state from having to track an untold number of political parties.

Atty General to Appeal KS Supreme Court's Ruling in Capital Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says he'll appeal a state Supreme Court ruling ordering a new trial for a man sentenced to die for the 2005 killing of a sheriff. Scott Cheever was convicted of capital murder in the shooting death of Greenwood County Sheriff Matt Samuels. The sheriff was killed while serving a warrant at a southeastern Kansas home where authorities say meth was being made. The Kansas court ruled last month that Cheever's rights were violated during his trial when a psychiatrist disclosed his psychological records without his consent. Schmidt said Monday he has taken a preliminary step toward asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Kansas court's ruling in the case. Schmidt said he's asked the Kansas Supreme Court to put its ruling on hold.


Kansas Atty General Faces Ethics Complaint Over Abortion Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An anti-abortion group has filed an ethics complaint against Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt over the dismissal of a criminal case against a Kansas City-area Planned Parenthood clinic. Operation Rescue confirmed the filing Tuesday, a day after sending its complaint to the state office that reviews allegations against attorneys. The group accuses Schmidt of participating with Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe in seeing that charges against Planned Parenthood's clinic in Overland Park were dismissed under false pretenses. Howe's predecessor as district attorney filed 107 charges against the clinic in 2007, accusing it of falsifying documents and performing illegal abortions. The clinic strongly disputed the allegations, and the last of the charges were dismissed in August. A spokesman for Schmidt did not immediately return telephone messages seeking comment.

Interactive Tool for Voters Launched in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new website allows Kansas voters to compare their views with those of candidates for the U.S. Senate, House and president. The interactive tool is called VoteEasy and was launched by the nonpartisan group Project Vote Smart. Voters can check their views on several critical issues against those of candidates who participated in a Project Vote Smart survey. For some candidates, the group researched public records to determine their positions. VoteEasy was launched in Kansas on Monday as part of a state-by-state national rollout.


Tabor Football Player's Injuries Investigated

MCPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — Officials at a central Kansas college say a member of its football team remains on life support while police try to determine how the man was injured over the weekend. Twenty-six-year-old Brandon Brown, a student at Tabor College in Hillsboro, was found unresponsive early Sunday along a street in McPherson. A Tabor spokeswoman told The Salina Journal on Tuesday that Brown has not regained consciousness at Via Christi Hospital in Wichita. McPherson Police have not released information about Brown's injuries or the investigation, except to confirm he was the person found unconscious at 4:10 am Sunday when officers responded to a complaint about loud music. Brown is a defensive lineman from Sacramento, California. He transferred to the school this fall as a red-shirt junior to the NAIA Tabor Bluejays from a California junior college.


Truck Hits Kansas Prison Fence, Prompting Lockdown

EL DORADO, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a broken axle caused a delivery truck to crash into a fence at a south-central Kansas correctional facility. The Wichita Eagle reports that the El Dorado Correctional Facility was placed on lockdown for more than two hours afterward. Kansas Department of Corrections spokesman Jeremy Barclay says the UPS tractor-trailer had just made a delivery when its axle broke shortly after 2 pm Monday. The truck went crashing into the fence. Barkley says the fence wasn't breached, and there was never a security risk. Normal prison operations resumed before 5 pm after the truck was towed away and officials checked the fence. The driver of the truck wasn't injured.

Kansas Charges Filed in Death of Visiting Doctor

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors in northeastern Kansas have charged a suspect with murdering a South Carolina pediatrician who was in the area for a medical conference earlier this month. The body of 39-year-old Dr. Franchesca Brown, of Myrtle Beach, was discovered September 12 in a field near an Overland Park hotel. The suspect was identified Monday as John Meredith Hodges, believed to be from Virginia. Police say Hodges fled to South America and has been captured in Colombia. He's expected to be returned to the Kansas City area this week. Overland Park and Johnson County authorities said Hodges was Brown's occasional boyfriend. They believe she invited him to visit her in Kansas. Hodges is charged with first-degree murder, credit card fraud and identity theft. No other details were released Monday.


Kansas County Calls 600 Prospective Jurors

KINGMAN, Kan. (AP) — Summonses are going out this week to 12 percent of Kingman County's 4,900 registered voters to find enough jurors for a former police instructor's December trial. The Hutchinson News reports 600 prospective jurors are being directed to report October 16 to the Kingman County Activity Center to fill out questionnaires and return them to court staff. Anyone with connections to 36-year-old Brett Seacat, and those who already have formed an opinion, will be disqualified as jurors in the Kingman man's first-degree murder trial. The former instructor at the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center is accused of fatally shooting his wife, 34-year-old Vashti Seacat, and burning the couple's house down. Last month, a judge closed a pretrial hearing to the public because he didn't want to taint the jury pool.


Man Named in Shooting Near Royals, Chiefs Stadiums

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police have released the name of a man who killed himself after shooting and wounding his former girlfriend between the stadiums that are home to the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals. The Kansas City Star reports that the shooter was 40-year-old Marcus L. Collins of Raytown. He drove into the stadium Friday afternoon and apparently summoned his former girlfriend who was working as a parking lot attendant. Police said that when the 41-year-old woman approached, he shot at her several times. She tried to run, but was struck at least once in the abdomen. Collins then shot himself. Police said he never got out of his car. The woman survived, but police said she lost a kidney, her spleen, and parts of her pancreas and liver.


North KC Police ID Baby Killed by Older Driver

NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police have identified the baby struck and killed when an 88-year-old driver sped backward out of a handicapped parking space in a North Kansas City church parking lot. The Kansas City Star said the victim was Autumn Humphrey. She would have turned 1 on September 30. The driver also slammed into the girl's 65-year-old grandfather and her 40-year-old aunt outside First Baptist Church. Police said they suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries. The girl's grandfather was released from the hospital Monday morning. The driver wasn't injured, and police aren't identifying him. He is cooperating in the investigation.


Wichita Inflatables Operator Faces Third Charge

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man who operates a Wichita inflatables company where a child died faces a third charge of running the business without proper licensing. The Wichita Eagle reports that the misdemeanor charge against Jesse Zogleman stems from a sting operation. Police allege Zogleman entered into a contract in July to operate rides in Wichita. Zogleman runs the day-to-day operations for Moonwalks for Fun and Pure Entertainment. In 2010, a 5-year-old boy died at Pure Entertainment after falling off an inflatable provided by Moonwalks for Fun. Afterward, the city's inflatables ordinances were tightened. Zogleman's business has faced several hurdles, including having Moonwalks for Fun's license to operate inside city limits revoked after a liability coverage lapse. Zogleman didn't immediately return a call to The Associated Press.


KCK Man Acquitted in 2011 Homicide

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Wyandotte County jurors have acquitted a Kansas City, Kansas man in the apartment killing of another man last year. The Kansas City Star reports that 30-year-old Allen L. Mitchell had been charged with first-degree felony murder in the June 2011 killing of 21-year-old Carlos Hernandez. Authorities allege the shooting happened during a drug transaction. Jurors began their deliberations Friday and returned the verdict Monday after breaking for the weekend.


Hearings Set for Planned Plum Island Sale

MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) — A federal agency has scheduled public hearings next month to discuss a plan to sell New York's Plum Island. The island off the eastern tip of Long Island is home to the country's only laboratory that studies infectious animal diseases that could affect the livestock industry. The General Services Administration released a draft environmental impact statement on the proposed sale this summer. The agency recommends selling the 840-acre island. No price has been set. The Department of Homeland Security is moving forward with plans to open a new $1.14 billion laboratory in Manhattan, Kansas to replace the Plum Island facility. The GSA hearings will be held October 17th and 18th

Cool Temperatures, Scattered Rain Help Kansas Crops

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Cooler temperatures and scattered rainfall in Kansas over the past week helped improve the condition of row crops a bit. But the picture remained fairly dismal. The Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service said in its weekly update Monday that about 69 of the state's soybeans and 68 percent of the sorghum crop are in poor to very poor condition. The agency also said range and pasture conditions have improved somewhat, with 86 percent now rated poor to very poor. Meanwhile, the corn harvest is rapidly progressing. Fifty-one percent of the corn crop was harvested as of Sunday, about three weeks ahead of last year's pace. Kansas growers have begun planting winter wheat. Five percent of seeding is now complete.

Kansas Schools to Sign 'Lifelong Learning' Agreement

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Top administrators at the University of Kansas and Washburn University are preparing to sign an agreement to offer special classes in Topeka for people 50 and older. Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and Washburn President Jerry Farley plan to participate in a signing ceremony Wednesday on the Washburn campus. Classes will be offered through the University of Kansas's Lifelong Learning Institute, which provides courses in the arts, history, philosophy, culture, health and other popular topics. The goal is to reach older students from a wide range of backgrounds. The institute began offering classes in 2004 in Lawrence. It now has courses in the Kansas City area as well as Hesston, Hutchinson, Manhattan, North Newton, Ottawa and Ulysses.

Kansas Couple Pleads Not Guilty in Missouri Killing

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Court documents allege a Kansas couple charged in a Missouri killing helped forge a legal document used to deny the victim life-sustaining medical treatment. The indictments against 42-year-old Desre Dory and his 43-year-old wife, Stacey, of Shawnee, were made public Monday. Their release came after the couple was extradited to Boone County and pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and forgery. Sixty-seven-year-old William Van Note, of Liberty, was shot in October 2010 along with his partner, 59-year-old Sharon Dickson, at their Lake of the Ozarks vacation home. Dickson died at the home in the Camden County town of Sunrise Beach. Van Note died four days later at a Boone County hospital. The victim's daughter, Kansas City law firm owner Susan Elizabeth Van Note, also is charged in the killing.


U.S. Education Secretary Visiting Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is bringing his 10-day national bus tour to two Kansas communities. Duncan scheduled a stop in Topeka at noon Tuesday at the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site for a discussion of equal educational opportunities. Kansas Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker and members of the State Board of Education planned to take part. Later in the day, Duncan will lead a town hall meeting on educational issues at Emporia State University and tour the National Teachers Hall of Fame, located on the campus. Duncan, a former CEO of the Chicago public school system, will head to Kansas City on Tuesday evening to lead a town hall meeting on education and the Hispanic community.

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


Siemens to Lay Off 615 in Iowa, Kansas, Florida

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A wind energy equipment manufacturer says it will lay off 615 workers in Iowa, Kansas and Florida in part because Congress has not renewed a tax credit for wind energy. Siemens Energy says it told workers the news Tuesday at its plant in Hutchinson. Workers at facilities in Fort Madison, Iowa and Orlando, Florida were also notified. The biggest cuts will come in Fort Madison, where 407 workers at a wind turbine blade factory will be out of work. About 220 workers there will be retained. The company blamed difficult market conditions due to lack of congressional action on a wind energy tax credit as well as increased use of natural gas-fired power plants and an overall sluggish economy. In a statement, Siemens says the industry is seeing a significant drop in new wind turbine orders.

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


Education Secretary Expresses Hope for End of Chicago Strike 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Tuesday  he's hopeful that both sides are close to agreement** to end a teacher strike in Chicago. Duncan is the former CEO of Chicago Public Schools. He said during a stop in Topeka Tuesday that the proposal made to teachers was one that respects and honors their profession while moving school reforms forward. He says both sides have compromised and it's important to get students back in school. The Chicago strike is in its seventh day. Duncan spoke on the steps of the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site. He says the Supreme Court's 1954 ruling in that landmark case moved the nation toward education equality. His stop in Topeka is part of a 10-day bus tour.

 **Chicago public school teachers announced late this (TUE) afternoon that they will return to work on Wednesday

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