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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, September 4, 2012



Kansas to Mark Preparedness Month

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A proclamation and special day at the State Fair are on tap as Kansas officials mark the annual Emergency Preparedness Month during September. The national event is designed to raise public awareness about the need to prepare for emergencies, such as tornadoes, floods and droughts. Governor Sam Brownback will sign a proclamation on Friday during a Statehouse ceremony. Joining him will be Major General Lee Tafanelli, state adjutant general and director of the Kansas Division of Emergency Management. Residents are being encouraged to have emergency kits should disaster strike. On September 10 there will be special booths and displays at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson.


JoCo DA Facing Ethics Complaint Over KS Abortion Clinic Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Operation Rescue is accusing Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe of lying to a judge about the fate of records from an investigation into Planned Parenthood. The anti-abortion group filed the complaint Tuesday with the Office the Disciplinary Administrator. It alleges Howe lied in court about the destruction of the records obtained in the investigation. The clinic was accused of falsifying documents and performing illegal late-term abortions. Howe eventually dropped the final 49 of the original 107 charges filed against Planned Parenthood in 2007. Messages left for Howe Tuesday were not immediately returned. Ron Keefover, spokesman for the Kansas judicial branch, said all matters filed with the Office of Disciplinary Administrator remain confidential unless a probable cause finding is made by a review committee.


UPDATE: Federal Court Sides with KS State Fair Against PETA

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has sided with the Kansas State Fair in a free speech challenge filed by an animal-rights group. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten on Tuesday ruled the fair is a so-called "limited public forum." He said fair officials acted reasonably in requiring People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to shield people walking by its booth from easily seeing images depicting animal slaughter. PETA sued the state, the Kansas Fair Board and the fair's general manager, arguing the restrictions violate its free speech rights. But the judge also denied a motion by the state to dismiss PETA's lawsuit.


2 Kansans File Hepatitis C Lawsuits Against PA Hospital

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A Kansas woman who says she was infected with hepatitis C by a former medical technician has filed a lawsuit against a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania hospital. Linda Ficken claims that the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center was negligent for not reporting a 2008 incident at UPMC where David Kwiatkowski allegedly stole and used narcotics. Kwiatkowski went on to work at numerous other hospitals. The lawsuit says Ficken was treated at a Kansas hospital in 2010 when Kwiatkowski worked there, and that she recently tested positive for hepatitis C. Ficken's husband is also suing. Kwiatkowski is facing federal drug charges in New Hampshire. He has pleaded not guilty. A UPMC spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A temporary staffing agency is also named in the lawsuit.


Police in KC Suburb Say 2 Found Dead in Home

LEAWOOD, Kan. (AP) — Police say they're not actively seeking suspects in the deaths of two people found inside a Leawood home. Officers went to the home on Tuesday afternoon after a relative requested a welfare check. Details about the two people have not been released, but investigators say the deaths were not from natural causes.

Suspected Meth Lab Turns Out to Be Fuel Cell

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas drug enforcement unit checking a report of a suspected meth lab found something quite different. The Hutchinson News reportsReno County investigators went to a Hutchinson apartment Tuesday where neighbors complained of a strong odor. But instead of a meth lab, the suspicious contraption turned out to be a fuel cell — in simple terms, a device that converts the chemical energy of a fuel and an oxidant into electrical energy. The man who was making the fuel cell was not arrested. But officers on the scene did take in another person suspicion of theft.

President of Colombia to Visit KU

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The president of the Republic of Colombia travels to Lawrence this month for events at the University of Kansas and the Dole Institute of Politics. The university announced the pending visit by President Juan Manuel Santos on Tuesday — the same day Santos announced the signing of a preliminary agreement with Colombia's main leftist rebel group to launch peace talks. Santos graduated from KU in 1973 with degrees in economics and business. He's scheduled to be on campus Sept. 24 to meet with students. He'll also take part in a public event at the Dole Institute, where he will receive the Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award. That's the highest honor given by the College of Liberal Arts and Science. Details of the Dole Institute event will be announced later.

Kansas State Hosting Climate Change Conferences

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University is holding back-to-back conferences on climate change this week. The first gets under way Wednesday and will address how climate change will affect agriculture and rural communities. Called "Adapting to a Changing Climate on the Central Great Plains," the conference will feature the latest science and options for preparing for warmer temperatures. On Thursday, Kansas State will host an event called Sustaining Kansas: The 2012 Kansas Higher Education Sustainability Conference. The featured presenter will be Nancy Jackson, founder and chairwoman of the Lawrence-based Climate and Energy Project.


Hutchinson Will Vote on Anti-Discrimination Law

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Hutchinson voters will be asked to decide whether to add protections against discrimination for gays, lesbians and bisexuals to the city's anti-discrimination ordinance. The Hutchinson City Council first voted Tuesday to repeal the limited protection from discrimination it had approved in June. The ordinance outlawed discrimination only in employment or in housing. Then the council voted to allow the public to vote in November on expanding the anti-discrimination protection. The Hutchinson News reports the council had faced two rival petitions. Both sought to repeal the June ordinance. The Kansas Equality Coalition's petitions would expand the ordinance beyond the limited protections it provided. Opponents of gay rights applauded the council's actions. The leader of the Kansas Equality Coalition said he was deeply disappointed.


Chinese Company Completes Acquisition of AMC Theater Chain

NEW YORK (AP) — Chinese conglomerate Wanda says it has closed on the acquisition of AMC Entertainment Holdings, one of the largest movie theater chains in the U.S. The $2.6 billion deal is the largest takeover yet of a U.S. company by a Chinese firm. It also makes Wanda the world's largest owner of cinemas. Dalian Wanda Group's purchase reflects the global ambitions of cash-rich Chinese companies that are using acquisitions to speed their expansion. The Beijing-based company said it will invest an additional $500 million in AMC and keep its headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri. AMC operates 338 cinemas. It's owned by a group of private-equity firms. Wanda, founded in 1988 and privately owned, operates hotels, department stores, tourism and other businesses. It has 94 theaters in China.

Drought Among Stresses on Midwest Economy

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A monthly survey suggests that the continuing drought and lessening export demand for U.S. products are among the drains on the economy in nine Midwest and Plains. A report released Tuesday says August's Mid-America Business Conditions Index remained below growth neutral for a second month. It rose to 49.7 from 48.7 in July. June's figure was 57.2. The survey of business leaders and supply managers uses a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Any score above 50 suggests growth while a score below 50 suggests decline for that factor. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the survey, and he says supply managers remain pessimistic about future economic conditions. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

Cloud-Seeding Effort Hampered by Drought

LAKIN, Kan. (AP) — The relentlessly sunny skies during this year's drought has made it a difficult year for a Kansas program that seeds the clouds to try and bring rain. In a normal year, the Western Kansas Weather Modification Program, runs from late April to mid-September. The program would seed clouds about 40 days during that period. Walter Geiger, project director for the program, says workers have been able to seed clouds only 17 days this year. The Hutchinson News reports the good news is the drought has helped the project's finances, keeping it alive for another season. The project uses silver iodide, which has increased in price from $6,800 gallons for 20 gallons to $31,000.

Duck Season in SE Kansas Pushed to Later in Year

ST. PAUL, Kan. (AP) — Hunters are divided over the state's decision to start the duck hunting season in southeast Kansas in mid-November. Duck hunting season traditionally starts the last weekend in October. But some hunters pushed for a later season in southeast Kansas because they say the ducks arrive later. Opponents say the later dates aren't necessary and waterways where the ducks stop could be frozen over later in the season. The Kansas wildlife commission decided in August the southeast Kansas season will run from November15 to January 27. The Joplin Globe reports the hunting season in the state's other zones will open in October.


Accused KS Man Denied Bond over Possible Flight Risk

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge says a Kansas City, Kansas man accused of molesting at least three boys is a flight risk and will remain behind bars for now. Robert Poe III waived preliminary and detention hearings Tuesday morning and is being held without bond. U.S. Magistrate Judge James P. O'Hara said a grand jury will hear evidence against the 38-year-old Wednesday and decide whether to hand down an indictment. Poe was arrested in Laredo, Texas, on August 10 after telling relatives and friends in the Kansas City area he was leaving town for good. Poe is charged with three counts of traveling from Kansas to Missouri to molest children. Prosecutors say two victims told investigators he forced them at gunpoint to perform a sex act more than a decade ago.

Man Survives Jump from Wichita Overpass

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man who jumped from a Wichita overpass onto the street below is badly injured but survived the fall. The Wichita Eagle reported the unidentified man was seen standing on the railing of the overpass about 30 feet above Main Street at 4:15 pm Monday. A man who was driving by says he saw the man turn his back from the railing, and a few seconds later he heard the sound of his body hitting the ground. Wichita police say the man was taken to a hospital with significant injuries. His condition was not immediately available. The incident forced the intersection to be closed while emergency workers responded.

Shooting Kills 8-Year-Old Wichita Girl

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An 8 year-old girl died early Tuesday after being hit by a stray bullet while she slept, Wichita police said. The shooting began after a man driving a stolen car became involved an argument with four men in a parking lot, according to Lieutenant Todd Ojile. Ojile said that as the man in the stolen car drove off, one of the other men began firing a gun, sending some bullets across the street and into homes at the Oaks Mobile Home Park. One of the bullets went through a wall and hit the girl in the head while she slept, killing her instantly, police said. The Wichita Eagle reports that when the mother checked on her children, she found her 4-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son asleep and unharmed...but then found their 8-year-old sister dead next to them.

Right to Name 2 Zoo Cougars to Be Auctioned

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The right to name two young cougars at Sedgwick County Zoo is going to the highest bidder at the zoo's annual fundraiser. Zoo spokeswoman Melissa Graham says it's the first year the zoo has given patrons at Zoobilee a chance to purchase naming rights in the silent auction. The Wichita Eagle reports that cougars Number 8 and 9 are sisters that are estimated to be about 2 years old. They have been at the zoo since they were about 6 months old after being orphaned in the wild. Graham says items usually sell for less at a silent auction than a live one, so more people will get a chance to name the cougars -- also known as pumas, mountain lions and panthers. Tickets to Zoobilee cost $125.

US 71 from KC to Joplin to Become an Interstate Highway

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — A 180-mile stretch of U.S. 71 from south Kansas City to Joplin will become an interstate highway by the end of the year. Transportation officials say the official change to the interstate system is scheduled for December 12. The Kansas City Star reports that the change is part of a long-term goal to have a direct connection all the way to New Orleans. U.S. 71 is already a divided highway with a 70 mph speed limit. Changing the road to an interstate means eliminating all intersections and crossroads along the road. The Missouri Department of Transportation has awarded $63.3 million since 2009 to remove crossings along the highway. Four new overpasses and nine new interchanges, along with three outer roads, have been built.

Federal Court Takes Up PETA Lawsuit Against Fair

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — With the opening of the Kansas State Fair just days away, a federal court is taking up a free-speech case against the fair by an animal-rights group. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is seeking an order to block the fair from forcing it to shield people walking by its booth from easily seeing videos or photos depicting animal slaughter. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten scheduled arguments Tuesday in Wichita. PETA sued the state, the Kansas Fair Board and the fair's general manager arguing the restrictions violate its free speech rights. The state is being defended by the office of Attorney General Derek Schmidt, which contends the limits are lawful. The fair opens Friday in Hutchinson.

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

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