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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, February 27, 2013



UPDATE: Kansas Governor Says Winter Storm Killed 6 in State

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback says the latest winter storm is being blamed for six deaths in Kansas. But he says he was pleased that most residents heeded warnings to stay out of danger. The governor says Wednesday that two people died in traffic crashes, two siblings died from carbon monoxide poisoning in Kansas City, Kansas, a woman died in southwest Kansas while shoveling snow and another Kansas City resident was killed while walking in the snow. The storms that crossed Kansas last Thursday and again this week dropped more than 2 feet of snow in some places and knocked out power to thousands of customers, mostly in eastern counties.


Under Nearly 2 Feet of Snow, Plains Still Suffering from Drought

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Nearly 2 feet of snow should offer some relief for the parched states in the Great Plains — but it's no drought-buster. Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma have been buried in the past week by twin snowstorms that dropped nearly 2 feet of snow in some areas. Those states also have been at the epicenter of the worst drought the nation has seen in decades. The bad news is that a foot of snow equals only about an inch of rain, so even the big storms seen recently won't break the drought in areas that are short as much as 20 inches of rain. Also, snow that melts on top of frozen ground tends to run off into lakes and streams rather than absorbing into the dry soil.


Kansas Braces for Federal Budget Cuts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials are waiting to see how automatic cuts in federal spending will affect the state. They're trying to assure residents that state government services will remain fully funded. Governor Sam Brownback says that agencies are trying to assess how much money may be at stake in cuts that are authorized to occur Friday. The cuts would not go into effect until March 27, when the current continuing resolution on federal spending expires. The biggest impact would be felt at the state's military installations, where civilian employees have been told of the potential for furloughs over 22 weeks starting in April. Estimates are the loss of wages could be close to $40 million statewide for active duty, Kansas National Guard and reserve forces.


Sierra Nevada Beats Out Beechcraft for Air Force Contract

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Air Force has awarded Sierra Nevada Corporation a contract worth more than $427 million, dealing a major blow to Wichita-based Beechcraft as it emerges from bankruptcy protection. The announcement Wednesday means Sierra Nevada will build at least 20 light air support planes in Jacksonville, Florida for use in Afghanistan. The contract could ultimately be worth nearly $1 billion, depending on future orders. The planes would give the Afghan National Army Air Corps a fixed-wing strike capability. Beechcraft, formerly Hawker Beechcraft, had proposed the AT-6 attack aircraft, a version of its T-6 trainer. Sierra Nevada partnered with Brazil-based Embraer to offer its Super Tucano. The competition for the award has taken nearly three years and has been plagued by delays and legal challenges.

Senate Panel Rejects Kansas Reading Initiative

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee has narrowly rejected a proposal by Governor Sam Brownback to hold back third-grade pupils who aren't able to meet the state standard for reading. The 6-5 vote Tuesday means the bill remains in the Senate Education Committee, where its prospects for the remainder of the session are uncertain. Brownback's plan would have barred promotion to fourth grade for third-graders who fail to read at a proficient level on state tests. The bill also included a grant system for early education programs aimed at boosting reading skills. Opponents of the bill questioned its impact on students and the lack of parental involvement in the decision to hold students back a grade. Others say school districts already have the authority to retain students.


Kansas House Committee Advances Anti-Regulation Gun Measure

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee has passed a bill that says the federal government has no power to regulate firearms, ammunition or gun accessories manufactured and sold in Kansas. The House Federal and State Affairs Committee on Wednesday removed a provision that would have made it illegal for any doctor other than a psychiatrist to ask patients about gun ownership. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the committee passed the measure on a voice vote. The Kansas Attorney General's Office has raised concerns about aspects of the measure that could run up against the U.S. Constitution's Supremacy Clause, which says federal law takes precedence over state law when the two conflict. The state attorney general's office also estimates it could incur about $625,000 in legal fees to defend the law.


Woman Seeks to Intervene in Kansas Sperm Donor Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka woman is seeking the right to co-parent a child at the center of a sperm donor child support case. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Angela Bauer cited a first-of-its-kind Kansas Supreme Court decision in seeking Wednesday to intervene in the child support case. The court ruled Friday that the non-biological mother of children in a same-sex relationship can have the same parental rights as the biological mother. Bauer and her former partner advertised for a sperm donor on Craigslist. The donor says he signed a contract waiving his parental rights and responsibilities. But because no doctor was involved in the artificial insemination, the state sought to hold him financially responsible for the child born to Bauer's former partner when the women split and the former partner sought public assistance.

Senate Committee Approves Adult Stem Cell Center

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee has endorsed an effort to build a center devoted to adult stem cells at The University of Kansas Medical Center. The Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee on Tuesday approved a bill that would create the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center in Kansas City, Kansas. Supporters say the center could make the medical center a regional hub for adult stem cell research, treatment and education. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that if it is eventually approved, the center would be banned from using embryonic stem cells or cells taken from aborted fetal tissue. However, the bill sent to the full Senate didn't authorize funding for the proposed center. And a medical center official say the institution doesn't have the funds to support the proposed center.

Kansas Senate Delaying Tax Bill Debate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A key Senate leader says debate on a bill that would implement Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's income tax cuts will be delayed for a few weeks as winter weather bottles up a crowded legislative schedule. Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce said Tuesday that the bill would probably be debated during the week of March 11 because of a backlog of other issues that must be cleared so legislators can meet a key deadline in the 2013 session. Two snowstorms have caused legislators to adjust schedules and postpone debates. Brownback seeks to follow up on massive income tax cuts enacted in Kansas last year by phasing in a second round of reductions in individual income tax rates over the next four years, then position the state to gradually eliminate personal income taxes.

Kansas House Panel Advances Resolution Opposing Medicaid Expansion

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee have endorsed a resolution urging Governor Sam Brownback to reject expansion of Medicaid services in Kansas. The GOP-dominated committee endorsed the non-binding measure on voice vote Tuesday despite pleas from Democrats to keep the state's options open and help the poor. The resolution goes to the full House for debate and would urge the Republican governor not to take the federal government's offer to pay for expanding Medicaid health care services for the next three years. The expansion would add more than 135,000 Kansas adults who earn 138 percent of the federal poverty rate to Medicaid programs. Republicans say the state can't afford to add the additional services which could cost the state, by one estimate, as much as $6 billion over seven years.


Overland Park Macy's Department Store Evacuated

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas department store has been evacuated because the heavy snow accumulation on its roof is causing safety concerns. The Overland Park Fire Department said workers noticed sagging ceiling tiles at the Macy's store at Metcalf South Shopping Center and called around 10 am Wednesday. Firefighters found 3 feet to 4 feet of wet snow on the roof. Both levels of the store were evacuated while a structural engineer and the city's building safety staff examined the roof. They determined the problem was localized to a specific area, but snow needed to be cleared to allow for a more thorough evaluation. The store will remain closed until the assessment is complete. Experts are urging businesses to evaluate the safety of their roofs, particularly flat ones, after the recent snow.


KU Names New Dean for School of Engineering 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas has picked a department head at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland to lead its School of Engineering. Michael Branicky will begin his new job as dean July 1. The University of Kansas announced Wednesday that Branicky will replace Stuart Bell, who joined Louisiana State University as provost and executive vice chancellor last August. Professor Stan Rolfe will continue serving as interim dean until Branicky arrives. At Case Western, Branicky serves as a professor and chair in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. He previously was a program manager at the National Science Foundation. Branicky says the KU School of Engineering is "poised to become a national leader." He vowed to work to maintain high educational quality while elevating and expanding research.


Suspects in Deadly Kansas Fire Make Court Appearance

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansas State University students accused of setting a deadly fire have made their first court appearances. Twenty-year-old Patrick Scahill and 19-year-old Virginia Griese are both held on $1 million bond on charges of first-degree felony and murder and aggravated arson. They charges stem from a February 7 fire at an apartment building near campus that killed 34-year-old Vasanta Pallem, a postdoctoral researcher in chemical engineering. WIBW-TV reports Griese and Scahill appeared Tuesday via camera hookups from jail before Riley County Judge William Malcolm. Investigators have released little information about the fire or a possible motive, and no evidence was presented Tuesday. The judge scheduled a preliminary hearing March 22 for Griese and a status hearing March 12 for Scahill, who indicated he's preparing to hire a lawyer.


First of 9 Suspects Sentenced in Topeka Homicide

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The first of nine defendants in the death of a Topeka woman and the wounding of her partner was sentenced to nearly 11 years in state prison. Twenty-seven-year-old Anceo Stovall was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years and 11 months in the 2011 death of 40-year-old Natalie Gibson and the shooting of 43-year-old Lori Allison. The women were attacked during a robbery attempt as they returned to their Topeka home. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that before his sentencing, Stovall said he was sorry the crimes occurred but didn't take responsibility for them.

Police: Carbon Monoxide Possible Cause of KCK Deaths

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas City, Kansas police say a man and his sister were found dead in their home, and carbon monoxide poisoning is the suspected cause of death. Police say a family member found the bodies of a 58-year-old man and his 69-year-old sister Tuesday evening. Their names were not released. The Kansas City Star reports emergency responders found a gas-powered generator running in a basement garage and an extension cord linked to appliances in the home, which was without power because of a winter storm. Responders found carbon monoxide readings in the garage of 600 parts per million, far above what is considered dangerous. Two small dogs also were found dead in the home.


Attorney: Permit Sought Before KC Gas Explosion

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A subcontractor suspected of rupturing a natural gas line before a deadly Kansas City restaurant explosion says it applied for an excavation permit, although the city says one was never granted. The Kansas City Star reports that Brad Russell, an attorney for Heartland Midwest, released a photocopied application for a permit Wednesday. He didn't immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press. A Missouri Gas Energy official said previously that Heartland Midwest reported hitting a natural gas line with an underground borer more than an hour before last week's explosion. The blast and ensuing fire leveled JJ's restaurant near the Country Club Plaza. One person was killed and 15 others were injured. City officials said Monday that Heartland sought permission the day after the blast.

Cloud County Voters Reject Tax Increase for New Hospital

CONCORDIA, Kan. (AP) — Cloud County voters have rejected a proposed sales tax increase to pay for a new hospital in Concordia. The proposed 0.75 county sales tax increase lost Tuesday by a margin of 312 votes, with 1,699 opposed and 1,387 in favor. The Salina Journal reports that supporters estimated the increase from 8.3 percent to 9.05 percent would have provided about half the money needed for the nearly $30 million project. Jim Wahlmeier, CEO of Cloud County Health Center, says hospital officials will continue to search for ways to build a proposed one-story, 70,000-square-foot, critical-access hospital with up to 25 inpatient beds.

Wichita Considers Tougher Water Use Regulations

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Even as Wichita recovers from two big storms that left more than a foot of snow, city leaders are discussing how to respond to looming water shortages.The Wichita City Council on Tuesday began considering water conservation measures that could be expensive and controversial. The city says Cheney Reservoir, which provides 60 percent of its water, would dry up by mid-2015 if the drought persists. That would mean the city wouldn't have enough water to meet demand. The Wichita Eagle reports that outdoor water use would be the biggest target. One proposal would increase water rates by 113 percent for users who exceed their average winter water use. Other recommendations include an education campaign and a $5 million upgrade to the city's Equus Beds well field near Halstead.

Former KU Worker's Discrimination Lawsuit Dismissed

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — An age discrimination lawsuit filed by a former University of Kansas employee has been dismissed in Douglas County District Court. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Cynthia Cook filed suit in state and federal court in 2011 claiming she was laid off in 2009 and passed over for another job at the school because of her age. The university contended Cook and several other people were laid off for budget reasons. Cook was hired in 1980 as a secretary and was working as an information specialist in customer service when she was laid off. Cook's federal lawsuit was dismissed in October, while her district court suit was dropped earlier this month. Her lawyer declined to comment.


AP Source: 49ers to Send Quarterback Alex Smith to KC

A person with knowledge of the trade tells The Associated Press that the Kansas City Chiefs have agreed to acquire quarterback Alex Smith from the San Francisco 49ers. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the trade does not become official until March 12, when the NFL's new business year begins. It's the first big player move by Kansas City since Andy Reid took over as coach after being fired by Philadelphia. Fox Sports first reported the deal. Smith lost his starting job to Colin Kaepernick after sustaining a concussion November 11. Kaepernick played well, and coach Jim Harbaugh stuck with him even when Smith was healthy. Kaepernick led the 49ers to the NFC championship and a close loss to Baltimore in the Super Bowl.


KC Neighborhood Shovels Out Stuck Ambulance

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man who had a heart attack while he was shoveling snow is alive after his neighbors dug out a stuck ambulance. Fire department spokesman James Garrett says the ambulance became stuck Tuesday while rushing to the man's home. The rescue workers grabbed their gear and ran the rest of the way. While treating the man inside his home, neighbors picked up their shovels. As many as 20 people helped excavate the stuck rescue vehicle and the man's street. Garrett says the man made it to a hospital and was recovering Wednesday.


Clearwire to Tap Into $80M Financing from Sprint

BELLEVUE, Wash. (AP) — Clearwire says it will tap into $80 million in financing from Sprint, putting a hurdle in the way of a possible sale of the wireless network operator to Dish. Bellevue, Washington-based Clearwire has received buyout offers from both Sprint and Dish. In December, it agreed to a deal with Sprint Nextel that offered $2.2 billion for the 49 percent of Clearwire that Sprint doesn't already own. Then Dish Network bid about $5.15 billion for Clearwire in January. As part of Sprint's deal, the wireless carrier had agreed to provide Clearwire with up to $800 million in financing — notes that could give Sprint a bigger stake if they were converted to stock. Clearwire has said that if it used the Sprint financing, Dish would likely withdraw its offer.

ESU to Rename Basketball Court After Former Coach

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Emporia State is renaming its basketball court for former player and coach Ron Slaymaker. He will be honored Thursday during halftime of the Emporia State men's game against Washburn University. The event comes after the Emporia City Commission voted last week to name the Hornets' home basketball court after him. Slaymaker began playing at Emporia State in the 1954-55 season. During his collegiate career, he was named first- team all-conference three times and an honorable mention All-American in 1957-58. The school says he also was the leading free-throw shooter in the nation during his senior season with a 90.9 percentage. He went on to coach Hornet men's basketball teams for 28 years, earning a record of 465-361 before retiring in 1998.


Fort Drum Soldier to Fly Grandfather's WWII Flag

FORT DRUM, N.Y. (AP) — A World War II-era American flag that has flown at U.S. military posts from Texas to Afghanistan will be raised at Fort Drum in northern New York. The 48-star U.S. flag covered the casket of Marine Pfc. Joseph A'Hearn of Somerville, Massachusetts, who died 68 years ago Wednesday from wounds suffered in the Battle of Iwo Jima. His grandson, Lieutenant Col Christopher Moretti, serves with the Army's 10th Mountain Division, based at Fort Drum. Since 2004, Moretti has flown the flag wherever he's stationed on February 27, the anniversary of his grandfather's death. The flag has flown in Kansas, Kuwait, North Carolina twice, Iraq, Afghanistan, Italy and Texas twice. Moretti raises the flag in honor of his grandfather and all fallen American warriors. He'll raise his grandfather's flag Wednesday afternoon at Fort Drum's division headquarters.


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