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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, July 4, 2012



Kansas Officials Urge Caution with Fireworks Amid Drought

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Independence Day in Kansas promises to be scorching hot, dry and windy, prompting officials to post burn bans across about half the state. They're also asking residents to take extra care with celebratory bottle rockets and barbecues. Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Dale Rodman issued a statement Tuesday urging caution because "it only takes a small spark to ignite a large fire." Governor Sam Brownback said Tuesday that 36 counties are in drought emergency, 55 counties are in drought warning status and 14 are in watch status. The National Weather Service says the prolonged heat wave will linger, with triple-digit temperatures and no chance of rain expected in Kansas for the rest of the week. Temperatures are forecast to be in the upper 90s and lower 100s.

Kansas State Parks Restrict Fireworks Use, Displays

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Dry conditions across Kansas are prompting state officials to curb use of fireworks at state parks and lake for the July 4 holiday. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism said Tuesday that only two of the state's 26 state parks will allow personal fireworks to be used on the holiday. Visitors may use them in restricted areas of Perry State Park and at Elk City State Park. Professional fireworks displays have been canceled at Cedar Bluff, Lovewell, Kanopolis, Prairie Dog and Wilson state parks. Professional displays are still scheduled near Milford State Park, Pomona State Park and Tuttle Creek State Park. Park officials are also advising visitors to heed weather advisories to avoid dangerous health conditions brought on by the excessive heat.


Ruling Gives Kansas Leaders Choice on Medicaid Expansion 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas leaders will decide whether to expand the state's Medicaid program after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a provision that would have made such growth mandatory. The Affordable Care Act required states to expand their Medicaid programs to include all non-elderly residents with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. That would mean a family of four with an income of about $30,000 would qualify for the program. Last week the high court struck down the Medicaid requirement, making expansion optional. A Kansas Health Institute spokeswoman told the Lawrence Journal-World expansion would qualify about 151,000 more of the state's uninsured for Medicaid. The Brownback administration is opposed to the ACA and is pushing to have it repealed.


Police: Soldier's Tale Shows Bath Salt Dangers

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Riley County police are using a recent incident involving a Fort Riley soldier to illustrate the potential dangers of using bath salts to get high. Police received a call Monday morning about a man who was behaving strangely after apparently ingesting the substance, which drug agents say is being distributed in the area. Police spokesman Lieutenant Josh Kyle told The Topeka Capital Journal officers arrived at the undisclosed Manhattan location and found the 22-year-old active military man "acting in a bizarre fashion." Kyle says the soldier initially acted as if he were drunk, but then became paranoid and started making strange religious statements. Kyle says it doesn't appear the man, who was taken to a hospital for treatment, would face any criminal charges.


Woman Claims Sexual Assault During Traffic Stop

OSAWATOMIE, Kan. (AP) _ A young woman says she was sexually assaulted along an eastern Kansas highway by a man claiming to be a law enforcement officer. The Kansas City Star reports the 18-year-old woman told police a man driving a white Crown Victoria with lights on the front dash pulled her over before 10 pm Monday on U.S. 69 in Miami County.  She says the man was in his early to mid-20s, 5-feet-9 inches tall or shorter, and wearing a Polo-type shirt with a law enforcement badge sewn onto the chest. She also described him as having a mustache and goatee, with a gun and badge on his belt. Osawatomie police are asking for anyone who might have witnessed the alleged assault to contact them at 913-755-2101.

Wichita Plane Manufacturers Receive City Revenue Bonds

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Two of Wichita's largest plane makers have gotten a boost from city leaders for their plans to diversify products and expand their operations. The Wichita City Council approved on a 6-0 vote bond issues Tuesday for Bombardier Learjet and Cessna Aircraft. The Wichita Eagle reported that Bombardier Learjet had sought up to $5.9 million in industrial revenue bonds to help finance capital investments. Its $52.7 million expansion features a flight test center, a center for engineering and information technology, as well as new facilities for paint and a new delivery center.  The expansion makes room for the Learjet 85 and is expected to bring 450 jobs to Wichita.  Cessna had sought the reinstatement of a 2006 letter of intent that has an unused balance of more than $521 million.

KC Man Dies after Falling from 17th-Floor Balcony

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A 20-year-old Kansas City man is dead after apparently falling off a 17th-floor balcony at the Westin Crown Center Hotel. Police say officers were called to the hotel at 6 am Wednesday after John Conner Schaible's body was found in the bushes on the west side of the building. Schaible's friends called hotel security after waking up and not being able to find him. Police say there are no signs of foul play, and toxicology results are pending.



Kansas Teen Awaits Word on Grandmaster Chess Status 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An 18-year-old Kansas man who is the state's top-rated junior chess player is awaiting word on whether he will be awarded the game's highest honor for competitive players. The Wichita-area native fulfilled requirements in March to become grandmaster-elect. Approval by the World Chess Federation in August would make him one of only a few U.S. chess players under 21 who have earned the title in the past decade. The Wichita Eagle reports Conrad Holt is ranked No. 8 nationwide among junior chess players and will travel to Athens, Greece later this month to compete in his first World Junior Chess Championship. The federation ranks him 33rd among all active U.S. chess players. The 2011 Andover High School graduate is studying physics at the University of Texas-Dallas.

6 Arrested after Sedgwick County Brawl That Injures 3

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Six men have been arrested in connection with a brawl at a Sedgwick County lake that sent three people to the hospital with serious injuries. The Wichita Eagle reports the arrested men range in age from 18 to 25 years old. The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office says more than a dozen people took part in the brawl that started after 2 am Tuesday at a campground on the southeast side of Lake Afton. Six people were hurt, including three of them seriously. Two men were taken to Via Christi Hospital and a woman was taken to Wesley Medical Center. A sheriff's spokesman says investigators have not ruled out alcohol as a contributing factor.

2nd KCK Ex-Officer Sentenced for Stealing Electronics

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A second former Kansas City, Kansas police officer has been sentenced to federal prison for stealing electronics from houses where his special unit served search warrants. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says 34-year-old Jeffrey M. Bell was sentenced Tuesday to eight months behind bars for violating a federal civil rights law. He and two other members of the Police Department's Selective Crime Occurrence Reduction Enforcement Unit were charged after a sting operation in January 2011. Thirty-two-year-old Darrell M. Forrest was sentenced last month to 12 months and a day in prison, and 34-year-old Dustin Sillings is to be sentenced Thursday on the same charge. Bell acknowledged stealing games from the sting house and three or four PlayStation games and one PlayStation player during previous SCORE Unit searches.

Kansas Board to Discuss FY 2014 Budget Request

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Just days after the start of the 2013 Kansas budget year, State Board of Education members are preparing to discuss spending needs for 2014. Staff presented the 10-member board with a list of budget ideas during its June meeting, including increases in base state aid per student, enhanced support systems and funding for teacher development. Lobbyists for the Kansas Association of School Boards and the Kansas National Education Association sent letters to the board members encouraging them to ask for additional funds. The groups say the money is necessary to be proactive in meeting student needs. Decisions made at the July 10 board meeting will be forwarded in the fall to Governor Sam Brownback's administration for inclusion in the 2014 budget request that will be presented to legislators in January.

Hawker Beechcraft in Talks with Potential Buyers

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Aircraft maker Hawker Beechcraft is narrowing down a list of potential buyers as part of its plan to emerge from bankruptcy reorganization. The Wichita Eagle reports the company disclosed in court documents that along with its investment banker, Hawker Beechcraft developed a list of potential buyers and investors in the months preceding its May 3 filing for Chapter 11. The details are included in a preliminary reorganization plan and a related disclosure statement that Hawker Beechcraft filed over the weekend with the federal Bankruptcy Court in New York. The company says it began with an initial field of 35 potential buyers and received bids last month from eight. The prearranged bankruptcy plan is aimed at reducing the company's total funded debt of more than $2.5 billion.

Shawnee County Approves Permit for Anhydrous Ammonia Seller

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Commissioners in Shawnee County have approved a permit for a north-central Kansas company to store and sell anhydrous ammonia fertilizer. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the commission voted unanimously this week after hearing from several farmers about the need for a retailer in the area. St. Marys-based J.B. Pearl Sales & Service plans to put up two 30,000-gallon anhydrous ammonia tanks at a Shawnee County site owned by the company northwest of Topeka. Anhydrous ammonia is a noxious gas that is stored and transported in tanks as a pressurized liquid, then injected into the ground as a fertilizer. Officials of J.B. Pearl say more than 700 similar facilities currently operate throughout Kansas.

Kansas Veteran Wins $1M Powerball Prize

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 34-year-old veteran from Kansas has claimed a $1 million Powerball prize after spending a restless weekend with the winning ticket taped to his chest in a plastic bag. Matthew Packebush of Hutchinson won Powerball's $1 million prize by matching the first five numbers in the lottery's drawing Saturday. The lottery says on its website that Packebush, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, discovered he had a winning ticket Saturday but knew he had to wait until Monday to claim his prize. To avoid losing the ticket, Packebush put his winning ticket in a Ziploc bag and taped it to his chest. Packebush says he plans to buy a new truck, start college funds for his three children and invest the rest in real estate.


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