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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, June 6, 2012



Truck Collision Forces Temporary Shutdown of U.S. Highway 59 

The Douglas County Sheriff's office says that U.S. Highway 59 has been shutdown after two semi trucks crashed in a construction zone this (WED) afternoon, just south of Lawrence. The trucks were in a head-on collision on 59 Highway at N.1000 Road (also known as the Wells Overlook Road). Police told television station KSHB that a westbound semi was driving into the intersection when it collided with a northbound semi. The westbound truck was transporting dry cement, and the northbound truck was hauling water and farm chemicals. One of the drivers was ejected by the crash, but police say he was conscious and alert. He was airlifted to the University of Kansas Hospital. The other driver was not injured. Neither driver had any passengers on board. As of late afternoon, officials estimated that the highway would remain closed for several hours. Traffic was being re-routed.  According to the city of Lawrence, a hazardous materials clean-up crew is on the scene.  Officials say oil, diesel fuel and an unknown chemical are leaking from both vehicles.


Kansas Awaits Word on NCLB Waiver Request 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is awaiting final word on a request submitted to the U.S. Department of Education for a waiver from the No Child Left Behind law. The state submitted its 216-page application in February and has been negotiating with federal officials to use an alternative method for measuring school and student achievement. Kansas was one of 26 states to apply in the most recent round of waiver requests. Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker says Wednesday that more discussions are expected later in the week but it is likely the state's application will be denied. The waiver has been the subject of questioning during a school finance trial under way in Topeka, where an attorney suggested waiver approval was almost certain. 

Evolution Education Controversy Could be Heating Up Again

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas could be headed toward another debate over how evolution is taught in its public schools. State Board of Education member Ken Willard, a Hutchinson Republican, said Wednesday that he's troubled by common science standards being drafted by Kansas and other states. Those standards describe evolution as a well-established core scientific concept. The board is scheduled to receive an update about the work on the science standards at its meeting next week. Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker said the board could see a final draft by the end of the year. In the past, Willard has supported science standards that have incorporated material questioning evolution. The board's latest, evolution-friendly standards were adopted in 2007 and supplanted the standards Willard supported.  State law requires the science standards to be reviewed by 2014.


More Kansas Lawmakers File for Re-Election as Deadline Nears

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence Democrat has filed for re-election to the Kansas Senate, while an Overland Park Republican is running again for the House. The Kansas secretary of state's office verified the filings Tuesday of Senator Marci Francisco and Representative Marvin Kleeb. Their names will appear on their parties' August 7 primary election ballots. Francisco was first elected to the Senate in 2004. Kleeb first won his House seat in 2008. All 40 state Senate seats are up for grabs in November. The secretary of state's office reports online that 28 senators have filed to run again. Ninety-nine of the 125 House members have also filed for re-election. The filing deadline is noon on June 11.


Senator Jerry Moran Moving from Hays to Manhattan

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Senator Jerry Moran and his wife are on the move. The Hays Daily News reports that an aide has confirmed the Republican senator and his wife, Robba, are planning to move from Hays to Manhattan. There's no timetable yet. The longtime Hays residents put their home on the market in April after making a decision to downsize. Moran said at the time that they were not moving to Washington, D.C., and weren't sure where they'd end up. But Moran said it would probably be a town closer to an airport, to reduce the drive time on his trips home to Kansas each weekend. Robba Moran also spends considerable time in the Manhattan area as a member of the Kansas Board of Regents, overseeing state universities and colleges.

1 Injured As Plane Crash-Lands in Northeast Kansas

GARDNER, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in northeastern Kansas say one person suffered minor injuries in the crash-landing of a small plane near Gardner Municipal Airport. The Johnson County Sheriff's office received a call around 1 pm Wednesday that an airplane had gone down. Deputies found the single-engine Beechcraft in a field about 200 yards south of the airport's runway. Two people were on board the airplane, but neither was hurt badly enough to be taken to a hospital. The Federal Aviation Administration is looking into the cause of the crash.


Lawrence Seeks Policy for Downtown Cameras

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ Lawrence might be getting police-operated surveillance cameras downtown, but they won't be installed until the city has a policy governing their use. City commissioners on Tuesday agreed to allow Lawrence police and the Douglas County Sheriff to use $46,800 in federal grants to buy security cameras and related equipment. But after the American Civil Liberties Union and several Lawrence residents expressed concern, commissioners directed that the cameras not be installed until clear policies are established. The Lawrence Journal-World reports opponents said the cameras could be used to invade the privacy of anyone on the street, not just to fight crime. Police Chief Tarik Khatib says the cameras likely will be used only to monitor large events such as parades and community celebrations. Several downtown businesses also support using the cameras.

Army's 'Big Red One' Turning 95

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — Fort Riley's 1st Infantry Division, better known as the "Big Red One" for its distinctive patch, is about to turn 95. The division was formed in 1917 during World War I when it arrived in Europe with General John Pershing and was known as the First American Expeditionary Force. The soldiers began wearing the red patch on their left shoulders to identify them on the battlefield. Based now at Fort Riley, the division will celebrate its history with a series of events beginning Thursday. Festivities kick off with a carnival running June 7 through 10. The band Daughtry will perform a free concert for Department of Defense cardholders and their guests on June 10. The division will also participate in a "Victory Run" that starts a week of competitions and ceremonies on the northeast Kansas post. The division's headquarters is currently deployed to Afghanistan.

Bird Blamed for Salina Power Outage

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Westar Energy says a bird is to blame for a massive power outage in Salina. The Salina Journal reports the bird got into one of the largest substations in the city and knocked out power just before 3 pm Tuesday. More than 7,000 customers were affected. Tom Sydow, a regional director for Westar Energy, says the species of bird isn't known, since the creature met an unfortunate end. Crews worked to restore power throughout the afternoon. Westar's outage site showed about 2,000 customers still without electricity at 6 pm.

Red Cross to Distribute 1,000 Fans in Kansas This Week

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An American Red Cross chapter in Kansas is handing out 1,000 free fans this week in anticipation of another long, hot summer. The Midway-Kansas Chapter urges people who are especially vulnerable to the heat, such as the elderly and families with small children, to pick up a fan. Red Cross spokesman James Williams says the group set a record last year and wanted to give even more fans away this year. The Wichita Eagle reports the program has been in existence for more than 15 years. Last year's goal was to give away 900 fans, but because of heavy demand the chapter ended up distributing 962 of them. People who want to receive a fan need to present a valid Kansas driver's license and proof of current address.

106 KU Employees Approved for Early Retirement Buyout Program

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas has accepted applications from 106 employees seeking early retirement buyouts. A university spokesman says Kansas rejected applications from 43 other employees. The university offered the early retirement incentive in April to about 665 employees at its Lawrence and Overland Park campuses. Those approved for the program will receive a one-time payment equal to one year's salary, up to a maximum of $100,000. Spokesman Gavin Young says decisions on whether to accept the applications were based on whether the individual buyouts would be a financial or operational benefit to the university. The Lawrence Journal-World reports employees whose applications were accepted have until July 16 to decide whether to accept the offer.

Hutchinson Officials Approve Changes to Anti-Bias Rule

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The Hutchinson City Council has agreed to add sexual orientation to the city's anti-bias ordinance. The council approved the addition by a 3-2 vote Tuesday. The issue had drawn strong public comment at past meetings but only one person spoke against the ordinance before the final vote. The Hutchinson News reports the Kansas Family Policy Council, which opposed the ordinance, is talking to other opponents to decide whether to start a petition campaign to put the issue to a public vote. Because only 1,308 people voted in the last municipal election, opponents would need only 327 valid signatures to get the issue on the ballot.


Report: Wheat Harvest Moves into Northwest Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The combines are now rolling in northwestern Kansas as the 2012 winter wheat harvest spreads to the farthest corners of the state. The Kansas Grain and Feed Association, in conjunction with other industry groups, reported Tuesday that farmers in Trego County began cutting over the weekend and are finding the crop better than expected. The Frontier Ag elevator in WaKeeney is reporting test weights ranging from 60 to 65 pounds a bushel. In north-central Kansas, elevator manager Jim Spector at the Farmway Co-op in Clay Center says farmers in Clay County have just begun harvesting in earnest. Spector says the farmers are expecting an above-average harvest, and the elevator will take in more bushels than usual because more wheat acres were planted last fall.


K-State AD Currie Signs Extension Through 2018

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University athletic director John Currie has signed a contract extension to remain with the school through June 2018. School president Kirk Schulz announced the extension Wednesday. Currie will make $450,000 for 2012-13, with his salary increasing $25,000 for each remaining year. The extension also includes an enhanced retention incentive structure. Currie took a department on shaky financial footing upon his arrival in 2009 and turned it into the one with the biggest operating surplus in major college sports. Kansas State is on pace to set a record with more than $20 million in annual fund cash gifts for this fiscal year. Currie also orchestrated $100 million in facility work, including a new basketball practice facility and a comprehensive renovation to the west side of the football stadium.


Sculpture Stirs Up Controversy in Johnson County Park

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A Kansas group wants a grand jury to decide whether a partially nude statue in a park in Johnson County is obscene.
Phillip Cosby, director of the local American Family Association, said Wednesday his group objects to the donated statue at the Overland Park Arboretum because it portrays a woman who is taking a photo of herself while her breasts are exposed. Cosby says he has started an online petition to seek about 4,000 required voter signatures to start a grand jury investigation into whether the statue is obscene. He says he objects to the statue being so accessible to children, and is seeking a charge of promoting obscenity. Overland Park has posted signs at the park about the statue's content but says it has no immediate plans to remove the sculpture.


Wichita Man Shot While Eating Breakfast  

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man is hospitalized after being shot through a sliding glass door while eating breakfast in his home. Police Sergeant Brian Sigman says that someone opened fire with a high-powered rifle about 5:30 am Wednesday behind the south Wichita home. Sigman says the 26-year-old man was shot once in the back and taken to a hospital, where he's expected to recover. The glass door leads to a patio, with a tall privacy fence just a few feet from the house. The victim told police he doesn't have any enemies and didn't see anyone outside. Investigators say the gunman may have fired a second shot into a neighbor's driveway while fleeing from the scene.


Sentencing Set in Murder of Great Bend Teen

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — A new sentencing date has been set for a Great Bend man convicted of killing a 14-year-old cheerleader whose charred body was found at the asphalt plant where he worked. Adam Longoria will be sentenced the morning of June 26. He was convicted in April of capital murder for the August 2010 death of Alicia DeBolt. Barton County District Judge Hannelore Kitts had earlier delayed the scheduled June 8 sentencing, but no new date had been set until Wednesday. Prosecutors aren't seeking the death penalty, but a capital murder conviction carries a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Alicia disappeared the weekend before she was due to start her freshman year at high school. Her remains were found three days later.


Arguments, Arraignment Loom in Kansas Commune Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Lawyers are preparing closing arguments in a preliminary hearing for the leader of a Kansas commune that lived lavish lifestyles off life insurance payouts for its dead members. Prosecutors must convince a Sedgwick County judge Thursday that they presented enough evidence last week to justify putting Daniel U. Perez on trial. The 52-year-old man is charged with premeditated murder of a woman whose 2003 death was initially believed to be an accidental drowning. Perez also faces more than 30 other counts including lying on life insurance applications, rape, sodomy and sexual exploitation of a child. Judges typically hold defendants over for trial at such preliminary proceedings. Perez would then be formally arraigned on the charges and enter his pleas.


Buhler Voters Approve Bond Issue

BUHLER, Kan. (AP) — The fourth time was the charm for the Buhler school district. Voters in Buhler on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a $44.9 million bond issue for the city's schools. Unofficial returns show the issue passed by a 2,296 to 1,089 vote. The Hutchinson News reports that voters rejected two bond issues in 2006 and one in 2007. The school district estimated the approved bond would cost residents about $40 more a year on a property tax bill for a $100,000 home. The district says the bond issue, combined with state aid, will help build a new elementary school and renovate two others, expand a middle school and remodel Buhler High School. Other improvements are planned at all the schools.


Neighbors Harvest Family's Wheat Crop after KS Farmer's Death

CHENEY, Kan. (AP) — When Raymond Rosenhagen of Cheney died unexpectedly, he left his family with acres of wheat ready to harvest. On Tuesday, friends and relatives showed up at Rosenhagen's farm to help his family bring in the crop. Rosenhagen died May 15 while getting ready for the upcoming harvest. He had already passed on most of the responsibility for the farm near Cheney to his son, Mark, but still was active in the operation. The Wichita Eagle reports that Mark Rosenhagen told people he could handle the harvest himself. But the neighbors showed up Tuesday and had four combines working in adjoining fields. Rosenhagen says the helpers were showing respect for his 76-year-old father, who was a quiet man but built up loyalty through the years by always helping others.

2 Men Sentenced in Pittsburg Man's Homicide

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — Two 18-year-old Joplin, Missouri men were each sentenced to 14 years and four months in prison for their part in the killing of a Pittsburg man. Oscar DeLeon Jr. and Randu Rivera were sentenced Tuesday in the death of 21-year-old Ryan Clay Arlan Bailey at his home. Bailey was shot in October 2011. His wife and two young children were in the house at the time. Another man, 22-year-old Rickey R. Smith of Joplin, fired the fatal shot. He was sentenced in January to nearly 27 years in prison. DeLeon and Rivera waited outside while Smith and another man, Nathan Whitney of Joplin, went into Bailey's house. The Joplin Globe reports Whitney, who is charged with first-degree murder, is in custody in Missouri on a probation violation.

Fish Kill Claims 10K Carp at Missouri Lake

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Conservation officials have been investigating the death of about 10,000 carp at a western Missouri lake. The state Department of Conservation said Wednesday that the fish kill in Jackson County (MO)'s Blue Springs Lake appears to have affected only carp and that other varieties of sport fish at the lake have not been affected. Fishery biologist Jake Allman says the dead carp were first reported at the lake in late May. The department said tests are under way to determine the cause of the kill but that water quality doesn't appear to be a factor. The department said that because carp are an invasive species, the losses could benefit other sport fish that compete for food and habitat in the lake. Blue Springs Lake is one of two lakes in Fleming Park.

Federal Court Throws Out Conviction of Man Trapped by Phony Drug Checkpoint

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal appeals court says the reaction of drivers to phony drug checkpoints set up by law enforcement is not sufficient grounds to justify stopping vehicles. A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday for a man who was searched and arrested after exiting Interstate 70 after the Kansas Highway Patrol posted signs warning of a drug checkpoint ahead. Dennis Neff was sentenced to five years after pleading guilty to one count of traveling in interstate commerce with intent to distribute cocaine. Neff argued the stop was illegal because troopers lacked a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. The Court of Appeals panel threw out his conviction, ruling the trial judge wrongly rejected Neff's motion to suppress the evidence.

7 KS Lawmakers Subpoenaed over Meetings with Governor

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas prosecutor has issued subpoenas to seven legislators he wants to question about private meetings between lawmakers and Governor Sam Brownback. Brownback hosted seven private dinners in January at his official residence with lawmakers from 13 House and Senate committees. The Republican governor has expressed confidence that the gatherings did not violate the Kansas Open Meetings Act. But Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor, a Democrat, is investigating the meetings and wants to talk to some of the lawmakers. Senator Susan Wagle received a subpoena ordering her to appear Thursday in district court in Topeka. Wagle said Tuesday she considers Taylor's investigation a waste of time. The Wichita Republican also said she's arranging to answer questions by phone so she doesn't have to travel while undergoing treatment for cancer.

KS to Resubmit Medicaid Waiver Request

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas plans to resubmit a request to the federal government for permission to overhaul the state's $2.9 billion-a-year Medicaid program. State officials said Tuesday they want to solicit additional comments about the overhaul from Indian health clinics in Lawrence and White Cloud. Governor Sam Brownback's administration said the move won't change plans to issue contracts this summer to three private insurers to manage Medicaid, which covers health care for the poor, disabled and elderly. The contracts would start in January. The state needs the federal government to waive Medicaid rules. Kansas filed a request in April. Brownback's administration acknowledged the Indian clinics weren't formally notified of the state's plans as it consulted with leaders of the four tribes with Kansas reservations. Two public hearings are planned.

Jury Selection Begins for Riley County Capital Murder Trial

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Potential jurors are being questioned in Riley County for the capital murder trial of a man accused of killing his girlfriend and their son. Twenty-four-year-old Luis Aguirre has pleaded not guilty in the deaths of 18-year-old Tonya Maldonado and the couple's 15-month-old son. A hunter found their buried bodies in a shallow grave near Ogden in October 2009. KMAN-AM reports the trial is scheduled to begin June 18. Jury selection began Tuesday and will continue through the week as the pool is narrowed to 42 potential jurors. Prosecutors and defense lawyers will then strike some of the candidates until they settle on 12 jurors and two alternates. This is the first capital murder trial in Riley County since Kansas reinstated the death penalty.

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