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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, November 28, 2012



Westar Energy Plant Fire Near Wichita Linked to Transformer Malfunction 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A fire that burned for more than four hours at a Westar Energy plant apparently began when a large transformer malfunctioned. No injuries were reported after the fire Wednesday morning at the plant just east of Colwich. The Wichita Eagle reports more than 20 fire trucks were sent to the plant northwest of Wichita. The fire burned for more than four hours before fire crews were released from the scene. Foam trucks from McConnell Air Force Base were used to help put out the fire. Westar spokesman Nick Bundy says mineral oil used to cool the transformer caught on fire. Two employees at the plant called 911. Bundy says the fire caused no power outages or evacuations. Bundy says no damage estimate was available yet.


UPDATE: Kansas Powerball Lottery Ticket Sales Hit $1.1M in 1 Day 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The mammoth jackpot in Wednesday night's Powerball drawing is proving irresistible to thousands of hopeful Kansans. The Kansas Lottery reports that sales of Powerball tickets in the state topped $1.1 million on Tuesday alone, for a total of nearly $1.8 million since Sunday. And that was when the jackpot was estimated at a mere $500 million. On Wednesday morning, officials of the multistate game boosted the estimated payout to $550 million. Kansas Lottery officials were expecting another huge sales day Wednesday. Ticket sales in Kansas end at 8:59 pm Central, one hour before the drawing. A winner taking the cash option of a $550 million jackpot would get $360.2 million before taxes.


Ex-Senator Dole Hospitalized for Routine Procedure

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Senator Bob Dole of Kansas has checked himself into Walter Reed Army Medical Center for what his spokeswoman described as a routine procedure. Spokeswoman Marion Watkins says the 89-year-old Dole is "doing very well" and is expected to leave the hospital Wednesday. Dole's name drew mention as the Senate on Tuesday debated a U.N. treaty promoting equal rights for the disabled. Dole overcame disabling war wounds to forge a 36-year political career. In the early 1990s, he underwent successful surgery for prostate cancer and in 2001 he had surgery to treat an aneurysm. Dole spent 10 months at Walter Reed in 2010 after suffering pneumonia following knee surgery. He was the Republican nominee for president in 1996, losing to Bill Clinton.


Investigators: Fires in St. Marys Were Arson

ST. MARYS, Kan. (AP) — Investigators in northeastern Kansas are looking for links between recent arson fires at a partly demolished grain elevator and a nearby home. The Manhattan Mercury reports officials have identified two people as "persons of interest" in the St. Marys fires. The first blaze broke out around 2 am Friday at the downtown St. Marys grain elevator owned by Nemaha County Co-op. The fire destroyed the elevator, which was being razed. It also scattered chunks of burning wood for several blocks and caused heat damage to nearby buildings. Late Sunday, another fire broke out at an unoccupied residence about a block from the elevator. Authorities say that fire was also intentionally set. St. Marys is located about 25 miles northwest of Topeka.


Topeka, State Win in Lawsuit over Drowning Deaths

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Shawnee County judge has ruled the city of Topeka and the state of Kansas were not liable in a lawsuit filed by the father of a Topeka man who drowned when a canoe capsized in the Kansas River in 2007. Jim Bryant, the father of one of two men who drowned, alleged in the lawsuit that authorities did not adequately warn boaters of the danger posed by a low-water weir on the river. Twenty-five-year-old Joshua Bryant and 30-year-old Richard Heyroth drowned when their canoe capsized after it went over a spillway in August 2007. Shawnee County Judge Larry Hendricks on Tuesday rejected Byrant's contention. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the judge ruled the city and state did not show "wanton or gross conduct" regarding the river conditions.


Federal Judge Grants Extension in Salina Cleanup Settlement Talks

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has granted an extension to groups trying to reach a financial settlement to clean up contamination at a former Air Force base in Salina. Federal District Judge Carlos Murguia on Tuesday gave the groups until February 15 to finalize the financial settlement for cleaning up the pollution at the former Schilling Air Force base. The deadline had been Tuesday. Soil and groundwater at the base, which was closed in the mid-1960s, is contaminated with the toxic solvent TCE, or trichloroethylene. Several Salina public entities, including the city of Salina and the Salina Airport Authority, filed a federal lawsuit in 2010, seeking a settlement to recoup the cost of cleaning up the pollution. The parties reached a proposed deal earlier and are trying to finalize the details.

Former NFL Players to Meet with Military to Discuss Brain Injuries

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — Former Kansas City Chiefs players, including Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Willie Lanier, are heading to Fort Leavenworth for talks with Army officials on traumatic brain injuries. Wednesday afternoon's meeting at the northeast Kansas post is part of an Army-NFL partnership on treating and preventing head injuries in both organizations. Lanier, who played from 1967 through 1977, serves on an NFL player safety panel studying ways to make the game safer. Lanier suffered numerous concussions in his early playing days before converting to a padded helmet and changing his tackling technique. The military has been looking at the impact of traumatic brain injuries as soldiers return from combat.


Woman Denied Bid to Withdraw Plea in Kansas Killing

EL DORADO, Kan. (AP) — A judge has refused to let a southeastern Kansas woman withdraw her guilty plea in last year's killing of her boyfriend's grandmother. Lyndsey Giovinazzo and Jacob Hoyt were both 19 when they were arrested in December 2011 in the death of Loyce Cody. The 69-year-old teacher was found strangled in her Augusta home; her car and debit cards were missing. The El Dorado Times reports Giovinazzo was in Butler County District Court on Tuesday, seeking to change her plea of guilty to first-degree murder. Judge Jan Satterfield rejected the defendant's arguments that she received poor advice from her trial attorney. Giovinazzo will be sentenced December 13. Hoyt, who was Cody's grandson, is scheduled to go on trial December 10.


KU Med Gets $100K for Ovarian Cancer Research

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas Medical Center has received a $100,000 grant for ovarian cancer research. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the grant is one of 13 announced this month from the Mary Kay Foundation. The foundation for the cosmetics company donated a total of $1.3 million to researchers around the country working on cancers that affect women. The University of Kansas Medical Center said in a release it will use the grant to help develop better technology for detecting and treating early-stage ovarian cancer.


Kansas State Researchers Help Sequence Wheat Genes

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University researchers have helped create a genetic blueprint for many of the traits found in the most common type of wheat. Bikram Gill and Sunish Sehgal were part of an international collaboration that sequenced most of the genes of common wheat, also known as bread wheat. Gill is the director of Kansas State's Wheat Genetics Resource Center, and Sehgal is a research associate in plant pathology. Their study appears in the November 29 issue of the journal Nature. Kansas State says researchers anticipate using the information to improve wheat genetically. The goal is to help growers meet the increasing demand for food and feed. The research also could help scientists learn more about a chromosomal driving force in plant genome evolution.


Arkansas River Compact Administrators Plan Meeting

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Arkansas River Compact Administration meets in Kansas next week to review operations at the John Martin Reservoir in Colorado. The panel's annual meeting takes place December 6 in Garden City. Also on the agenda are a compliance update, committee reports, and other developments from state and federal agencies. The group administers provisions of the Kansas-Colorado Arkansas River Compact, including operations at the John Martin Reservoir. The compact was negotiated in 1948 between Kansas and Colorado to settle disputes and remove sources of future controversy over water in the Arkansas River.


Professional Hunter Pleads to Hunting Violation

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Tennessee hunter featured in cable television shows admits he illegally killed a trophy deer in Kansas. Fifty-year-old William "Spook" Spann of Dickson, Tennessee pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to killing the deer in Stafford County in 2007 and taking its antlers across state lines. Federal prosecutors say Spann, who is featured on several cable television shows and hunting videos, killed the white-tail deer with an arrow on land owned by another person. His permit allowed him to hunt only on land that he owned. Attorneys have agreed to recommend a sentence of three years of probation. His hunting privileges would be suspended in the U.S. for six months, and an additional six months in Kansas. The proposed sentence includes a $10,000 fine and restitution of $10,000 to the state of Kansas.


Kansas Governor Launches Weight-Loss Challenge

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback and members of his Cabinet are taking the lead in a weight-loss contest aimed at encouraging Kansans to fight obesity and adopt healthier eating habits. The Republican governor on Tuesday challenged other executive, legislative and judicial branch employees to field five-member teams that will compete to lose the largest percentage of body weight. The contest will run January 15 through May 15. Brownback says the rising obesity rates in Kansas and the nation pose serious health risks. The governor said he's recruiting four members of his Cabinet to join his team. Prizes will be awarded to the top two state employee teams with the biggest weight losses by percentage. Brownback also encouraged local governments and private businesses to form teams and join the challenge.


Attorney: Prayer Group Killing Confession Was Fabricated

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ An attorney for a Kansas City man accused of killing the wife of his prayer group leader says he made up his confession.  Twenty-three-year-old Micah Moore was charged with murder in the death of 27-year-old Bethany Deaton after he confessed to Grandview police on November 9.  He was scheduled for a preliminary hearing Wednesday but that was delayed at prosecutors' request.  Moore's attorney Melanie Morgan made a statement afterward, saying Moore didn't kill Deaton, was distraught over her death and made up his confession after being dropped off at the police station by other prayer group members.  Morgan did not address Moore's allegations that he killed Deaton at the request of her husband, his prayer group leader, or that Deaton had been sexually assaulted by members of the prayer group. 


20 KU Freshmen 'Learning Community' Finish Film

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A new program at the University of Kansas requires high-ability students who all live near each other to complete a project connected to an introductory general-education course they all take. The Mount Oread Scholars program requires the students to take a special seminar that highlights an aspect of the class. Twenty freshmen who took part in the program this semester were enrolled in an introductory film course. They all live on the same floor of a KU residence hall. Although they weren't film majors, the students were required to produce a movie in a month-and-half. The finished product, "Te' Buffet of Life," will be shown Wednesday at the Kansas Union. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the students say the program taught them a lot about teamwork.


Judge Sets Hearing over Meatpacking Settlement

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has set a hearing over a proposed class action settlement in a lawsuit by workers against the Creekstone Farms slaughterhouse in Arkansas City. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren on Wednesday set a fairness hearing on the motion for approval for December 17 at the federal courthouse in Topeka. The lawsuit alleged that Creekstone failed to pay employees for all of the time they worked. Creekstone Farms said it paid for all time worked, including overtime. Under the proposed $195,000 settlement, about $110,000 would be split among the 144 class members. The amount paid each worker would be based on how many overtime weeks the employee worked during the three-year claim period. Most of the rest of the money would go to the employees' attorneys.


Ex-NFL Player to Give KSU Commencement Speech

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Former Kansas State football captain Nick Leckey is graduating and speaking at the university's December commencement nine years after leaving for the NFL without a degree. Leckey earned a Super Bowl ring in 2009 as a center with the New Orleans Saints. He also played for the Arizona Cardinals and the St. Louis Rams. But he remained 46 credits short of the college degree he'd promised his mother and his aunt he would finish. After leaving pro football and moving from Phoenix to Kansas City, he began taking classes at Kansas State as a distance student. Now, he's about to receive a bachelor's degree in hotel and restaurant management. Leckey also will give the student commencement address December 8 for the College of Human Ecology.


Missouri Body Shop Owner Admits $2M Bank Fraud

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The former owner of a northwest Missouri auto body shop has admitted defrauding three banks of more than $2 million. The U.S. Attorney's office says 35-year-old Clint Edward Dukes, of Mayview, pleaded guilty to bank fraud Wednesday in federal court. Dukes owned the now-defunct Dukes Auto Repair in Higginsville from 2004 to 2011. In his plea, Dukes admitted obtaining nearly $3 million in loans from First Community Bank, US Bank and First Central Bank by falsely claiming he had repair contracts with the state. He also used phony paperwork to hide the fact that he was using loans from each bank to pay off previous loans from the other banks. Prosecutors put the total loss to the banks from the seven-year scheme at slightly more than $2 million.


Klein, Manziel Lead Walter Camp Award Finalists

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o are among the five finalists for the Walter Camp player of the year award. Oregon running back Kenjon Barner and Southern California receiver Marqise Lee are the other finalists. The award will be presented Thursday, December 6. Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck won last year's Walter Camp Award.


Record Powerball Jackpot Boosted to $550M

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The record Powerball lottery jackpot is now even bigger. Powerball officials say they've boosted the jackpot for Wednesday's drawing to $550 million from the previously posted $425 million. People in Kansas and 41 other states have been snapping up tickets, pushing the payout higher.  Record jackpots often encourage players who usually sit on the sidelines to play, and group purchases from work pools increase. The jackpot is the largest ever for the Powerball game and the second largest lottery jackpot of all time, eclipsed only by the $656 million Mega Millions record set in March. 

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

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