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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, October 17, 2012



State: DMV Voter Registration Portals Won't Meet January Deadline

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State officials say a new system that would help residents to register to vote at motor vehicle offices won't be operating by January, when a new proof-of-citizenship law starts. Donna Shelite, director of vehicles for the Department of Revenue, said the portal that automatically sends documents from motor vehicle offices to election offices won't be ready until next spring. The Wichita Eagle reports that the voter registration documents will be available at the motor vehicle offices in January. Kobach's deputy assistant, Brad Bryant, said county election officials will be able to verify proof of citizenship during the few months between when the law takes effect and when the new system goes online.

Applications for Kansas Court Vacancy Due November 14

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Attorneys and lower-court judges in Kansas have until November 14 to apply for a seat on the state Court of Appeals. A statewide nominating commission is taking applications for the position formerly held by Chief Judge Richard Greene, who died last week. The commission will interview the candidates and pick three finalists for Governor Sam Brownback to consider. No dates for the interviews have been scheduled. Commission members are also reviewing applications for the Court of Appeals seat that will become vacant in January, when Judge Christel Marquardt plans to retire. The commission has received 21 applications for Marquardt's seat, including one from Caleb Stegall, the governor's chief counsel. Interviews with those applicants are scheduled for November 13 and 14.

Kansas Schools Face Major Changes Next Year

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state's education commissioner says possible policy changes will make next year one of the busiest years in a decade for Kansas educators. Commissioner Diane DeBacker told the State Board of Education Tuesday that 2013 could be the busiest year since the No Child Left Behind law was enacted in 2001. DeBacker said the board will consider changes such as adopting new science standards, new history and government standards and deciding how to tie teacher evaluations to student achievement. Educators also will be implementing Common Core State Standards and deciding what type of assessments will be used. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports at least four of the 10 state board members will be newly elected, and they'll be working with a Legislature where several members will also be new.


Kansas Education Department to Move in 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas State Department of Education plans to move to a larger state-owned office building in Topeka in 2014. Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker said the state decided to move to a state building rather than lease privately owned office space. The department will move into the Landon State Office Building, just east of the Statehouse. The department currently pays about $640,000 a year to lease the Scott Building in downtown Topeka, where it has been since at least the 1960s. The lease was set to expire at the end of this year. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the department has outgrown the current building.

Kansas Activist Launches Effort to Recall Kobach

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka activist has launched an effort to recall Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, partly over his work on immigration issues in other states. But the effort started Wednesday by Sonny Scroggins faces big hurdles under state law. Scroggins submitted a $100 application fee and a copy of his proposed recall petition to the lieutenant governor's office. Among other things, he accuses Kobach of neglecting his duties. Kobach didn't immediately return telephone messages, but he's said the same issues were aired during his 2010 campaign. Scroggins's application won't be considered valid unless supporters gather signatures from nearly 83,000 registered voters. Even after that, the law would require them to collect the signatures of nearly 332,000 voters within three months for an election to be held.

Topeka Zoo Recommends Keeping 2 Elephants

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Topeka Zoo director is recommending the zoo keep its two elephants and improve their habitat. Critics have been urging the zoo to send the elephants to a sanctuary in Tennessee. They contend the zoo does not provide enough space, causing the elephants physical and emotional harm. Director Brendan Wiley recommended to the city council Tuesday that the city spend an initial $60,000 to improve the elephants' habitat, plus another $30,000 per year. The changes would include installing more outdoor places to encourage the elephants to explore and act more like wild elephants. Wiley says once the changes are made, the zoo could decide whether to expand the habitat to include more elephants. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the council will consider the program's future at its next meeting.

Loss Tops $37K in Salina Wire Thefts

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Salina are looking for whoever stole or damaged more than $37,000 worth of wire from an auction lot. Deputy Police Chief Carson Mansfield says it happened sometime between Sunday night and late Monday afternoon. Thieves cut a metal chain to gain access to the lot at Wilson Auction. Once inside, they cut a 500-foot spool of 4-inch pressurized wire, leaving it damaged beyond repair. The wire was worth $22,500. Several other spools of wire and coaxial cable were stolen from the property, including 250 feet of 2.5-inch wire worth $7,500.


Topeka Police Investigating 2 Separate Homicides

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police say two fatal shootings within 90 minutes of each other were not related. In the first shooting on Tuesday, police found the victim inside a car at a west Topeka apartment complex. The victim was identified Wednesday as 22-year-old Ahmad Mondaine of Topeka. Lieutenant Ron Gish said a preliminary investigation indicates Mondaine was not shot where his body was found. The second case involved a man found dead at a Latino bus service in downtown Topeka. Gish says a witness heard a shot and found the victim, whose name also is not being released.

Fort Riley Hosting 'Ghost Tours' for Halloween

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — Officials at Fort Riley are inviting the public to the northeastern Kansas Army post the Sunday before Halloween for its annual "ghost tours." The 90-minute tours will take place from 4 pm to 7 pm on October 28. They're offered by the Historical and Archaeological Society of Fort Riley. Visitors will be led on a one-mile walk past historic buildings, with guides sharing tales of unexplained activities. Many of the ghost stories have been passed down over the years by inhabitants of the military buildings. The event is free, but the society suggests a $5 donation to support community scholarships and future ghost tours.


Custom Harvester from KS Charged with Felony in North Dakota

HAZELTON, N.D. (AP) — A custom combiner from Kansas faces a felony charge in North Dakota for allegedly stealing a load of corn from an Emmons County farmer whose fields he was harvesting. Forty-eight-year-old Kevin Clark faces a theft of property charge that carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison upon conviction. His attorney, Sidney Gross, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he had just gotten the case and was not prepared to comment. The Bismarck Tribune reports that Clark is accused of selling about 1,400 bushels of corn worth about $9,500 that belonged to the farmer who hired him. Clark owns American Quality Harvesting and Trucking, also known as Clark Farms, in Hesston, Kansas.


Kansas State University's Nuclear Reactor Turns 50

MANHATTAN, Kan.(AP) -- The nuclear reactor at Kansas State University has turned 50. To mark the anniversary, the reactor was powered up on Tuesday at 8:27 pm -- the exact time it was brought online for the first time on October 16, 1962. Students, administrators ,and current and past faculty were on hand for the occasion. The university says the reactor is one of only 25 operating university research reactors in the nation. Kansas State reactor manager Jeff Geuther says it gives the university an advantage in performing research and training nuclear engineers. The reactor is licensed to operate at up to 1250 kilowatts of thermal power, up from 100 kilwatts when it was first licensed. Under supervision, students are able to operate the reactor, tour it, or use samples irradiated in its core for experiments and projects. 

Kansas-Based Firm Buying Nebraska Ethanol Plant

FAIRMONT, Neb. (AP) — Kansas-based Flint Hills Resources is buying an ethanol plant in southeast Nebraska. Advanced BioEnergy, based in Bloomington, Minnesota, says the deal for its Fairmont, Nebraska plant is expected to close later this year. In a regulatory filing Monday, Advanced BioEnergy reported a sale price of $160 million, plus the estimated $15 million value of inventory at closing. The Fairmont plant has an annual capacity of more than 115 million gallons and about 50 employees. Advanced BioEnergy CEO Richard Peterson says "maximizing the value of our business has been a priority in the face of continuing market consolidation and compressed operating margins." The company also has plants in Huron and Aberdeen, South Dakota. Flint Hills Resources is based in Wichita.

Employee Charged in Enterprise Credit Union Embezzlement

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A central Kansas woman is charged with stealing more than $800,000 from the credit union where she worked. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says 47-year-old Pamela Emig of Solomon was charged Tuesday with one count of embezzlement. Prosecutors say she embezzled $817,167 from April 2005 to August 2011 from Enterprise Credit in Enterprise, where she was a manager. The prosecutor's office says Emig has been issued a summons to appear in court and isn't being taken into custody. Court documents do not indicate whether she has hired an attorney. A phone number listed for her home in Solomon has been disconnected.


Wichita Police ID Man Killed by Freight Train

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Wichita say a pedestrian who was struck and killed by a freight train may have been unaware he was in danger. KSNW-TV reports police identified the man Wednesday as 41-year-old Wichita resident Cedale Lamont Brown. Family and friends told police Brown sometimes became oblivious to his surroundings because of a medical condition for which he took medication. They also said he often walked in the area where he was struck and killed.  Witnesses said Brown stepped into the path of the oncoming Union Pacific train shortly before noon Tuesday after walking pass activated cross arms. The train sounded its horn, but Brown didn't step away. He suffered severe injuries and died at a hospital.

Convicted Scammer Loses Appeal in Telemarketing Fraud Case

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A federal appeals court has upheld the more than 14-year sentence George Coe Jr. received for his role in a telemarketing scam case in Mississippi. Coe was sentenced in 2011 after pleading guilty in U.S. District Court to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Prosecutors say the scam targeted senior citizens around the country, telling them they had won cash prizes but had to pay taxes and fees to claim the money. Prosecutors say the scam netted tens of thousands of dollars from victims in Kansas, California, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire and Vermont. Some of the money made its way to Mississippi. A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied Coe's claims that his sentence was unreasonable.


Funeral: Specter's Roots Fueled Centrism, Tenacity

NARBERTH, Pa. (AP) — Friends of former U.S. Senator Arlen Specter trace his centrist politics to a childhood spent as part of the only Jewish family in a small Kansas town. They say that fueled the late politician's tolerance and tenacity, skills he honed as he crossed party lines and served 30 years in the U.S. Senate. That's longer than anyone else from his adopted home state of Pennsylvania. Specter's funeral Tuesday in suburban Philadelphia drew Vice President Joe Biden and scores of other political luminaries. Specter died at his Philadelphia home Sunday at age 82 after a third bout with cancer. Biden says he's never seen anyone with as much physical and political courage.

Ascension Health to Sell 2 Kansas City Hospitals

EDMUNDSON, Mo. (AP) — Ascension Health is negotiating to sell two of its hospitals in Kansas City area to HCA Midwest Health System. Officials at Ascension Health, based in Edmundson, said Tuesday the company is trying to sell the 310-bed St. Joseph Medical Center in Kansas City, and the 146-bed St. Mary's Medical Center in Blue Springs. The two hospitals are operated by Carondelet Health, an Ascension Health subsidiary. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Ascension Health, the nation's largest nonprofit Catholic health system, says it will continue to operate three long-term care facilities and two hospital foundations in the Kansas City area. Nashville-based HCA Holdings, a for-profit company, already operates Research Medical Center in Kansas City, Centerpoint Medical Center in Independence, and four other acute care hospitals in the region.

Kansas Town Hosting Replica Vietnam Memorial Wall

VALLEY CENTER, Kan. (AP) — The Wichita suburb of Valley Center is making last-minute preparations to host the granite replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. KAKE-TV reports the famous "Moving Wall" will be escorted by American Legion riders Thursday morning into Valley Center's Lions Park. The memorial will be open 24 hours a day until it leaves Monday afternoon. The half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., has been touring the country for more than 20 years. American Legion volunteers are providing 24-hour security. Westar has donated the huge lights that will keep the wall lit at all times. The memorial honors the U.S. servicemen and women who served in the Vietnam War and bears the names of the more than 58,000 killed in the conflict.

Appeals Court: Missouri Town Can Restrict Funeral Protests

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A federal appeals court has ruled that a St. Louis suburb can enforce a funeral protest ordinance aimed at preventing picketing by an anti-gay Kansas church. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling Tuesday reverses a previous ruling by a three-judge panel of the court. The panel ruling last year prohibited the St. Louis suburb of Manchester, Missouri from enforcing the law it drafted in response to activities by members of the Topeka-based Westboro Baptist Church. Members of the church frequently protest at funerals of soldiers, claiming the deaths are God's punishment for American immorality and tolerance of homosexuality and abortion. American Civil Liberties Union attorney Tony Rothert represented Westboro member Shirley Phelps-Roper in the case and says a decision about whether to appeal will be made soon.

Charge: Man Tried to Smuggle Cash from Afghanistan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka man has been charged with trying to smuggle $150,000 in cash from Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan to Kansas. The government alleges in a criminal information filed Tuesday that 50-year-old Donald Garst tried to evade currency reporting laws in May 2011 by concealing cash in a DHL shipping box for transport to Topeka. The U.S. attorney's office says Garst was formerly with the Army National Guard, but was working as a private contractor in Afghanistan at the time. Garst's lawyer, Christopher Joseph, says in an email that nothing in the charge alleges the cash was obtained unlawfully. Joseph says Garst acknowledges he mailed the money, and that details about why he did so will be revealed in future court proceedings.

Topeka Lawyer Charged with Money Laundering

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka lawyer faces federal charges for stealing more than $460,000 from his clients. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says in a release that 52-year-old Robert Telthorst is charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering. He's accused of taking clients' money for his own use from 2005 to August 2011. Online court records don't list a lawyer for Telthorst. He faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine on the wire fraud charge and up to 20 years and a $500,000 fine for the money laundering charge.

KU Has QB Decision to Make for Oklahoma Game

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas head football coach Charlie Weis has a decision to make at quarterback. He can go with Dayne Crist, the fifth-year senior and team captain who left Notre Dame to play for his old coach after Weis landed at KU in the offseason. Or he can go with redshirt freshman Michael Cummings, who showed some promise in yet another loss for the Jayhawks (1-5) over the weekend. Facing a possible shutout on Saturday against Oklahoma State, Weis benched Crist after three unproductive quarters during which he had only 136 yards on 10-of-22 passing. Cummings came in and led two scoring drives in the final four possessions to put Kansas in a position to win and Weis in the position of having to handle a quarterback controversy. Weis hasn't picked a starter, publicly anyway, as his team prepares for a trip to number 10-ranked Oklahoma on Saturday.

Chiefs Offense a No-Show the Last 2 Games

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A nasty quarterback controversy could be headed to Kansas City. It's just what the embattled, touchdown-starved Chiefs do not need. But if coach Romeo Crennel returns Brady Quinn to the bench and puts Matt Cassel back under center, a quarterback controversy seems assured. Crennel made it clear Tuesday that Quinn and Cassel are now in head-to-head competition. Cassel missed last week's game at Tampa Bay with a concussion he sustained the week before. But Cassel was back on the wind-swept practice field Tuesday, cleared for noncontract drills, and Crennel expects him to be OK by the time the Chiefs (1-5) come back from their bye week and play Oakland (1-4) on October 28. No matter who's under center, the offense will be looking for its first touchdown in eight quarters.




Chiefs General Manager: 'I've Made Mistakes'

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli tells The Associated Press he is not concerned about his job status despite a 1-5 start by the team in his fourth season in charge. Pioli says he has made mistakes, though he refused to discuss any of them in detail He did say they encompass all facets of his job: player personnel, fan relationships and a failure to fully understand the role of the GM in Kansas City. Pioli admitted that changes are necessary, though he said "getting into the specifics publicly is not in anybody's best interest right now." He did say that he remains confident in coach Romeo Crennel, who also serves as the team's defensive coordinator. The Chiefs are off this week before playing Oakland on October 28.

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