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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, September 19, 2012



Kroger-Owned Stores Recall Spinach Due to Listeria Risk

CINCINNATI (AP) — Kroger is recalling spinach sold at grocery stores in 15 states - including Kansas and Missouri - due to possible Listeria contamination. The Fresh Selections Tender Spinach was sold in 10-ounce packages and had a "best if used by" date of September 16. The grocer said Wednesday that if customers did buy the recalled product, they should return it to stores for a full refund or replacement. Listeria can lead to severe illness for women who are pregnant or people who have a weakened immune system. The Kroger Company said the product was sold in Kansas and Missouri, as well as Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Nebraska. The recall involves its Dillons.  Kroger, Jay C, Owen's, Pay Less, Scott's, Food 4 Less, Baker's and Gerbes stores in selected states.


Kansas Candidates Fined For Facebook Fundraiser Postings

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansas legislative candidates who had been "friended" by lobbyists on Facebook have been fined for improperly posting announcements about fundraisers on the social media site. Kansas law bars incumbent lawmakers and candidates for the House or Senate from soliciting campaign contributions from lobbyists while the Legislature is in session. House Republican Greg Smith, of Overland Park, and House GOP candidate Becky Nioce, of Topeka, posted notices about fundraising events on their Facebook pages in late May. But the Legislature didn't formally end its session until June 1. On Wednesday, the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission fined them both $100. Smith and Nioce both said they didn't mean to violate the law. Smith is running for an open state Senate seat. Nioce is challenging Democratic Representative Annie Kuether.

Kansas School Board Likes General Direction of Science Standards

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Science standards that are under development get high marks from Kansas state school board members for pushing hands-on instruction over textbook learning. Even State Board of Education members worried that the standards will be too evolution-friendly said Wednesday that they like their general direction. The National Research Council, the state of Kansas, and 25 other states are working on common science standards for public schools. A first draft was released in May and another is expected in November. Kansas school board members get monthly updates on the work. The new standards are designed to push teachers to have students at all grade levels design and conduct their own investigations and experiments. In the past, debates over how evolution should be taught have overshadowed work on science standards in Kansas.


Kansas Task Force to Study Drop in Test Scores

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas education officials say they're forming a task force to look at the drop in recent test scores among some students. The Lawrence Journal-World reports state Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker said Wednesday the panel will be drawn from several districts and agencies, including the Kansas African American Affairs Commission. A report released Tuesday showed the percentage of Kansas students meeting or exceeding standards in reading and math tests fell slightly in the 2011-12 school year. The declines were most significant among African-Americans, Hispanics, English language learners, students with disabilities and students who qualify for subsidized lunches.


Federal Appeals Court Rehears Dallas Suburb's Push to Ban Illegal Immigrant Renters

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A Dallas suburb has asked a federal appeals court to uphold an ordinance that would ban illegal immigrants from renting homes in the town. The full 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans agreed to rehear the case Wednesday after a three-judge panel from the court ruled in March that Farmers Branch's ordinance is unconstitutional and impermissibly interferes with the federal immigration system. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach argued for the Texas town at Wednesday's hearing. The court's 15 judges didn't immediately rule after hearing arguments on behalf of the town and a group of landlords and tenants who sued to block the ordinance's enforcement.


New Area of Kansas Statehouse to Reopen This Week

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Workers are preparing to remove temporary walls on the first floor of the Kansas Statehouse, unsealing part of the building's rotunda for the first time in four years. Statehouse Architect Barry Greis says the work will start Thursday as the massive renovation of the Capitol's first through fifth floors nears an end. The renovation began in 2001 and is expected to cost $332 million. The project will include a new visitor center in the building's basement. Greis says that with the temporary walls gone from the first floor, visitors will be able to stroll through the rotunda and look up at the Statehouse dome. Greis expects other temporary walls to come down by September 28.

Kansas Holds No Texting While Driving Day

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas outlawed texting while driving last year, but officials are going the extra mile to make sure everyone knows the law. A proclamation signed by Governor Sam Brownback designated Wednesday as "No Text on Board Pledge Day." The Kansas Department of Transportation planned to flash messages on electronic billboards along state roads reminding drivers not to text behind the wheel. Brownback's office says a recent study that found people who text while driving are 23 times more likely to crash. The 2011 state law provides for a $60 fine for any driver cited for texting.

Ex-Cadets Seek Sanctions Against Military School 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Former cadets at a Kansas military school are asking a federal judge to impose monetary sanctions and to order the school to release information they contend would establish a pattern of abuse. The filing Tuesday came in the lawsuit by 11 students and their families against St. John's Military School in Salina. The lawsuit contends the practice of giving higher ranking cadets the power to discipline others encourages physical and mental abuse. St. John's has vehemently denied a culture of abuse exists. The plaintiffs contend the school has repeatedly refused to provide information on similar incidents, internal documents and financial information. St. John's has argued some of the information sought is irrelevant or subject to confidentiality laws.


KC High School Cancels Classes after Bomb Threat 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Classes have been canceled for the day at a Kansas City high school after someone called in a bomb threat that was later determined to be bogus. Kansas City Public Schools spokesman Andre Riley says authorities searched Northeast High School early Wednesday and found no bomb after the threat was phoned in to 911. The school has about 1,100 students. The Kansas City Star reports that the school's buses were already en route so arriving students were moved to the football field after the threat. School officials decided to cancel classes and send students home rather than have them wait until the building was determined safe.


Girlfriend Accused of Hitting, Killing Kansas Man

INDEPENDENCE, Kan. (AP) — A southeastern Kansas woman is jailed on $1 million bond, accused of intentionally hitting and killing her boyfriend with a car after an argument. The Independence Daily Reporter says 49-year-old Martin "Moochie" Dunn was pronounced dead Tuesday at an Independence hospital. His 21-year-old girlfriend was booked on suspicion of first-degree murder and made a first court appearance Wednesday. Family members and Independence police say the two have a child together. Witnesses said the pair argued in Dunn's yard about changing the oil in the woman's car. They said the woman got in the car and drove at Dunn, crossing a curb and striking him. A large crowd of Dunn's family and friends gathered later at the hospital where Dunn died. Nearly 25 law enforcement officers were called to maintain order.

Kansas Highway Patrol Receives Safety Seat Donation

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Motor Carriers Association has given child safety seats to the Kansas Highway Patrol. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the donation of 105 child safety seats was made Tuesday as part of Child Passenger Safety Week. The seats will be given to people in need throughout the state. Patrol superintendent Colonel Ernest Garcia says he has had "a deeper appreciation" for child safety seats since his grandson was born about 18 months ago. He says many troopers have worked accident scenes involving young children.

Woman Riding on Motorcycle Dies in Topeka Crash

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A woman riding on the back of a motorcycle has died in a Topeka crash. Police Lieutenant Scott Gilchrist says a car struck a motorcycle around 1:30 am Wednesday. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that the woman was rushed to a Topeka hospital, where she was pronounced dead. The driver of the motorcycle had minor injuries and refused treatment. Police are interviewing both drivers.


Lawyer Wants County Prosecutor Off Case

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — Lawyers for the former bookkeeper of the Ellis County Historical Society want the county prosecutor's office removed from the case. The Hays Daily News reports that Connie Douglas is charged with felony theft by deception and is accused of using about $3,000 of the historical society's money. Her lawyer, Alex Herman, has filed a motion asking District Judge Ed Bouker to disqualify the county attorney's office because Ellis County Attorney Tom Drees is on the historical society's board of directors. Drees says the disciplinary office saw no conflict with his office handling the case. Drees also says directors have no authority over employees at the historical society. Another lawyer in Drees's office is handling the case. Bouker says he'll hold a hearing on the request at a later date.


World Company Names Vice President of Content

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The company that publishes the Lawrence Journal-World and other newspapers in Kansas and elsewhere has named online media veteran Mark Potts as vice president of content. The World Company announced the appointment Wednesday. Potts will begin in the job October 1, overseeing the Journal-World's print and online news operations. Potts is 55 and will move to Lawrence from the Washington, D.C., area. He has been a journalist for The Associated Press, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Examiner and The Washington Post, where he created a prototype in 1992 of what would become the website. He has also taught journalism and worked as a digital news entrepreneur, consultant and blogger. In 2005 he co-founded the former Backfence website, which tried to build a network of hyperlocal news sites.


KC Suburb Might Pull Plug on Man's Holiday Lights

PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. (AP) — A Johnson County suburb has approved an ordinance that could mean the end of a popular holiday spectacle. The Prairie Village City Council passed an ordinance this week requiring permits for any special event that lasts five days or more and is likely to draw crowds. Mike Babick feels the ordinance was directed at him because each December for more than four decades he's been adorning his home with thousands of twinkling lights and hundreds of holiday figures and robotic elves. Gawkers come by the busloads. The Kansas City Star reports city officials say Babick's display can create crowd problems, and he likely would have to hire off-duty police officers most weekends during the holiday. Babick says it's unclear if he'll be able to afford that this year.

Reno County Drug Court Gets $107K Federal Grant

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A Reno County program focused on drug offenders has received a federal grant worth nearly $107,000 in its first year. County Administrator Gary Meagher says the 18-month-old drug court also can apply for two more years of funding totaling more than $222,000. The Hutchinson News reports that the money comes from the U.S. Office of Justice Programs. Judge Joe McCarville says the money will help the program reach capacity. He says the goal is to maintain 30 people in drug court at a time. The program now serves 12 offenders, up from seven when it started. Drug courts focus on reducing the rate of imprisonment and its costs. Offenders receive treatment, help in finding jobs, frequent drug testing and intensive supervision. They also appear in court every other week.

Biotech Summit Focuses on Global Food Solutions

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A three-day summit on livestock biotechnology takes place in Kansas City this week with a focus on addressing global problems through genetically engineered animals. The three-day convention opening Wednesday is sponsored by the Biotechnology Industry Organization. The agenda includes presentations on the use of genetically engineered animals for animal health, human health and food production. Other speakers will address the role of scientific innovation in feeding the growing world population. Missouri Agriculture Department Director Jon Hagler will speak Friday on the future of agriculture.

Kansas Students' Standardized Test Scores Slip

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Student performance on standardized tests in the Kansas public school systems has fallen in the past year, according to a new report. Deputy Education Commissioner Brad Neuenswander says officials are studying why the percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards in reading and math fell slightly in the 2011-12 school year. The figures from the Kansas Department of Education were presented Tuesday to the State Board of Education. They show 85.7 percent of students taking reading tests met or exceeded standards last year, compared with 87.6 percent the previous year. In math, 83.7 percent of test-takers met or exceeded standards, down from 84.7 percent in the previous academic year. Some educators believe the figures suggest the state's past budget problems are hindering school performance.


PSU Changes Alcohol Policy for Tailgaters

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — Pittsburg State University tailgaters will no longer be able to drink alcohol after the scheduled kickoff time. The school has changed its tailgating policy after a parking lot altercation during the September 8 home opener. School officials say no one was injured but the situation had the potential to be dangerous. Afterward, university officials reviewed the school's tailgating policy. Pittsburg State President Steve Scott said the school also has determined enforcement should begin earlier in the day and be more stringent. Upon arrival, tailgaters will be provided with a list of policies and bags for litter. Tailgaters and others attending the game also will be able to use a texting service to point out trouble.


Weekend Party Leaves Tabor Player Listed in Critical Condition 

HILLSBORO, Kan. (AP) — A football player at Tabor College has suffered critical injuries at a weekend party in central Kansas. Police found 26-year-old Brandon Brown, of Sacramento, California lying near a road unresponsive early Sunday while responding to a report of loud music. The Hutchinson News reports that the red-shirt defensive lineman was taken to a McPherson hospital and then airlifted to Wichita. Tabor spokeswoman Beth Riffel said Brown was on life support. He had transferred to Tabor and started school last month. Tabor is located in Hillsboro, about 25 miles east of McPherson. It has more than 600 students and is affiliated with the Mennonite Brethren faith. Police aren't saying how Brown was injured. An investigation is under way and police are asking the public for help.

Federal Appeals Court Upholds Kansas Election Law

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal appeals court has upheld the way Kansas deals with small political parties. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday for Kansas in a lawsuit by the Constitution Party of Kansas, which is not among the parties recognized by the state. The Constitution Party filed suit over the secretary of state's refusal to allow people to affiliate with it when registering to vote. In a summary judgment last year, a federal judge said the state's system of tracking party affiliation did not unconstitutionally burden the rights of the Constitution Party. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach argued the case before the appeals court. Kobach says in a news release that Tuesday's ruling spares the state from having to track an untold number of political parties.


Jayhawks RB Sims to Return from 3-Game Suspension

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — An underwhelming win against South Dakota State, a fourth-quarter meltdown against Rice and a closer-than-expected loss to number 17-ranked TCU have left the University of Kansas football team looking for a spark. The answer might be James Sims. The Jayhawks' leading returning rusher is back from a three-game suspension for violating team rules — he was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving in April — and will join a mostly successful backfield of Tony Pierson and Taylor Cox when KU (1-2) visits Northern Illinois (2-1) on Saturday.


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