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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, September 26, 2012


House Speaker O'Neal to Head Kansas Chamber of Commerce

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Chamber of Commerce has hired retiring House Speaker Mike O'Neal as president and CEO. O'Neal, a Hutchinson Republican, is leaving the House in January after 28 years when his current term ends. He announced in June he would not seek re-election. O'Neal said Wednesday the Chamber of Commerce position is a natural fit with his own philosophies and interests. As president and CEO he will succeed Kent Beisner, who is staying with the chamber as chief operating officer. O'Neal has served four years as House Speaker and was heavily involved in this year's passage of income tax cuts. He plans to move to northeast Kansas.


Agencies Say Kansas Medicaid Changes Progressing 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Officials from two state agencies told a legislative committee that Kansas is making progress in its overhaul of its Medicaid system. Shawn Sullivan, secretary of the Department for Aging and Disability Services, said Wednesday that the state has saved more than $1.3 million from changes made in the system in the past year. Sullivan says the savings came from reducing staff when some state agencies were merged and several employees took voluntary early retirement. He says any further staff reductions would be handled through attrition as three managed care organizations take over Medicaid services for the state. Kansas is seeking a federal Medicaid waiver as part of the overhaul. A decision is expected later this year.


Barricades Removed at Statehouse Renovation Project 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Workers at the Kansas Statehouse have removed all of the temporary walls that sealed off much of the building's above-ground interior during a massive renovation. The last of the walls came down Tuesday, allowing visitors to see into the first floor's north wing for the first time in four years. The interior work on the first through fifth floors is supposed to be finished Friday, although crews will still be cleaning and moving furniture for some time. The renovation started in 2001 and is expected to cost $332 million. It won't be finished until the end of next year, when work on a basement visitor center is completed.


2nd Arrest Made in Death of Tabor Football Player

MCPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have arrested a second former McPherson College football player in the beating death of a football player from nearby Tabor College in Kansas. The 19-year-old suspect from Dallas was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of aiding and abetting second-degree murder in the death of 26-year-old Brandon Brown of Sacramento, California. Police said Brown was found lying unconscious September 16 after a fight at a party in McPherson, about 25 miles from the Tabor campus in Hillsboro. He died Saturday. The McPherson Sentinel reported that the suspect played football for McPherson College in 2011. The suspect was listed on the 2012 preseason roster but isn't currently listed as a team member. A McPherson College spokesman says a disciplinary committee previously decided to suspend any students arrested in Brown's death.

Thousands Seek Transfer of Topeka Zoo Elephants

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka City Council members have received thousands of emails urging the city to move two elephants from the city's zoo to an animal sanctuary in Tennessee. Councilman Chad Manspeaker told The Topeka Capital-Journal Tuesday that each council member received more than 4,000 emails on the subject since Friday. He says nearly all the emails come from outside Topeka and are linked to an Internet website petition urging the public to support retiring the elephants to The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee. Critics say the zoo does not provide enough space, causing the elephants physical and emotional harm. City spokesman David Bevens says the city is conducting an analysis on the situation that could take up to 90 days.


UPDATE: "Kansas State University" to Be Preferred Name for School's Out-of-State Promotion 

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University says it wants to drop the "K-State" nickname when promoting the school in certain areas. Kansas State President Kirk Schulz says the K-State tag is sometimes confusing to people in other states and regions, particularly in academic and scientific circles. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Schulz told Governor Sam Brownback and business leaders Monday that the university is moving toward having one brand for the school. He says K-State works for athletics, but in Kentucky and other places, K-State refers to different schools. Schulz said in a statement Wednesday that "K-State" is strongly recognized in the state and region, and the school is not dropping the nickname. But he says Kansas State University is the preferred name when the university is competing for faculty and students.


Kochs Donate $814,000 to K-State Diversity Office

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Koch Industries and the Fred and Mary Koch Foundation are donating a total of $814,000 to the Kansas State University Office of Diversity. The Wichita Eagle reports that the donation includes a combined gift of $514,000 to increase multicultural students' enrollment in the university's business administration and engineering schools. Koch Industries has also pledged $300,000 for future scholarships to promote diversity. Koch spokeswoman Susan Addington says the company and foundation are committed to education and promoting an educated, diverse workforce.


Midwest Governors Group Meets in Des Moines

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Midwest Governors Association will meet in Des Moines and mark the organization's 50th anniversary. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, the association's chairman, will be joined by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and Kansas Governor Sam Brownback for the Wednesday meeting at the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates in Des Moines. The meeting is focused on increasing collaboration between the states and showcasing the region to different areas of the United States and other countries. The association includes governors from nine Midwestern states.

Grant to Aid Kansas with Promotion of Healthier School Foods

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is receiving a federal grant worth nearly $350,000 to promote healthier meals in schools. The money from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will help Kansas implement the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The 2010 law aims to make federally subsidized school lunches healthier. Seventeen other states and one territory were awarded money through the competitive grant process. Kansas offered popular chef-taught culinary classes last summer for school food service workers. State officials say the grant will pay for more such training to help schools transition to the new federal guidelines. The Kansas Department of Education says that besides the federal grant, the Kansas Health Foundation is providing $50,000 to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to 25,000 middle- and high-school students.

High-Voltage Power Line Completion Date Ahead of Schedule

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Construction of a high-voltage transmission power line in western Kansas is expected to be completed by November, six months ahead of schedule. ITC Holdings says the line it is building from Spearville to the Nebraska border will be running by the end of the year. It also is expected to be under budget. The Salina Journal reports the transmission line will connect another transmission line running from Axtell, Nebraska to the Kansas border. And ITC spokesman Joe Kirik says the Spearville-to-Axtell transmission line will be connected to a new line called the V-Plan, which will run from Medicine Lodge to Spearville. Construction on the V-Plan is expected to start in November.


Former Wichita Abortion Clinic Could Be Reopened

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The abortion clinic formerly operated by the late Dr. George Tiller in Wichita has been purchased by a group that intends to reopen it as a medical facility offering abortions and other services. Trust Women Foundation Inc. Executive Director Julie Burkhart says her Wichita-based nonprofit bought the clinic in late August. An attorney for Tiller's widow also confirmed the sale. Burkhart is a former Tiller employee. She has said in the past that she was involved in efforts to open a new clinic in Wichita. The city has been without an abortion clinic since Tiller was shot to death at his church in May 2009 by a man who opposes abortions. The Wichita Eagle first reported the sale, based on public records.


7 Dead Following SUV, Van Collision in Oklahoma 

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Highway Patrol says seven people are dead after a sport utility vehicle slammed head-on into a van carrying workers from Kansas to a Texas meatpacking plant. Oklahoma Highway Patrol Captain Chris West says a Chevrolet Suburban speeding along Highway 412 near the Oklahoma Panhandle town of Elmwood crossed the center line and crashed into a van carrying at least seven people. West says both drivers were killed along with five people inside the van. One survivor was airlifted to a hospital. A highway patrol spokeswoman says the driver was the only person in the SUV, while the van was carrying employees from Liberal and Dodge City heading for the meatpacking plant. She didn't name the company that operates the facility nor its location. Elmwood is less than 10 miles from the Texas state line.


Husband's Ashes Stolen from Wichita Widow's Home

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The daughter of an 88-year-old Wichita woman whose home was burglarized is hoping to recover just one stolen item: a box containing the ashes of the woman's late husband. The Wichita Eagle reports the break-in occurred Sunday morning while the widow was at church. Her daughter, J.E. Kelly, told the newspaper Wednesday the stolen items included money, jewelry and a gold-colored etched metal box containing the ashes. Kelly says her mother planned to be buried someday with her husband's ashes. They're worried now that whoever has the box will open it, realize what's inside and throw it away. The thief or thieves can keep everything else, Kelly says, "but if anyone has my father, I'd really like him back."

New Kansas Arts Commission to Seek Federal Grant

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The new Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission plans to apply for federal funding that would replace some money lost last year when the state's art commission lost funding. The commission says it will apply for National Endowment for the Arts funding. However, Senator Jean Schodorf of Wichita is skeptical the state will get much money from the NEA this year. Before Governor Sam Brownback defunded the arts commission last year, Kansas received about $1.2 million in arts money from the NEA and Mid-American Arts Alliance. It spent about $700,000 a year on the arts. The Wichita Eagle reports the application to the NEA is due Oct. 1 and the NEA would likely decide in January. That would potentially provide Kansas with arts money in July 2013.

Famed KC Fountains to Go Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Fountains around the Kansas City metropolitan area soon will be flowing with pink water to raise awareness of breast cancer. A ceremony kicking off 10 days of pink fountains is scheduled for 9 am Saturday at the J.C. Nichols Fountain near Kansas City's Country Club Plaza. Local celebrities and breast cancer survivors will take part in the ceremony. Other fountains in Kansas City, Lee's Summit and communities north of the Missouri River, along with the Kansas communities of Lenexa, Olathe and Overland Park, also will have pink water through the end of the first week in October. It's the ninth year in which area fountains will be turned pink to mark October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The fountain coloring is sponsored by the University of Kansas Cancer Center.

KU to Create Center on Students with Disabilities

WASHINGTON (AP) — The University of Kansas will receive a $4.9 million grant to create a national center devoted to educating students with disabilities in regular classrooms. The U.S. Department of Education announced the grant from its Office of Special Education Programs on Tuesday. The center will develop and share information nationwide on educating children with disabilities alongside nondisabled peers. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement that decades of research have shown that all children benefit from what he called "high expectations and practices that support inclusion." Staff at the Kansas center will develop resources in several areas, such as helping schools work with families and communities to promote inclusive education.

Soldiers from Kansas MP Unit Heading to Kuwait

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — Thirty-five members of a military police unit at Fort Leavenworth will soon be guarding prisoners at a U.S. military installation in Kuwait. The soldiers are members of the Army's 705th Military Police Internment and Resettlement Battalion. The Leavenworth Times reports they're leaving in stages following a deployment ceremony Monday at the northeastern Kansas Army post. The MP's will operate a detention facility that holds U.S. military personnel at Camp Arifjan, a large U.S. base located about 40 miles from Kuwait City. The Navy has been operating the detention facility for 10 years. The soldiers are scheduled to be gone for nine months. Major Kenneth Scillieri, who will be the facility commander during the deployment, says the detention center will operate in a way similar to a U.S. prison.

Judge Sets Sentencing Date in Sham Marriage Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has delayed the sentencing of a Jamaican woman convicted of entering into a sham marriage with Kansas soldier to get legal immigration status. Shannakay Hunter had been scheduled for sentencing November 5. She requested extra time to arrange care for her children and to travel back to Kansas from New York City, where she lives. U.S. District Judge Monti Belot on Tuesday reset the sentencing for November 26. Hunter was convicted last month of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud, marriage fraud and lying to the government. She faces up to five years on each count but is likely to get far less prison time — if any — under federal sentencing guidelines.

Surgeons at KU Hospital Save 2 Lives with 1 Organ

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansas women are recovering from transplants they received using parts of the same liver. Surgeons at the University of Kansas Hospital transplanted the divided liver into the two women last week. They split the liver because it was too large to fit into the women. The Kansas City Star reports one of the women, Pamela Lawson of Salina, feared she would not get a liver because she is 64 years old. She never hesitated when surgeons suggested the split-liver procedure and was recovering Tuesday at the hospital. The second recipient did not wish to be identified, except that she is 60 years old and is also recovering well. One of the surgeons, Dr. Timothy Schmitt, says the women should completely recover if they take care of their health.

Eisenhower Center Touts Garden at Boyhood Home

ABILENE, Kan. (AP) — A new exhibit that has been growing at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum will soon be open to the public outside the president's boyhood home. The "Eisenhower Garden" opens Monday with a reception to coincide with National 4-H Week. Members of the Living History 4-H Project will host the reception. The garden is located near the Eisenhower Boyhood Home on the grounds of the complex in Abilene. It has been developed over the past two years by Dickinson County 4-H members. The focus of the exhibit is to highlight the Eisenhower family and their gardening habits. The exhibit will be on display through February.

CenturyLink to Donate $57K to Harvesters

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Telecommunications provider CenturyLink is donating about $57,000 to a food bank that serves northeastern Kansas and the Kansas City area. Employees of the Monroe, Louisiana-based company collected nearly 99,000 pounds of food for the Harvesters Community Food Network during an annual food drive. The donation will be supplemented with a $57,000 check to be presented Friday by the company's foundation. About 40 CenturyLink employees will also be at the Harvesters warehouse in Kansas City to assemble food-filled backpacks that go home with needy children on weekends. Children who depend on government-subsidized school meals often go hungry on weekends. That's why charities like Harvesters have stepped up to help. Harvesters says 37 percent of the people it serves are children.

Manhattan Pharmacies, Clinics Hit by Burglaries

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Riley County police are investigating at least three recent burglaries and attempted break-ins at pharmacies and clinics in Manhattan. WIBW-TV reports the latest occurred Saturday, when someone broke a window at Kellstrom Pharmacy and stole $2,400 worth of merchandise. Police haven't said precisely what was taken. The burglary occurred one week after a break-in at the pharmacy at Kansas State University's Lafene Student Health Center. Authorities say at least $3,000 worth of prescription drugs were stolen in that case. On September 5, two men shattered a window trying to burglarize a pain clinic at the Sunset Campus of Mercy Regional Health Center. The suspects left after being unable to get inside the pain clinic.


Kansas State Wants to Drop 'K-State' Name

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — It's Kansas State University, not K-State. Kansas State President Kirk Schulz says the school wants to improve its national recognition, and dropping the K-State nickname would help. Schulz told Governor Sam Brownback and business leaders Monday that the university is moving toward having one brand for the school. He says K-State works for athletics, but in Kentucky and other places, K-State refers to different schools. He says the university needs to be called Kansas State as it seeks to increase its scholarly rankings among national universities. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the transition might be difficult. The school's new long-range plan is titled "K-State 2025: A Visionary Plan for Kansas State University."

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



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