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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, September 5, 2012



Rain Helps Some, but Kansas Crops Mostly in Poor Shape

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The latest government snapshot of Kansas crops shows slight improvement with limited rains, but major crops across the state continue to fare poorly. In its weekly update Tuesday, Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service said only producers in extreme eastern Kansas got any rain while the rest of the state remained hot and dry. The agency says that 71 percent of the Kansas corn crop, 73 percent of the soybean crop and 68 percent of the sorghum crop are in poor to very poor condition. Range and pasture conditions improved only slightly, with 89 percent still in poor to very poor shape. The agency says that although the grass had greened up a little, cattle producers continued to feed hay and forage while culling their herds.


Report: Kansas Wheat Quality Down Slightly in 2012

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Grain inspectors say the quality of the 2012 Kansas winter wheat crop was down slightly, with lower protein levels and test weights. The annual report issued Wednesday by the Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service and the Kansas Grain Inspection Service reflects data from 11,200 samples from 46 counties. This year's crop had an average test weight of 61.1 pounds per bushel. That compares with 61.2 pounds last year. The 10-year average is 60.5 pounds per bushel. Protein content averaged 12.4 percent, down from the 12.8 percent last year but a bit higher than the 12.3 percent average. About 83 percent of the samples graded as No. 1 wheat, with 16 percent graded as No. 2 and only 1 percent graded No. 3 or below.


Legislative Panel Recommends Raise for Some Kansas Public Employees

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A committee overseeing state employee pay is recommending about $11.4 million in raises for underpaid state workers, with corrections officers at Kansas prisons among the groups benefiting most. The Joint Committee on Employee Pay Plan Oversight on Tuesday recommended 7.5 percent raises for more than a thousand corrections officers. The funds were appropriated during the 2012 legislative session. Corrections Secretary Ray Roberts told the committee that the increases would bring officers who haven't had a pay raise since 2009 closer to the market rate. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported the pay raises are part of a state program to raise the pay of certain state employees closer to similar private sector employees. The pay increases range from 5 percent to 12.5 percent and will go to 4,296 state employees.


Kansas Agency Finds Increase in Job Vacancies

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Labor says the number of job vacancies increased during the second quarter of 2012 when compared with a year earlier. The report released Wednesday found an estimated 36,000 vacancies from April to June, a 17.3 percent increase over the second quarter of 2011. During the quarter, Kansas averaged 88,739 unemployed workers. That meant about 2.5 workers for every job vacancy, which was an improvement from 2011, when there were 3.2 unemployed workers for every job opening. Labor Secretary Karin Brownlee said the survey shows positive movement for unemployed workers who are looking for work. The most vacancies were in the education and health services, followed by leisure and hospitality.

Education Secretary Duncan to Visit Topeka Historic Site

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan will stop in Topeka this month as part of a national bus tour. Duncan will visit the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site on September 18. He'll be joined by members of the Kansas State Board of Education, Topeka city officials and students from the area. Topeka's former Monroe School was designated in 1992 as a national historic site honoring the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 decision that declared segregated schools unconstitutional. Duncan will discuss recent education successes in Kansas and nationwide. His tour will also take him to Emporia and to Kansas City, Missouri.


Chicken Theft Raises Livestock Identification Questions

OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) — A major theft at an eastern Kansas farm has authorities wondering just how to track down some stolen livestock. After all, says Franklin County Sheriff Jeffry Curry, chickens aren't tagged or branded. KCTV reports that 100 chickens were taken over the weekend from a farm in a rural part of the county. The thief or thieves also took a $1,000 mower and a four-wheel ATV. Curry estimates the chickens' value at $600. The farm is owned by Bo Tran, who lives about 40 miles away in the Kansas City suburb of Leawood and works the property on weekends. Since the chickens aren't marked, the sheriff says he's not sure how they'll be identified. But he says detectives will do what they can to figure out who stole them.


Kansas Doctor, Wife Attack Prosecutor in Appeal

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas doctor and his wife convicted in a moneymaking conspiracy linked to 68 overdose deaths are attacking a federal prosecutor's changing position now that the case has reached the appeals court. In a filing with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, new lawyers for Stephen and Linda Schneider say the prosecutor is "debasing" justice by now claiming the couple had conflict-free attorneys at trial. The same prosecutor aggressively pursued the opposite stance in the lower court. At issue is the involvement of a national patient advocate in the case. The Haysville couple was convicted in 2010 of unlawfully prescribing drugs, health care fraud and money laundering. The U.S. attorney's office says it's reviewing the filings and would respond in court.

Group Files Petition Seeking Grand Jury for Statue Dispute

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A group that believes a statue in a northeast Kansas arboretum is obscene has filed a petition to empanel a grand jury to consider whether the statue should be moved. The American Family Association of Kansas and Missouri filed the petition in Johnson County Court Tuesday. The group contends a statue at the Overland Park Arboretum that shows a woman with her breasts exposed violates a state law against promoting obscenity to children. The director of the group, Phillip Cosby, says members collected 4,700 signatures. The Kansas City Star reports the group needs just under 3,700 valid signatures. If enough signatures are verified, a grand jury would have to be empaneled within 60 days. Overland Park officials have said they do not intend to remove or relocate the sculpture.

Salina Police to Pursue 'No Refusal' on DUI Cases

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Salina police and Saline County sheriff's deputies plan to try a new "no refusal" policy during a saturation patrol Friday aimed at drunken drivers. Salina police Lieutenant Russ Lamer said if a driver refuses a breath or blood test after being stopped on suspicion of driving under the influence, the officer will seek a search warrant to collect a sample of the driver's blood. He says new equipment will allow officers to ask for a search warrant electronically. Lamer says a representative of the county attorney's office and a judge will be able to sign the warrant electronically. The process should take about 30 minutes. The Salina Journal reports the goal is to use the new procedure in the future whenever a DUI test is refused.


Alligator Puts Kansas School District on Edge

CALDWELL, Kan. (AP) — Officials in a southern Kansas school district are taking no chances with student safety while a 4-foot-long alligator remains at large. KAKE-TV reports children at the elementary school in Caldwell were kept indoors during recess Wednesday. The district also cancelled afternoon football practice as a precaution. Superintendent Alan Jamison says the pet alligator escaped from a home about a block from the elementary school. It's been spotted a couple of times near the building, but no one has been hurt. Anyone with information on the animal's whereabouts is asked to call Sumner County authorities. Caldwell is located about 40 miles south of Wichita.


Theater Shooting Suspect Withdrew Application to Attend KU

DENVER (AP) — The man suspected of opening fire in a Colorado movie theater had applied to the University of Kansas graduate school but withdrew his application before the school decided whether to admit him. The university released James Eagan Holmes's application on Wednesday in response to open records requests filed by The Associated Press and other news outlets. Holmes applied to neuroscience programs at a half-dozen graduate schools and ended up at the University of Colorado, Denver. He withdrew at the end of his first year, about six weeks before the shootings. Many parts of Holmes's application to Kansas appear to be similar to his applications released by other schools. The July 20 shootings killed 12 and wounded 58. Holmes is charged with murder and attempted murder. He hasn't entered a plea.


Wichita Police Officer Fires at Suspect

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita police officer is on administrative leave after firing at a man who appeared to aim a weapon at him. No one was injured in the shooting overnight Tuesday. Police say the officer was completing paperwork in a parking lot when he saw someone looking around the corner of a nearby building. The man went away and returned a few minutes later. Police say the officer got out of the car and began firing after it appeared that the man aimed a rifle at him. The man ran away and police say it's not clear if he was hit by any of the officer's shots. No one has been arrested.


Canadian Firm Proposes New Keystone Oil Pipeline Route

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The company that wants to build a pipeline to transport crude oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries has revised its new route to avoid environmentally sensitive areas in Nebraska. TransCanada said Wednesday that the new Keystone XL route minimizes the potential impact on the Sandhills region and avoids two small city well fields. This is TransCanada's second proposed new route through Nebraska. State regulators said the last proposal, submitted in April, still ran too close to sensitive areas. Jane Kleeb, the executive director of pipeline opposition group Bold Nebraska, says state and federal officials should reject the proposed route if it would still cross the Sandhills and the Ogallala aquifer. TransCanada officials and state regulators did not immediately return calls Wednesday morning.

Kansas Man Flees after Sentencing on Drug Charge

WINFIELD, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a south-central Kansas man is facing fresh charges after running from a courthouse where he'd just been sentenced to prison. The Arkansas City Traveler reports 30-year-old Chang Lee Saulsberry, of Winfield, was arrested Tuesday after driving into a ditch in Oklahoma's Kay County. The car burst into flames, but Saulsberry was unhurt. Saulsberry had just received a 20-month sentence in Cowley County District Court for possessing a chemical used to make methamphetamine. Cowley County Attorney Chris Smith says that Saulsberry bolted outside, then led officers on a 25-mile, high-speed chase from Winfield down U.S. 77 into Oklahoma. He was being held Tuesday night in Kay County, Oklahoma. Authorities say they're studying the possibility of filing charges against him in both states.


Motive Still Unclear in Deadly Wichita Shooting 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say two suspects are jailed as the investigation continues into a shooting that killed an 8-year-old girl with a stray bullet. The shooting Tuesday morning in south Wichita killed Kimbra Moore as she slept with her two siblings. A 46-year-old woman suffered a minor wound when she was hit by a stray bullet. Police say the shooting began with an argument between a man in a stolen car and four other people. One of the four people shot at the car as it drove away. The stolen car was found Wednesday but the driver has not been located. A 24-year-old man and a 28-year-old man were arrested Tuesday evening. Two others who were detained were later released. Police say it's still unclear what led to the shooting.

Photographer Pleads Guilty to Child Porn Charge

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — An eastern Kansas man who set up a nude photo shoot with a 14-year-old girl has pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography. The U.S. Attorney's office says 30-year-old Kristopher Hausback, of Spring Hill, entered the plea Tuesday. He'll be sentenced in December. Prosecutors say the girl went to a Johnson County hotel in August 2011 to be photographed by Hausback and texted the hotel name and room number to her brother. Leawood police went to the hotel after Hausback reported his camera had been stolen. In fact, prosecutors said, the girl's stepfather showed up at the hotel and took the camera in a scuffle with Hausback. Investigators examined Hausback's camera and computer and also found photos he took of a 16-year-old girl.



Judge to Hear Case Against KC Bishop, Diocese


KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The criminal case against the highest-ranking Catholic official in the U.S. to be charged with shielding an abusive priest is poised to reach a surprisingly swift end. Jackson County, Missouri prosecutors and attorneys for Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn have agreed to have a judge hear their case on Thursday, weeks ahead of a scheduled jury trial date. Finn and the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph are each charged with a misdemeanor count of failing to report suspected child abuse. The judge will hear the case Thursday afternoon and is expected to reach a verdict later that day. The charges stem from the Reverend Shawn Ratigan's child porn case, in which church officials knew about photos on the priest's computer but didn't turn him in for six months.


Video Shows Violent Boat Incident at Missouri Lake

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A video camera mounted at the front of a boat on Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks captures a frightening accident that left seven people hurt but nobody killed. Brett Tintera is a cameraman for Lake TV, a cable and Internet station. He was filming events leading up to weekend boat races when he hitched a ride on a power boat August 24. He says the boat took off at high speed before being smacked by waves. The video shows the craft and everyone aboard bouncing violently. Tintera says his injuries included broken bones and cuts. Five people on board were taken to a hospital. Two others refused treatment.


California Candidate Drops Out of Alabama Search; KS Candidate Still in Running

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — One of the three finalists to be Alabama's two-year college chancellor has withdrawn his name. Gregory Gray announced that he has decided to stay in California as chancellor of the Riverside Community College District. His decision came after district board members and others asked him to stay.A spokeswoman for Alabama's two-year college system says the State Board of Education will go ahead with plans to interview the other two finalists on September 13 in Montgomery. They are Mark Heinrich, president of Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa, and Blake Flanders, vice president of workforce development for the Kansas Board of Regents. The school board is looking for a replacement for Freida Hill, who stepped down in March under pressure from some board members.

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