Regional Headlines for Thursday, October 11, 2012
AP: Emails Show Internal Dispute in KS Governor's Team
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Internal emails show the former labor secretary for the state of Kansas tangled with Governor Sam Brownback's top computer-systems administrator just weeks before abruptly leaving the administration. The emails were obtained by The Associated Press through an open records request. They are the first evidence since Labor Secretary Karin Brownlee's departure last month that she was at odds with another high-ranking administration official. Brownlee initially declined to comment Thursday, as did Brownback's office. The emails show Brownlee attempted on August 31 to change the duties of a state Department of Labor employee. She was told by Chief Information Technology Officer Anthony Schlinsog that she didn't have the authority to act alone because the employee reported to his office. Schlinsog reports directly to the governor and oversees information technology staff across state government.
Forecasters: Stormy Weekend Could Be in Store for Midwest
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Eyes to the skies could be wise this weekend as a storm is expected to develop in the middle of the country. The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma says high winds and perhaps tornadoes could be possible Saturday and that people in a broad area from Dallas to Minneapolis should pay attention. The center's operations branch chief, Bill Bunting, says the risk area is large because of some uncertainty on where storms may hit. Future forecasts will consider when a cold front and low-pressure system should cross the region and whether humid air can surge into the upper Midwest. The highest threat as of Thursday extended from Kansas and Missouri northward, but Bunting said strong storms could occur to the south because of stronger instability in the atmosphere.
Kansas Official Seeks to Reassure Panel on Medicaid
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's administration is trying to reassure Kansas legislators that Medicaid participants won't suffer if the federal government delays an overhaul of the program. State Division of Health Care Finance Director Kari Bruffett said Wednesday that services won't be interrupted if the state can't go ahead with its Medicaid overhaul in January as planned. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Bruffett told the Legislative Budget Committee that the state remains committed to the January 1 start date. Critics say Brownback's administration is moving too quickly, which it denies. Brownback plans to turn administration of the $2.9 billion-a-year Medicaid program over to three private companies. Medicaid covers health care for poor, disabled and elderly Kansans. The state needs the federal government to waive some of its rules in order to implement its program.
Kansas Home Sales, Values Forecast Higher in 2013
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Researchers say Kansas home sales have rebounded this year and are forecast to rise more than 6 percent in 2013 thanks to a growing economy. Wichita State University's Center for Real Estate Management released a forecast Thursday that shows home sales are on track to rise by nearly 13 percent in 2012. The center found that home prices across Kansas are appreciating at an average rate of nearly 2 percent this year. A 1.5 percent increase in home values is forecast for next year. The study says new home construction statewide is on pace to go up only slightly his year as declines in Wichita offset strong gains in Kansas City, Lawrence and Manhattan. The report predicts home construction in Kansas will fall 7 percent in 2013.
Report: Kansas Soybeans Faring Better Than Expected
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service has revised its estimate for the size of this year's soybean crop. The agency reported Thursday it expects Kansas growers to harvest 82.5 million bushels of soybeans. That is up 17 percent from last month, but is 19 percent less than what farmers harvested a year ago. The state hasn't had a soybean crop this small since 2003. The estimate for corn production in Kansas of 382.2 million bushels remains unchanged from last month. This year's corn harvest is forecast to be 15 percent smaller than last year. Grain sorghum production is forecast at 84 million bushels which, if realized, would make it smallest sorghum crop in Kansas since 1956. That is down 5 percent from last month and 24 percent lower than last year.
US Corn Estimate Lowered to Reflect Harvest Yields
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ The U.S. Department of Agriculture has slightly lowered its projection for the size of this year's corn crop for a fourth straight month. The USDA released its monthly crop report Thursday in which it estimates that farmers will harvest 10.71 billion bushels of corn. That's down from last month's estimate of 10.73 billion bushels. The estimates change as the harvest progresses and the impact of this summer's widespread drought becomes clearer. The average yield is about 122 bushels per acre. That's down from last month's estimate of 122.8 bushels. Corn supply is now estimated at 11.77 billion bushels. That's down from last month's estimate of 11.98 billion bushels. The tightening supply likely will push corn prices higher short-term but analysts expect prices to now stabilize.
Statue Stolen from Topeka Church Is Recovered
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Police say they have recovered a bronze statue stolen from a Topeka church. The 10-foot bronze statue, called "Forgiven Man," was stolen October 3 from a memorial garden in front of the First Congregational Church. Detectives recovered it Thursday after police received a telephone tip. Police had said the statue was worth at least $10,000. The Topeka Capital-Journal reportsthat police did not provide any more information on how the statute was found. No arrests have been made and the case is still under investigation. The church's pastor, Tobias Schlingensiepen, is the Democratic nominee for the 2nd Congressional District seat.
Judge Refuses to Dismiss Kansas Military School Lawsuit
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has again refused to toss out an abuse lawsuit brought by families of 11 former cadets at St. John's Military School in Salina. The academy wanted the lawsuit dismissed or an order putting the dispute into arbitration. The school contends the enrollment contract signed by cadets' parents requires any claims to be submitted to arbitration. U.S. District Judge John Lungstrum on Wednesday denied the school's request on the same grounds that he denied it in June. He had previously ruled the arbitration clause agreed to by the parents does not apply to claims from the students. St. John's renewed the request because four plaintiffs had been added to the case and it wanted to preserve all legal issues for appeal. The school denies the abuse claims.
KC Area Residents Hold Vigil for Missing Girl
INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — Missouri relatives of a 10-year-old Colorado girl missing nearly a week gathered for a vigil in a Kansas City suburb. Jessica Ridgeway disappeared October 5 from her home near Denver, and police believe she was abducted. Colorado authorities say they're processing evidence from a park seven miles from Jessica's home. A body was found in the park Wednesday, but police aren't saying there's a link between the disappearance and body. Jessica's father, Jeremiah Bryant, who lives in Independence, has gone to Colorado to be with Jessica's mother. Other family members gathered for the candlelight vigil Wednesday night in an Independence park to pray for Jessica's return. Jessica's great-uncle Larry Moss says he has truckers passing out flyers around the country, and they're holding out hope that Jessica will come home.
KU Seeks Permission to Raze 10-Story Residence Hall
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas wants to take a wrecking ball to one of its residence halls. Next week, the Kansas Board of Regents will consider the request to raze the 10-story McCollum Hall and use the site for parking. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the demolition would happen after two replacement residence halls are built. The new five-story buildings would house 350 students each; McCollum Hall has the capacity to house 910 students. The other residence halls on the university's Daisy Hill have been renovated. But the university says renovating McCollum Hall isn't an option because of the way the building is configured.
Ottawa Jail Escapee Sentenced for Carjacking
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ One of four inmates who fled a north-central Kansas jail has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for a carjacking after the escape. Prosecutors announced Thursday that 22-year-old Eric James was sentenced on one count of carjacking. He admitted that after escaping from the Ottawa County Jail in April, he assaulted a man leaving his home and stole the man's vehicle. James was arrested April 20 in Omaha, Nebraska. The sentence will follow the 12 years that James still must serve for robbery and other state charges. As part of the plea deal, James was not charged for the escape. The other three inmates were all captured and face state charges for the escape.
Former St. Joseph License Office Employee Indicted
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former employee of a St. Joseph fee office is among the latest three people indicted in a conspiracy to provide identification documents to illegal immigrants. An indictment unsealed this week alleges that fraudulently obtained birth certificates and Social Security cards in the names of others were used to help illegal immigrants obtain Missouri identification cards and driver's licenses. The fee office employee is accused of accepting documents he wasn't supposed to accept. Also newly indicted is a St. Joseph couple accused of escorting illegal immigrants to the fee office under the guise of serving as translators. But authorities said they were actually there to coach the illegal immigrants on how to illegally obtain identification documents. A man from the Kansas town of Liberal and another man from St. Joseph were indicted in August.
Wichita Group to Meet with Potential Hawker Buyer
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita delegation plans to meet with the potential buyer of Hawker Beechcraft during a five-city business development trip to China. Mayor Carl Brewer wants to ask Superior Aviation Beijing whether the work and employees will remain in Wichita, should the deal go through. The Wichita Eagle reports that Brewer, the delegation he's leading and Hawker Beechcraft representatives will be on hand for Monday's meeting with Superior's chairman. Hawker filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May, and Superior signed an initial agreement in July to buy the aircraft manufacturer. The agreement won't include the company's defense business. In late 2010, the city, county and state forged a $45 million incentive package to keep Hawker Beechcraft from leaving Wichita. That's one thing Brewer will tout during the meeting.
KU to Offer Social Work Program in Western Kansas
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas plans to offer a master's degree program in social work in western Kansas. The university announced this week that its School of Social Welfare will offer its advanced Master of Social Work Program in western Kansas starting next summer. The program will be offered through partnerships with Fort Hays State University and Garden City Community College. The school's dean, Mary Ellen Kondrat, says the program will blend classroom and online instruction. Currently, all social work master's degree programs are offered in eastern Kansas. That had made it difficult for social workers in western Kansas to continue their educations.
Emporia State to Mark Union Renovation
EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Emporia State University students and alumni will mark the rededication of the Memorial Union, which recently underwent a $23 million renovation. The ceremony is scheduled for Saturday during the university's homecoming activities. Crews broke ground on the renovation in April 2010 after students approved a fee increase to fund $14.5 million of the cost. The project was completed in three phases, ending this fall. The original building was opened in 1925 with additions built in 1958, 1963 and 1972. It was last remodeled in 1989. New features of the most recent renovation include a 5,500-square-foot addition for a two-story glass entrance. Emporia State is a four-year university with an enrollment of more than 5,800 students.
Pittsburg State Receives $100K for Scholarships
PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — Anonymous donors have given Pittsburg State University $100,000 to spend on scholarships for technology majors from southeast Kansas. The school said in a news release Wednesday that preference will be given to high school graduates from Neosho, Cherokee or Labette counties. Recipients also need to demonstrate financial need and have an overall grade point average of 2.0. University Development Director Kathleen Flannery says the donors hope the money will benefit students who are willing to work hard but lack resources. The school is in the midst of a three-year campaign whose goal is to raise an additional $12 million for scholarships. Flannery says the donors' gift will help the school meet the goal. Pittsburg State provided more than $2.5 million in scholarships to students last year.
Salina Woman Sentenced for Embezzlement
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Salina woman has been sentenced to a year in prison for embezzling from her employer. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said in a news release Thursday that 41-year-old Jill Marie Gregg also was ordered to pay $574,000 in restitution to her employer, Crane Rental of Salina. Gregg was Crane's office manager. She pleaded guilty to one of wire fraud for embezzling between July 2010 and when she was fired in November 2011. Prosecutors say Gregg used her access to the company's account at Bennington State Bank to pay off her debts.
Sprint Confirms Talks with Softbank
NEW YORK (AP) — Sprint says it is in talks with Japanese cellphone company Softbank about a potential substantial investment in the U.S. company. Sprint Nextel said Thursday that it can't assure the talks will lead to any transaction. The number-3 U.S. wireless carrier said it does not plan to give any more details unless it reaches an agreement with Softbank.
Stone Sculpture Highlight of Kansas Ranch Retreat
MATFIELD GREEN, Kan. (AP) — The Flint Hills has a new tourism destination spot. On one of the highest hills in the middle of nowhere is a minimalist version of Stonehenge. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Walk in Peace Ranch commissioned the environmental sculpture from artist Steve Murillo. It features four limestone pillars quarried near Winfield. They stand 13 to 15 feet tall and weigh an average of 10,000 pounds each. The artwork is a tribute to wildlife, indigenous people, the past, the four stages of life and the four directions. On Saturday, the public is invited to the 200-acre Walk in Peace Ranch in the heart of Chase County. It's located not far from the site of a 1931 plane crash that killed Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne and seven others.
KU Basketball Coach Bill Self to Receive Wooden Award
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kansas coach Bill Self will be awarded the 2013 John R. Wooden Award's "Legends of Coaching" honor. The announcement was made Wednesday at the Los Angeles Athletic Club Wooden Award Tipoff Luncheon. The award recognizes coaches who exemplify Wooden's high standards of coaching success and personal integrity. Self will be recognized, along with the men's and women's Wooden Award winners and the Wooden Award All-American teams the weekend of April 11-13. Self has won eight straight Big 12 regular-season titles and five league tournament championships in his nine seasons with the Jayhawks. His Kansas record is 269-53 and his 83.5 winning percentage is the highest in the program's history. The Jayhawks won the national championship in 2008. Self is in his 19th season as a head coach with a 476-158 (.751 winning percentage) record.
Coaches Select Big 12 Champ Jayhawks As Men's Hoops Preseason Favorite
IRVING, Texas (AP) — The University of Kansas, defending Big 12 champion, Big 12 champion or co-champion in each of the past eight seasons, is the preseason favorite to win the conference title again. League coaches tapped the Jayhawks as the overwhelming 2012-13 favorite in the annual preseason vote released Thursday. Kansas was 16-2 in league play last season and made it all the way to the NCAA championship game against Kentucky. The Jayhawks return senior starters Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford. Since coaches are ineligible to vote for their own team, KU got the maximum nine first-place votes available. The other top vote went to Baylor, which was picked second. Oklahoma State is third, followed by Texas, Kansas State and Big 12 newcomer West Virginia. Oklahoma, Iowa State, Texas Tech and TCU round out the poll.
Defending NCAA Women's Champ Baylor Selected as Coaches' Big 12 Preseason Favorite
IRVING, Texas (AP) — Defending national champion Baylor, with All-America center Brittney Griner returning from a 40-0 season, is the Big 12 coaches' overwhelming pick to win the league again. The Lady Bears got the maximum nine first-place votes in the preseason voting by coaches, who weren't allowed to vote for their own team. Baylor has won the last two Big 12 titles. The preseason vote had Oklahoma and Big 12 newcomer West Virginia tied for second, followed by the University of Kansas and Texas. The rest of the picks, in order, were Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Kansas State and TCU. Oklahoma State last season won the WNIT championship. The Big 12 has ranked first in the nation for conference RPI for the past five seasons.
Media Day for KU Men's Basketball Highlights Mix of Youth, Experience
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The first thing you notice about the University of Kansas basketball team this year is that it's big. Not in height, though 7-footer Jeff Withey stands out, but in numbers. There are a lot of players on the roster this season, 17 to be exact, and for the most part they land on the extremes of experience. The main contributors will be either seniors who were part of a national title run last season or wide-eyed freshmen who watched the Final Four from afar. The Jayhawks get on the court for the annual "Late Night in the Phog" on Friday night. Their first exhibition game is October 30 against Emporia State before opening the regular season November 9 against Southeast Missouri State.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Has Concussion, Won't Race at Kansas Speedway
CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a concussion and will sit out the next two Sprint Cup races at Charlotte and Kansas. The injury ends NASCAR's most popular driver's championship chances this season. Hendrick Motorsports says Earnhardt Jr. was diagnosed Wednesday afternoon. He sustained the concussion in the 25-car pileup on the last lap of Sunday's race at Talladega. Regan Smith will replace Earnhardt Jr. in the number 88 Chevrolet in the next two events.
Chiefs' Cassel Ruled Out Sunday vs Tampa Bay
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel has been ruled out for Sunday's game at Tampa Bay with a concussion, and Brady Quinn will start an NFL game for the first time since the 2009 season. Coach Romeo Crennel said Thursday that doctors have not cleared Cassel after he was hurt in the fourth quarter of a 9-6 loss to Baltimore last Sunday. Quinn has been taking repetitions with the first team in practice this week. The former first-round draft pick hasn't started a game since he was with the Cleveland Browns. Ricky Stanzi, the Chiefs' fifth-round draft pick last year, will serve as the backup.
Chiefs Have Plenty of Adversity, Need More Wins
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Little has gone right for the Kansas City Chiefs this season. There were blowout losses to start the season, injuries to key players and even the fans got a tongue-lashing from offensive tackle Eric Winston after there were cheers when embattled quarterback Matt Cassel was hurt last week. Sounds like a good time to hit the road. The Chiefs visit Tampa Bay on Sunday in search of their second win of the season. They get a bye week after that before hosting Oakland, and then have two more games on the road. That should give a team that's closed ranks behind Winston and backup quarterback Brady Quinn a chance to focus on itself, away from the suddenly volatile atmosphere of Arrowhead Stadium.
Wyoming-Bound Plane with 4 Aboard Goes Missing
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The first full day of an air and ground search in southeast Wyoming has so far failed to locate a single-engine plane carrying four people from Texas. Jeanne Stone-Hunter of the Wyoming Civil Air Patrol says the Piper PA-32 aircraft was reported missing after it failed to land as scheduled Tuesday evening at Casper/Natrona County International Airport. She says searchers are concentrating their efforts on the Laramie Mountains between Casper and Cheyenne. An initial search of the area Monday night by a Civil Air Patrol plane detected no emergency signals. Stone-Hunter says the search on Wednesday was going until nightfall and would resume Thursday morning. She says the flight originated from Harrison County Airport in Marshall, Texas, and stopped in Dodge City, Kansas to refuel.
KASB Forms School Efficiency Task Force
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two days after a school efficiency task force picked by Republican Governor Sam Brownback met, another group created by the Kansas Association of School Boards is emerging. Brownback's group was appointed in September with the goal of identifying ways to get more education dollars into the classroom. The group includes numerous certified public accountants and the governor's budget director. Democrats and school advocates criticized Brownback for not including educators on his task force. The school board association announced Wednesday that it was forming a group that would include superintendents and other school leaders. That group will gather information and respond to issues raised by the governor's task force. The KASB group will meet October 19th and November 2nd, while the governor's task force is scheduled to meet November 9th.
New Arts Commission Criticized for Not Using Funds
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Some state lawmakers are criticizing the new Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission for not disbursing funds to local arts groups. Lawmakers authorized $700,000 for the commission, to replace arts funding that had been vetoed earlier by Governor Sam Brownback. Peter Jasso, director of the commission, told lawmakers Wednesday that only $30,000 has been spent so far, on administrative costs and membership in the National Association of State Arts Agencies. He said the rest of the money won't be distributed to local arts groups until a strategic plan for arts funding is completed by the end of the year. Some lawmakers said that decision has left local arts groups who depend on funding in a difficult situation. But others agreed a plan was needed before funds go out.
Kansas Woman Pleads Guilty to Federal Fraud Charge
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 53-year-old Leavenworth woman has pleaded guilty to federal bank fraud charges. The U.S. Attorney's office for western Missouri says in a release Wednesday that Paula Cathey pleaded guilty to 15 counts of bank fraud. She is accused of embezzling more than $561,000 from her Kansas City employer, Mega Industries Corporation, a highway and general contractor construction company. Cathey worked as controller for the company from 1997 through March 2011. In her plea, she admitted that she embezzled the money by depositing company checks in her personal bank account. The prosecutor's office said Cathey used the money for gambling. A sentencing date hasn't been set. Cathey faces up to 30 years in prison, restitution and a $1 million fine when sentenced.