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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Report: Science Education Reduced in KS Elementary Schools

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new report says elementary schools in Kansas and surrounding states have reduced, or even eliminated, science education in recent years to emphasize reading and math.  The Kansas State Board of Education was told yesterday (TUE) that one in five elementary teachers in Kansas and surrounding states are recording science grades even when they don't teach the subject.  George Griffith, superintendent of the Trego school district, says he surveyed more than 900 elementary schools in Kansas, Colorado, Missouri, Oklahoma and Nebraska.  Griffith said teachers surveyed said they reported science grades even when not teaching or drastically reducing class time on science. They say they felt pressured to increase performance in reading and math.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports Griffith found just over 55 percent of the K-6 teachers decreased science education.


KS Revenue Agents Seize Convenience Stores for Tax Revenue

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Revenue Department has seized eight convenience stores in the southeastern part of the state for what it says are unpaid sales taxes.  The agency says yesterday's (TUE) seizures of the eight Jump Start convenience stores represent the last in a long series of steps to collect the taxes.  The stores are owned by a company called TAS Group LLC. Revenue Department spokeswoman Jeannine Koranda says the business failed to send the state nearly $516,000 in sales taxes collected between October 2011 and July 2012.  Agents shut down two stores each in Coffeyville and Independence and one each in Chetopa, Pittsburg, Altamont and Neodesha (nee-OH'-duh-SHAY').  Phone numbers for the company and its officers could not be found, and the Revenue Department declined to provide them.


Teen Arrested in Shooting of Kansas City Toddler

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 14-year-old boy is under arrest in Kansas City, suspected of opening fire on a house and wounding a toddler who was inside watching TV.  The Kansas City Star reports that the suspect was arrested yesterday (TUE) and taken to the juvenile jail.  A 2-year-old boy was shot in the back around 10:30am Friday when someone fired at his home. The toddler was in a front room watching TV with his brother and two adults.  The little boy remains in the hospital.  Police have not said if more arrests are expected. Investigators believe the shooter was with two other people when the shots were fired.


Two Fort Riley Soldiers Killed in Afghanistan

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — Two 1st Infantry Division soldiers from Fort Riley have died of wounds they suffered in separate attacks in Afghanistan.  Officials at the northeast Kansas post say 26-year-old Staff Sgt. Matthew Stiltz, of Spokane, Washington, was killed Monday during an insurgent attack in the Zerok district.  On Friday, 37-year-old Capt. James D. Nehl, of Gardiner, Oregon, died in eastern Afghanistan's Ghanzi Province.  Fort Riley officials announced the two deaths yesterday (TUE).  Stiltz was a member of the 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry and had been at Fort Riley since 2006. It was his first deployment to Afghanistan after two deployments to Iraq.  Nehl was with the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry and had been at Fort Riley since May. He served previously in Iraq and was on his first deployment to Afghanistan.


Federal Judge Blocks Use of KS Voter names, Sets Hearing

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has ordered candidates in a close Kansas House race not to contact voters who cast provisional ballots in last week's election.  U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten has also scheduled a hearing for today (WED) in a lawsuit filed by Secretary of State Kris Kobach over the issue.  Kobach wants to block House Democrat Ann Mah and Republican challenger Ken Corbet from contacting as many as 131 voters who cast provisional ballots in the 54th House District in the Topeka area.  Marten says the candidates cannot use voter names released by officials in Douglas and Shawnee counties.  Representative Mah trails Corbet by 44 votes out of nearly 10,700 cast. She hopes to pick up enough votes from provisional ballots to overcome Corbet's lead. Mah has clashed frequently with Kobach.  


Wichita Man Pleads in Girlfriend's Stabbing Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man who stabbed his girlfriend to death after the couple was evicted from a hotel pleaded no contest in her killing.  The Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office says 40-year-old Eric J. Avila is guilty of second-degree murder and kidnapping in the killing of 35-year-old Alina Burkman. She was stabbed in March during a fight with Avila in a K-Mart parking lot.  Avila also was stabbed during the argument and was arrested after recovering from critical injuries.  The Wichita Eagle reports Avila was originally charged with first-degree premeditated murder. He is scheduled to be sentenced December 27.


Kansas Highway Projects Announced

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas residents will soon learn which major transportation projects the state plans to begin in the next two years.  The Kansas Department of Transportation has scheduled a news conference for this (WED) afternoon in Topeka to announce the list of projects.  They're all part of a 10-year program for improving highways, airports and public transportation throughout Kansas. The projects are being financed through bonds and an increase in the state sales tax.  The projects will be started in 2013 and 2014.


Dodge City Gang Member Pleads Guilty to Assault

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — A member of a Dodge City street gang pleaded guilty to assaulting people he thought were members of a rival gang.  Twenty-year-old Humberto Ortiz was among 23 people charged in May in a federal racketeering case aimed at gang members.  U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says Ortiz pleaded guilty yesterday (TUE) to one count of assault with a dangerous weapon in the aid of racketeering. He admitted that he and fellow gang members assaulted people they thought were members of a different street gang. Two of the victims were stabbed.  Ortiz also admitted in his plea that while he was a member of a gang that used violence, including murder and robbery, to expand the gang's operations.  Sentencing is set for January 28.


Woman Whose Family Was Killed Faces Deportation

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An immigrant who claims her family was killed in Mexico over a marijuana bust in Kansas now faces deportation after a federal judge tried to set her free.  Norma Quintana was sentenced yesterday (TUE) to time served for failing to appear at a 2010 federal trial on a charge of possession with intent to distribute 160 pounds of marijuana. The drug charge was dismissed as part of a deal for her guilty plea to a charge of fleeing.  Quintana has been in custody since her April arrest. A court filing indicates her husband, son and brother were gunned down in Mexico in April 2010.  Quintana is a legal U.S. resident, but immigrants convicted of an aggravated felony are subject to automatic removal from the United States.


KS Prosecutor Investigates Possible Electioneering

McPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — A central Kansas prosecutor is investigating possible electioneering at polling places during last week's voting.  The McPherson Sentinel reports four anti-abortion voters' guides were left in voting booths at a McPherson church and the Lindsborg Safety Center. McPherson County Clerk Cathy Schmidt says the guides appeared to be printed from a website.  Kansas law prohibits electioneering, such as wearing or handing out various labels or materials, inside polling places on election day. It's also banned within 250 feet of a polling place.  McPherson County Attorney David Page says electioneering is a serious matter, but proving criminal intent to influence voting is difficult.  Page says he's looking into the case, but hopes to use it to educate the public about what citizens may and may not do on election day.


Army Corps Plans Missouri River Reduction

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Army Corps of Engineers will proceed with plans to reduce flow from an upper Missouri River reservoir despite concerns that it will worsen low-water problems on the Mississippi River.  The corps expects to cut the flow from a South Dakota dam by about 40 percent starting around November 23.  Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and a barge industry trade group implored the corps to rethink the plan.  Less water from the Missouri would lower the pool of the middle Mississippi, potentially halting barge traffic.  Corps officials told The Associated Press Tuesday that efforts such as dredging and rock removal aim to keep the Mississippi open for as long as possible. But spokeswoman Monique Farmer says the agency is obligated to act in the best interest of the Missouri River basin.


KS Zoo Hopes Tigers Will Give Birth in Four Months

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The odds are long but hopes are high at the Sedgwick County Zoo that two female tigers will give birth about four months from now.  KAKE-TV reports that the 7-year-old Amur (AY'-muhr) tigers underwent artificial insemination on Tuesday. The procedure was led by Bill Swanson, a specialist from the Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio.  The donor and potential father-to-be is Ivan, the zoo's 4-year-old male Amur tiger. The females, Talali and Zeya (tuh-LAH'-lee and ZAY'-uh), roam the exhibit with Ivan but haven't mated with him.  The cubs would stay in Wichita about a year, then be moved to other zoos.  Swanson says Amur tigers do reproduce in captivity, but don't always breed with others in the same zoo. He also says artificial insemination of captive tigers has produced only three pregnancies in the past 25 years.


Task Force Formed to Cut Kansas Child Poverty Rate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 12-member task force has been established to recommend ways to reduce the childhood poverty rate in Kansas. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback announced the group's formation on Wednesday. His wife will be an unofficial adviser to the task force, which includes the secretaries of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Department for Children and Family Services and the Department for Aging and Disability Services. The governor says Kansas must reduce the generational cycle of poverty by improving the lives and health of children. He says they need help with their educational outcomes and their chances for long-term economic productivity. The task force will have its first meeting on Nov. 19 in the Kansas Board of Regents conference room in Topeka.


KDOT Unveils $1.1B in Transportation Projects

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas transportation officials have released a list of more than 430 construction projects totaling $1.1 billion to be carried out in the next two budget years, including several that are already under way. The list released Wednesday includes some major projects that were previously announced by the Kansas Department of Transportation. They include completion of the South Lawrence Trafficway in Douglas County; expansion of U.S. 54/Kellogg Avenue in Wichita; and improvements to the junction of Kansas 10 and Interstates 35 and 435 in Johnson County. The projects are part of the state's 10-year program for improving highways, airports and public transportation. KDOT says the projects cover the fiscal year that began July 1 and continue through June 30, 2015.


Kansas Lottery Chief Resigning From Office

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The executive director of the Kansas Lottery will step down next month for health reasons. Dennis Wilson's resignation was accepted Wednesday by Gov. Sam Brownback, who appointed him to the job. Wilson became the Lottery's executive director in July 2011 and will resign Dec. 3. Wilson is a Republican from Johnson County. He served in the Kansas House from 1995-1999 and in the state Senate from 2001-2005. In his letter to Brownback, Wilson said he needs to concentrate on recovering from what he calls a serious knee injury. Brownback will name an acting Lottery director in the coming weeks. He praised Wilson for a 5 percent increase in lottery ticket sales during his tenure and for overseeing the openings of two state-owned casinos in Sumner and Wyandotte counties.