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Regional Headlines for Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013


KS Official, Insurers to Review ACA Modification Decision

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger and the state's largest health insurer say they're not sure yet about the implications of President Barack Obama's decision to modify part of the federal health care overhaul. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas said Thursday it's waiting for more federal guidance about Obama's decision to let insurance companies continue offering health plans that would otherwise be cancelled. The company has notified about 9,500 Kansas policy holders their coverage would not be renewed because their plans don't meet mandates under the 2010 federal health care law. Praeger said the Insurance Department is reviewing the president's decision and will have discussions with health insurance companies about its effects.


Arizona Groups Seek to Join Voter Citizenship Case Opposition

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Several Arizona groups want to join a lawsuit opposing efforts by Kansas and Arizona to force a federal agency to help the states' enforce their proof-of-citizenship rules for new voters. A motion to intervene was filed Wednesday in federal court in Wichita by the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, the Arizona Advocacy Network, League of United Latin American Citizens of Arizona and Arizona state Senator Steve Gallardo. Kansas and Arizona are seeking a preliminary injunction at a December 13 hearing to force the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to modify a national voter registration form. The groups contend the states want to undo a victory they won before the U.S. Supreme Court this year. The court ruled states can't demand proof of citizenship from people registering to vote in federal elections.


UPDATE: Brownback Announces Kansas Reading Initiative

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is proposing a new reading initiative aimed at boosting proficiency among school children. But his plan sparked a debate even before he unveiled it during a Thursday news conference because of how he'd finance it. He wants to use $9 million in each of the next two years from federal assistance funds for low-income families. Those funds would be supplemented with private dollars. Most of the money would come from the Department for Children and Families, which would tap funds from federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program. The program typically provides cash assistance to families in poverty. A number of high-poverty urban and rural school districts would be targeted through after-school reading programs. Brownback said the program will complement existing reading programs in schools.


KS Gov Announces Grants for Domestic Violence Victims' Groups

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's office has awarded grants totaling more than $1 million to 22 groups that help victims of domestic violence. The governor's office said Wednesday that the grants come from federal funds and are designed to ensure that victims can receive free services around the clock. The programs provide shelter, support groups, crisis intervention and help in obtaining court orders against abusers. The grants went to groups in 21 counties. The largest grant of almost $106,000 went to Safehome in Johnson County. The YWCA of Wichita and Catholic Charities' Harbor House in Sedgwick County each received about $61,000.

Kansas City Escalating Effort to Land 2016 GOP Convention

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Officials in the bistate Kansas City area are stepping up a campaign to host the 2016 Republican National Convention. Officials recently submitted a letter to the Republican National Committee formalizing their intent to bid on the convention. On Wednesday, a special bid task force was announced. Members include Kansas City Mayor Sly and Pinnacle Entertainment executive Troy Stremming, who also chairs the city's Convention and Visitors Association. Members from the Kansas side include Ed Eilert, chairman of the Johnson County Board of Commissioners, and Mark Holland, mayor and CEO of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas. Kansas City officials are also working on their sales pitch. They're touting more than 30,000 hotel rooms and a $6 billion downtown redevelopment that includes the new Sprint Center arena.


Former KU Lab Director Files Whistleblower Lawsuit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former University of Kansas lab director has filed suit claiming he was fired for reporting possible fictitious charging to federal grant funds for the use of an electron microscope and other equipment. David Moore's whistleblower lawsuit also alleges improper financial management and accountability for KU's Microscopy Analysis and Imaging Laboratory in Lawrence. The lawsuit was filed in state court in Douglas County and was made public Thursday. Defendants include the Kansas Board of Regents and the university, which did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. Moore claims the university inappropriately charged administration, overhead and related expenses to the lab that did not comply with federal rules for spending grant money. He also contends the university discriminated against him as a disabled person suffering attention deficit disorder.


Inmate Pleads Guilty in Lansing Prison Escape

LANSING, Kan. (AP) — One of the three inmates who walked away from the state prison in Lansing last May has entered a guilty plea. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 57-year-old Randy Ridens now faces the possibility of another 10 years behind bars on top of the time he already was serving for burglary and theft. The Leavenworth County Attorney's Office says he pleaded guilty Wednesday to aggravated escape from custody. Ridens and two other men escaped May 10 from the Lansing Correctional Facility. Thirty-one-year-old Allen M. Hurst and 49-year-old Scott A. Gilbert surrendered in Edgerton, Missouri after several hours of negotiations with law enforcement. They were accused of trying to ambush officers who pursued them and of attempting to kidnap the Edgerton mayor. Ridens was caught later that evening as he entered Topeka.

Accused Lawrence Man to Receive Mental Evaluation

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 67-year-old Lawrence man accused of fatally shooting his wife last week will undergo a mental evaluation to determine if he is competent to stand trial. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Douglas County District Court Judge Michael Malone granted a request Wednesday filed by Larry Hopkins and his attorney seeking the evaluation. Hopkins is charged with first-degree murder in the November 5 slaying of his wife, 61-year-old Margaret Hopkins. Police were called to the couple's home around 8:45 am on November 5, where Hopkins was taken into custody and his wife was declared dead. Police later alleged that Hopkins shot his wife over ongoing concerns about her health. If convicted, Hopkins faces up to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years.


Sprint to Waive Fees for Contacting Philippines in Wake of Typhoon

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Sprint is waiving and crediting fees for phone calls and text messages made by its U.S. customers to the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan. The wireless company joins competitors AT&T and Verizon in offering free service so that customers can contact family, friends and emergency personnel in the island nation. Sprint Corporation said Wednesday that it is eliminating fees for calls made between November 8 and December 7. The Overland Park-based company also said that Sprint, Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA text messages sent as part of seven mobile-donation campaigns to help victims during that time will not be charged standard text-messaging fees. Typhoon Haiyan ravaged the eastern Philippines on Friday, killing thousands.


KS Man Charged in MO with Smuggling Fake Botox


KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal grand jury has indicted a central Kansas man on charges that he worked with an Alton, Illinois company and its owner in a $3 million scheme to sell foreign versions of Botox and Juvederm. The U.S. attorney's office in Kansas City, Missouri says 43-year-old Christopher Tozier of Hesston, Kansas was charged Thursday with smuggling goods into the U.S. and several other similar counts. The superseding indictment adding Tozier replaces an indictment in April that charged Illinois-based Orthopaedic Solutions Inc. and its owner, 48-year-old Christopher Carstens, with similar counts. The superseding indictment alleges that Carstens and his company distributed nearly 5,900 units of foreign versions of Botox and Juvederm in the U.S. between 2008 and 2011 with a retail value of more than $3 million.


Trial of KS Man on Prison Escape Charges to Be Moved


SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man will have his trial on a charge of escaping from jail held outside Saline County, in part because of public comments posted to online news articles about the defendant. The Salina Journal reports that District Judge Rene Young agreed Thursday to a change of venue for Antonio Brown. The 29-year-old Salina man was convicted last month of murder in the 2011 abuse death of 14-month- old Clayden Urbanek, the son of his former girlfriend. That trial was also held outside Saline County. Brown initially pleaded no contest in the death, but disappeared from the Saline County jail the day before his sentencing. He surrendered two days later in Wichita and withdrew the plea. Brown's attorney cited extensive pretrial publicity in seeking to move both of his trials.



Former Wastewater Manager to Plead over Pollution Charges

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former northwest Kansas wastewater manager charged with lying about nitrogen levels in the city's discharges has told a federal court he plans to change his plea. The formal notice of intent was filed after a court hearing Wednesday in Wichita in the case against Charles Blair, of Hays. An August indictment charges Blair with making false statements about nitrogen levels in effluent at the Hays wastewater treatment plant. The court set a December 2 date for the formal change-of-plea hearing. Prosecutors allege Blair made false statements in discharge monitoring reports. The government also contends he lied to agents of the Environmental Protection Agency when he said he had provided accurate levels for the report.

Topeka Officials Discuss Low-Water Dam Fix

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Increasing the safety of a low-water Topeka dam where three people have drowned could cost nearly $2 million. Topeka utilities superintendent Don Rankin presented four options Wednesday to the Topeka-Shawnee County Riverfront Authority for safeguarding the Kansas River dam where a kayaker died in July 2011 and two canoers in August 2007. The dam is located near a water treatment plant. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Riverfront Authority board supported two of the options. One was a $1.4 million proposal that would only address the danger zone on the south side of the river. The second option would cost $1.9 million and would address issues on both sides of the dam. Rankin says he's soliciting stakeholder input before providing the Topeka City Council with a recommendation.


KCK Man Dies 4 Days After Apartment Fire

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A fire that displaced 30 people from a northeast Kansas apartment building earlier this week has now claimed one life. The fire department in Kansas City, Kansas says 45-year-old Darrin Walker died Thursday. Walker suffered second- and third-degree burns in the blaze Monday afternoon. No one else was injured in the fire, which heavily damaged the three-story, 12-unit building. Another tenant had rescued Walker from his second-floor apartment. Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the fire. Total damage was estimated at $180,000.


2 Involved in Fatal KCMO Crash Face Gun Charges

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two Kansas City men who were involved in a crash that killed a police crime scene technician are now facing federal firearms charges. The U.S. Attorney's office on Thursday announced the indictments of 28-year-old Larneal Davis and 25-year-old Christopher L. Murray. They're charged with illegally possessing firearms as convicted felons. Davis already faces a state charge of involuntary manslaughter in the death of 29-year-old Michael Chou, whose vehicle was broadsided around 3 am on July 6 as he drove out of the police crime lab parking lot. Authorities allege Davis and Murray were in a car being chased by police at high speeds when the crash happened. Police identified Davis as the driver and Murray as a passenger. Neither man had a lawyer Thursday.


Judge Bars Access to KS Teen's Murder Case

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A Reno County judge is granting a 14-year-old Hutchinson boy's request to bar public access to juvenile court proceedings over the arson deaths of his mother and younger sister. The teen is charged with first-degree murder in their deaths and with the attempted murder of his father. He also is charged with aggravated arson in the September 26 fire at the family's home. The Hutchinson News reports that Reno County Chief Judge Patricia Macke Dick also advised Wednesday that individual documents in the case may be sealed. Prosecutors didn't object to the teen's request for a "protective order," but an attorney for The Hutchinson News argued against excluding the public. A hearing was held last month. The state is seeking to prosecute the teen as an adult.

Southwest Airlines Seeks Bigger Voice on Future of KCI

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Southwest Airlines says its costs would spike under a $1.2 billion proposal for replacing the current three-terminal configuration at Kansas City International Airport with a single terminal. The Kansas City Star reports that the top executive for the city's biggest airline was in town this week to talk to business leaders. Southwest executive vice president Ron Ricks says the single-terminal proposal would triple its costs. That's because airlines would pay much of the expense through increased landing fees and ticket surcharges. Dallas-based Southwest is KCI's anchor tenant, operating 40 percent of its flights there. Ricks says the $1.2 billion proposal would be a disincentive for airlines to service Kansas City. He says the airline is confident it could come up with something for the community at a lower cost.


MO Man Shot by Trooper Sentenced to 30 Years

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — A northwest Missouri man who was shot by a Highway Patrol trooper while trying to flee from a traffic stop has been sentenced to 30 years in prison. The Kansas City Star reports that 42-year-old Alan Hampton, of Liberty, was sentenced Wednesday on multiple charges including resisting arrest and possessing a controlled substance. Missouri Highway Patrol Corporal Cody Dunfee stopped Hampton for speeding in July 2012. He saw Hampton holding something and asked him to show his hands, but Hampton started driving away with the trooper clinging to the driver's window. Dunfee says he feared for his life and fired two shots, hitting Hampton in the left arm and left leg.


Wichita Home Is Scene of Second Deadly Shooting Since 2007

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say a man in his 20s has been shot to death in the same Wichita house that was the scene of a fatal 2007 shooting. The Wichita Eagle reports that neighbors called 911 Wednesday afternoon to report the latest shooting. Captain Rusty Leeds says police found one man lying in the street and suffering from a leg wound. Police followed a blood trail to the house where the victim was found dead. A short time later, a man suffering from an abdominal wound was located. Leed says it's possible that he was involved in the shooting. The conditions of the two wounded men weren't immediately known. Six years earlier, 22-year-old Mario Lewis was shot during a party at the home. He died later at a hospital.


Former Teacher Sentenced for Sex with Student


ABILENE, Kan. (AP) — A former Kansas teacher who had sex with a 17-year-old student has been sentenced to 15 weekends in jail. Twenty-eight-year-old Amber Stroda also will be on probation for three years. She taught third grade at Solomon Elementary School and was also a dance team sponsor at Solomon High School. Stroda resigned last year.


Former KU Football Player Sues NCAA over Head Trauma

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Former University of Kansas fullback Christopher Powell alleges in a lawsuit that the NCAA failed to adequately protect athletes from head trauma. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the suit was filed this week in the in the U.S. District Court for Western Missouri. The class action suit seeks an undetermined amount in damages for Powell and other athletes who suffered head trauma in college. Powell, of Kansas City, Missouri, said in his filing that he sustained at least four concussions while playing for Kansas from 1990 to 1994. Powell says he continues to suffer neurologic and cognitive deficits that require medical monitoring and out-of-pocket expenses. KU is not a named defendant in Powell's suit. The NCAA says it hasn't been served with the complaint yet.




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