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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, September 25, 2013



Colyer: New Exchange Not Competitive Enough

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer says a report shows that a new online health insurance marketplace set up for Kansas by the federal government isn't competitive enough. Colyer said Wednesday that data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services raises questions about whether many Kansans will pay high premiums for coverage through the online marketplace that's part of the federal health care overhaul. But Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger has said Kansans will find the coverage affordable. Enrollment for such coverage begins Tuesday. The federal report provided data about potential costs and federal subsidies in 36 states, most with federally run marketplaces. Kansas consumers using the state's exchange will have an average of 37 choices for health plans. The average for the 36 states is 53.


Marion Bloch, Wife of H&R Block Co-Founder, Dies

MISSION HILLS, Kan. (AP) — Marion Helzberg Bloch, a philanthropist and wife of H&R Block co-founder Henry W. Bloch, has died at the age of 83. The family said she died Tuesday at her home in Mission Hills. Her son, Thomas Bloch, said his mother's health had slowly declined since she was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 58. Marion Bloch helped her husband while he and his brother, Richard, built H&R Block into the nation's largest commercial tax-preparation firm. The Marion and Henry Bloch Family Foundation gave generously to many area institutions, including the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and St. Luke's Hospital. The Kansas City Star reports funeral services will be private but a public memorial service will be held at the Atkins Auditorium at the Nelson gallery at 2 p.m. Monday.


Jury Selection in Topeka Murder Rrial to Last a Week

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Shawnee County judge estimates it will take a week to pick a jury for the trial of a mother and son who are charged with killing the son's wife. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that a hearing was held Tuesday to map out details of the upcoming trial for 32-year-old Manuel Alcala of Topeka and his mother, 58-year-old Manuela Alcala, of El Paso, Texas. They are charged with felony first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in the October 2012 death of 34-year-old Ashley Alcala at her home in Topeka. Two-hundred-fifty prospective people will be called as prospective jurors when the trial starts Oct. 7. Two others are scheduled to be tried later in the killing — Manuel Alcala's brother, Gabino Alcala, and another man, Benjamin Anaya.


Canadian Charged with Assuming Brother's Identity

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors have accused a Canadian man living in south-central Kansas of stealing the identity of a younger brother who died as an infant decades ago. Trial for 58-year-old Leslie Lyle Camick, of Winfield, was rescheduled after a hearing Wednesday and is now set for Nov. 19. The telecommunications field engineer has been indicted on charges including mail fraud, aggravated identity theft, immigration document fraud and lying to the U.S. Patent Office. Prosecutors say Camick used his dead brother's birth certificate to flee Canada in 2006 to avoid overdue child support, back taxes and other legal difficulties.


Lawyer: Manning's Gender Issues Being Assessed

BRISTOL, R.I. (AP) — The lawyer who defended Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning against charges of leaking classified information says his client is being thoroughly assessed at a military prison for gender identity disorder. Civilian attorney David Coombs also says he is hopeful the military will allow Manning to receive hormone therapy at Fort Leavenworth. Coombs spoke Wednesday at Roger Williams University School of Law in Rhode Island. Manning is serving a 35-year sentence for a July conviction on espionage and other offenses for sending more than 700,000 documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. Manning, previously known as Bradley, now says she wishes to live as a woman. The military previously said it does not provide hormone therapy. Coombs says the person assessing Manning's gender dysphoria has their heart in the right place.


Jean Schodorf to Run for Secretary of State

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Former Republican state senator Jean Schodorf says she will run for Kansas Secretary of State next year as a Democrat. Schodorf, from Wichita, confirmed her intention to run Tuesday during a meeting of the Saline County Democratic Party. Schodorf will challenge incumbent Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach. After serving 12 years in the state Senate as a moderate Republican, she lost a bid for re-election after conservative Republicans targeted her for defeat in 2012. Schodorf switched her party affiliation to Democrat in September 2012. The Salina Journal reports Schodorf said she plans to officially file for office Oct. 11. Mission Hills businessman Randy Rolston already has filed to run for the Democratic nomination.


KS Health Plan Choices Could Be Below Average

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal report says that Kansans who buy health coverage in a new online marketplace could have fewer choices for plans than residents of other states. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says Kansas residents will be able to choose from among an average of 37 qualified health plans. Kansas is among 36 states where the federal government has set up the health insurance exchange. The average number of plans for those states is 53. The HHS report also provides estimates of premiums. It says a Kansas family of four with a $50,000 income could pay an average of $619 a month for a benchmark policy known as the "second-lowest-cost silver plan." But that could drop to $282 with federal subsidies.


KS Regulator, Firm Plan Health Care Meetings

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger and the state's largest health insurance company will hold town hall meetings beginning next week to provide information about the federal health care overhaul. Praeger has scheduled separate meetings for Monday afternoon and evening at Topeka's public library. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas plans 14 meetings across the state in October and November. The first of the company's meetings is Oct. 1 in Lawrence, with a second Oct. 3 in Topeka. Under the federal law, consumers can begin enrolling Oct. 1 in health plans offered through online insurance marketplaces. Blue Cross is offering coverage on the new exchange. The exchange for Kansas has been set up by the federal government.


Man Charged with Stealing From Police Department

DERBY, Kan. (AP) — A Derby city employee is accused of stealing from the city's police department. The Sedgwick County District Attorney's office has charged 29-year-old Frank Sneller, of Derby, with 11 counts, including felony theft, felony burglary and official misconduct. The items allegedly stolen included prescription drugs. Sneller is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Oct. 3. Prosecutors allege Sneller, an operations technician for the city, used a fake ID with the name "Sergeant Joe Smith" to get access to the evidence. KAKE reports that Police Chief Robert Lee said the city won't comment on Sneller's case because it is under investigation. It was not immediately clear if Sneller had an attorney.


Lawrence Will Limit City's Ability to Use Drones

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence city commissioners reached a compromise with a group that doesn't want the city to use drones. More than 20 people asked the commission Tuesday to limit the city's ability to add drones to its vehicle fleet or police department. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the city currently has no plans to buy or use drones. Commissioners refused to adopt a resolution banning drone purchases until the state implements statewide regulations for the devices. But they agreed to draft a statement saying city has no intention of using drones for the foreseeable future. And the city will develop a formal policy before using any drones in the future. The proposal was supported by a Kansans for Responsible Drone Use, which believes drones could be used to violate civil rights.


Kansas Using Facebook to Nab Parole Absconders

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas prison officials are turning to Facebook to help find people who skip out on court-mandated parole. Each Monday, the Department of Corrections will post information about an offender who has failed to maintain contact with his or her parole officer. Such individuals are known as absconders and have warrants issued for their arrests. Corrections spokesman Jeremy Barclay says Kansas currently has about 170 absconders, down from more than 400 three years ago. He calls Facebook another tool for locating people and getting them back into custody. The first person featured on the agency's Facebook page is Harlan Hurst, a convicted burglar from Kansas City, Kan., who absconded in May 2012.


Rural Center Event to Focus on Local Food Systems

NEWTON, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Rural Center is taking registration for its annual food and farm conference tailored for people interested in farming practices and local food systems. The conference will be held Nov. 2 at the Meridian Center in Newton. This year's theme is "Farming as if People Matter: How to Feed Ourselves, Build New Farms and Adapt to a Changing World." The keynote speaker will be Wes Jackson, president of the Land Institute in Salina. Fourteen workshop sessions are planned on a variety of topics including family farm transitions, pricing products for local markets and soil health, among others.


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