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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, September 25, 2012



Kansas Governor Asked to Set Health Exchange 'Benchmark

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas's insurance regulator is asking Governor Sam Brownback to set the requirements for health insurance plans to be sold in a new online marketplace mandated by the federal health care overhaul. Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger is recommending that the so-called benchmark plan mirror a plan already being offered by the state's largest health insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas, with additions from government coverage. Praeger's office made her recommendations public Tuesday. The federal health care law requires online health insurance marketplaces, known as exchanges, in each state. States are supposed to set their requirements for plans sold on the exchange by the end of the month. Brownback, who opposes the federal law, has said he wants to wait until after the presidential election to make any decisions.


Kansas 2nd District Foes Spar on Farm Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A U.S. House candidate from northeastern Kansas is criticizing incumbent Republican Representative Lynn Jenkins and Congress for failing to act on a new farm bill. Topeka minister Tobias Schlingensiepen, the Democratic nominee in the 2nd Congressional District, issued a statement critical of Jenkins on Monday. Schlingensiepen says House members left Washington to campaign for re-election without acting on the farm bill, despite receiving a version from the Senate earlier this year. Jenkins's campaign issued a statement saying the congresswoman grew up on a farm and understood the issues and was trying to work for a solution. That includes shoring up the finances of the U.S. Postal Service, which is included in a bill separate from farm legislation. The current farm laws and programs expire at the end of September.

Kansas Atty General Reorganizes Efforts to Help Crime Victims

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has reorganized his office's administration of programs that help crime victims. He's also promoted his chief spokesman to oversee some of them. Schmidt says he's creating a new Division of Crime Victims Compensation that will be overseen by Jeff Wagaman, who has served both as his main spokesman and his deputy chief of staff. Wagaman also is a former assistant state treasurer. The new division will focus on helping crime victims obtain compensation for their losses, allowing the state's three-member Crime Victims Compensation Board to concentrate on reviewing claims. The new division will be split off from the Division of Victims' Services. Five employees will move from that division to the new one under Wagaman. Schmidt says he will name a new chief spokesman soon.


Manhattan Pharmacies, Clinics Hit by Burglaries

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Riley County police are investigating at least three recent burglaries and attempted break-ins at pharmacies and clinics in Manhattan. WIBW-TV reports the latest occurred Saturday, when someone broke a window at Kellstrom Pharmacy and stole $2,400 worth of merchandise. Police haven't said precisely what was taken. The burglary occurred one week after a break-in at the pharmacy at Kansas State University's Lafene Student Health Center. Authorities say at least $3,000 worth of prescription drugs were stolen in that case. And on September 5, two men shattered a window trying to burglarize a pain clinic at the Sunset Campus of Mercy Regional Health Center. The suspects left after being unable to get inside the pain clinic.


CenturyLink Inc. to Donate $57K to Harvesters Food Bank

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Telecommunications provider CenturyLink is donating about $57,000 to a food bank that serves northeastern Kansas and the Kansas City area. Employees of the Monroe, Louisiana-based company collected nearly 99,000 pounds of food for the Harvesters Community Food Network during an annual food drive. The donation will be supplemented with a $57,000 check to be presented Friday by the company's foundation. About 40 CenturyLink employees also be at the Harvesters warehouse in Kansas City to assemble food-filled backpacks that go home with needy children on weekends. Children who depend on government-subsidized school meals often go hungry on weekends. That's why charities like Harvesters have stepped up to help. Harvesters says 37 percent of the people it serves are children.

Jury Finds No Fault in 'Hot Fuel' Case in Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ A federal court jury has ruled that selling gasoline that has not been adjusted for its temperature does not violate the Kansas Consumer Protection Act. The jury returned the verdict Monday in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kansas. The issue is whether customers are shortchanged when buying gasoline that is over 60 degrees in temperature. The plaintiffs had sued gasoline retailers including QuikTrip, 7-Eleven and Kum & Go. The case was consolidated from 26 cases filed across the country. The Kansas City Star reports the plaintiffs argued that customers get less fuel for the price as the gasoline heats up. However, the jury ruled that selling gasoline over the 60-degree industry standard does not constitute deceptive practices under the consumer protection law.

Overland Park Approves Carrying Weapons in Public

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) _ Overland Park residents will be able to carry their guns in public, with certain restrictions. The Overland Park City Council on Monday approved an ordinance allowing legal gun owners to openly carry their weapons, if they are in holsters with the safety engaged. The council passed the ordinance after the Kansas attorney general said cities may not completely prohibit open carry of a loaded firearm while on public property. Some Overland Park officials said they were concerned the city could be sued if it didn't allow open carry. Gun owners will be allowed to carry weapons on sidewalks, parks and buildings that don't have signs prohibiting firearms. Business owners will be able to post signs refusing to allow guns in their businesses. Guns will not be allowed inside city-owned buildings.


Spirit AeroSystems, Union Seek Lawsuit Dismissal

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Spirit AeroSystems and the union representing its engineers are asking a federal court to dismiss the union's claims against the Wichita aircraft company over pension benefits. The lawsuit by the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace arose from Spirit's 2005 purchase of Boeing's commercial aircraft operations in Wichita. The union is continuing its claims against Boeing. But in a joint motion filed Tuesday in federal court, the parties agree there's insufficient evidence against Spirit AeroSystems to continue the union's class-action lawsuit. SPEEA says that after reviewing thousands of pages of documents and questioning 36 witnesses, it concluded that Spirit agreed only to offer future retiree health care benefits when it bought Boeing's assets. The union could not find evidence Spirit violated its pension plans or bargaining agreements.


Soldiers from Kansas MP Unit Heading to Kuwait

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — Thirty-five members of a military police unit at Fort Leavenworth will soon be guarding prisoners at a U.S. military installation in Kuwait. The soldiers are members of the Army's 705th Military Police Internment and Resettlement Battalion. The Leavenworth Times reports they're leaving in stages following a deployment ceremony Monday at the northeastern Kansas Army post. The MP's will operate a detention facility that holds U.S. military personnel at Camp Arifjan, a large U.S. base located about 40 miles from Kuwait City. The Navy has been operating the detention facility for 10 years. The soldiers are scheduled to be gone for nine months. Major Kenneth Scillieri, who will be the facility commander during the deployment, says the detention center will operate in a similar way to a U.S. prison.

Suspect Pleads No Contest in Topeka Homicide

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Topeka man pleaded no contest to second-degree murder and other charges in a shooting death near a Topeka high school. Austin Tabor pleaded no contest Monday to killing 20-year-old Matthew Mitchell in October 2010 near Topeka West High School. A 17-year-old friend of Mitchell's survived after being shot five times. Tabor was scheduled to go on trial in two weeks for a second time. His first trial ended in a mistrial when a newspaper reporter inadvertently tweeted a photo that showed a juror. His sentencing is scheduled for November 26. WIBW reports two other people have already entered pleas in the case. The trial for a fourth suspect, Coty Newman, is set to start November 27.

Winter Wheat Planting on Pace with Season Average

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas farmers have planted about 17 percent of next year's winter wheat crop while bringing in this year's corn crop far faster than normal. Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service said in its weekly update Monday that wheat seeding is on pace with both last year and the average for this point in the season. About 2 percent of the wheat has already emerged. Meanwhile, the corn harvest reached the 64 percent mark as of Sunday, about three weeks ahead of the five-year average. Just 5 percent of the corn still needs to mature in the field. A lack of rain over the past week slowed the progress of other crops. The Kansas agency says about 67 percent of both the soybean and sorghum crops are in poor to very poor condition.

Man Convicted in Oaklawn Shooting Death

OAKLAWN, Kan. (AP) _ One of five people arrested in a shooting death in a Wichita suburb has been convicted of first-degree murder and six other felonies. A Sedgwick County jury on Monday Reginald Dupree for his role in the December 14 shooting death of 19-year-old Markez Phillips. Prosecutors said Phillips was killed during a robbery at his girlfriend's house in Oaklawn. Two young children were in the home at the time. The Wichita Eagle reports the alleged shooter, Malek Brown, is scheduled to stand trial in October. Dupree's lawyer told the jury during the trial that his client was at the home when it was robbed but did not know anyone was going to be robbed or shot.

KU Opens Office for Harassment Complaints

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ The University of Kansas is increasing its efforts to help people who are victims of discrimination or harassment. The university opened a central office to take discrimination or harassment complaints this semester. And it is requiring all students, faculty and staff to take an online sexual harassment training course, both on the Lawrence campus and at the campus in Overland Park.
Before this year, harassment or discrimination reports were directed to the Department of Human Resources or handled by individual academic departments. Jane McQueeny is director of the new office of Institutional Opportunity and Access. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the course must be completed by October 5. It helps define sexual harassment and sexual violence, and discusses relationships between students and faculty.

Sedgwick County Leaders Consider Air Show Tent Issue

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A Sedgwick County commissioner says he'd rather see the county spend $10,000 on something other than a hospitality tent at the Wings Over McConnell air show. The two-day Wichita festival takes place this weekend at McConnell Air Force Base. The Wichita Eagle reports the County Commission will vote Wednesday on whether to fund the hospitality tent from a $533,000 contingency budget. Commissioner Richard Ranzau says spending $10,000 on what he called a "party tent'' is a frivolous use of taxpayer money. Ranzau says the county has rejected many other requests for funding and he thinks there are higher priorities for the county. Other commissioners say the spending is a relatively small price to pay to support an Air Force base that brings in $500 million to the community.

Homicide Victim Found at Topeka Cemetery

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Police in Topeka say a man found dead in a cemetery had been shot several times. The death is being investigating as the sixth homicide of the year in the city. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports groundskeepers arriving for work at Topeka Cemetery noticed the man around 8:20 a.m. Monday and thought he had simply passed out. Officers arrived and confirmed the man was dead. Police Captain Jerry Stanley says the death occurred sometime in the previous 24 hours. Authorities have publicly identified the victim so far only as a man in his 20s. But several people who went to the cemetery said the victim was a relative whom they had been unable to reach for some time.

Authorities Seek Help in Curbing Prescription Abuse

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ The top federal prosecutor in Kansas is urging residents to join the fight against prescription drug abuse. At a news conference Monday, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom asked Kansans to participate in the National Drug Take Back Day. Law enforcement agencies nationwide will be accepting unused prescription drugs on Saturday for safe disposal. Nearly 8,800 pounds of drugs were collected in Kansas during a Drug Take Back Day earlier this year. Grissom says more people die from drug overdoses each year than are killed in auto accidents. The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office operates the drop-off sites in the Wichita area. Officials say unused prescription medicines can be delivered Saturday from 10 am to 2 pm at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Oaklawn Activity Center and the county's hazardous materials collection site.


KC Man Charged as Police Impersonator

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man is jailed in Jackson County, Missouri, accused of posing as a police officer and robbing a woman he arranged to meet at a motel. The crime was one of four similar attacks from early May through mid-August. Prosecutors say more charges are possible. Thirty-year-old Aaron Hall is charged with robbery, kidnapping and armed criminal action. Online court records did not list an attorney for Hall on Tuesday. The charges stem from an August 19 incident at a Kansas City motel where a woman said a man she had arranged to meet showed up in a police T-shirt and badge and carrying a handgun. The woman said the man handcuffed her, said she was being arrested for prostitution and stole money and a laptop computer before leaving.

Exhumation of Outlaw's Remains Postponed

KEARNEY, Mo. (AP) _ An effort to determine whether a 19th century outlaw is buried in a northwest Missouri grave will be postponed indefinitely. Researchers want to determine if Clell Miller, who rode with Jesse James, is buried in the Miller family plot in Muddy Fork Cemetery in Kearney. The remains were set to be exhumed on October 8. But the Jackson County medical examiner's office recently confirmed that four people are buried in the family plot. They could not determine which of the four graves might hold Miller's remains. The Kansas City Star reports researchers want to take DNA from the remains in Miller's grave to see if they match a descendant. The family believes Miller is buried there but some researchers believe his skeleton was never placed in the grave.

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