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Susan Smith-Harmon

Susan Smith-Harmon

   CHESTER, Ill. (AP) - A pre-trial hearing has been delayed for a man accused of setting a Randolph County, Illinois house fire that killed four children last year.
   The Southern Illinoisan in Carbondale reports Sunday that Monday's hearing for Derrick Twardoski has been rescheduled for April 17th. Twardoski has pleaded not guilty to four first-degree murder counts in the deaths last May in Percy, a village 60 miles southeast of St. Louis.
   Eight exhibits are still being tested for DNA evidence in the case. Randolph County prosecutors say the testing will be done Monday and results should be available in 30 days.
   The fire killed siblings ages 12, 9 and 5-year-old twins. Their parents and a 6 year old escaped.
 

Lack of action leads to loss of Mo. tobacco money

Monday, 17 March 2014 03:39 Published in Local News
   JEFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri had expected to receive about $130 million this April under an annual settlement payment from tobacco companies.
   But it looks like Missouri will get less than half that amount because of an arbitrator's ruling that state officials failed to diligently enforce the settlement a decade ago.
   House and Senate committees heard testimony this past week on legislation that the attorney general's office and major tobacco companies both say is necessary if the state wants to negotiate a smaller loss of tobacco funds. The bill would, in essence, force a price hike on some cheaper cigarettes that compete with the brands made by big tobacco companies.
   House Budget Committee Chairman Rick Stream says the bill faces opposition and definitely won't pass in time to reverse this year's reduced tobacco payment.
 

Food bank demand growing in Missouri

Monday, 17 March 2014 02:47 Published in Local News
   While unemployment rates are decreasing, the economic recovery still isn't trickling down to the dinner table for too many hungry Missourians.  That's according to Monica Palmer with the Missouri Food Bank Association.  She says 2013 was a record-breaking year, with more than 100 million pounds of food distributed across the state - a 23 percent jump from the year before.
   Palmer says more Missouri families are finding they simply can't stretch their budgets any further.  "Their income is not keeping up, because groceries are going up, childcare is going up, everything is going up, but wages are not competing - they're actually going down," Palmer said.
   The U.S. Department of Agriculture ranks Missouri number two in the nation for "very low food security," which means many of the state's residents have a hard time consistently providing food for themselves and their families. More information on accessing or donating to local food banks is at FeedingMissouri.org
   Palmer says not only are more people visiting the state's food banks for the first time, they're relying on them for longer periods of time.  She says that has led to a shift in the food bank mission. "Historically, food banks are the organizations that help with emergency needs," Palmer said.  "But over the last several years we've seen food banks supplying more maintenance food because people aren't finding the jobs, they're not getting back on their feet quite as much."
   Palmer says cuts to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program last year equated to three and a half million lost meals for Missouri families. While the recently-passed federal Farm Bill does allocate an additional 200-million dollars to food banks nationwide, Palmer says it's too soon to know how much of an impact it will have.
 

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