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 Headlines for Wednesday, November 17, 2021


Governor Says All Kansas Adults Eligible for COVID Boosters

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — All Kansas adults who had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are now eligible for booster shots. Gov. Laura Kelly announced the expansion of eligibility Wednesday. The announcement came days before an influential U.S. advisory panel on vaccines is set to consider expanded eligibility nationwide, and at least five other states and New York City already have made all adults eligible for boosters. Kansas had been following federal guidelines that recommended booster shots for people 65 and older and adults 50 to 64 with underlying medical conditions such as cancer or diabetes that put them at greater risk of being hospitalized from a COVID-19 infection.


Kansas Governor Gets COVID Booster, Urges Vaccinations

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has received her COVID-19 booster shot and is urging others to get vaccinated as well. Kelly said in a statement that she “wouldn’t ask any Kansan to do something I wasn’t willing to do myself” after getting the Moderna booster last week. Federal health officials recommend boosters for people who received Pfizer or Moderna vaccinations at least six months ago if they’re 65 or older, or are at high risk of COVID-19 because of health problems or their job or living conditions. Any Johnson & Johnson recipient can get a booster at least two months later.  


Biden Infrastructure Bill Includes Nearly $4 Billion for Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) —The $1 trillion infrastructure bill that President Joe Biden signed Monday includes nearly $4 billion for Kansas. The federal funding will be spent on a long list of improvements to everything from highways to water pipes.  Kansas will get at least $2.7 billion over the next five years to spend on highways, crumbling bridges and airports.  About $450 million is on the way to improve the safety of drinking water in towns and cities with aging lead pipes.  $100 million will be used to fill gaps in the state’s spotty broadband network.  Millions more dollars are earmarked for wildfire prevention, cyberattack protection and the expansion of electric vehicle charging stations.  U.S. Representative Sharice Davids, a Democrat from the Kansas City area, was the only Kansas member of Congress to support the massive bill.  The rest of the delegation, all Republicans, voted against it because they said it was too expensive.  


Judge Blocks Tax Cut Rule in American Rescue Plan

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A federal judge has blocked the U.S. Treasury from enforcing a provision of the American Rescue Plan  that prohibited states from using the pandemic relief funds to offset new tax cuts.  U.S. District Judge L. Scott Coogler ruled Monday that Congress’s exceeded its power under the Constitution in putting the so-called tax mandate on states. Thirteen states had filed a lawsuit in federal court in Alabama challenging the provision of the pandemic relief package.  The American Rescue Plan steered $200 billion in relief funds to states but specified that states could not use it as a means to cut taxes and then use the federal relief dollars to offset the revenue reduction. The lawsuit was filed by Alabama, Arkansas, Alaska, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and West Virginia.


2nd Group of States Challenges Health Worker Vaccine Mandate

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A second set of states has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers. The suit filed in Louisiana on behalf of 12 states was dated Monday. It comes less than a week after another lawsuit challenging the rule was filed in Missouri by a coalition of 10 states, including Kansas. Both lawsuits say the rule issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services violates federal law and unconstitutionally encroaches on powers reserved to the states. In addition to Louisiana, the latest suit covers Montana, Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia.


Affidavit: Kansas Lawmaker Hit Brother in Fight over Baptism

MISSION, Kan. (AP) _ Newly released court documents say a 21-year-old Kansas lawmaker who is charged with domestic battery pushed, hit and spit on his 18-year-old brother in a fight that erupted because the brother was going to get baptized. The probable cause affidavit that was released Tuesday also says Representative Aaron Coleman of Kansas City was ``uncooperative'' with police during the October 30 fight. Coleman has acknowledged past abuses against girls and young women. And he took a temporary ``leave of absence'' earlier this month following a Johnson County district judge's order that he undergo a mental health evaluation. 


Missouri Attorney General Sues Springfield Schools over Critical Race Theory Request

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt alleges in a lawsuit that the Springfield school district violated the state's Sunshine Law in its response to his office's request for records related to critical race theory and anti-racist teaching. Schmidt alleged in a lawsuit filed Tuesday that the school district violated the law by asking for a deposit for items or services before it would make public records available to his office. Schmitt alleges that the district includes critical race theory in its teacher training and hasn't revealed how or whether the theory is taught to students. The district says critical race theory isn't taught in its schools and called Schmitt's lawsuit an attack on public education. 


Woman Pleads Guilty to 2020 Shooting Death of Wichita Man

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A woman has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the 2020 shooting death of a Wichita man. Television station KAKE reports that 42-year-old Amber Ahrens also pleaded guilty Tuesday to criminal possession of a weapon by a convicted felon. Prosecutors had earlier charged Aherns with those counts, as well as possession with intent to distribute opiates. Police say the shooting happened June 17, 2020, when officers found 53-year-old David Leddy in front of a northeastern Wichita home with a fatal gunshot wound. Police said Ahrens' 19-year-old son had been involved in a fight with Leddy earlier in the day. Ahrens and three friends later arrived at the home, and Leddy was shot.


Kansas District OKs $295,000 Settlement in Case of Girl Stalked by Teacher

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City, Kansas, school district secretly agreed earlier this year to pay $295,000 to the family of an Olathe elementary student who was stalked by a now-jailed former teacher. The Kansas City Star reports that Olathe Public Schools finalized the settlement back in May to avoid a lawsuit, but kept the settlement a secret until the newspaper filed an open records request that revealed it. Although heavily redacted, the Star says the settlement was made in the case of former Olathe teacher James Loganbill, who was sentenced earlier this month to one year in county jail for reckless stalking of a then-10-year-old girl and ordered to register as a sex offender for the next 15 years.


Threat Charge Against Topeka Developer Dropped

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — After seven years of legal battles, a criminal threat charge against Topeka developer Kent Lindemuth has been dismissed. Lindemuth was scheduled to go on trial on Monday. But an order of dismissal filed Friday said the victim in the case asked that the charge be dropped and two witnesses recently became uncooperative with prosecutors. The charge dismissed Friday alleged that Lindemuth threatened the owner of an Oklahoma company in 2014. He was convicted of one count of making a criminal threat. An appeals court later overturned the conviction, and the Kansas Supreme Court sent the case back to Shawnee County, which continued to pursue it until Friday's dismissal.


Man Charged with Threatening Topeka Officers with Knife, Saw

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 59-year-old man is charged with threatening Topeka police officers with a knife and hand saw at a hotel. Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay said Wednesday that Norman Kelly, of Topeka, was arrested after a confrontation at the Hotel Topeka at City Center. Police say Kelly was banned from the property last week after he was fired. Police were called to the hotel, formerly known as the Capital Plaza, on Saturday after reports that Kelly was armed with a large kitchen knife and a hand saw. Police say he swung the weapons at officers in the parking lot. Police were able to subdue Kelly with Tasers and impact munitions such as bean bags


5-Year-Old Liberal Boy Dies After Vehicle Hits Him Near School

LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says a 5-year-old boy died when he was hit by a vehicle in front of an elementary school in Liberal. The patrol says Nathaniel Garro Rivera was in a crosswalk in front of Prairie View Elementary School Wednesday when the driver of a pickup truck made a turn and struck him. Nathaniel was a kindergartner at the school. Liberal Public Schools officials said in a news release the district was “overcome with grief at this devastating accident” and would be providing counselors for those affected.


More Women Turn to Abortion Pills by Mail, with Legality Uncertain

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - COVID-19 and state abortion restrictions, like a near total ban that took effect in Texas in September, have women with unwanted pregnancies increasingly considering getting abortion pills by mail. The legality of mail delivery is uncertain in much of the U.S. because of the patchwork of state abortion laws, and Republican lawmakers and governors in Texas and five other states have moved this year to specifically ban delivery by mail. The co-founder of the abortion medication information website Plan C says the site had nine times as many hits in September as it had before a near-ban on abortion took effect early that month. 


Wichita Activists Push Evergy to Help with Upgrades for Low Income Households

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - Community activists in Wichita want the state’s largest electric utility to help low-income households pay for energy efficiency upgrades. Two nonprofit groups, Prairie Roots Kansas and the Climate + Energy Project, held a press conference on Monday. They are calling on electric company Evergy to adopt the “People’s Energy Plan,” which they say would lower utility bills for those most disproportionately impacted by high energy costs including households in traditionally low-income areas. The groups say residents of some neighborhoods can barely pay their utility bills, let alone afford upgrades. The community organizations want Evergy to establish a program that would pay for upgrades such as better insulation or newer air conditioners and furnaces by using the future energy savings to minimize costs to customers. Evergy says it’s working on a package of programs to help low income customers and will attend a virtual town hall with the Wichita groups are holding Thursday.


Wichita Man Accused of Killing Man Who Had Shot Himself

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say they have arrested a man who shot his roommate who was suicidal and had just shot himself. Police said 28-year-old Charles Burnham was arrested Tuesday and is being held on $500,000 bond facing a possible charge of first-degree murder. Officers who went to a home just west of downtown Wichita early Tuesday found 27-year-old Matthew Rodriguez . He was pronounced dead at the scene. Captain Jason Stephens said officers learned the victim was suicidal and had shot himself once in the head. Stephens said Burnham then took the gun and shot the man two more times. First-degree murder requires premeditation.  Police say this is not a random incident and the case will be presented to the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office.


Missouri Man Sentenced for Threatening 2 Congressmen

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - A 63-year-old southwest Missouri man who threatened two U.S. Democratic congressmen has been sentenced to 2.5 years in federal prison. Kenneth Hubert, of Marionville, Missouri, was sentenced Tuesday for threatening Representative Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri and Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee. Hubert pleaded guilty in June to two counts of threatening to injure federal officials. Both threats were made over the phone. Hubert called Cleaver's office in Independence, Missouri, in January and called Cohen's office in Washington D.C. in 2019. Among other things, he suggested both men should be hung by a noose. Federal prosecutors have said Hubert made similar threats to other politicians, a federal judge and political organizations dating back to 2014. 


Striking Deere Workers Vote Wednesday on 3rd Contract Offer

UNDATED (AP) — More than 10,000 striking Deere & Co. workers are voting on a new contract offer from the tractor maker, but this third deal is strikingly similar to a contract that 55% of workers rejected two weeks ago. The latest proposed contract being voted on Wednesday maintains the 10% immediate raises that the last deal offered, and it makes what the United Auto Workers union called modest changes to Deere’s internal incentive pay program for workers. The disputed contract covers 12 plants in Iowa, Illinois and Kansas where the Moline, Illinois-based company's iconic John Deere green agricultural and construction equipment is made.


Lawrence School Board Extends Thanksgiving Break

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Another Kansas school district is extending its Thanksgiving break to a full week to give overwhelmed staff a reprieve. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the school board approved a plan Friday to turn November 22nd and 23rd into wellness and self-care days. Staff already had the rest of the week off. Superintendent Anthony Lewis told the board during the meeting that the time off was needed because faculty and staff were at a breaking point from the stress and other difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic.


Independence, Missouri, Latest to Ban LGBTQ “Conversion Therapy”

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) _ The Kansas City, Missouri, suburb of Independence is the latest in the metropolitan area to ban conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth. The City Council voted unanimously Monday night to prohibit mental health professionals from using conversion therapy. Those who violate the ordinance could see fines of up to $500. The goal of conversion therapy is to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. Several other cities in Missouri have banned the practice, including Kansas City, Columbia, and St. Joseph. Prairie Village, Roeland Park and Lawrence are among the cities in Kansas that have banned the controversial therapy. 


Records Found of Native American Students who Died at Nebraska School

GENOA, Neb. (AP) - Researchers say they have uncovered the names of 102 Native American students who died at a federally operated boarding school in Nebraska.  The Omaha World-Herald reports that the discovery comes as ground-penetrating radar has been used in recent weeks to search for a cemetery once used by the school that operated in Genoa from 1884 to 1934.  So far, no graves have been found.  The Genoa school was one of the largest in a system of 25 federally-run boarding schools for Native Americans.  A number of Genoa students transferred to the Haskell Institute in Lawrence.


Kansas Legislature to Have Special Session on COVID Mandates

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican lawmakers have succeeded in forcing a Thanksgiving-week special session of the Kansas Legislature to consider financially protecting workers who refuse to comply with federal vaccine mandates. GOP legislative leaders announced that all Republicans in both the House and the Senate have signed a petition demanding a special session starting November 22. Governors call special sessions, but the Kansas Constitution requires them to do it if two-thirds of both chambers demand it — and the GOP holds more than enough seats. There are GOP proposals to make it easier for workers to claim religious exemptions to vaccine mandates and to provide unemployment benefits to employees fired for not getting inoculated. 


GOP Proposals on COVID Mandates Worry Kansas Business Groups

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Influential Kansas business groups have strong misgivings about Republican proposals aimed at financially protecting workers who refuse COVID-19 inoculations. A joint legislative committee had hearings Friday on a proposal to make it easier for workers to claim religious exemptions to COVID-19 vaccine mandates and another to provide unemployment benefits to workers who are fired for refusing to get vaccinated. Both are a response to federal mandates. Both drew opposition from the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business. Their lobbyists said businesses shouldn't have to choose between complying with federal mandates or state rules. Anti-mandate activists think the measures aren't strong enough.


Man Convicted in Assault on Corrections Officer Sentenced

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 58-year-old Kansas inmate convicted of attempted murder for assaulting a corrections officer in 2019 has been sentenced to more than 54 years in prison for the attack. Ray Miles, of Topeka, was convicted in August of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated battery and battery against a corrections officer. Prosecutors said Miles tried to stab Shawnee County corrections officer Kourtney Flynn several times with a pen in July 2019 before other workers restrained him. Miles was in the jail to serve the remaining year of his sentences for attacking several employees of a Topeka television station in 2012, stabbing two of them.


U.S. Population Center Moves 12 Miles, Still in Missouri

HARTVILLE, Mo. (AP) - Some people might describe Hartville, Missouri, as being in the middle of nowhere, but the U.S. Census Bureau says it's the closest town to the middle of the nation. The Census Bureau said Tuesday that the hamlet of about 600 people in the Missouri Ozarks was located about 15 miles from the center of the U.S. population distribution. The nation's population center is calculated every 10 years after the once-a-decade census shows where people are living. The heart of America has been located in Missouri since 1980. The center moved only 11.8 miles from 2010 to 2020.  Hartville is about 230 miles southeast of Kansas City.


Mahomes Turns Things Around, Chiefs Get Back in Playoff Mix

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes followed three of the worst games of his professional career with one of his best, throwing for 406 yards and five touchdowns as the Kansas City Chiefs rolled to a 41-14 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders. It was the third time Mahomes had thrown for at least 400 yards and five TDs since he was picked in the 2017 draft, and he became the first player in league history to have at least two of them without throwing an interception. Mahomes will need another big game if the Chiefs want to continue their recent winning streak against the Cowboys on Sunday.


These area headlines are curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Kaye McIntyre and Tom Parkinson. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today!  

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