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Headlines for Friday, April 2, 2021

 

BREAKING: Large Wildfire Forces Evacuations in 2 Towns Near Topeka

MAPLE HILL, Kan. (AP/KPR) —  Authorities say about 120 people have been evacuated from an area west of Topeka because of a large wildfire. Multiple emergency crews are on the scene. A fire warning has been issued for an area between Vera Road to West Union Road from Interstate 70 to the Kansas River. The Topeka Fire Department said in a tweet Friday that western Shawnee County should be avoided. The tweet said residents of Maple Hill and Willard have been urged to go to the nearby town of Rossville. The National Weather Service has issued red flag fire danger warnings for the area because of gusty winds. Shawnee County Emergency Management interim director Errin Mahan said multiple fire departments are on the scene and that the Red Cross also is helping.

The Shawnee County Sheriff's Department tweeted that citizens of Willard and surrounding areas are being asked to evacuate to the Rossville Library (407 Main Street). Representatives of the Red Cross will be there to provide assistance.

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University of Kansas Signs Men’s Basketball Head Coach Bill Self to Lifetime Contract

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - The University of Kansas has announced that hall of fame men’s basketball head coach Bill Self has signed a lifetime contract with the Jayhawks. His current contract, set to expire next March, is being replaced with a new, five-year rolling agreement that automatically adds one year at the conclusion of each season for the remainder of his career.  KU Chancellor Doug Girod said, "For almost 20 years, Coach Self has embodied the spirit and tradition of the University of Kansas, leading our men’s basketball program to a national championship, 15 Big 12 titles and 17 NCAA Tournament appearances. We believe in Coach Self and we believe in the future of our program under his leadership."  (Read more.) 

(AP reporting...)

KU Gives Bill Self Contract to Keep Him Until Retirement

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas basketball coach Bill Self has agreed to a new contract that will keep him with the Jayhawks until he retires. The five-year contract automatically adds one additional year after the conclusion of each season. That effectively makes it a lifetime contract. The deal guarantees him $5.41 million per year with a base salary of $225,000, professional services contract of $2.75 million and an annual $2.435 million retention bonus. The deal was struck even as the school awaits the decision from an independent panel investigating five serious infractions charges alleged by the NCAA.

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Kansas Sports Betting Push Stalls; Odds of Passage Uncertain

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An effort to legalize sports betting in Kansas has stalled. It's not clear that legislators can agree on how many places should offer wagering while also navigating other gambling issues. Some sports betting supporters believe they still have time before the Legislature wraps up its business for the year in May to get a bill passed, but others are skeptical. A Senate-passed proposal would limit sports betting to four state-owned casinos. A House proposal would include as many as 1,200 retail stores. But the broadness of the House plan and other issues, such as reviving the tracks, caused the chamber to vote this week against giving it first-round approval.

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Governor's Aide: Civics Bill Violates Kansas Constitution

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A spokesperson for Democratic Governor Laura Kelly says a Republican proposal to require graduating Kansas high school students to have passed a civics test violates the state constitution. Kelly spokesperson Reeves Oyster stopped short of saying Kelly would veto a bill approved by the state Senate this week to require the test. But she said in email that the test would be "an unconstitutional intrusion on the authority of the State Board of Education.” Republican backers of the bill disagree and say a test would give students basic knowledge to become engaged citizens. Students would be able to take the test multiple times until they pass.

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Man Freed After Getting Trapped Inside Grain Elevator East of Salina

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have rescued a man who fell into a grain storage facility near Salina and became trapped. Salina Fire Department Fire Marshal Troy Long said the man was apparently trying to remove a clog when he fell into a grain mover system at the Scoular grain elevator. The Salina Journal reports that the machinery was quickly shut down. Long said crews were able were able to remove part of that grain mover system and safely get the man out. He then was taken to a hospital with unknown injuries. Long said the department trains for situations like this often.

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Kansas Counties Ditching Mask Rules Before Lawmakers Acted

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Kansas counties already had started dropping or weakening mask rules before lawmakers toppled Governor Laura Kelly’s newly reissued order requiring them. More counties are expected to follow suit. Kelly's order was similar to one passed in November. It was always porous, allowing the state’s 105 counties to set their own possibly less restrictive rules or opt out of the order entirely. The Democratic governor was required to reissue it Thursday under a new Kansas law. That law also gives eight top legislators the power to reject her efforts to set rules to address the pandemic. The lawmakers overturned Kelly's order hours later on a party-line vote. That left counties that hadn’t set their own rules without mask requirements.

(–Related–)

Kansas Lawmakers Topple Governor's Newly-Issued Mask Order

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Top Kansas legislators have revoked an order aimed at encouraging counties to keep mask mandates amid the coronavirus pandemic, just hours after Democratic Governor Laura Kelly issued it. Kelly’s order Thursday required people to wear masks indoors at businesses and public spaces and outdoors when they can’t socially distance. State law gives counties the final say, but her order meant that elected county commissions had to vote to set less restrictive rules or opt out. The order was similar to a mask policy Kelly issued in November. She was required to reissue it under a new law that gives eight top legislators the power to revoke an order issued by the governor because of a pandemic. They immediately did so.

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Kansas Expects Federal Policy to Cost State $360 Million over 3 Years

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas expects to lose a total of $360 million in tax revenues over three years because of a change in federal policies on COVID-19 relief for businesses. That development complicates legislative debates over state spending and cutting income taxes and clouds what for months has otherwise been a sunny state fiscal picture with tax collections exceeding expectations. The expected loss was outlined in a short memo to six legislative leaders this week from the state Department of Revenue’s top administrator and Democratic Governor Laura Kelly's budget director. The memo said relief legislation approved in December by Congress created a new federal income tax deduction for some businesses.

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GOP Legislators Disagree over Kansas Unemployment Upgrades

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican state legislators don’t yet agree on how much time to give the Kansas Department of Labor to upgrade its aged technology for its troubled unemployment system. Both the Kansas House and Senate have approved legislation aimed at modernizing the system that would give the GOP-controlled Legislature more oversight of the upgrades. The state Senate unanimously approved a version Wednesday under which legislative leaders would set deadlines for finishing the upgrades. The Kansas House approved a version in early March that would require the department to finish the work by the end of 2022. The department has had trouble getting benefits to jobless workers and has been beset by scammers.

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More than 302,000 COVID-19 Cases and 4,900 Deaths Recorded in Kansas Since Pandemic Began

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR/AP) - The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reports that there have been 302,873 cases of COVID-19 in the state, including 4,932 deaths, since the start of the pandemic. That's an increase of 501 cases and 19 deaths since Wednesday. Another update will be released Monday. 

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Missouri Governor Won't Require Vaccine Passports in Missouri

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Governor Mike Parson says he won't require what are known as vaccine passports in Missouri. But Parson told reporters Thursday that he's OK with private companies adopting them. Vaccine passports are documentation that shows travelers have been vaccinated against COVID-19 or recently tested negative for the virus. Technology companies and travel-related trade groups are developing and testing out vaccine passports to encourage travel. Some Republican lawmakers in Missouri have raised concerns with the concept of health certificates or travel passes. They say requiring the documents would infringe on people's right to travel and therefore, want to ban them.

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Kansas City House Fire Kills Woman; Child Critically Injured

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities in Kansas City say a woman has died and a child remains in critical condition after they were pulled from a house fire on the city's southeast side. Police say in a news release that firefighters were called to the scene around 5 pm Wednesday by someone who called 911 seeking help. Police say that by the time officers arrived on the scene, firefighters had already found the woman and child inside the burning home. Both were taken to nearby hospitals, where the woman was pronounced dead. The child was listed in critical condition. Authorities have not released their names. Police say the fire and the woman's death are being investigated as suspicious.

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Man Arrested in Topeka Crash that Killed Infant, Injured 3

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 51-year-old Topeka man is facing charges after a crash that killed a 7-month-old baby and injured three others. Police arrested Troy Vsetecka and booked him into the Shawnee County Jail after the crash Tuesday at a Topeka intersection. He faces possible charges of involuntary manslaughter, aggravated battery and numerous traffic violations. Police say Vsetecka was speeding and driving the wrong way on a Topeka street when his car collided with another vehicle containing the child and three others. The three injured passengers were hospitalized in critical but stable condition.

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Police: 9-Year-Old Boy Hit During Street Race in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say two teenagers who were street racing were arrested after a 9-year-old boy was seriously hurt during the race. Witnesses reported seeing two trucks racing Wednesday evening in south Wichita. Police say one of the trucks hit the 9-year-old, who was hospitalized with serious injuries that were not considered life-threatening. The drivers fled but were apprehended. One of the drivers, a 16-year-old, was booked into juvenile detention. The other driver, a 17-year-old, was arrested. The incident came less than two weeks after an 18-year-old was killed while street racing in east Wichita.

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UPDATE: Police ID Man Killed in Home by Stray Bullet from Firefight

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police in Kansas City, Kansas, have identified a man killed inside his home by a stray bullet from a gun battle that took place outside on the street. Police say 50-year-old Mark Winner was hit during the Wednesday afternoon shooting that stemmed from an argument involving a group of people on the normally quiet residential street. Police say Winner was found dead inside his home with a gunshot wound. Police have not given other details of the shooting, but witnesses along the stretch of Farrow Avenue told news outlets they heard at least a dozen gunshots. Police say no arrests have been made.

(Earlier reporting...)

Police: Man in Home Killed by Stray Bullet from Firefight

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police in Kansas City, Kansas, say a man inside his home was killed by a stray bullet from a gun battle that took place outside on the street. Police say the shooting happened shortly after 3 pm Wednesday, when an argument involving a group of people erupted in gunfire. Police have not given other details of the shooting, but witnesses along the stretch of Farrow Avenue told news outlets they heard at least a dozen gunshots. Police have not released the name of the man killed. The Kansas City Star reports that the death marked the city's fifth homicide this year. Kansas City, Kansas, saw 55 homicides in all of 2020.

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UPDATE: Woman Shot by Police Headed to Jailed After Release from Hospital

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a woman who is accused of pointing a handgun at two Wichita police officers before one of them shot her in the neck will be booked into jail when she is released from the hospital.  Police released a video Thursday of the shooting in which 34-year-old Jennifer Miller was wounded.  Captain Jason Stephens says she will be booked on two counts of aggravated assault of an officer, possession of stolen property, auto theft and felon in possession of a firearm. The confrontation happened Wednesday while officers were investigating a report that a woman was removing items from the trunk of a stolen car in a hotel parking lot.

(Earlier reporting...)

Wichita Police: Officer Shot Woman After She Pointed Gun at Police

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a woman was shot after she pointed a gun at an officer. The woman who was shot Wednesday at a hotel is expected to survive. Captain Kevin Kochenderfer said officers were at a Red Roof Inn in east Wichita investigating a stolen vehicle report. He says police were talking to the woman near the car when she pulled a handgun and pointed it at an officer. The officer's partner fired one shot at the woman, who was taken to a hospital. Her name was not released.

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Independence Police: Man Dies, Officer Suffers Gunshot Wound in Shootout

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — Authorities in suburban Kansas City say a man is dead and a police officer is recovering from a gunshot wound following a shootout on a street in Independence. The Missouri State Highway Patrol says the shooting happened late Wednesday night, when officers were called to a neighborhood for a report of a man with a rifle shooting at a house. The patrol says Independence police officers who arrived on the scene engaged in a gun battle with the man, who was shot and declared dead at a hospital. The patrol says an officer also was struck in the head during the shootout, but was alert when he was taken to a hospital for treatment and later listed in stable condition.

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Man with Ties to Wichita Dies After Being Shot by Muncie Police During Chase

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) — A man shot by police during a chase and gun battle in east central Indiana has died of his wounds. Indiana State Police say 28-year-old Jonathan Levi Allen died March 10 — one week after the shooting — at a Muncie hospital. The former Muncie resident most recently resided in Wichita. State police say Allen was shot in the head by a Muncie officer and crashed his SUV into a parked vehicle. The (Muncie) Star Press reports Muncie officers began chasing Allen after learning he was holding a woman against her will in the vehicle and a gun battle ensued.

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Mom Tells Daughter She's Been Shot as April Fools' Day Joke

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police weren't laughing after a woman told her daughter she had been shot as an April Fools' Day joke. Police Lt. Ronald Hunt said the woman called her daughter early Thursday, said she had been shot and hung up. Hunt says between 15 and 20 officers, as well as fire officials and emergency responders went to the family's home after the daughter called 911. When no one responded, officers wearing shields and with weapons drawn, broke down the door. They found no one at home. The woman, 58-year-old Arnthia Willis, was arrested Thursday on suspicion of unlawful request for emergency service assistance.

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Kansas Lawmakers OK Bill Mandating Civics Test for Students

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has passed a Republican bill that would require graduating high school students to pass a civics test. The GOP-controlled state Senate voted 24-15 for the bill Wednesday. The Republican-controlled House narrowly approved it in early March, but senators made changes that the Kansas House must review before the measure can go to Democratic Governor Laura Kelly. It would require public and private school students to pass a test or series of tests consisting of 60 randomly selected questions from the U.S. citizenship test. The bill does not set a passing grade, leaving it up to teachers. Students would be able to take the test multiple times until they pass.

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U.S. Looks to Keep Critical Sectors Safe from Cyberattacks

WASHINGTON (AP) — A top Biden administration official says the government is undertaking a new effort to help electric utilities, water districts and other critical industries protect against potentially damaging cyberattacks. Anne Neuberger, deputy national security adviser, says in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday that the goal is to ensure that control systems serving 50,000 or more Americans have the core technology to detect and block malicious cyber activity. The threat to those systems was laid bare in February after a hacker’s botched attempt to poison the water supply of a small Florida city raised alarms about how vulnerable the nation’s utilities may be to attacks by more sophisticated intruders.

(–Related–)

Man Accused of Tampering with Ellsworth County Water System

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors have charged a 22-year-old man with tampering with a public water system. Acting U.S. Attorney Duston Slinkard said Wednesday that Wyatt Travnichek, of Ellsworth County, accessed the Ellsworth County Rural Water District's computers in March 2019. He allegedly was able to shut down processes that affect cleaning and disinfecting procedures. He was charged with tampering with a public water system and reckless damage to a protected computer during unauthorized access. Travnichek could face up to 25 years in prison if he is convicted.

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After Blank Front Page, Kansas City area Newspaper Learns It's Appreciated

UNDATED (AP) — After publishing a blank front page last week to call attention to its dire financial straits, the Northeast News in Kansas City is learning how it is appreciated. The newspaper has received more than $3,000 in donations and some new advertising. But the community weekly that reports on one of the city's grittier neighborhoods is neither unique nor out of the woods. Financial troubles for the news industry are nothing new, particularly for small newspapers. The Northeast News still must find lasting solutions to survive long-term. But for now, its publisher says “thank God” for the response.

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Survey: Strong Economic Growth Continues in the Region

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new monthly survey of business leaders suggests that strong economic growth will continue over the next few months in nine Midwest and Plains states as businesses continue to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey, said businesses in the area have recovered about half of the roughly 120,000 jobs lost last year when states imposed restrictions related to the coronavirus. Goss said the growth might be even stronger if it weren't for delays in receiving raw materials and supplies. The monthly survey covers Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

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Judge Rejects Rule that Let Pork Plants Speed Up Production Line

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A federal judge has thrown out a rule allowing pork plants to speed up production lines because the U.S. Department of Agriculture didn’t properly consider the risks to workers before the rule was issued in 2019. Union officials praised this week's ruling because they say faster line speeds at pork plants increase the risk of injuries for workers. The lawsuit was filed by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union along with local unions in Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri and Oklahoma and the nonprofit consumer advocacy group Public Citizen. The USDA says the agency is reviewing the ruling, and it remains “deeply committed to worker safety and a safe, reliable food supply.”

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Powerball Ticket Sold in South-Central Kansas Worth $50,000

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) — Someone who bought a Powerball ticket in south-central Kansas has won $50,000 from the Wednesday night drawing. The ticket matched four numbers and the Powerball to win. The winning numbers for last night’s drawing are 3 – 10 – 44 – 55 – 68 Powerball 24 and PowerPlay 2X.  The Kansas Lottery says the ticket was purchased in one of these counties: Barton, Rice, McPherson, Marion, Stafford, Reno, Harvey, Pratt, Kingman, Sedgwick, Butler, Barber, Harper, Sumner, and Cowley.  No tickets matched all the numbers, so the jackpot grows to $32 million for the Saturday drawing.  

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