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Headlines for Friday, February 12, 2021

 

Kansas Hospital Announces Minimum Wage of $15 an Hour

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas City, Kansas, hospital has raised its minimum hourly wage to $15. The University of Kansas Health System says in a news release that the change took effect Sunday and will be reflected in paychecks beginning March 5. The announcement comes nearly a year into a global pandemic that has hit hospital staffs around the country particularly hard. It also comes as President Joe Biden's administration is pushing for an increase of the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. The hospital says it has not laid off or furloughed staff during the pandemic and that the minimum wage increase is another step to support frontline workers.

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Kansas Lawmakers Consider Bills to Cut Drug Crime Penalties

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers are considering legislation to reduce penalties for minor drug crimes. The Kansas News Service reports that supporters of the lighter sentences say the bills would create more reasonable drug laws and reduce the state's prison population. Opponents told a Kansas House committee this week that the legislation would go too far. They said even seemingly minor drug crimes feed an often-violent illegal drug trade. The bills are among the recommendations made by the Kansas Criminal Justice Reform Commission, a group of legislators, judges, attorneys, community members and others who met regularly in 2019 and 2020 to discuss changes to the state's criminal justice system.

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Brothers from Kansas, Idaho Arrested in Capitol Riots

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two brothers from Kansas and Idaho were arrested Friday on federal charges stemming from the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, the FBI said. William Pope, of Topeka, and Michael Pope, of Sandpoint, Idaho, were arrested on federal charges of obstruction or impeding any official proceeding, causing civil disorder and other counts. An affidavit detailing the allegations against them was not immediately available.

William Pope, 35, ran unsuccessfully for the Topeka City Council in 2019. As of October 2020, he was listed as a Republican precinct committee member in Topeka by the county elections office. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that William Pope acknowledged to the newspaper that he was among the thousands of people who stormed the U.S. Capitol, and he was caught on video inside the building.

“I was at the Capitol to exercise my First Amendment rights and remain loyal to the United States of America,” Pope said.

He said he was not violent during the riot and he reported himself to the FBI a few days later because “it was the right thing to do.” William Pope was also an adjunct instructor at Fort Hays State University from January 2016 until May 2020. And he was listed as doctoral student in Kansas State University’s communication studies department as of Friday.

“Fort Hays State University joins so many others across this great nation in condemning the violence that occurred at the U.S. Capitol,” university spokesman Scott Cason said in a statement.

The school was not aware of any instance where William Pope’s political views were included in his teaching, Cason said.

( –Additional Reporting–)

FBI Arrests Topeka Man in Connection with Capitol Violence 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (FBI/KPR) – The FBI announced that a Topeka man was arrested Friday in connection with the violence at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. William Pope was arrested by FBI special agents, members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and officers with the Topeka Police Department. Pope is facing federal charges of obstruction or impeding any official proceeding; civil disorder; entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly conduct in a Capitol building; impeding passage through the Capitol grounds of buildings; and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building.  Pope was taken into custody without incident. Pope’s brother, Michael Pope, of Sandpoint, Idaho, was also arrested on Friday (02/12) by FBI special agents within that division’s territory (FBI Salt Lake City Division) on the same charges.

The federal complaints against the men are available at the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia’s website. 

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5 People Linked to Kansas City Chapter of Proud Boys Arrested

UNDATED (AP) — Five people prosecutors have linked to a Kansas City metro chapter of the Proud Boys have been arrested on federal charges for their roles in the January 6 breach at the U.S. Capitol. A probable cause affidavit alleges they conspired to impede certification of the Electoral College vote. William Norman Chrestman and Christopher Charles Kuehn, both of Olathe, and Louis Enrique Colon, of Blue Springs, Missouri, were charged with conspiracy civil disorder and obstruction of an official proceeding, among other charges. Chrestman also separately faces an additional charge of threatening to assault a federal law enforcement officer. Also arrested in Arizona were Felicia and Cory Konold, who prosecutors linked to the Kansas City chapter of the Proud Boys.

(–Earlier Report–)

Three Kansas City-Area Men Arrested in Connection with Capitol Violence 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (FBI/KPR) – The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced Thursday that FBI Special Agents and members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force arrested three Kansas City-area men on federal charges related to the violence on the U.S. Capitol on January 6 of this year. William Norman Chrestman, of Olathe, was arrested on federal charges of conspiracy, civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding, threatening to assault a federal law enforcement officer, knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. Christopher Charles Kuehn of Olathe was arrested on federal charges of conspiracy, civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding, knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. Louis Enrique Colon, of Blue Springs, Missouri, was arrested on federal charges of conspiracy, civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding, knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. All three were taken into custody without incident. 

The federal complaints against the men are available at the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia’s website

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Bill Would Require Kansas Schools to Fully Reopen Next Month

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Kansas schools would be required to offer full, in-person instruction starting March 26 under a bill that was introduced Friday. Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson said in a news release announcing the bill that students must not continue to “languish in virtual learning” but be allowed the option to attend in person. The state Department of Education recommended this week that school districts allow middle and high school students resume full-time in-person instruction if precautions are taken. Several of the state’s largest districts have been offering in-person classes only part-time for middle and high-schoolers or teaching students only online.

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Kansas Senate Votes to Expand Private School Tax Credit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has approved a bill to expand the state’s private school tax credit program to apply to all students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. The Senate voted  23-14 on Thursday to expand program, which now applies only to students who also attend one of the state’s lowest performing public elementary schools. Republican supporters say the new criteria would help more students and give parents of low- and middle-income families more options, WIBW reported. Senate Democratic Leader Dinah Sykes, who opposed the bill, said she is concerned that private schools face little accountability. The bill now goes to the House.

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Kansas Legislators Receptive to Proposal Against Transgender Athletes 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A proposal aimed at keeping transgender students out of girls’ and women’s sports is attracting interest in the Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature. LGBTQ-rights advocates worry that the state will be a player in a nationwide push for such policies. A conservative Republican lawmaker introduced the measure this week in the state Senate. A hearing proposal hasn’t been scheduled before its Education Committee, but the committee chair said the bill is designed to guarantee that “the playing field is fair” in girls’ and women’s sports. And Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop said “a large segment” of GOP senators has “great interest” in the measure.

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Learjet Production Coming to an End in Wichita; Bombardier to Cut 1,600 Jobs

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The iconic Learjet, which carried generations of business executives and was made famous in pop songs, is about to fade into aviation history. Canada’s Bombardier said Thursday it will end production of the Learjet later this year. The company will eliminate 1,600 jobs in Canada and the United States. The plane first flew in the 1960s and was among the first private luxury jets. Frank Sinatra let Elvis Presley borrow his Learjet to elope with Priscilla Beaulieu. But the Learjet’s fate was sealed in 2015 when Bombardier dropped plans to build a new model. The pandemic also hurt demand for planes. Bombardier said it will continue to fully support the Learjet fleet well into the future.

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Feds to Double the Number of Vaccines It Sends to Kansas

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is anticipating getting 90,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine next week, double what the state was receiving just two weeks ago, Gov. Laura Kelly announced Friday. As of Friday, 9.4% of the state’s population had been vaccinated, with 273,428 people receiving at least the first of two required doses, state health data showed. Kelly said in her biweekly call with elected officials Friday that the federal government is responding to requests for more vaccine. The state continues to see the lowest number of new cases since October. Kansas’ health department added 1,208 new confirmed cases from Wednesday to Friday, pushing the state’s pandemic total to 286,102. It also added 61 more COVID-19 deaths, pushing the Kansas death toll to 4,364.

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Kansas Schools Rush to Vaccinate Teachers Ahead of Reopening

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Kansas school districts are rushing to vaccinate their teachers in preparation for an eventual return to a full reopening of classrooms and before more a contagious strain of the coronavirus can spread throughout the state. Governor Laura Kelly told the State Finance Council on Wednesday that about 60% of the state’s school districts have started vaccinating their teachers and staff. She discussed the push a day after the state Department of Education recommended that districts allow middle and high school students to resume full-time in-person instruction if precautions are taken. Several of the state’s largest districts have been offering in-person classes only part-time or teaching students only online.

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Number of COVID-19 Cases in Kansas Still Increasing, but More Slowly   

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reported Friday that there have been 286,102 cases of COVID-19, including 4,364 deaths, since the pandemic began. That's an increase of 1,208 cases and 61 deaths since Wednesday.  KDHE will provide another update Monday.

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Nursing Homes Begin Slow Return to Normal in Kansas

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are making tentative, cautious first steps toward easing visitor restrictions put in place to stem the spread of the coronavirus as health officials finish the first round of vaccinations. Dr. Lee Norman, head of the state health department, told the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Thursday that 83% of residents have received a first dose and 53% a second dose, with some turning down the vaccination at least for now. He said the most recent data shows 56% of staff had agreed to the vaccine.

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Nursing Home Protections Limit Families Who Want to Sue

UNDATED (AP) — As the coronavirus takes a devastating toll on seniors in nursing homes, many attorneys are turning down grieving families seeking to sue long-term care providers for wrongful death. That's because more than half of U.S. states have granted nursing homes and other health providers protection from lawsuits during the pandemic. The federal government says COVID-19 has killed about 162,000 nursing home residents and workers, accounting for roughly 1-in-3 virus deaths in the U.S. The national association representing nursing home operators says many would be forced to close under the financial strain of litigation. But the AARP and other advocates for nursing home residents say states have essentially made negligent care acceptable.

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Missouri Officials: Vaccine Rollout Will Expand Soon

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri health officials say they are optimistic efforts to provide COVID-19 vaccines will expand soon, both in terms of increased vaccine availability and the number of approved vaccinators. Dr. Randall Williams, head of the state health department, said Wednesday Missouri expects to receive a significant amount of a new Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires only one shot, next month.  At the same time, vaccinations will begin Friday at some Walmart and Sam's Clubs, and the state will begin using retired health care workers to administer the shots. The positive message came as Gov. Mike Parson complained to Missouri mayors about constant criticism in the media about the state's vaccination efforts.

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Kansas Highway Patrol: 2 Killed, Child Seriously Injured in Crash North of Salina

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says two people were killed and an 8-year-old girl seriously injured in a head-on crash in north-central Kansas. Investigators say the crash happened around 7 pm Wednesday on U.S. 81 north of Salina. Officials say it was caused when a sport utility vehicle driven by 96-year-old Thomas Huiett of Salina was traveling the wrong way in the northbound lanes of the highway. His SUV hit another SUV, driven by 30-year-old Tasha Meitler, of Delphos. Both Huiett and Meitler were pronounced dead at the scene. An 8-year-old girl in Meitler's vehicle was taken to a Wichita hospital with serious injuries.

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Sheriff: 2 Dead in Small Plane Crash in Northern Missouri

TRENTON, Mo. (AP) — Authorities in northern Missouri say two people have been killed in a small plane crash. The St. Joseph News-Press reports that the crash happened Tuesday afternoon near Trenton. The Grundy County Sheriff’s Office says the wreckage of the small Cessna aircraft was found near Missouri Highway 6 and Missouri 139 north, east of Trenton. Officials say the Cessna left Humphreys, Missouri, for Kirksville, Missouri, when it crashed. The release says the two killed were a father and son. Their names were not immediately released. The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.

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Officials: Man Drowns After Falling Through Ice in Northern Kansas

KIRWIN, Kan. (AP) — Officials in northern Kansas say a man has drowned after falling through the ice at the Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge. Wichita television station KAKE reports that the incident happened Tuesday afternoon at the national wildlife refuge near Kirwin in Phillips County. The Phillips County Sheriff's Office says it was a 67-year-old man who fell through the ice on Kirwin Reservoir, but officials have not released his name or details about what he was doing on the ice. Officials say his body was recovered with help from the Phillipsburg Fire Department, Kirwin Fire Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.

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U.S. Attorney in Western Missouri Submits Resignation

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — U.S. Attorney Tim Garrison, of the Western District of Missouri, says he will resign, effective February 28. Garrison's resignation was expected after the U.S. Justice Department and President Joe Biden asked all U.S. attorneys to resign by the end of February so the new administration could begin replacing the political appointees. Garrison has led the federal office based in Kansas City since he was named interim U.S. attorney in January 2018 and officially confirmed in April of that year. Before that, he was assistant U.S. Attorney in the district’s Springfield office.

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