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Headlines for Friday, July 31, 2020


Unsettling Allegations Detailed in Federal Audit of Kansas Foster Care System

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - A new federal audit says Kansas foster care children have been living in group homes with significant health and safety violations.  The Department of Health and Human Services sent inspectors to Kansas in 2018 and 2019 and found most group homes in the state were out of compliance.  Inspectors saw unsafe heaters, exposed electrical wiring and rodent droppings.  They also reported seeing teenage boys and girls living at a home that was only designated to house girls.  Inspectors conducted site visits at 31 Kansas foster care group homes licensed to house between 5 and 24 foster care children.  Inspectors say 24 of the 31 group homes did not comply with environmental requirements.  In addition, 29 of the group homes did not comply - or could not document compliance -  with the required background record check or fingerprint submission requirements for employees.  Kansas disputes some of the federal findings and says it’s improving oversight of its foster homes.  (Read more about this story.)


Officials Worry About Threats Against Public Health Officials

TOPEKA, Kan. (KCUR) - The coronavirus pandemic has become so politicized that Kansas law enforcement authorities say they are now worried about the safety of state and county health officials.  A spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment says authorities are monitoring threats against public health officials.  Ashley Jones-Wisner declined to provide details but did say law enforcement is involved, in her words, at all levels.  For the first time this week, Kansas Highway Patrol troopers provided security at the weekly briefing given by KDHE Secretary Lee Norman. Reporters were also required to produce identification.  Jones-Wisner says the security safeguards will continue in place for the time being.  In April, Doctor Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, was given a security detail after he received unspecified threats.  


Kansas Finance Council Allocates Federal Coronavirus Relief Funds

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Finance Council has allocated more than $254 million of federal coronavirus relief funds. Governor Laura Kelly says the funds will provide aid to Kansans who need it the most.  She says the money will also help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and accelerate economic recovery.  The Finance Council's unanimous approval designated the federal funds for public health, education and economic development proposals as recommended by a task force.  This is the second major allocation of the federal money Kansas received through the federal coronavirus relief fund, an amount worth more than $1 billion to Kansas.


Kansas Reports 358 Deaths Caused by COVID-19; Nearly 28,000 Have Tested Positive for Virus    

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Since the pandemic began, nearly 28,000 Kansans have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.  Kansas health officials released the latest numbers today (FRI), revealing 27,812 people have now tested positive and 358 people have died.  A new round of data will be released online Monday.     


Kansas Mayor Who Declined Masks Tests Positive for Virus

SCOTT CITY, Kan. (AP) — A western Kansas mayor who had not been wearing a mask says he has tested positive for COVID-19. Scott City Mayor Everett Green says he may have caught the virus at a political event for a state senator on July 18. Green said on Facebook that he tested positive earlier this week. He had what he thought were seasonal allergies for a few weeks but got tested after losing his senses of smell and taste over the weekend. Green says it's likely he'll wear a mask after he finishes a 14-day quarantine at home. Scott City is about 36 miles north of Garden City.


City in Kansas Requiring Masks to Guard 'Safe' Reputation

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Officials in a college town in conservative western Kansas are embracing a mask ordinance in hopes of making residents and incoming students feel safe, even as surrounding communities have balked at such efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus. City officials in Hays voted last week to require people to wear masks in public. The response in the community has been mixed since the ordinance took effect Monday, with some businesses offering masks and refusing to serve customers who won’t wear them and others letting customers come in without them. Hays is home to Fort Hays State University.


Tyson Foods to Increase Virus Testing in U.S. Meat Plants

UNDATED (AP) - Tyson Foods says it plans to administer thousands of coronavirus tests per week at its U.S. facilities under an expanded effort to protect its workers. The Arkansas-based company will randomly test employees who have no symptoms, as well as those with symptoms. The tests are on top of daily screenings when workers arrive at Tyson's 140 U.S. production facilities.  Meatpacking plants have been particularly susceptible to the coronavirus because of their often crowded conditions.  The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents many of Tyson's 120,000 workers in the U.S., says other meat processing companies should follow Tyson's lead.


GOP Leaders Can't Bank on Trump's Help in Kansas Senate Race

HOLTON, Kan. (AP) — Establishment Republicans might have to try to hang on to what should be a safe Senate seat in Kansas without hoped-for help from President Donald Trump. The fight between establishment-backed Rep. Roger Marshall and lightning-rod conservative Kris Kobach grew increasingly ugly as Tuesday’s primary neared because GOP leaders who want Marshall see the party’s Senate majority potentially at stake if he loses. Trump has refused to step in, leaving Marshall and Kobach to a close finish un der a barrage of attack ads from political action committees. Kobach has a cadre of loyal conservative GOP voter, while Marshall has the backing of key business, agriculture and anti-abortion groups. 


Kansas Workers Quarantined Days Before Primary Election

HOLTON, Kan. (AP) — Two employees at a rural county clerk’s office in Jackson County have come down with COVID-19, forcing its other two employees to quarantine just days before the primary election. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Jackson County Clerk Kathy Mick has COVID-19. Mick says members of the Jackson County Elections Board are filling in to ensure the county's election goes forward Tuesday. The Kansas Secretary of State’s office said Friday it is unaware of any other election office in Kansas whose staff has been quarantined. The secretary of state’s office has told local officials that individuals cannot be turned away from voting for not wearing a mask. 


Primary Election Could Shake Up Kansas Legislature

TOPEKA, Kan (KNS) - Tuesday's primary elections could trigger a power shift in the Kansas Legislature, one that could intensify battles over Democratic Governor Laura Kelly's coronavirus response powers and issues like Medicaid expansion, taxes and abortion.  Conservative Republicans are making a push to retake seats they lost to moderates in 2016, when school funding and undoing former Governor Sam Brownback’s tax cuts were the big issues.  University of Kansas Political Scientist Patrick Miller says those moderates could be vulnerable to challengers backed by the state’s largest business and anti-abortion organizations. “And I think it’s a real question how any of those moderates can survive when they don’t have the boogeyman of Sam Brownback to run against,” he said.  More conservatives in the Statehouse would give Republican leaders the votes they need to continue blocking Medicaid expansion, as well as cut taxes over the governor’s objections.  More conservatives could also advance a constitutional amendment to nullify a recent state Supreme Court ruling on abortion.  (Read more.)


Agency Probed Abuse Reports Months Before Kansas Girl Slain

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas child welfare agency has determined that a 3-year-old girl whose battered body was found earlier this month died as the result of child abuse. The belated finding that comes months after the agency first received reports of abuse. The Kansas Department for Children and Families released a summary pertaining to Olivia Ann Jansen in response to an open records request from The Associated Press. Her remains were found in a shallow grave on July 10, after her father reported the Kansas City, Kansas, girl missing. The newly released summary shows the agency received reports of alleged abuse in February and June.


Aircraft Parts Maker Spirit Announces 450 More Layoffs

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Aircraft parts maker Spirit AeroSystems announced Friday that it is laying off 450 more workers, blaming the latest production-rate cut for Boeing’s 737 Max jets and the coronavirus pandemic’s negative effect on the airline industry. Spirit said in a news release that the 737 MAX production rate reduction is the third this year, lowering Spirit’s production from 125 units to 72 units for 2020, a reduction of more than 80 percent from its 2019 production rates. Spirit President and CEO Tom Gentile said “production rates for commercial aircraft have fallen from historic highs to significantly lower volumes in a matter of months."


Police: Four Arrested After Man Killed at Wichita Motel

Wichita police say four people have been arrested following a shooting at a Wichita motel that left one man dead and another seriously injured.  Police say the shooting happened just before 1 am Thursday at the Scotsman Hotel.  Arriving officers found 40-year-old William Pottorff, of Wichita, dead from multiple gunshot wounds.  Police say within minutes, a 23-year-old man arrived at a local hospital in critical condition with multiple gunshot wounds. Investigators say the shooting occurred after the 23-year-old and several others forced their way into the motel room, and Pottorff and the younger man pulled out guns and began shooting.  


Missouri Governor Supports Trying 12 to 18-Year-Olds as Adults

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Governor Mike Parson is asking lawmakers to approve legislation that would allow judges to decide whether a child between the ages of 12 and 18 should be tried as an adult in court for unlawful use of weapons and armed criminal action. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that this comes two years after legislators passed a measure that raised the age to be tried as an adult from 17 to 18 years old. Parson is asking the General Assembly to approve the legislation in a special session. Jeanette Mott Oxford, executive director of social justice organization Empower Missouri, says juveniles do not belong in adult courts or prisons.


Kansas Congressman Decries Campaign Mailer Accusing Him of Performing Abortion

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A super PAC supporting conservative candidate Kris Kobach for an open U.S. Senate seat in Kansas has sent out a mailer accusing his chief rival in the Republican primary of performing an abortion.  The claim against Kansas Congressman Roger Marshall is based on a tweet by a woman whose social media posts have often accused Marshall of hypocrisy on abortion rights.  Marshall is a OB-GYN from Great Bend who has been endorsed by major anti-abortion groups. Marshall's campaign and Kansans for Life, the state's leading anti-abortion group, decried the mailer as a campaign smear. They say the procedure the woman claims she underwent to remove an ectopic pregnancy does not constitute an abortion. 


Man Sentenced to Prison in 2017 Topeka Triple Killing

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A 22-year-old Topeka man has been sentenced to about 9 years in prison for his role in a triple homicide that left his best friend dead. Shane Andrew Mays received the sentenced this week for second-degree attempted murder and aggravated battery. Those charges relate to the deaths of 19-year-old Matthew Leavitt and 38-year-old Nicole Fisher.  They died, along with 20-year-old Luke Davis in March 2017 over an unproven rape allegation against Leavitt. Mays has said he felt pressured into helping with the murders and his attorneys had argued he was a victim in the case. Four other people have already been sentenced in the deaths.


Kansas Secretary of State Opposes Trump's Suggestion to Delay November Election

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab says his office opposes President Donald Trump’s suggestion to postpone the November election. He urged the Kansas delegation to Congress to do the same. More than 300,000 Kansans have already received advance by mail ballots for this year’s primary elections.  State officials expect there may be higher use of mail ballots for the general election. Schwab says in a statement that Kansas has implemented measures to ensure the security and safety of the August and November elections. He says “now is not the time to act in fear but to show the world we are courageous.”


Detective: Kansas Congressman Lied About Voting in 2019 Race

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — A detective says in an affidavit that Kansas Congressman Steve Watkins told her he didn't vote in a 2019 Topeka City Council election when evidence showed that he did. The affidavit released Wednesday is the latest development in a criminal case against Watkins, who is charged with three felonies and a misdemeanor, alleging he voted using an incorrect mailing address and that he lied to investigators. Watkins's campaign said the first-term Congressman made a clerical error when he registered his address. The campaign also alleges the charges are aimed at boosting the election chances of State Treasurer Jake LaTurner in next week's GOP primary.


Man Pleads Guilty to Driving Pounds of Drugs Through Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 24-year-old California man has pleaded guilty to drug charges after Kansas officers found 9 pounds of fentanyl and 8 pounds of heroin in his vehicle during a traffic stop. The U.S. attorney's office says Mauricio Canas, of Bermuda Dunes, California, pleaded guilty Thursday to two charges involving drug trafficking. Prosecutors say the drugs were found when Canas's car was stopped in Thomas County in August 2019 for a traffic violation. He was taking the drugs from California to New York. Canas is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 22.


Wichita Police Arrest Suspect in Deadly AutoZone Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Police have arrested an 18-year-old man in connection with the shooting death earlier this week of an employee at an AutoZone store in southeast Wichita.  Police say 18-year-old Lamontae Lucas, of Wichita, was arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder in the Sunday night shooting death of 40-year-old Nicholas Blue. Investigators believe Lucas shot Blue in an attempt to rob the store.  Police say three employees were inside the business at the time of the shooting, but were in other areas of the store and were not injured. Police say officers honed in on Lucas after receiving tips from the public.


Kansas City Symphony Musicians Agree to Pay Cut for Next Season

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KPR) - Like other organizations, the Kansas City Symphony is feeling the financial effects of the pandemic.  The Symphony is cutting expenses by 25%.  The Kansas City Business Journal reports the budget savings come from salary reductions for musicians and other positions, trimming some administrative staff and leaving eight vacant orchestra positions unfilled this season.  The symphony amended its current contract with musicians, which continues through the 2023-2024 season.  It requires musicians to take a 19% salary cut for the 2020-2021 season.  The symphony was among “very few” U.S. orchestras that didn’t reduce musician salaries during the first five months of the pandemic, according to a news release issued Thursday.  The symphony previously announced it would move this year’s Classical, Pops and Family concerts to next year, starting in January.  It plans to announce more details in August about socially distanced concerts.    Some concerts also will be available to watch online. The symphony hopes to host full concerts at some point next year if conditions allow.  (Read more.)


KPR's daily headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays and updated throughout the day. KPR's weekend summary is usually published by 1 pm Saturdays and Sundays.


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