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Headlines for Friday, July 9, 2021

 

Kansas Sees Surge in New COVID-19 Cases Fueled by Delta Variant

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has reported its biggest surge in COVID-19 cases in more than three months with the faster-spreading delta variant becoming a growing public health issue. Some of the biggest numbers of new cases per capita over the previous two weeks were in counties bordering Missouri. That state has had new cases spike recently because of the delta variant. Both Kansas and Missouri also have seen vaccinations slow amid some residents’ resistance to getting vaccinated. Kansas health department data showed that the state had an average of 275 new COVID-19 cases a day for the seven days ending Friday. That was the highest seven-day average since March 26.

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Kansas Health Officials Cite Summer Camps as COVID Clusters

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas health officials are investigating an outbreak of COVID-19 cases at a church camp in Butler County. The Department of Health and Environment says 13 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the last two weeks at a camp held in June at the Wheat State Retreat Center near Maize.  In all, health officials say 23 cases have been traced back to the camp so far this summer.  Anyone who attended the camp is being urged to get tested for the virus. Meanwhile, the overall number of COVID-19 cases in Kansas keeps creeping higher.  More than 1,000 new covid cases have been recorded since last Friday.

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Feds Clash with Missouri's Governor over Effort to Boost Vaccinations

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP/KPR) - Federal officials are pushing back after Missouri Governor Mike Parson said he doesn't want government employees going door-to-door to urge people to get vaccinated.  Last week, Missouri asked for federal help as it combats an influx of cases that are overwhelming some hospitals.  After one federal health official said the effort could include door-to-door vaccine promotion, Parson tweeted that would not be effective or welcome in Missouri.  But the White House says the best people to talk about vaccinations are local doctors and faith and community leaders, who may go door to door encouraging residents to get the shot.  

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Dozens of Kansas Hospitals Have Yet to Disclose Prices as Required by Feds

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KNS) - Dozens of Kansas hospitals haven’t published their prices online, as required by the federal government.  Hospital bills have shot up in recent decades.  To help health plans and patients push back, the Trump administration told hospitals to make their prices public for comparison. The company Turquoise Health is compiling the info from thousands of facilities nationwide. It checks monthly and says many in Kansas still haven’t released prices.  Experts say the potential federal fine of $300 a day is too low to spur compliance.  Marcus Dorstel is head of operations at Turquoise Health, which is pulling together prices from thousands of hospitals nationwide into a single database for researchers and patients. Turquoise checks hospital websites monthly, and Dorstel says information is missing for dozens of Kansas facilities. “We think it’s important for people to finally have access to that data and be able to make more informed medical decisions -- knowing that you might be able to save a couple thousand dollars driving 10 miles down the street for your MRI," he said.  Hospitals are supposed to make public their cash discount prices and the prices that apply to each insurance plan. A few hospitals told the Kansas News Service they are still working on publishing the prices. The Trump administration rule took effect at the start of this year after hospitals tried but failed to block it in court.

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Topeka Woman Charged with Killing 17-Year-Old Girl

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A 21-year-old Topeka woman is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of a teenager. Shawnee County authorities have charged Daisha Butler in the death of 17-year-old Nevaeh Martinez. She was shot July 3 outside a Topeka home, and died the next day.  Butler is being held on $1 million bond. The victim's mother (Tiana Cannon) told KSNT TV that her daughter didn't know Butler and was an innocent bystander in the shooting.  

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Group: Feds Should Investigate Police in Kansas City, Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Activists and faith leaders are demanding a federal investigation into Kansas City, Kansas, police. The Kansas City Star reports that Lora McDonald, the executive director of MORE2, the Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity, said Friday during a news conference that the group plans to file a request with the U.S. Department of Justice to review the police department. The department came under scrutiny in 2017 when Lamonte McIntyre was exonerated after spending 23 years in prison for a double murder he did not commit. A lawsuit filed by McIntyre claims officers manipulated eyewitnesses and wrote police reports with fabricated information.

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Tyson Recalls 4,500 Tons of Chicken over Listeria Concerns

DEXTER, Mo. (AP) - Tyson Foods is recalling almost 4,500 tons of ready-to-eat chicken products after finding the products may be tainted with listeria bacteria. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the recall Thursday after two consumers reported falling ill with listeriosis. Further investigation also revealed one death traced to the pre-cooked chicken produced by Tyson.  Listeriosis is a serious infection that primarily affects older adults, those with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women and their newborns.  It causes fever, muscle aches, headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions sometimes preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms.

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Court: Man Can't Withdraw Guilty Pleas in 2 Topeka Killings

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has blocked a man’s attempt to withdraw his guilty pleas after he was sentenced to serve at least 50 years in prison over the July 2018 murders of a woman and her cousin. The high court on Friday rejected Matthew Douglas Hutto’s claim that his court-appointed attorney's advice to plead guilty to two premeditated first-degree murder charges meant that the lawyer did not adequately represent him. Hutto was part of a group living with Brad Sportsman in the town of Greenleaf that traveled to Topeka to kill Sportsman’s estranged wife. A 17-year-old cousin was staying with her, and they were beaten and stabbed to death. 

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Wichita State to Get $2.1 Million Grant for Aerospace Research

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A $2.1 million federal grant awarded to Wichita State University for new aerospace research facilities is expected to create nearly 500 jobs over the next 10 years. The Wichita Eagle reports that the U.S. Commerce Department announced the grant to the school's National Institute for Aviation Research on Thursday. The money will be matched with university funds generated by the institute's contracts with private industry and will go toward a new flight test research center and a maintenance, repair and overhaul facility. WSU associate vice president Tracee Friess says the 475 jobs expected to be created over the next decade “will all be engineers and technicians.”

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Former Daycare Provider in Hays Charged in Infant's Death

HAYS, Kan. (AP/WIBW) - A former daycare provider in Hays is charged in the death of an infant. Prosecutors in Ellis County say the 8-week-old baby died in August 2013 at the Michelle Sarver Day Care Home. Sarver is charged with involuntary manslaughter. A summons has been issued and authorities say she is not in custody. WIBW TV reports that state health officials issued an emergency order of suspension of the daycare when the infant died. The agency said the child was left unattended for about 30 minutes while taking a nap. Sarver began CPR after the infant was found unresponsive but the child died later at a Wichita hospital.

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Kansas Man Skips Sentencing for Debt Selling Scam

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A federal judge has issued an arrest warrant for a Kansas man involved in a phony debt selling scam involving millions of dollars. Joel Tucker, of Prairie Village, was to be sentenced Thursday after pleading guilty last year to transporting stolen money, bankruptcy fraud and tax evasion.  His lawyers say Tucker was in Colorado dealing with a family matter. Most of Joel Tucker's charges stem from selling phony consumer information to debt collectors, who then tried to get consumers to pay debts they didn't owe.  In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission obtained a $4 million judgment against Tucker for the scam.

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Key Lawmaker in Kansas Redistricting Won't Run for Congress After All

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) - The chairman of the Kansas House Redistricting Committee is running for reelection to his legislative seat after considering a run for Congress. State Rep. and Overland Park Republican Chris Croft filed the necessary paperwork this week with the Kansas secretary of state’s office. He had considered a run for the GOP nomination in the 3rd Congressional District. That Kansas City area seat is current held by Democratic Congresswoman Sharice Davids.  Croft says he decided to seek reelection to the Legislature based on where he believes he can make the most difference. He'll play a key role when lawmakers redraw the state's political boundaries next year.

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Former Nebraska Sheriff's Deputy Found Dead Before Fraud Sentencing

FREMONT, Neb. (AP) — A former Dodge County, Nebraska sheriff's deputy was found dead the day before he was scheduled to be sentenced in a nearly $11 million fraud scheme. Fifty-year-old Craig Harbaugh was found dead in his Fremont apartment on Thursday. A deputy county attorney said a preliminary investigation found no indication of suicide or foul play. Harbaugh operated “Tactical Solutions Gear,” a federal firearms licensee formerly located in Fremont. Harbaugh pleaded guilty in February to defrauding a bank and several individuals out of nearly $11 million by using false purchase orders and service contracts. He falsely claimed to have orders for firearms and tactical gear from law enforcement agencies in Illinois, Kansas, Kansas City and Nebraska.

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Kansas Man Gets Life in Prison for Assault, Carjacking

AURORA, Colo. (AP) — A Kansas man convicted of sexual assault in the rape of a woman in suburban Denver and of assaulting and carjacking another woman has been sentenced to life in Colorado state prison. The Aurora Sentinel reports that 26-year-old Tre Carrasco was sentenced Friday by Arapahoe County District Judge Ben Leutwyler to a total of 136 years in prison. Carrasco was convicted in May of nearly a dozen charges, including felony sexual assault in the rape of an au pair in Cherry Hills Village in 2019 and the attempted kidnapping of another woman whose vehicle he stole outside an Aurora gym.

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Man Charged with Murder in Death of Pregnant Wichita Woman

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 37-year-old Wichita man is charged with first-degree murder and several other counts after a crash that killed a pregnant woman while he allegedly was fleeing from police. KAKE-TV reports Javan Jermaine Ervin made his first court appearance Friday. He is charged in the death of 22-year-old Samantha Russell. Investigators say Ervin was fleeing from police after a suspected robbery Tuesday. Police ended the case shortly after it started but prosecutors say Ervin was still speeding when he ran a red light and crashed into three vehicles, including Russell's. She was 33 weeks pregnant. Russell died but doctors were able to deliver her son, Mac.

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UPDATE: President Biden Signs Order Targeting Big Business

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden has signed an executive order that targets what he says are anticompetitive practices in tech, health care and other parts of the economy. The changes, he says, will also boost workers’ wages and consumer protections. However, new regulations that agencies may write to translate his policy into actual rules could trigger major legal battles. Biden's order, signed Friday, aims to cut down on “noncompete” agreements that keep workers from moving to other jobs. It also takes aim at business giants Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon by calling for greater scrutiny of mergers by dominant internet platforms. And it targets shippers that it says are charging American exporters too much.

(–Earlier Reporting–)

President Biden Expected to Implement Meat Antitrust Rules

UNDATED (HPM) - President Joe Biden is expected to issue an executive order to increase competition in the meat market. Harvest Public Media reports that many farmers think the rules are long overdue.  The White House says the President will order the U.S. Department of Agriculture to create rules strengthening the Packers and Stockyards Act. The law was passed in 1921 to ensure fair competition in the meat market. Darvin Bentlage is a farmer and rancher outside Joplin, Missouri, and he says the price to sell cattle has remained the same for years. "But you go to the grocery store, and good gosh, the price at the grocery stores just outrageous. You know, and the packers are reaping all the profit on that," he said.  The USDA is also expected to make rules defining when “Product of the USA” labels can be used on meat and making it easier for farmers to fix their equipment without going to the dealer.  

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Drought Conditions Likely to Linger in Missouri River Basin

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ This year is shaping up to be one of the driest on record because drought conditions are lingering throughout most of the Missouri River basin. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says this year could be the 10th driest year on record along the Missouri River... and only about 60% of the normal amount of water is expected to flow into the river.  Nearly three-quarters of the Missouri River basin is currently experiencing either drought or abnormally dry conditions -- particularly upstream of Sioux City, Iowa -- and the amount of snow in the mountains that feed into the river was also below average this year.

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Democrats Pick Attorney to Fill Vacancy in Kansas House Seat

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) - Local Democrats have selected a 44-year-old Overland Park attorney to fill a vacancy in the Kansas House. Dan Osman will replace former Rep. and Overland Park Democrat Jennifer Day. She resigned in June because she was moving outside the district. Democrats selected Osman last (WED) night. Osman owns a consulting firm and served previously on the Hickman Mills school board on the Missouri side of the Kansas City metropolitan area. He’s taking the seat for a district that’s been hotly contested in the last two elections.

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Warrants: Tape Bound 2 of 3 Bodies at Georgia Golf Course

KENNESAW, Ga. (AP) — Authorities say two of three men found fatally shot at a suburban Atlanta golf course had their hands, legs and mouths bound with tape. The details were included in arrest warrants released Friday for 23-year-old Bryan Rhoden. He was arrested Thursday on charges of murder, aggravated assault and kidnapping. Investigators say Rhoden shot golf pro Gene Siller after driving a truck onto the golf course last weekend. The suspect fled, and when police arrived they found the bodies of Henry Valdez and Paul Pierson in the bed of the pickup truck. Pierson, who was from Topeka, Kansas, has been identified as the owner of the truck. It was not immediately known whether Rhoden had an attorney who could comment.

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Program Helps Kansas Kids Explore Activities Across the State

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas students and their parents can get free admission to dozens of museums, zoos and other attractions through the new Sunflower Summer program.  It’s run through a smart phone app and funded with federal aid. Denise Kahler, with the Kansas Department of Education, says the goal is to keep students learning over the summer. "Because we wanted a really fun way for our students to be able to engage in summer learning while spending quality time with their family and friends, right? And touring some of the greatest attractions that we have here in Kansas. And all this is for free, so it’s really pretty exciting," she said.  The program runs through August 15th. Find more information at SunflowerSummer.org.

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These area headlines, compiled by KPR news staffers, are generally posted by 10 am weekdays and by 1 pm on weekends.  This news summary, free of pop-ups and ads, is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today!  

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