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Headlines for Friday, June 26, 2020

Kansas Communities See Dramatic Spikes in Coronavirus Cases

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas communities have lifted restrictions on businesses and public gatherings and a few have seen big increases in reported coronavirus cases. In Riley County, reported cases more than doubled to 156 during the two-week period ending Wednesday. That prompted the county's health officer to reimpose a 50-person limit on public gatherings and limit bars and restaurants to 75% capacity. The commanding general at nearby Fort Riley restricted soldiers' visits to the Aggieville bar and restaurant district near Kansas State University in Manhattan. But an even more dramatic increase in Crawford County in southeast Kansas tied to an outbreak at a pork-processing plant is not prompting local officials to go back to previous restrictions.


Kansas Governor Creates Commission on Racial Justice Issues

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has appointed a commission to examine policing and other racial justice issues and named the superintendent of Topeka’s public schools and a state university administrator to lead it. Kelly issued an executive order Wednesday to create the Commission on Racial Equity and Justice. She said it would focus first on relationships between law enforcement agencies and the communities they police and develop policy proposals for state and local officials. The governor promised her administration would tackle such issues following George Floyd’s death May 25 in Minnesota. The commission's leaders are Topeka Superintendent Tiffany Anderson and University of Kansas associate dean Shannon Portillo.


Kansas State Athletes, Officials React to 'Offensive' Tweet

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University President Richard Myers says the school is considering its options after a student posted an “insensitive” tweet mocking the death of George Floyd. The tweet posted Thursday by sophomore Jaden McNeil drew the ire of several football players, including two who said they wouldn't play for Kansas State unless McNeil is removed from the university. McNeil is the founder of the conservative group America First Students and has been criticized for his past comments on Black Lives Matter. Myers said Friday that McNeil's divisive comments do not represent Kansas State's values.


City of Topeka Looks to Cut Jobs in Wake of Budget Crisis

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The city of Topeka is looking to cut more than 30 jobs next year to deal with a $5 million budget deficit resulting from efforts to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.  Topeka City Manager Brent Trout has proposed cutting 32 full-time positions and reducing at least one position to part time in 2021. The mayor and City Council will consider the proposal before finalizing the budget in August. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 14 of the cuts would be with the public works department. The proposed cuts come as reduced sales tax revenues have left the city struggling to balance its budget for this year.


Kansas City to Make Masks Mandatory as Virus Cases Rise

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City is making masks mandatory inside businesses and other places that are open to the public amid a growing number of confirmed coronavirus cases. Mayor Quinton Lucas said Friday that starting Monday, visitors and employees must wear masks when 6 feet of separation isn’t feasible. The requirement will remain in place until at least July 12. Missouri reported that the state had 19,914 confirmed cases as of Friday, up 16% from a week ago. The state also reported 990 deaths, an increase of 4% from last week.


Protests Spark Move to Rename Iconic Kansas City Fountain

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Protests in Kansas City over the death of George Floyd may lead the city to rename one of its most iconic sites, the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain near the Country Club Plaza. Nichols was a developer who transformed the Kansas City area in the early 1900s by building the upscale Plaza and thousands of homes in well-maintained subdivisions. But he used deed restrictions to keep Blacks, Jews and other minorities from buying his homes, helping create a racially separated city that remains to this day. In response to that history, the Kansas City Parks Commission is considering removing Nichols's name from the fountain and an adjacent parkway.


Prosecutors File More Charges Against Kansas Professor

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) - A revised indictment accuses a Kansas researcher of defrauding the University of Kansas and the U.S. government by concealing work he was doing for China. The new indictment filed Thursday charges Feng “Franklin” Tao of Lawrence, Kansas, with seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of making false statements. His defense attorney, Peter Zeidenbert, says Tao is not guilty of the charges against him. The indictment alleges the purpose of the scheme was to benefit China by participating in its “talent plan,” which prosecutors say is designed to encourage the transfer of original ideas and intellectual property from U.S. universities to Chinese government institutions.


Sheriff's Office: Body of Man, 65, Pulled from Kansas Lake

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Sheriff's officials in eastern Kansas have pulled the body of a man from a lake in Miami County. Television station WDAF reports that recovery crews found the man's body Wednesday as they were searching for someone who went under the water in Hillsdale Lake on Tuesday. Authorities have now identified the man as 65-year-old Richard Bangs, of Spring Hill. Rescue crews were first called to a boat ramp on the lake late Tuesday after a witness reported seeing a person fall out of a boat. Crews searched for hours before suspending the effort overnight and resuming Wednesday morning. Bangs' body was found around noon Wednesday with the help of underwater equipment. Hillsdale Lake is located about 40 miles south of Kansas City.


Kansas Logs over 13,500 Cases of COVID-19, Including 264 Deaths

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — Kansas has recorded 13,538 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.  That number includes 264 deaths. State health officials released those numbers Friday. New data will be released on Monday. Cases have been reported in 95 of the state's 105 counties. Wyandotte, Ford, Johnson and Finney counties have recorded the highest number of cases (Wyandotte County = 2,108; Ford County = 1,983;  Johnson = 1,545; Finney County = 1,536).

(The Kansas Department of Health and Environment releases new data on COVID-19 case numbers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.)


Number of Coronavirus Cases in Kansas Jumps by 568

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Kansas jumped by 568, fueled in part by outbreaks in day cares, schools and sports. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said Friday that there were now 13,538 cases, up 4.3% from Wednesday and 12% from last Friday. The state also reported three more deaths, bringing the total to 264. The state reported 15 cases in four day care and school clusters. There were also 18 cases in two sports clusters, a category that the state included in its statistics for the first time Friday. They include the MAYB Boys Basketball Tournament in Wichita, and the MAYB Girls Basketball Tournament in Hays on June 20th and 21st. No one has died in the clusters. 

Kansas Governor, GOP Scrap Again over COVID-19 Budget Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas's Democratic governor is locked in another partisan dispute with the Republican-controlled Legislature over a new plan to largely paper over a massive budget shortfall with short-term accounting moves. Republican legislative leaders argued Friday that measures that Gov. Laura Kelly's budget director outlined to keep the next budget balanced only push most of the state's financial problems off a year. The state is facing a big shortfall in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Kelly is trying to avoid cuts in funding for public schools, social services and highway projects. The criticism showed that the partisan rancor is all but certain to continue into next year. 


Spirit AeroSystems Extends Furloughs for About 900 Workers

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Spirit AeroSystems is extending a temporary layoff of about 900 employees as it grapples with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX. The Wichita Eagle reports that about 900 employees who were on a three-week furlough that was to end in early July will now be unemployed until August 14. They will continue to receive health care benefits and pension contributions throughout the furlough period.


University of Kansas Department Chairs Challenge Mandate to Hold In-Person Classes

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - Many department chairs at the University of Kansas are pushing back against the school’s plan to have classroom instruction in the fall, saying they should have the option to teach online. On Monday, a letter signed by 38 department signed heads was emailed to Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer after Chancellor Douglas Girod announced last week that the school would hold in-class sessions starting August 24. KCUR-FM reported Thursday that another 14 have signed since then. Instructors can ask for an exemption from the requirement under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which department heads call “impossibly unwieldy, discriminatory and perhaps illegal.”


Bayer Paying up to $10.9 Billion to Settle Monsanto Weedkiller Case

BERLIN (AP) — German pharma giant Bayer says it’s paying up to $10.9 billion to settle litigation over subsidiary Monsanto’s weedkiller Roundup. Monsanto has faced numerous lawsuits over claims that Roundup causes cancer. Bayer officials say that the corporation is also paying up $1.22 billion to settle two further cases, one involving PCB in water. The company says the Roundup settlement involves about 125,000 filed and unfiled claims. Under the agreement, Bayer will make a payment of $8.8 billion to $9.6 billion to resolve current litigation over Roundup, and $1.25 billion to address potential future litigation. The company continues to maintain that Roundup is safe.


Kansas City Police Arrest Two for Damaging Andrew Jackson Statue

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Police in Kansas City, Missouri have arrested two men suspected of vandalizing a downtown statue of Andrew Jackson during a protest. Police say officers were called to the area Thursday afternoon for a report of people defacing the statue of the 19th century U.S. president outside the Jackson County Courthouse. The statue had been spray-painted with expletives and the words ``Slave Owner.``  Authorities say responding officers observed the two men spray-painting the statue of Jackson mounted on a horse.  Jackson was one of twelve early U.S. presidents who owned slaves and he became very wealthy as a plantation owner using slave labor. The defacing of the Kansas City statue comes as protesters across the nation have defaced and torn down statues of historic figures during recent demonstrations against racial injustice.


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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