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Headlines for Friday, October 22, 2021

 

State's 3 Largest Public Universities to Require All Employees to Get COVID-19 Vaccine

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The three largest public universities in Kansas will require all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Officials with the University of Kansas, Kansas State University, and Wichita State all announced Friday that employees will need to be fully vaccinated by December 8. The announcement came after the Board of Regents determined that an executive order from President Joe Biden applies to universities that work on federal contracts. Emporia State and Fort Hays are not subject to the mandate because they do not administer any federal contracts. Pittsburg State officials said the school was reviewing the requirements. Employees will be allowed to apply for religious or medical exemptions.

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Inmate Banking Service Used in Kansas Fined for Misconduct

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The inmate banking service JPay has been fined $6 million for misconduct. The service, which helps families send money to incarcerated loved ones, is used in some Kansas jails and prisons. The Kansas News Service reports that JPay was fined for misrepresenting fees and charging customers without approval. Shawnee County jails use JPay, and it’s one of the services the Kansas Department of Corrections lets people use to send money to inmates.  The CFPB doesn’t have Kansas-specific data, but says $4 million of the fine will compensate users who were improperly charged. Wanda Bertram, from the Prison Policy Initiative, says families often have few options to send money to incarcerated loved ones, which makes the hidden fees more frustrating. “To lock up those people and then to force them to pay fee after fee after fee that really adds up to these folks and their families," she said. When it comes to sending money to incarcerated loves ones, families often have few choices. "It's just part of a larger pattern that we know is going on in this country of private companies profiting off of people's misery behind bars," Bertram said.  The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fined JPay and says 176,000 people from 2014-2017 were misled about the fees they would pay for using the service. A JPay spokesperson told the Washington Post that the company will improve some of its practices.  

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Duplicate Ballots Sent to Some Lawrence-Area Voters

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Some voters in the Lawrence area mistakenly received two ballots for the upcoming local election.  Officials are blaming the mix-up on a third-party printing and mailing company. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said the mistake won't affect the operation of November's local elections. His office notified voters who received two ballots to destroy one of them. But he says even if voters return duplicate ballots, only one will be counted.  

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LMH Health: We May Not Accept Blue Cross / Blue Shield Insurance in 2022

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KNS) - LMH Health, also known as Lawrence Memorial Hospital, says it may not accept Blue Cross / Blue Shield insurance next year. The Lawrence hospital is currently locked in a battle over prices with the state’s biggest private insurer. The Lawrence hospital wants Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas to pay higher prices. Blue Cross says that would cost its members millions of dollars. Now, thousands of state employees may be a bargaining chip. LMH announced that talks with Blue Cross might fall through.  It said patients should pick a health plan that will ensure their care is covered in 2022. This comes during the annual window when university and state employees pick between Blue Cross and Aetna.  Blue Cross says it "will not rest" until it reaches a deal with LMH.

update: The Kansas State Employee Health Plan has extended its open enrollment period until November 5 as the negotiations between Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas and LMH continue. 

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SCOKAN to Hear Disciplinary Case Against Judge Who Sent Sexually Suggestive Photos
 
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The Kansas Supreme Court will decide October 28 whether to discipline a judge for sending sexually suggestive photos on a website and discussing having a sexual encounter in his judicial chambers. Marty K. Clark was a magistrate judge for the 20th District in Russell when he and his wife registered for a public online dating site for couples. In 2019, Clark gave access to others to view nude photos of himself. He maintained a relationship and exchanged sexually revealing photos with a woman on the site. The woman’s husband filed a complaint with the state Commission on Judicial Conduct. The Kansas News Service reports that Clark retired on May 1, three days before the commission recommended that he be disciplined by public censure. The commission said unanimously that Clark’s conduct violated the honor and integrity of his office. The Kansas Supreme Court will ultimately decide what discipline he should face.

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Fire Kills 77-Year-Old Man in Overland Park

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) _ A house fire has claimed the life of a 77-year-old Overland Park man.  The fire was reported Thursday morning at a home east of the Oak Park Mall. The victim was identified as David L. Zabriskie.  The cause of the fire is under investigation but no foul play is suspected.

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Man Shot by Law Enforcement Officers in Sabetha

SABETHA, Kan. (AP) _ Two law enforcement officers shot a man during a confrontation in the northeast Kansas town of Sabetha. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says law enforcement officers in Nemaha County responded to a call Wednesday night of a person who was possibly suicidal. The KBI says officers tried to convince 38-year-old Kelly J. Hall to come out of the house, and he eventually did come out -- holding a nail gun. The KBI says Hall was shot when he began firing nails at the officers. He was taken to a Topeka hospital.  No officers were injured.

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Woman Pleads Guilty to Murder After Fatal Crash During Chase in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A 26-year-old woman pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder after two people died in Wichita when she crashed a stolen vehicle into their car while fleeing from police. Mia Collins also pleaded guilty Wednesday to three counts of aggravated battery and one count of attempting to elude an officer. The crash in May 2019 killed 70-year-old Maria Wood and her 12-year-old granddaughter, Rosemary McElroy. Wood's daughter, Jenny Wood, a well-known Wichita musician, and a 65-year-old man in another vehicle were injured. Collins' sentencing date has not been scheduled.

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Employee Who Killed Grain Elevator Gunman Likely Saved Lives, Police Say

SUPERIOR, Neb. (AP) — Authorities say an employee who shot and killed a gunman at a Nebraska grain elevator likely prevented further loss of life. Nebraska State Patrol Sgt. Jeff Roby said Friday that the victims killed in Thursday's shooting at Agrex Elevator in Superior were 60-year-old Sandra Nelson, of Formoso, Kansas, and 53-year-old Darin Koepke, of Hadar, Nebraska. Roby said 61-year-old Max Hoskinson, of Superior, returned to the elevator after being fired on Thursday and shot the two victims and a third person who survived. Another employee retrieved a weapon and fatally shot Hoskinson. Roby said he could not comment on whether Hoskinson targeted the victims, who were all Agrex employees.

(–Related–)

Police: Fired Grain Elevator Worker in Nebraska Shoots 3 People, Killing 1

SUPERIOR, Neb. (AP) — The Nebraska State Patrol says a man who was fired from a grain elevator returned later in the day and shot three people, killing one, before he was shot to death by another employee. The patrol says the shooting happened Thursday afternoon at the Agrex Elevator in Superior. A preliminary investigation found that 61-year-old Max Hoskinson, of Superior, was fired Thursday. The patrol says he came back around 2 pm and shot three people before an employee retrieved a shotgun and shot Hoskinson, who died at a hospital. One of the people shot by Hoskinson had life-threatening injuries. The other was treated and released at a Superior hospital. Superior is in Nuckolls County, Nebraska, and is near the Kansas state border. 

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Overland Park Police Expand Mental Health Response for Calls

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — The Overland Park Police Department is expanding a team that responds to police calls involving mental health crises. The mental health unit will have more than a dozen members and six co-responders. The change comes after the Overland Park City Council voted in September to raise property taxes to fund the unit, and the city received a nearly $250,000 federal grant. When the mental health team responds to a call, it will be joined by a clinician from Johnson County Mental Health. Sgt. Stewart Brought said the department's goal is to let the mental health team help while officers keep everyone safe.

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Ex-Deputy in Missouri Pleads Not Guilty to Sexual Assault of Inmate

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A former Clay County sheriff's deputy has pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting a jail inmate after he was indicted on the charge earlier in the week. Darreon Black, of Kansas City, entered the plea Thursday after the grand jury charged him with sexual conduct with an inmate. The 29-year-old Black was on a probationary period as a deputy when he was placed on leave in April after the inmate reported being sexually assaulted. Black was fired in May following a criminal investigation. Black is scheduled to appear in court on the charge on January 6.

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Man Pleads Guilty to Tampering with Rural Water System in Ellsworth

ELLSWORTH, Kan. (AP) - A former employee of a rural Kansas water system has pleaded guilty to closing down the system. Twenty-two-year-old Wyatt Travnichek pleaded guilty this week to shutting down a rural water district in Ellsworth in 2019. Prosecutors say he told investigators he was too intoxicated to remember what happened. A plea agreement calls for him to be sentenced to a year in jail.  The system supplies water for about 1,500 customers in central Kansas.

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Police: 14 People Found Hidden in Van in Southwest Kansas

LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) — Police say a man has been arrested on suspicion of human trafficking after investigators found 14 people hidden in a van in southwest Kansas. The Liberal police department said a minivan going through the town on U.S. 54 on Thursday was stopped after an officer “suspected criminal activity.” The release said investigators found 14 people in the van. KAKE-TV reports police said some of the people were stacked on top of each other in the vehicle's trunk. Police arrested a 23-year-old man on a requested charge of human trafficking. His name was not released.

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Man Charged in Wichita Shooting that Killed 1, Injured 6

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man is jailed on $5 million bond after being charged in a shooting at a Wichita club that left one dead and six injured. Keshawn Dawson made his first court appearance Thursday after being extradited from Arizona on Wednesday. Dawson is charged with first-degree murder, six counts of aggravated battery and criminal discharge of a weapon. He also faces drug and weapons charges in separate cases. Dawson fled after the shooting September 7 at the Enigma Club & Lounge. Police said he came back to the lounge and started shooting after being kicked out. He was arrested in Arizona on October 8.

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KU Study on Bilingual Classes Shows They Aid English Skills

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KNS) - A new study from the University of Kansas shows a way to help Spanish-speaking students learn English. The Kansas News Service reports that the study revealed giving students bilingual classes ultimately helps their English writing skills. The study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology involved students in third through fifth grades who speak Spanish at home. Researchers said the findings show that teaching those students only in English led to lower scores on writing tests. Michael Orosco helped author the study. He says English-only or English-first initiatives hurt Spanish-speaking students in the classroom. “We’re asking these children to write more comprehensively, more academically, in a second language without any type of assistance in the native language," he said. Latino students are the fastest growing segment of the population in Kansas schools. Orosco said teaching Spanish speakers only in English makes them less likely to write proficiently in any language. “So now, if you’re taking away a child’s native language, they can’t connect any of their home language, their experiences, to some of the writing examples they may experience in the classroom," he said.  About 10 percent of Kansas public school students speak Spanish as their first language.

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New 10-Digit Dialing Protocol to Begin This Weekend in 785 and 620 Area Codes

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - People who live in the 620 and 785 area codes will have to start dialing 10 digits to complete local calls starting Sunday.  The reason for the change is to avoid conflicts when the FCC implements 988 as the three-number speed-dial code to reach a suicide prevention hotline next year. Linda Berry, with the Kansas Corporation Commission, says 988 is used as a prefix for some numbers in the 620 and 785 areas. So, starting Sunday, phone users in those areas who try to dial without their area code will get a recording that the call cannot be completed.  

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Walmart Recalls Aromatherapy Spray 

UNDATED (NBC News) — Walmart has issued a recall of a brand of room spray that has been linked to four cases of a bacterial infection that's uncommon in the United States. Cases have surfaced in Kansas, Georgia, Texas, and Minnesota, killing two people. The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced Friday that Walmart is recalling nearly 4,000 bottles of the Better Homes & Gardens Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray with Gemstones. The CPSC advises anyone in possession of the spray to return it to Walmart rather than disposing of it themselves, due to the risk of inhaling droplets of the spray. The agency says to return the product to Walmart in "clean, clear zip-top resealable bags" placed in a "small cardboard box." The spray is believed to be contaminated with a kind of bacteria called Burkholderia pseudomallei, which can cause an illness called melioidosis. That could lead to pneumonia or a blood infection, and if left untreated, could be fatal. 

(–AP Version–) 

Aromatherapy Spray Linked to US Deaths Faces Recall

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. health officials may have solved the mystery of how four people in different states came down with a serious tropical disease, even though none had traveled internationally. The four people may have been infected by an aromatherapy spray imported from India. Two of them died. One was a child. The people affected were from Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota and Texas. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that its scientists found the same type of bacteria that causes the disease in an aromatherapy spray found in the Georgia patient’s home. The spray was made in India. The Consumer Product Safety Commission and Walmart issued a recall Friday for 3,900 bottles of the spray.

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CDC: Onions Caused Salmonella Outbreak that Sickened 14 in Kansas, 21 in Missouri

UNDATED, (KCTV) -The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified red, white and yellow onions imported from Mexico as the source of a salmonella outbreak in 37 states, including Kansas and Missouri.  KCTV TV reports the onions were imported from Chihuahua, Mexico and distributed by ProSource Incorporated and are linked to 652 illnesses and 129 hospitalizations.

In Kansas, 14 people were sickened.
In Missouri, 21 people were sickened.

The onions were sold to restaurants and grocery stores around the U.S. Onions distributed from ProSource were last imported on August 27, but these imported onions can last up to three months in storage and could still be in homes and restaurants.  The CDC says investigators are working to determine if other onions and suppliers are linked to this outbreak.  To avoid getting sick, the CDC recommends not buying or eating whole fresh red, white or yellow onions if they were imported from Chihuahua, Mexico and distributed by ProSource Inc.  Health officials suggest throwing away any red, white or yellow onions at home that do not have a sticker or packaging.

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Deer Crashes Expected to Increase in Kansas, Missouri

TOPEKA (KSNT) – Motorists may start seeing more deer on the roads this fall. KSNT TV reports that more crashes are expected as peak deer mating season approaches.  “There’s just a lot of movement that you don’t typically see other times of the year. So you have to be prepared,” said Gary Herman, assistant manager of behavioral traffic safety for the Kansas Department of Transportation.  The number of deer crashes in the state dropped in 2020 to more than 9,600. That’s after steadily increasing for the last six years with a high of more than 11,100 two years ago.  The recent decrease in deer / vehicle accidents is likely due to fewer drivers on the roads during the coronavirus pandemic.  The highest number of crashes in Kansas in 2020 happened in Butler County, followed by Johnson, Shawnee, and Sedgwick, the three counties with the largest populations.

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Winter Is Coming; NOAA Releases Winter Weather Predictions

UNDATED, (WDAF) - Climate experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have put together what they believe is the most likely weather pattern we’ll see when it comes to temperatures, rain, snow and La Niña this winter.  WDAF TV reports that NOAA has released its winter outlook for the 2021-22 season, as La Niña conditions start to take hold for the second year straight. Jon Gottschalck, chief of NOAA’s operational prediction branch, cautions that the outlook is based on probability. “Other outcomes are possible, just less likely,” he said.  NOAA is forecasting a warmer than average winter for much of the country.

The Southwest, much of the Midwest and the Northeast can expect a warmer winter. The South and the Gulf Coast have the strongest probability of a warmer-than-usual winter.  The Pacific Northwest, Montana and the western half of the Dakotas are likely to see a colder-than-average winter.  Northern California, Wyoming and Minnesota look like they will see normal temperatures. The Pacific Northwest and Great Lakes region are most likely to see a wetter-than-average winter this year. The Northern Rockies, parts of New York, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and Missouri may also see more precipitation.  The southern half of the country is looking at drier conditions, especially the Southwest, Florida and southern Georgia. The rest of the country should expect an average amount of rain or snow.

For the second winter in a row, La Niña conditions are forecast to affect the country’s winter weather. Gottschalck said this year’s La Niña looks like it will be a moderate (or upper-end moderate) La Niña pattern. This signals a wetter winter for parts of the Midwest and the Tennessee Valley, but drier conditions across the southern U.S.  Things look particularly bad for the drought in the Southwest, where drought conditions are forecast to worsen over the next few months.  Drought isn’t as big of a concern this year in the South, Midwest and Northeast. (Read more.)

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Mizzou Suspends All Fraternity Activities After Alcohol Incident

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - The University of Missouri-Columbia has suspended all fraternity activities after an alcohol-filled party ended with a freshman being taken to a hospital.  An initial investigation found that several members of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity were believed to have consumed significant amounts of alcohol during the party. No other details were available, including the condition of the student who was found unresponsive early Wednesday.  The university's Phi Gamma Delta chapter also has been suspended temporarily. The suspension was ordered by the university and the fraternity's national organization.  

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Strong Economic Growth Continues in Rural Parts of 10 States

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - A new monthly survey of bankers in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states suggests strong economic growth continues in the region. The overall economic index for the region improved in October to 66.1 from September’s already-strong 62.5 reading. Any score above 50 suggests growth.  Creighton University economist Ernie Goss said the area is benefitting from solid grain prices, continued low interest rates and growing agricultural exports. Goss said demand for workers is high but businesses are having trouble finding people to hire. Bankers from Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa, Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.

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Kansas Gas Prices Hit $3 a Gallon; Highest Level Since 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - According to data from the American Automobile Association (AAA), the average gallon of gas in Kansas costs $3, the highest it’s been since 2014. WIBW TV reports that on average, AAA data shows Kansas has seen a rise of 4 cents in the past week and over $1 in the past year.  AAA’s Scott Martin said the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was supposed to release crude oil into the market, which would help lower gas prices. The report shows Geary County is seeing the highest prices in northeast Kansas, with prices at the pump around $3.02 a gallon. Shawnee and Wabaunsee counties are seeing some of the lowest at $2.94 per gallon.  While being above the $3 mark may be the highest price in seven years, it’s still the sixth cheapest in the country.  Experts have some advice for motorists to help save money on fuel: make sure the vehicle's air filter is clean and all tires are properly inflated.

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Rural Housing Prices Skyrocketed in Past Year

HAYS, Kan. (KNS) - Rents shot up across Kansas in the past year, and not just in big cities. It's yet another ripple effect of the pandemic that’s putting a strain on rural life. A new report from Headwaters Economics shows that 20 rural counties across Kansas are now considered unaffordable for renters. That’s thanks to housing prices that jumped sharply during the pandemic. Demand rose, but supply stagnated.  Economist Megan Lawson, who led the research for this report, says that for renters in rural areas, it means they might get priced out of their home or even their town. “You know, especially in the really rural places, these price increases are especially difficult for renters because there isn't an outlying community for people to move to," she said.  Nemaha County in northeast Kansas, for instance, saw a jump of 27% in the past year. In Phillips County north of Hays, prices went up 34%.  

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Audubon's Lawsuit Concerning Quivira National Wildlife Refuge Dismissed

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Audubon of Kansas over water rights at the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in central Kansas. Audubon sued the U.S. Department of Interior and other government agencies in January. The environmental group contended the government agencies had not protected senior water rights at the refuge. U.S. District Judge Holly Teeter ruled Audubon did not have jurisdiction to file the claim against state entities in federal court and had not identified any action that would allow it to sue the federal agencies. The lawsuit contended Quivera has a shortage of water because of groundwater pumping upstream by irrigators.  

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Oklahoma Slaying Leads to Arrest of Texans in Wyoming

BLANCHARD, Okla. (AP) — A Texas woman and her adult son have been arrested in Wyoming on murder warrants in connection with the slaying of a man in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said Friday that 47-year-old Debbie Senft and 26-year-old Zachary Mussett are jailed in Sweetwater County, Wyoming, for the death of Michael “Andy” McGuffee of Blanchard. The OSBI says McGuffee's body was found in his home October 15 by a relative after McGuffee failed to arrive for work and items missing from the home were later located in a Salina, Kansas, pawn shop. Court records do not list attorneys who could speak on behalf of Senft or Mussett, both from Texarkana, Texas.

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Will Kansas City Host the FIFA World Cup in 2026?

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCUR) - Will Kansas City host the World Cup of soccer? Maybe. Representatives from FIFA, the world’s governing body for soccer, have been checking out Kansas City, which is a finalist to host the 2026 World Cup. Colin Smith, who’s in charge of FIFA tournaments and events, says the most important criteria starts with the proposed venue for World Cup soccer in Kansas City. That would be Arrowhead Stadium. "Above all, what we do at a World Cup, we need to provide the best facilities and playing surfaces for the teams," Smith said.  The FIFA representatives and dignitaries from both sides of the state line had a barbeque lunch outdoors in the Power & Light district Thursday before heading out to the Truman Sports Complex.

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KC Native, Emmy Winner Eric Stonestreet to Serve as Grand Marshal at Kansas Speedway

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Kansas City, Kansas, native and two-time Emmy-winning actor Eric Stonestreet will serve as the Grand Marshal for the Hollywood Casino 400 race this Sunday at Kansas Speedway.  NASCAR announced Thursday that Stonestreet, who starred as Cameron Tucker on “Modern Family,” will receive the honor before the Cup Series race, which begins at 2 pm Sunday and will air on NBC Sports.  KSHB TV reports that Stonestreet is a graduate of Piper High School and Kansas State University.  There are two other races this weekend at Kansas Speedway, including one Saturday afternoon and another Saturday night. A fireworks show will be held after the two races conclude on Saturday.  (Read more.)

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No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners Visit Struggling Kansas Football Team

LAWRENCE, Kan (AP) - Caleb Williams has settled in as the starting quarterback at No. 3 Oklahoma. After replacing Spencer Rattler, Williams has thrown for 661 yards, and has eight touchdowns.  He threw for 295 yards and four touchdowns in a 21-point win over TCU last week. The Sooners visit Kansas on Saturday. The Jayhawks are heavy underdogs and looking for their first Big 12 win of the season.

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Shake-Up in Conference Highlights Big 12 Media Day

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Oklahoma and Texas will leave the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference in a few seasons. It led to various discussions at Big 12 basketball Media Day. New Texas coach Chris Beard says his Longhorns will have a target on their backs for fans eager to jeer them when they go on the road this season. New Oklahoma coach Porter Moser says the same thing. He says road trips to hostile venues will just be that much more exciting. The league will be tough again: Three teams are ranked in the top 10: Kansas, Texas and defending national champion Baylor.

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These area headlines are curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Kaye McIntyre and Tom Parkinson. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today!  

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