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Headlines for Friday, October 29, 2021


COVID Mandate Hearings Get Underway in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Kansas lawmakers looking for ways to block federal COVID-19 mandates will hold their first meeting today (FRI) at the Statehouse. The special committee will get an overview on what other Republican-led states are doing in response to federal mandates meant to fight the pandemic.  Legal experts say state officials who find the federal demands excessive have few options beyond challenging them in court.  Kansas Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt has signaled his plan to join with other states to contest President Joe Biden’s announced-but-not-yet-implemented vaccine mandate.  In a rare Saturday session, the Kansas legislative committee will conduct a public hearing on federal mandates.

(AP version...)

Kansas Lawmakers Open Hearings on Vaccine Mandates

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP/KPR) — Kansas legislators who are critical of pandemic restrictions are starting hearings in Topeka on federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates with many Republicans already adamant that they violate people's liberties and will damage the economy. A legislative committee plans to hear from Attorney General Derek Schmidt's office about potential legal challenges to President Joe Biden's rules. It also planned to take testimony from the public today (FRI) and Saturday. Legislative leaders formed the Republican-controlled committee to consider ways Kansas might resist the Democratic president's mandates. The requirements could affect as many as 100 million people, including employees of some private companies.  Republican lawmakers already have been vocal in criticizing the mandates.


Missouri's Governor Won't Help Much with Biden Vaccine Rule
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - Missouri Republican Governor Mike Parson is refusing to help enforce President Joe Biden's federal coronavirus vaccine mandate in some limited instances. Parson issued an executive order Thursday banning his administration from enforcing the mandate when individuals refuse COVID-19 vaccination for religious or medical reasons. The mandate says companies with at least 100 employees must require their employees to be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing. A vaccine mandate for federal contractors goes into effect in December and doesn't have a testing option. Alabama's governor, Kay Ivey, has also directed her administration not to cooperate with Biden's national vaccine mandate.


Kansas Reports Fifth Child Death from COVID-19

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas health officials say a fifth child has died in Kansas from COVID-19.  The child was in the 10 to 17 age group but no other details were provided, including when the death occurred. The state health department reports that Kansas recorded more than 5,800 new COVID-19 cases in the last week, including nearly 1,500 children.


Staffing Shortage Hits Kansas Prisons, Jails

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas Lawmakers are telling the state’s prison system to take immediate action to address staffing shortages before more corrections officers leave their jobs.  State and county facilities say they are struggling to keep enough workers on the job. Lawmakers want to use COVID-19 relief funds to recruit workers and pay retention bonuses to Kansas Department of Corrections staff. The department’s secretary Jeff Zmuda says there are around 400 vacancies with another 70 openings expected by the end of the year.  "It's becoming increasingly difficult to retain and recruit staff. Our staffing issues are unlike any I've seen in my corrections career," he said. Legislators want to see additional incentives for people working overnight and on certain weekend shifts. Multiple county jails have also asked the state for more funding to help keep workers.  


Kansas Supreme Court Debates Judge Who Shared Nude Photos

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court is considering whether a retired judge should be disciplined for sharing nude photos online. The court heard arguments Thursday involving retired Russell County Magistrate Judge Marty Clark, who sent the photos of himself to a website for swingers. The Kansas Commission on Judicial Conduct concluded in May that Clark had violated ethical standards for judges. The commission's attorney argued Thursday that Clark should be barred from being a judge again unless he is educated on the integrity of the judicial branch. Clark's attorney argued Clark should not be disciplined for sending the photos to a private channel on his own time.


Olathe Police: Woman Died After Being Hit by Semitrailer

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Police in Olathe say a pedestrian died in a crash early this (FRI) morning on Old 56 Highway. Police say the crash happened just after 4:30 am, when Olathe officers were called to the area on a report of a semitrailer hitting a pedestrian. Arriving officers found a middle-aged woman at the scene who had been hit. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Police did not immediately release her name. Police say the truck driver remained on the scene and was not injured in the collision. Officials closed a stretch of the eastbound lanes of Old 56 Highway while investigators reconstructed the crash.


Kansas Man Sentenced to Prison for Crash that Killed Woman

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man has been sentenced to more than six years in prison for causing a crash earlier this year that killed a grandmother and injured her 6-month-old grandson. The Kansas City Star reports that 23-year-old Josiah Coleman of Leavenworth County was sentenced Thursday to nearly six-and-a-half years in prison for involuntary manslaughter and methamphetamine possession. Prosecutors say Coleman was high on meth on February 21 when he drove more than 90 mph in a 40 mph zone, ran a stop sign and crashed into a car driven by 62-year-old Donna Gay Osborne. Osborne died at the scene, and her infant grandson, who was in the car, suffered minor injuries.


Kansas Panel Pushes for State Aid to Tighten Cybersecurity

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - A panel created by Kansas Governor Laura Kelly says the state needs to help agencies and local governments tighten cybersecurity. Kansas has known about problems for years. In 2017, criminals stole more than 5 million social security numbers by hacking into a Kansas agency that was storing data from 10 states. Now the cybersecurity task force recommends helping agencies find the IT services they need. The state would contract with cybersecurity companies centrally. That way, state agencies - and potentially even local governments - could find the help they need fast. Instead of trying to hire security companies on their own.


UPDATE: Man Arrested in Connection with Police Officer-Involved Shooting in Sabetha
NEMAHA COUNTY, Kan. (KPR) – The Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) has arrested the man who was shot by law enforcement officers during an incident outside his residence in Sabetha.  On Thursday, KBI agents arrested 38-year-old Kelly J. Hall, of Sabetha, for aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer. Hall had been receiving medical treatment at Stormont Vail hospital in Topeka and was arrested as he was released from the hospital. Hall has been booked into the Nemaha County Jail. The KBI says the investigation continues and any further information released in the case is expected to come from the Nemaha County Attorney's office.


Man Sentenced for Burning Woman to Death, Injuring Officers

COLUMBUS, Kan. (AP) — A 53-year-old man who fatally burned his neighbor and injured two police officers has been sentenced to life in prison. Harvey Raymond Ortberg, of Baxter Springs, was sentenced Monday. He pleaded guilty in July to first-degree murder in the 2017 death of 65-year-old Sharon Horn. He also was sentenced to nine years and four months for injuring two officers. Prosecutors said Ortberg attacked Horn in her Baxter Springs home. When officers Jimmy Hamilton and Justin Butler arrived, Ortberg doused himself and the others with gasoline and set the fire. Hamilton suffered severe burns and was in a burn unit at a Springfield, Missouri, hospital for months before being released.


Man Sentenced for Crash that Killed Wichita Radio Host

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 44-year-old man was sentenced to more than 13 years in prison for a crash that killed longtime Wichita radio host Don Hall. Ray Watkins was sentenced Friday for involuntary manslaughter. Police said Watkins ran a red light and hit Hall's car in April 2020. Evidence during Watkins' trial showed he had a blood alcohol content more than two times the legal limit at the time of the crash. Hall worked for more than 45 years in radio in Wichita. He was also the longtime arena announcer for Wichita State University basketball.


Judge Approves Jose Pepper's Settlement with Servers

JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. (KCUR) - A federal judge has approved a $1.75 million settlement to resolve claims made by servers at Jose Pepper's that they were denied minimum wage and overtime, and were required to work before clocking in.  In July 2020, a server in the Jose Pepper’s restaurant in Belton, Missouri, sued the popular chain on behalf of herself and other servers, alleging Jose Pepper’s had violated federal and state labor laws. Terms of the settlement call for the plaintiffs’ attorneys to get a third of the settlement fund, leaving about $1.14 million for servers eligible to be compensated under the settlement. Court documents state the average payment per server will come to about $568. Jose Pepper’s was founded in 1988. Beginning with a single restaurant in Overland Park, it has since grown to include locations throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area, Topeka and Wichita.


Woman Arrested in Violent KCK Rampage

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - A woman is facing a dozen felony charges, including second-degree murder, after prosecutors said she went on a violent rampage that left one man dead and another woman hospitalized. The Wyandotte County prosecutors office says Alyssa Leanne Arreola began the rampage early Wednesday when she stole a vehicle in Kansas City, Kansas. In the next several hours, Arreola allegedly was involved in two hit-and-run crashes, broke into a woman's home and stabbed her, and then fatally shot a man before stealing his car. The stabbing victim remains hospitalized. Authorities have not said what prompted Arreola's actions.


Woman Crossing Kansas City Street Killed in Hit-and-Run

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Police say a woman who was crossing a Kansas City street died after being hit by a vehicle that then fled the scene. Kansas City police say the crash happened Wednesday night on the south side of the city.  Investigators believe the 61-year-old woman was walking west and crossing Troost Avenue at 82nd Terrace when she was hit by a vehicle. The woman was pronounced dead at the scene. Police have not released her name and have not announced any suspects or arrests in the case.


Deer Crashes Through Kansas Woman's Home

TOPEKA, Kan. (UPI) - A Kansas woman got a big surprise when a deer crashed through her door and ran through her home.  Rosemary Glatt said she was in her Topeka kitchen when she heard a noise at the front door and went to investigate. Glatt says a buck crashed through the door, made eye contact with her and then ran through her living room.  The deer jumped over furniture and exited the house by crashing through a window to the back porch.  Glatt was not injured.  State officials have been warning residents that deer-related incidents are likely to increase due to mating season.


Hunters Kill 12 Bears in Missouri's First Black Bear Season

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Hunters in Missouri killed 12 black bears during the state's first black bear hunting season.  That's according to the Missouri Conservation Department.  The hunt, which lasted from October 17 through Wednesday, was highly regulated. More than 6,300 people applied for 400 permits. Hunters were limited to a total of 40 bears, which is about 5% of the state's black bear population.  The department also divided the state into three zones and limited how many bears could be taken in each zone. Nine bears were taken in southwest Missouri and three were killed in western Missouri.


Members of KCK-Based United Nation of Islam Accused on Child Abuse, Forced Labor

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KCUR) - Prosecutors say eight members of a religious group have now been charged with child abuse.  This week, a federal grand jury also indicted members of the religious group on charges that they engaged in forced labor. The indictment against the members of the United Nation of Islam accuses them of forcing children as young as eight to work long hours without pay in the sect’s businesses around the country. The indictment accuses them of regularly punishing the children by beating them, depriving them of food and medical treatment, and humiliating them.  In 2018, a federal judge ordered the group and its founder, Royall Jenkins, to pay nearly $8 million in damages to a girl they enslaved for 10 years. The judge later ordered the arrest of Jenkins, who represented to his followers that he was Allah. Jenkins’ whereabouts were unknown, however, and he eluded arrest. In a news release late Wednesday, the Justice Department said that Jenkins was deceased.  

(AP version)

Eight Members of Religious Group Charged with Child Abuse

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - Federal prosecutors are accusing eight people connected to an organization in Kansas City, Kansas, with forcing children to work without pay and abusing them for years.  An indictment charges the organization, formerly known as the United Nation of Islam, with conspiracy to commit forced labor. A federal judge in Kansas labeled the group a cult in 2018. The group was founded in the 1970s by Royall Jenkins and is also known as the Value Creators.  This week's indictment alleges that for the past 20 years, the organization ran businesses in several states - including Kansas and Missouri - using unpaid labor from followers and their children. Prosecutors also allege the children were abused.


Progress on National Bio-Defense Lab in Manhattan Delayed Again

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - Progress has been delayed on construction of a national bio-defense lab in Manhattan. Earlier this year, federal officials said NBAF, the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, would be substantially completed by this month. But now, officials say construction is expected to finish next spring, with the laboratory commissioned in the summer. The Manhattan Mercury reports the Department of Homeland Security says technology upgrades and equipment installation are taking longer than expected. Once completed, the federal lab will be used to study diseases that can be spread from animals to humans.


Cherokees Respond to Oklahoma Request to Overturn McGirt

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) — The Cherokee Nation has responded to the state of Oklahoma's request that the U.S. Supreme Court reverse its ruling that some tribal reservations were never disestablished. The tribe's response submitted Friday argues that the state gives no valid reason to revisit what is known as the McGirt decision. The justices ruled in July 2020 that Oklahoma lacks jurisdiction over crimes committed on tribal reservations by or against tribal citizens. The ruling applies to six Oklahoma tribal reservations. The tribe says Congress, not the court, should determine tribal reservations. Governor Kevin Stitt says the issue is the biggest the state faces.


Record Size Corn and Soybean Harvest Predicted Despite Extreme Weather

UNDATED, (HPM) - Midwestern crop growers are on track to harvest near record-high amounts of corn and soybeans this year. Farmers across the nation's midsection appear on track for record-high harvests despite a year of extreme weather. Harvest Public Media reports that in August, one of Randy Aberle’s fields of corn and soybeans near Gibson City, Illinois, got nine inches of rain. “We had some areas in those fields where the water was four feet deep," he said. But Aberle says the rain drained out quickly. And while his corn crop may have taken a bit of a hit this year, soybeans are doing better. “Beans are turning out really well. From what we’re seeing, it’s probably some of the best yields we’ve ever seen on beans," he said. Intense rainstorms are becoming more common due to climate change.  Eric Snodgrass is a science fellow at Nutrien Ag Solutions. He says while some areas of the Corn Belt got too much rain this year, some got too little. “This is going to be a year where we look back and remember the western Corn Belt having more troubles than the eastern Corn Belt with respect to available moisture," he said. Snodgrass says this intense weather variability that comes with climate change is the biggest threat to Midwest agriculture. Overall, forecasters say the Midwest region will continue to get warmer and wetter over the next century.


KU Faces Number 15th Ranked Oklahoma State, K-State Tackles TCU

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) - In college football, Oklahoma State takes on the Kansas Jayhawks Saturday afternoon. The Cowboys want to make sure they don’t overlook a pesky KU squad that nearly knocked off No. 4 Oklahoma last week. The Jayhawks face the 15th-ranked Cowboys Saturday night at 6 in Stillwater.  Meanwhile, the Kansas State Wildcats take on TCU at 2:30 pm Saturday in Manhattan.


Chiefs Aim to Get on Track as Giants Visit Arrowhead Stadium for Monday Night Football

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Kansas City Chiefs hope to get back on track Monday night when the New York Giants visit Arrowhead Stadium.  The Giants think the Kansas City Chiefs are still one of the heavyweights in the NFL even though the two-time defending AFC champs are just 3-4 through their first seven games. The Chiefs play five of their next six games at Arrowhead Stadium with a bye week thrown in the mix.


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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