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Headlines for Friday, September 17, 2021

 

Judge Refuses to Block Enforcement of Kansas Election Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas judge is allowing the state to continue enforcing a new election law and has expressed strong doubts about arguments that it hinders efforts to register and educate voters. Shawnee County District Judge Teresa Watson on Thursday denied four groups’ request to temporarily block the law. She concluded that they are unlikely to prevail in their lawsuit seeking to have it struck down. The groups are challenging a provision making impersonating an election official a felony. They argued that routine registration and education activities could be interpreted as impersonating election officials. Watson disagreed, saying someone has to knowingly impersonate an official to break the law.

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Judge: US Election Official Violated Law in Voter Registration Form Case

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that a former high-ranking election official violated federal law in 2016 when he granted requests by Kansas, Georgia and Alabama to modify the national voter registration form to require documentary proof of citizenship in those states. U.S. District Judge Richard Leon threw out the contested decisions made by Brian Newby, who was then executive director of the Election Assistance Commission. The judge found Thursday that Newby failed to determine whether the proposed requirement was necessary in order to register to vote. The long-delayed ruling has little practical effect since a federal appeals court earlier granted a preliminary injunction in the case.

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Kansas Schools See Increasing Number of COVID-19 Outbreaks

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas schools are seeing a growing number of COVID-19 outbreaks, and school-aged children are getting infected more frequently than any other age group. The state Department of Health and Environment’s latest data shows 63 active COVID-19 clusters in schools across the state as of Wednesday. Those clusters were responsible for 408 cases and one hospitalization. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the number of active clusters is up from 31 to 63 with 179 cases last week. The state's data shows there were 450 new cases per 100,000 children aged 5 through 17 during the week of September 5.

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GOP Leader Questions Plans to Settle Afghan Evacuees in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A top Republican lawmaker in Kansas says he’s concerned about President Joe Biden’s plan to resettle almost 500 Afghan evacuees in the state because he doesn’t know how well they’re being vetted. Senate President Ty Masterson said Wednesday that he's worried both that the evacuees could come to Kansas with COVID-19 infections and that vetting by Biden’s administration won’t keep terrorists or terrorist sympathizers out. Biden's administration began notifying governors Wednesday of where it plans to resettle nearly 37,000 Afghan evacuees, and 490 are set to come to Kansas. Democratic Governor Laura Kelly's office declined comment, but she said last month that Kansas would welcome Afghan evacuees.

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AG: Spike in Natural Gas Prices Appears to Break Kansas Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Attorney General Derek Schmidt says that sharp spikes in natural gas prices last winter appear to violate Kansas law and he is seeking outside legal help to investigate them. Schmidt's office says it is looking to retain a law firm with expertise in the natural gas marketplace to investigate and to help with any potential civil litigation aimed at enforcing the state’s anti-profiteering law. Schmidt says state law prohibits unjustified price increases for necessary goods and services during a declared state of disaster emergency.

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Group Protests Vaccine Mandate at University of Kansas Health System 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KSHB) - A protest took place outside of the University of Kansas Health System early Friday morning. KSHB-TV reports that employees and their supporters gathered outside the KU Medical Center around 6:00 a.m to protest the hospital's recent decision to institute a vaccine mandate for all staff members. Hospital officials said patient care has not been affected. Kansas University police were on hand to monitor the protest.

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Democratic Governor Laura Kelly Wary of President's Vaccine Mandate

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly is indicating that she’s wary of President Joe Biden’s mandate that companies with 100 or more employees require their workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Kelly said she needs to hear more details.  Her office issued a statement last week to that effect. But the Journal-World reported that Kelly later made comments indicating that a mandate may not be her preference. She said she prefers that Kansas continue to work cooperatively with businesses. Most Republicans in the Kansas congressional delegation and Kansas Legislature have condemned the president's mandate.

(–Additional reporting–)

Kelly Unlikely to Issue Teacher/Staff Vaccination Mandate

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly says she’s unlikely to follow President Joe Biden’s advice and require that all teachers and school staff be vaccinated. Kelly says she prefers to continue promoting voluntary vaccinations, even though the number of people in the state getting the shots has leveled off.  About half of eligible Kansans have had at least one COVID-19 shot. The governor says she will continue to push for voluntary vaccinations. Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt said he plans to quote, “vigorously challenge” new federal vaccine mandates. The Biden administration now says all large employers must require workers to get vaccinated or be tested regularly for COVID-19.

(-Related-)

Kansas Senator Roger Marshall Objects to President's Vaccine Mandate

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Kansas Senator Roger Marshall is demanding a Congressional review of President Biden’s recent COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The Republican senator says he wants Congress to review the president’s directive ordering vaccinations for private employees before it goes into effect. Marshall says the mandate is unlawful and unnecessary. WIBW TV reports that Senator Marshall also contends the mandate threatens to worsen the current labor shortage. On September 8, President Biden issued a vaccine and testing mandate for private businesses with more than 100 employees. The mandate carries a $14,000 fine for businesses that refuse to comply. Marshall says the order will affect more than 80 million Americans.   

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Task Force to Examine Data on Mask Policies & Outbreaks

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) —Schools in Kansas continue to deal with COVID-19 cases and quarantines. A new task force plans to look at the relationship between outbreaks and mask policies. Governor Laura Kelly’s Safer Classrooms Workgroup met this week for the first time. Members learned that out of 179 active COVID cases that originated in schools, only 15% were in districts where masks are required. So far, at least four Kansas school districts have temporarily closed some or all of their schools because of COVID outbreaks. About half of all Kansas students are required to wear masks.

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Outbreaks Strand Some Students at Home with Minimal Learning

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — As coronavirus outbreaks driven by the delta variant lead school districts around the U.S. to abruptly shut down or send large numbers of children into quarantine, some students are getting minimal schooling at home. Despite billions of dollars in federal money at their disposal to prepare for new outbreaks and develop contingency plans, some governors, education departments and local school boards have been caught flat-footed. Also, some school systems have been handcuffed by state laws or policies aimed at keeping students in classrooms and strongly discouraging or restricting a return to remote learning.

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Judge: Kansas Must Pay $1.42 Million to Voting Rights Attorneys

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge ordered Kansas to pay $1.42 million to attorneys who succeeded in getting the federal courts to strike down a state law requiring new voters to show papers documenting their U.S. citizenship when registering. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson ruled Wednesday that the attorneys suing the Kansas secretary of state’s office over the law should receive more than $1.07 million to cover their fees and another $350,000 for litigation expenses. The law was championed by former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who led former President Donald Trump’s now-defunct voter fraud commission. Kobach is running for Kansas attorney general in 2022.

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Kansas Suicide Rates up, Especially in Rural Counties

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — The rate of suicide in Kansas was nearly 1.5 times higher in 2019 than in 2000, and rates in rural counties far outpaced those in more populated areas. New analysis from the Kansas Health Institute shows that suicide rates in rural Kansas rose 15% more than those in urban areas.  KHI analyst Wyatt Beckman says suicide prevention programs need to be tailored to the unique needs of rural Kansans in order to make an impact.  “Suicide prevention efforts that we design and implement in an urban context can't always be copied into rural communities” Beckman said. The 60% increase in suicides in rural Kansas compares to a 45% increase in more populated areas. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death among Kansans aged 15-34. Kansas offers suicide prevention resources targeted for people in rural areas at kansasagstress.org

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Cost of Living on the Rise in Parts of Rural Kansas 

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) — The latest Cost of Living Index shows some parts of rural Kansas are relatively expensive. Place like Dodge City are becoming more costly. Jeremy Hill leads the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University. He says the cost of living has been consistently higher in western Kansas than it is in some other parts of the state, partly because of supply issues. “Because of the remoteness of each of those communities, the cost of getting goods there is higher," Hill said.  But prices are not rising as quickly in all rural areas. Pittsburg, near Joplin, Missouri, and just a few hours from Kansas City, benefits from more competition.  A dentist visit costs $130 in Dodge City but only $90 in Pittsburg. A loaf of bread goes for $3.59 in Dodge City and $3.19 in Pittsburg.

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Topeka Students Protest School's Handling of Rape Accusation

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — More than 100 students at Topeka West High School held a protest over the school administration's handling of a male student who has been accused of raping a female student last summer. The students also said during Friday's protest that the same student has harassed girls at the school. A district official said administrators had just become aware of the alleged rape, and administrators are not aware of any incidents involving the male student on campus. Police spokeswoman Gretchen Spiker said the 17-year-old was placed into juvenile detention Friday on an alleged probation violation. She said the rape report from the summer is being investigated.

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Texas Woman Convicted in Deaths of 2 Kansas Carnival Vendors

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — A Texas woman has been convicted of capital murder for her role in the slayings of a Wichita couple who were killed after a carnival worker ordered their deaths as part of a fictitious carnival mafia. Prosecutors said a jury found 57-year-old Kimberley Stacey Younger of Aransas Pass, Texas, guilty Friday on charges of capital murder, conspiracy to commit murder in the first degree, solicitation to commit murder in the first degree and theft. She is one of several people convicted in the July 2018 deaths of Alfred and Pauline Carpenter, who were working as vendors at the Barton County fair in Kansas.  Prosecutors have said the Carpenters were killed at the fair and their bodies were buried in a national forest in Arkansas. Sentencing is Nov. 29.

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2-Year-Old Killed in Apparent Accidental Shooting in Lawrence

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 2-year-old was killed Friday in what police say appears to be an accidental shooting in Lawrence. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that police responding to a shooting found the toddler critically injured.  The child was later pronounced dead at a local hospital. Police say officers and detectives are speaking with the parties involved and the preliminary information suggests the shooting was accidental. The child's name and other details were not were not immediately available.

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'Devious Licks' Videos of Damage, Thefts Bedevil Schools Across the U.S., Including Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kids across the U.S. are posting TikTok videos of themselves smashing bathroom mirrors or stealing soap dispensers and even turf off football fields. The “devious licks” social media challenge went viral this week and is bedeviling principals and school district administrators. Some schools have even had to shut down bathrooms, where much of the damage is occurring. In northeast Kansas, Lawrence High School had to close several bathrooms after students pried soap dispensers off the walls. But schools, students, and parents across the U.S. also have reported similar incidents. A southern Alabama high school student faces criminal charges after being caught on a surveillance camera stealing a fire extinguisher.

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Missouri Man Sentenced for Fatal Accident During Police Chase

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A 31-year-old Kansas City man has been sentenced to almost 50 years in prison for a fatal accident that occurred when he was fleeing from law enforcement officers. Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson said in a news release Friday that Anthony Jay Dorsey was sentenced for second-degree murder after a deadly crash near Bonner Springs in September 2019. Prosecutors said a highway patrol trooper tried to stop Dorsey on Interstate 70 for an expired tag. Dorsey fled and eventually drove the wrong way on the interstate. His vehicle collided with a car driven by 19-year-old Nathan Pena, of Brookfield, Illinois, who died at the scene.

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Trial Date Set for Former Chiefs Assistant Charged with DUI

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Former Kansas City Chiefs assistant coach Britt Reid is scheduled to go to trial in April after a crash last year that seriously injured a five-year-old girl. Reid, the son of Chiefs Coach Andy Reid, will go on trial April 18. The trial date was set during a virtual hearing Thursday.  Prosecutors say Reid was speeding and under the influence of alcohol when he hit two cars on an Interstate 435 entrance ramp near Arrowhead Stadium. A child in one of the cars, five-year-old Ariel Young, suffered a traumatic brain injury. The trial is expected to last about a week.

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Pittsburg State to Begin Search for New President

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) _ Pittsburg State University is preparing to begin the search for its next president. The Joplin Globe reports that the Kansas Board of Regents voted Thursday to conduct a closed committee-led search. Cheryl Harrison-Lee, the board's chairperson, said the closed search is necessary ``in the interest of trying to attract as many qualified candidates as possible.''  She said many of the sought-after candidates in university leadership positions don't want to be publicly tied to a search at another institution. A new president at Pittsburg State will succeed Steve Scott, who announced in July that he will retire next summer. He has served as president since 2009. 

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Hearing on Kevin Strickland's Future to Be in Jackson County, Missouri

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A hearing that will determine the future of longtime inmate Missouri Kevin Strickland will be heard by a Jackson County Circuit Court judge. Judge Kevin Harrell on Friday rejected a motion by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt to recuse himself and remove all Jackson County judges from Strickland's case. Harrell said an evidentiary hearing where prosecutors will argue that Strickland was wrongfully convicted of a triple murder more than 40 years ago will be scheduled the first week of October. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker has said her office believes Strickland should be exonerated and released from prison. Schmitt's office has argued that Strickland is guilty.

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Man Sentenced to Probation for Fatal Hit-and-Run

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man has been sentenced to three years of probation for a hit-and-run that killed a 4-year-old boy. The Sedgwick County district attorney's office said Friday that Marcus Downey would serve 32 months in prison if he violates his probation. Downey was charged in March with fleeing an accident and driving with a suspended license. Wichita police said 4-year-old Hazadi Ashimwe and his mother were crossing a street on March 8 when a truck hit the boy and fled. Hazadi died at a hospital. Downey was arrested near the scene of the accident.

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B-2 Stealth Bomber Makes Emergency Landing at Whiteman Air Force Base

KNOB NOSTER, Mo. (AP) - The U.S. Air Force says a B-2 stealth bomber made an emergency landing at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri earlier this week. The Air Force Global Strike Public Affairs unit said the bomber had an in-flight malfunction during a routine training mission early Tuesday. Spokeswoman Jennifer Greene said in a statement that no one was injured and no fire was caused by the landing. An investigation into the extent of the damage and the cause of the malfunction is continuing.  Whiteman Air Force Base is located 75 miles southeast of Kansas City.

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More Black Foster Parents Sought by State Contractor

OLATHE, Kan. (KNS) - A foster care contractor in Kansas is using a new advertising campaign to encourage more Black families to become foster parents.  The contractor, KVC Kansas, says only about 3% of their foster homes have Black parents, but more than 20% of foster kids are Black.  KVC is working to address that disparity with an outreach campaign encouraging Black parents to get involved. Megan Maciel leads the recruitment and community engagement team at KVC Kansas. She says keeping children in their community helps preserve their culture. “We believe that there are families in our community of all different backgrounds, ethnicities, and races that can provide those homes” Maciel says. This is KVC’s first advertising campaign that focuses on attracting a specific demographic to serve as foster parents.  

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Former Sedgwick County Sheriff's Sergeant Sentenced for Stalking

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Sedgwick County Sheriff's sergeant has been sentenced to a year of probation after pleading no contest to stalking an ex-girlfriend. Justin Maxfield was sentenced Wednesday for the misdemeanor charge. An affidavit says Maxfield was charged after his ex-girlfriend told police in April that he sent unwanted text messages to her and had visited her home and workplace after being asked to stay away. Maxfield, a 12-year veteran of the sheriff's department, was suspended when he was arrested in April. He resigned in May.

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Kansas Man Sentenced to 40 Years for Producing Child Porn

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 49-year-old Ellis man has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for producing child pornography. Acting U.S. Attorney Duston Slinkard's office said Thursday that Clinton Wade McElroy was sentenced after pleading guilty in May to one count of production of child pornography after a prior conviction. Court documents said McElroy admitted that he persuaded an 8-year-old child to produce sexually explicit images and send them to him.

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Chiefs' Coach Andy Reid Deflects Attention as NFL History Approaches

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Good luck getting Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid to ruminate on the fact that he’s nearing NFL history, just one win away from becoming the first to reach 100 wins with two different franchises. Reid always deflects any such attention to his players, assistant coaches and others within the organization. Yet it's Reid who is closing in on the No. 5 spot in career wins as the Chiefs prepare to visit Baltimore on Sunday night. With a win, he'll have 100 victories with the Chiefs to go with 140 that he racked up during 14 seasons leading the Philadelphia Eagles.

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Royals Promote Dayton Moore to President, Picollo to GM

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals are promoting general manager Dayton Moore to club president. The team is also elevating longtime assistant GM J.J. Picollo to GM. The 54-year-old Moore presided over one of the most remarkable turnarounds in baseball history, leading the Royals to consecutive World Series and the 2015 title. Picollo has long been considered Moore's heir apparent in Kansas City. The team is showing signs of another rebirth after a long rebuild.

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Royals Evaluate Stadium Options, Downtown Ballpark Possible

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals are evaluating options for once their lease expires at Kauffman Stadium. Owner John Sherman says a new downtown ballpark is a possibility. The Royals are tied to the 53-year-old stadium until 2031 under terms of a public-private partnership. The team must make a decision in the next couple of years to look elsewhere or press on with more renovations at Truman Sports Complex, which is also home to Arrowhead Stadium and the Kansas City Chiefs.

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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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