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Headlines for Monday, April 19, 2021

Ex-Kansas Governor Launches Bid; GOP Rivals Test Key Themes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Former Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer has formally launched his campaign to reclaim the office in 2022. Colyer on Monday portrayed himself as the true conservative in the Republican primary as his main GOP rival questioned his electability. Colyer and Attorney General Derek Schmidt highlighted key campaign themes with the August 2022 primary still more than 15 months away. Colyer narrowly lost the GOP primary in 2018 as governor to polarizing conservative and then-Secretary of State Kris Kobach before Kobach lost to Democrat Laura Kelly. Colyer's launch in Topeka featured U.S. Senator Roger Marshall, who endorsed Colyer. The ex-governor endorsed Marshall last year.

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Police: Boy Shot and Critically Hurt in North Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A child was shot and critically hurt Saturday evening in north Kansas City. Police said officers were called to a hotel near Worlds of Fun shortly before 7 pm Saturday. At the Hometowne Studios hotel, they found a boy with a gunshot wound. The boy was taken to a hospital where he underwent surgery. Police said he remained in critical condition Sunday morning. Police did not release any details of the shooting, and no arrests were reported immediately Sunday.

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1 Person Injured in Central Kansas House Fire that Spread from Camper

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Firefighters in south-central Kansas say one person was taken to a hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation early Monday after a fire that started in a camper parked in a driveway spread to the home. Television station KSNW says the fire was reported around 3 am today (MON) in Hutchinson. Firefighters arrived to find a camper engulfed in flames in the home's driveway, and the fire had spread to the exterior of the home and into the home's attic. Officials say two people were home at the time of the fire, with one suffering from smoke inhalation. The fire was quickly brought under control.

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Second Person Charged in Case of Body Found in Duffel Bag North of Kansas City

FAUCETT, Mo. (AP) — A second person has been charged in the killing of an Independence, Missouri, woman whose body was found in a duffle bag last year in rural Buchanan County. Marcus Brooks, who was arrested in February, has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of 21-year-old Ariel Starcher. Prosecutors have also charged 22-year-old Taylor Stoughton with second-degree murder in the case. A Missouri Transportation Department worker found the bag with Starcher’s body inside it on February 18, 2020, alongside a road about 45 miles north of Kansas City. Court documents say Stoughton told investigators that she and Brooks strangled Starcher on February 5, 2020, at a Kansas City hotel.

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Invasive "Jumping Worms" Spreading Through Several U.S. States, Spotted in Kansas

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KTVI) — An invasive species of worm is wriggling its way into the Midwest. “Jumping worms” (Amynthas spp) thrash wildly when handled, are 4 to 8 inches long, move quickly like a snake and can shed their tails when threatened. Television station KSNT in Topeka reports that the jumping worms originally come from Asia and were officially found in the Midwest by the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 2013. Researchers have been tracking their movements since then. They may have been brought to the United States as fish bait.  The worms can be found in the top few inches of soil, leaves, or mulch, and they are displacing earthworms, centipedes and other animals. They also damage plant roots, deplete nutrients, and alter the water-holding capacity of the soil. Plants become more susceptible to pests, drought and disease. The worms are a danger to agriculture, gardens and forests.

The jumping worms were more common on the East and West Coasts of the United States. Now the worms have been spotted in Midwestern states such as Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma, Illinois, Texas, Louisiana, Indiana, Minnesota, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. The University of Illinois says the worms can’t survive past frigid winters of the upper Midwest. But, they have egg casings that will persist through the cold weather. The Missouri Department of Conservation is asking anyone who finds jumping worms to kill them. 

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New Kansas Law Makes It a Crime to Trespass at Pipelines

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bill signed into law by Democratic Kansas Governor Laura Kelly will make it a misdemeanor to trespass near oil and gas pipelines. The legislation also makes it a misdemeanor to trespass near oil and gas, rubber manufacturing and wastewater treatment facilities and a felony to trespass with the intent to obstruct railroad tracks. Proponents say damaging those facilities could harm Kansans. Some House Democrats, including two Native American legislators, said the bill targets Native American protestors like those who opposed the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

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Northeast Kansas School District Ditches Native American Mascots

ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas district has decided to ditch its "Redmen" and "Braves" mascots after public opinion shifted. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Atchison school board approved the change unanimously this past week. It was a reversal from 2018 when the board voted to keep the "Redmen" mascot for the district's high school and the "Braves" mascot for the middle school. Board member Carrie Sowers said she changed her vote because the community "spoke loud and clear." Sowers said the board heard considerable support in 2018 for keeping Native American-themed mascots. But this time, all nine people who addressed the matter at a public input session asked the board to do away with the mascots.

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Kansas COVID-19 Case Total Passes 306,000, Including 4,955 Deaths, Since Pandemic Began

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR/AP) - The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reports that there have been 306,290 cases of COVID-19 in the state, including 4,955 deaths, since the start of the pandemic. That's an increase of 429 cases and two deaths since Friday. Another update of case statistics is expected Wednesday.

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A Jab on the Job: Companies, Unions Offer COVID-19 Vaccines

A growing number of companies and labor unions are securing coronavirus vaccines for their workers. Amazon and some other large companies have hosted on-site inoculations, while smaller operations have helped book appointments for their workers. For the employers, the vaccines are a critical step toward restoring normalcy at a time when customer demand for their services is expected to skyrocket. For some workers, on-site injections can provide access they may not have had in their own communities amid persistent racial and socioeconomic gaps in vaccine distribution. Vaccination drives also allow companies to keep track of how many workers are vaccinated, although few employers are requiring the shots at this point.

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Two Women Get Probation for Actions in Wichita Protests

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two Wichita women who helped organize protests in the city last summer calling for changes in police conduct have been found guilty of misdemeanor charges connected to the demonstrations. Gabrielle Griffie and Marissa Gonzalez both received probation sentences after their convictions for unlawful assembly in Wichita Municipal Court last week. Both women were acquitted of disorderly conduct in the protests last July that at times blocked traffic while protesters marched down streets. Their trials focused on whether the protesters could occupy the roads to deliver their message, and Judge Bryce Abbott ultimately decided that protesters had no right to impede traffic without a permit for their demonstration.

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Lawrence Area Program Rescues Unwanted Produce to Feed Those in Need

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Farmers in the Lawrence area are being recruited to participate in a program that gathers unsellable produce and donates it to people in need. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the Lawrence-Douglas County Sustainability Office is working on the effort with two other nonprofits. The county received a federal grant to support the effort. Lawrence-Douglas County Sustainability Food Waste Reduction Specialist Jamie Hofling said that volunteers were recently able to rescue 40 pounds of organic spinach that had been invaded by small insects called aphids, which do not render the plants inedible but do need to be washed off.

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ACLU: Merriam Panhandling Ordinance Unconstitutional

MERRIAM, Kan. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union and another advocacy group are warning a Kansas City suburb that its panhandling ordinance is unconstitutional. The Kansas City Star reports that no lawsuit has been filed over the two-month-old Merriam ordinance that bans pedestrians from standing or sitting on medians at nine high-traffic intersections, other than to legally cross the street. But the ACLU and National Homelessness Law Center wrote that it "almost certainly violates the constitutional right to free speech protected by the First Amendment" and asked to meet with the city in an effort to "work toward an effective solution." The ACLU has sued over panhandling ordinances in other cities.

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Wichita City Leaders May Limit Gifts to City Council

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita city leaders are considering overhauling their ethics code and for the first time setting a limit on gifts to city council members. The proposed rules drafted over the past year would ban gifts worth more than $150 a year and establish an anonymous hotline for reporting ethics violations. The City Council will decide later this spring whether to adopt the new rules. Mayor Brandon Whipple has pushed for the reforms to restore public confidence after several high-profile ethical breaches in city government led to several local officials leaving office in recent years and raised questions about the city's bidding process.

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Kansas City Chiefs Great Fred Arbanas, Longtime Local Politician, Dies at 82

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Former Kansas City Chiefs tight end and longtime Missouri politician Fred Arbanas has died. Arbanas was a key member of the Chiefs' first two Super Bowl teams in the 1960s' and '70s. The Jackson County Democratic Party, for which Arbanas was a major player for more than four decades, announced his death at the age of 82 in a brief statement. No cause was given. A member of the Chiefs' Hall of Fame, Arbanas was a six-time all-AFL selection and was picked to the All-Time AFL Team by the Pro Football Hall of Fame. After his playing career, Arbanas served more than 40 years in the Jackson County, Missouri, Legislature.

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GOP White House Hopefuls Move Forward as Trump Considers Run

WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump ended his presidency with such a firm grip on Republican voters that party leaders fretted he would freeze the field of potential 2024 candidates and delay their preparations as he considered another run. But many Republicans with national ambitions are already openly laying the groundwork for campaigns as Trump continues to mull his own plans. They're raising money, making hires and working to bolster their name recognition. Those moves reflect both the fervor in the party to reclaim the White House and the reality that mounting a modern presidential campaign is a yearslong endeavor.

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