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Headlines for Monday, May 24, 2021

KSU President Myers Announces Retirement

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - Kansas State University President Richard Myers says he plans to retire. Myers announced today (MON) that he will retire at the end of 2021. He has been president of the university since 2016. Myers graduated from KSU in 1965 with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and joined the air Force through Kansas State's ROTC program. He became a four-star general and was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff before his appointment at Kansas State. A statement released today (MON) did not include a reason for Myers' retirement. The Kansas Board of Regents will announce details on the search to replace Myers at a later date.

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OP Police Investigate Fatal Shooting Near City Hall

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) - Police in Overland Park are investigating the shooting death of a man this morning (MON) in the parking lot of a condominium building across the street from City Hall. Police say officers were called to the area around 5:20 am for reports of gunshots. Arriving officers found a man on the ground who had been shot and was already dead. He was identified as 35-year-old Jeren Hinton of Overland Park. Witnesses tell police that they saw two or three people run to vehicles in the parking lot and flee the area following the shooting.

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Report: Kansas Juvenile Justice Funds Could Run Out by 2024

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Legislative researchers say a Kansas fund intended to help keep young people out of prison could be out of money by 2024 if spending and projected funding remains the same. The Evidence-based Programs Fund is part of a 2016 law designed to shift the focus in juvenile justice from incarceration to rehabilitation. The money is intended for programs that help troubled juveniles and reduce the population in juvenile correctional facilities. The fund accumulated a $42 million reserve by this year, and Governor Laura Kelly sought permission to use the money for other state needs. Lawmakers approved withdrawing $21 million. A Kelly spokesman said it's unlikely the fund will be depleted.

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Man Pleads Guilty to Shooting Death of KC Rapper

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A 32-year-old man was sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to killing a Kansas City rapper. Derius Taylor pleaded guilty today (MON) to second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the death of 20-year-old Dominque Stafford. Police found Stafford's body inside a car in eastern Kansas City in April 2015. Charging documents say Taylor had arranged to buy drugs from Stafford but planned to rob him instead. Investigators said Taylor got into Stafford's car, shot him, and took a rifle and a diamond-encrusted pendant that Stafford often wore. Detectives later learned Taylor had pawned the pendant at a local pawn shop.

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Kansas Ranchers Struggle to Find Veterinarians for Rural Livestock Operations

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Officials concerned about the lack of veterinarians for the Kansas livestock industry are asking ranchers to help them address the issue. A task force comprised of state, livestock industry and university officials is starting the effort with a survey. The group hopes ranchers will respond to the online survey to help determine which parts of Kansas are most lacking in veterinarian care. Cattle ranching and related industries contribute an estimated $8.7 billion to the state's economy. Deputy Kansas Agriculture Secretary Kelsey Olson says rural areas have a hard time attracting veterinarians because many veterinary students want to work in cities and treat smaller animals. (Read more.) 

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Kansas City Receives $8.3 Million in Federal Aid to Help Homeless

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Officials said Saturday that the city of Kansas City, Missouri, will receive more than $8 million in federal money to address issues related to homelessness. Some of the money will help pay for 140 beds in the tiny homes village initiative. That program, which was announced last month, will provide transitional housing and other services to people experiencing homelessness. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said the city has made progress in addressing housing needs but more work needs to be done. Officials said the federal money will provide a significant boost to those efforts. 

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Pro-Palestine Demonstrators Turn Out in KC for Second Weekend

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KPR) - More than 200 people turned out in Kansas City for the second weekend in a row, rallying in support of Palestine. Saturday's demonstration occurred one day after a cease-fire went into effect between Israel and Hamas. About 75 people gathered earlier this week for a vigil to honor those killed in Gaza during this month's fighting. A few hundred people gathered in Kansas City last weekend, as rallies took place in many cities across the country.

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Federal Pandemic Relief Boosts 2020 Farm Incomes

HAYS, Kan. (KNS) —The pandemic made 2020 a volatile year for agriculture, the top industry in Kansas. But with help from federal COVID relief payments and higher grain prices, the state’s farmers still came out ahead. New statistics from about 900 Kansas farms show that average net incomes were nearly $170,000 in 2020, a 54% increase over the previous year. But much of that income came from the federal government, mostly from pandemic relief and agricultural subsidies. The Kansas Farm Management Association compiled the data. The association’s director, Kevin Herbel says it illustrates how critical COVID relief was for area farmers, especially those with lower incomes. “If we were to take the COVID payments out,” Herbel said, “a third of the farms, would have had a negative net income for the year.” When all government assistance money is subtracted, farm incomes still doubled, thanks largely to the highest prices for corn and wheat since 2013. 

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UPDATED: Kansas COVID-19 Case Count Exceeds 313,000; Death Toll Rises to 5,058

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reports today (MON) that there have been 313,274 COVID-19 cases in Kansas, including 5,058 virus-related deaths, since the pandemic began. That's an increase of 277 cases and one death since Friday. Another update on case numbers is expected Wednesday.

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Pandemic Motivates Students to Consider Medical Careers 

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) —The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired more students to consider careers in health care. Medical school applications are up 18% over last year, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Kansas State University recently launched the region’s first Bachelor of Science in Public Health degree program to prepare people for jobs such as epidemiologist or health educator. Enrollment in high school medical programs is up too. Gracie Dean will graduate from Maize South High School near Wichita this month, but she’s already working as a Certified Nursing Assistant at a long-term care facility. Dean says she decided to pursue a career in health care because of what she has witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Because these nurses have put their lives on the line to help people, and that’s just what I aspire to be” Dean said. The trend mirrors one after September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks when higher numbers of students joined the military or became first responders.

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Judge: Assistant U.S. Attorney in Kansas Committed Misconduct

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that a federal prosecutor in Kansas with a history of questionable conduct committed misconduct in a drug case. U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree ruled last week that Terra Morehead did not provide important evidence to the defense in a drug case. The judge reduced the defendant's sentence from 20 years to nine years because of Morehead's actions. Morehead was the prosecutor when Lamont McIntyre was wrongly convicted in a double murder and spent 23 years in prison before he was released. She recently was moved from criminal to civil cases in the U.S. Attorney's Kansas City, Kansas, office.

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USDA to Begin Paying Off Loans of Minority Farmers

WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) — Minority farmers who for decades have faced systemic discrimination will begin to receive debt relief beginning in early June under what Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack calls one of the most significant pieces of civil rights legislation in decades. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency HAS announced that it has published the first notice of funding availability under the American Rescue Plan Act for borrowers with qualifying direct farm loans. A subsequent notice for farmers with government-guaranteed loans held by private lenders will be published within 120 days. Vilsack has called the debt relief a “major civil rights victory,” saying it responds to systemic discrimination perpetrated against farmers and ranchers of color by the Agriculture Department.

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Governor Kelly Okays Extra Funds for Courts, Higher Education

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Budget legislation signed by Governor Laura Kelly increases funding for Kansas courts, provides extra dollars for higher education, and funds a new state health laboratory. The measure signed Friday contains a piece of a nearly $21 billion spending blueprint for state government for the budget year beginning July 1. The measure has an additional $53 million for state universities and colleges and $17 million to increase state court employees' pay and hire 70 new court services officers. The measure also authorizes $120 million in bonds to renovate an office building near the Statehouse and $65 million in bonds for a new state Department of Health and Environment lab.

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Kansas Welfare Bill Named after Murdered Boy Signed into Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas’ child welfare department and law enforcement officers soon will be required to visually observe a child when they’re investigating allegations of abuse or neglect. Governor Laura Kelly has signed a measure known as “Adrian's Law" that will take effect by mid-June. The new law is named for a 7-year-old Kansas City, Kansas, boy whose body was fed to pigs after he was starved, tortured and murdered. Department for Children and Families records released in 2017 showed that the department did not have physical contact with the boy after February 2012. The new law also creates a joint legislative oversight committee on child welfare.

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Kansas Governor Vetoes GOP COVID Relief Plan for Businesses

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Governor Laura Kelly has vetoed a Republican proposal to set aside hundreds of millions of the federal coronavirus relief dollars received by Kansas to compensate small businesses. The plan Kelly rejected Friday was meant to help businesses that faced restrictions earlier in the pandemic. Kelly said she is not opposed to compensating businesses after the state, cities or counties forced them to shut down or limited their operations. But she said the GOP plan’s process for paying claims wasn’t open enough and the measure might violate federal law. 

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Kansas Senator Pushes Bill to End Embargo with Cuba

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas GOP Senator Jerry Moran is joining a bipartisan effort to lift the trade embargo against Cuba. The U.S. does some trade with Cuba, but it’s a small amount and decades-old restrictions still remain. Moran has joined with two Democratic senators in sponsoring a bill that would fully open commercial trade. Moran says with Cuba being only 90 miles off the U.S. coast, it could be an important market for Kansas products like wheat, beef and manufactured goods. Some estimates say Cuba could buy up to $800 million in farm products over five years. Moran also introduced a bill to open trade in 2017, but this time he’s trying with bipartisan legislation.

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Lawrence Police Report Increase in Drug Overdoses

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - The Lawrence Police Department is reporting an increase in the number of drug overdoses, some of them fatal. Lieutenant Amy Rhoades said in a press release that the police suspect some batches of heroin circulating in Lawrence contain higher and sometimes deadly amounts of fentanyl. Rhoads added that fentanyl is difficult to detect with the naked eye and users often don't know if or how much fentanyl was added to the heroin. Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic and is lethal in very small quantities.

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Report: School Principal, Bus Driver Harassed Student

AMERICUS, Kan. (AP) — Education officials say two North Lyon County school employees violated federal and district policies when they suspended a student for saying “I'm a lesbian” on a school bus. The Kansas Association of School Boards investigation found that school bus driver Kristi Gadino and Corey Wiltz, principal at North Lyon County elementary, committed sexual harassment against the student and violated federal Title IX and district policies. The family of Izzy Dieker, an eighth-grader, filed a complaint after she was suspended from using the school bus on January 27. The report said Gadino ignored profane language from other students on the bus and it said Wiltz did not handle the situation properly.

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Police identify Woman Shot and Killed in Northeast Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Kansas City police have identified a woman who was shot and killed over the weekend in the northeastern end of the city in the North Blue Ridge neighborhood. Police said in a news release that officers were called around 3:45 a.m. to the intersection of East Winner Road and Wallace Avenue and found 18-year-old Kailey Love with gunshot wounds. Police say first responders tried to save Love's life, but she died at the scene. Police said a suspect was arrested at the scene. The shooting was the 60th homicide of the year in Kansas City. 

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