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Headlines for Monday, September 20, 2021

 

Delta Variant Appears to Plateau but Kansas Hospitals Overwhelmed

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — A rapid surge in the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Kansas has plateaued in recent weeks, but it’s still at a level that’s overwhelming hospitals. With the delta variant spreading this summer, the daily count of COVID inpatients quickly shot up from fewer than 200 to more than 800 people. Since mid-August, daily inpatient numbers have stayed in the mid-700s to low-800s. Hospitals are struggling to take in all those patients. Marci Nielsen is chief advisor to Governor Laura Kelly on the pandemic response. “The fact that we still have so many ICUs full is very concerning” Neilson said.” Health care workers are exhausted and burned out.” The number of newly identified COVID cases in Kansas has fallen for two weeks in a row. But fewer people are getting tested, so it’s not clear if the delta surge is slowing.

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Kansas Passed on Earlier Plan to Upgrade Unemployment System

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A software company urged Kansas to upgrade its computer system for handling claims for unemployment benefits but the state didn’t heed that advice five years before a flood of fraudulent claims during the coronavirus pandemic. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Oracle proposed in 2015 that the Kansas Department of Labor do the upgrade to prevent fraud. Department leaders in then-Republican Governor Sam Brownback's administration concluded much of an upgrade could be handled in-house. But an IT architect who worked on a Department of Labor modernization project canceled in 2011 said accepting Oracle’s proposal would have minimized fraud. A recent audit suggests Kansas may have paid $700 million to fraudsters.

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Government Resumes Prosecution in Deadly 'Swatting' Case

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas gamer whose online dispute with another player sparked a deadly hoax call will have to face a jury after violating the terms of a diversion deal he made with prosecutors. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren granted on Monday the government’s motion to resume prosecution of Shane Gaskill of Wichita and set a jury trial for October 5. Gaskill is charged with conspiracy, wire fraud and other counts in connection with a series of events in 2017 that culminated in the fatal police shooting of 28-year-old Andrew Finch at his family’s home in Wichita. The death drew national attention to “swatting,” a form of retaliation in which someone reports a false emergency to get authorities to descend on an address.

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Atchison Nurse Pleads Guilty to Over-Drugging Dementia Patient

UNDATED (AP) - An Atchison nurse who texted a co-worker a picture of a dementia patient slumped over in a wheelchair and then suggested she was responsible and deserved thanks has pleaded guilty to intentionally administering the wrong medication. The Kansas City Star reports that 37-year-old Jennifer Lynn Reavis is free on bond as she awaits sentencing on charges of endangerment, unlawful administration of a controlled substance and battery. She pleaded guilty to the charges Friday in Leavenworth County District Court.

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Kansas Schools Struggling to Provide Meals Amid Food Shortages

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — Food shortages across the country are starting to affect school meals in Kansas and some districts are scrambling to keep kids fed. The Hickman Mills school district in Kansas City, Missouri was recently dropped by its food supplier, which cited a shortage of workers to produce and deliver food items. Other districts are adjusting menus to deal with shortages including the state’s largest district, Wichita. A back-to-school survey found that 97% of school meal program directors are concerned about supply chain disruptions, which have led to price increases and delayed or canceled deliveries, often with little notice. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees school meal programs, recently announced it will not fine districts if shortages prevent them from meeting nutrition guidelines.

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First Afghan Refugees Arrive in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The first family of refugees from Afghanistan has arrived in Kansas City as resettlement agencies in the area prepare for hundreds more. Mayor  Quinton Lucas tweeted that he was “proud” of the city for “welcoming all people” in announcing the family’s arrival. He said they represented the first of 550 Afghan refugees who will arrive in Kansas City. More than 100,000 people were airlifted out of Kabul in a chaotic exodus late last month after President Joe Biden announced that U.S. troops would withdraw, and the Taliban seized control of strife-torn Afghanistan in just a few weeks. Thousands more Afghans want to leave.

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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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Judge: Election Official Violated Law in Voter 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 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 Supreme Court Upholds Tracking of Convicted Criminals

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — The Kansas Supreme Court has once again upheld the state’s vast system for tracking people convicted of crimes. Kansas tracks the home and work lives of people who have committed a wide range of crimes involving drugs, sex or violence. They have to report everything from dying their hair to getting an Instagram account or buying a car. Someone who commits a misdemeanor can face the same 15 years of regularly reporting to law enforcement as someone who commits murder. A 2018 Kansas News Service investigation found that the Kansas system is the most extensive in the country. Defense attorneys have repeatedly argued that the system violates constitutional rights but the state’s highest court disagrees and stood its ground again in two sex offender cases.

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Wichita State Students Protest over Reported Dorm Rape

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — More than 200 people have marched to the Wichita State University police station to protest the handling of a reported rape in a dormitory. The Wichita Eagle reports that students gathered Friday at Shocker Hall, where the sexual assault is alleged to have occurred September 12th. They then marched to the campus police station. Some carried signs reading “We deserve a rape-free campus” and “WSU, do better.” WSU Dean of Students Andrew Austin said it would be inappropriate to comment on the case that brought the students out, but that the university supported their right to peacefully protest.  This comes on the heels of recent protests at the University of Kansas over how the school has handled an alleged sexual assault at a fraternity.

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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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KU Frat Assault Claim Prompts Student Sit-in

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Dozens of University of Kansas students staged a sit-in in front of the university chancellor’s office to protest the handling of allegations that a fraternity member sexually assaulted another student. The sit-in Friday follows two other protests last week outside the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house. The protesters are demanding that university officials take action against the fraternity as well as the alleged perpetrator. They changed a placard at the entrance of the office of the chancellor, renaming it “Office of the Complicit,” and taped other signs with messages to the glass windows at Chancellor Doug Girod’s office.

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Woman Struck and Killed by Truck in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 19-year-old woman from a Wichita center that provides services for young people with special needs and developmental disabilities has died after being struck by a truck. KSNW-TV reports that the accident happened Saturday. Wichita police say the woman ran from a ditch in front of the truck, and the driver was unable to stop. A statement from Heartspring School says the student left an off-campus home shortly before she was struck. The statement says it was believed that staff at the home were “intently following current protocols set by Heartspring and outside governing bodies.” The woman’s name has not been released.

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Missouri Celebrates Bicentennial with Parade

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A crowd gathered Saturday in Jefferson City, Missouri to celebrate the state’s bicentennial, with a World War II nurse leading the parade. KTVO reports that 98-year-old Edith Harrington waved to the crowd from a military jeep, followed by about 100 entries that highlighted Missouri history. The festivities also marked the election of state officeholders in 2020, whose traditional inauguration events were delayed because of the coronavirus.

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Suspect Arrested in Fatal Lawrence Shooting of Wichita Man

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence police have arrested one suspect in the shooting death of a 21-year-old Wichita man near the University of Kansas campus and are looking for a second suspect. Police spokesman Patrick Compton said in an email that 18-year-old Javier Isidro Romero was arrested on Friday night in connection with the September 8th shooting death of Christian Talib Willis. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that records show that Romero was booked into the Douglas County Jail on suspicion of first-degree murder and was being held on $1 million bond.

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KCK Police Investigate Suspicious Death

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have made an arrest in a suspicious death in Kansas City, Kansas. Police said officers responded around 4 a.m. Saturday to a residence and found a man dead there. Officers then took a person of interest into custody. No other details were immediately released, including the name of the man who died. Police are urging anyone with information to call a tips hotline.

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Texas Woman Convicted in Deaths of Two 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 November 29th.

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Toddler 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, Kansas. 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. 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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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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Open Container Law Diverts Millions from Missouri Roads

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - An investigation by KCUR-FM in Kansas City finds that Missouri's decision to allow open containers of alcohol in vehicles is diverting millions of dollars from road construction to safety programs. The investigation found that Missouri has given up roughly $370 million in highway construction funds since 2001 for failing to comply with federal safety policies. Missouri allows passengers drink in moving vehicles, which violates federal safety laws and forces the state to divert a percentage of road construction funds from federal programs to fund safety initiatives. The diverted money goes to infrastructure improvements like guard rail cables and behavioral campaigns to discourage driving while intoxicated. 

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Arson Suspected in Fire at Historic Kansas City Church

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Arson is suspected in a fire that damaged the historic Harlem Baptist Church in Kansas City, Missouri. John Ham of the Kansas City office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives told the Kansas City Star that authorities have determined that the blaze was intentionally set, making it a federal crime. The church serves as a gathering place for the United Christian Fellowship and the congregation is made up mostly of people from the South Sudan. The fire was discovered about 9:15 a.m. Saturday. Arriving firefighters discovered that the front of the building and an area of stairs going to the basement were fully engulfed in flames. 

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Ten Injured in Three-Vehicle Accident in Greenwood County

EUREKA, Kan. (AP) — An investigation continues into a southeastern Kansas accident that left 10 people injured. The Kansas Highway Patrol said the accident happened Sunday evening in Greenwood County when a Dodge Caravan crossed the center line on Highway 400 and struck a semi, then a Hyundai. The driver of the Caravan was hospitalized with serious injuries. Another adult in the van and five children suffered minor injuries. Minor injuries were also reported for the 19-year-old driver of the Hyundai and two 18-year-old passengers. The semi driver was unhurt.

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Chiefs Lose Second Regular Season Game

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KNS) - A late comeback by the Baltimore Ravens resulted in a 36-35 win over the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday night. It was the first loss of the season for the Chiefs. The game-changing play was a fourth quarter turnover by Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said it appeared that the Chiefs were putting together a game-winning drive when it happened. “We have the ball. Driving down. That last series, what should’ve been the last series, and we fumbled” Reid said. The Chiefs had a 35-24 advantage at one point. But Patrick Mahomes threw an interception and the Ravens scored. The Chiefs were mounting a comeback when Edwards-Helaire fumbled. Next Sunday, the Chiefs will face the Los Angeles Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium.

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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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