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Headlines for Saturday, January 8, 2002


Kansas Governor Moves to Help Facilities Hit by COVID Surge

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Laura Kelly is easing or suspending Kansas licensing rules for medical personnel and nursing home workers in hopes of making it easier for them to attack staffing shortages during a surge of new COVID-19 cases. Kelly issued two executive orders Thursday. One allows hospital staff to perform a broader range of duties. The other makes licensing of nursing home workers more flexible so homes can hire people whose licenses have lapsed and fill less-skilled jobs with workers who’ve relatively little or no previous training. The governor also declared an emergency for the next 15 days. Her actions come as ambulances struggle to find Kansas City-area hospitals with space.


Kansas Court Ruling Keeps Law Allowing COVID Lawsuits Alive
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court is keeping intact a law that allows people to sue counties over mask mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions and obtain quick trial-court decisions. The court declined Friday to consider whether it's constitutional for a state law to require judges to rule on such lawsuits within 10 days. It concluded that a Johnson County judge had no business striking down the law in a case that dealt with another legal question. Judge David Hauber's decision against the law applying to counties was in a lawsuit against a school district's mask mandate. School districts were covered by another law that's since expired.


U.S. Supreme Court Weighs Vaccine Mandates Affecting More than 80 Million

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court is taking up two major Biden administration efforts to bump up the nation’s vaccination rate against COVID-19 at a time of spiking coronavirus cases because of the omicron variant. The justices on the conservative-oriented court heard arguments yesterday (FRI) about whether to allow the administration to enforce a vaccine-or-testing mandate that applies to large employers and a separate vaccine mandate for most health care workers. Legal challenges to the policies from Republican-led states and business groups are in their early stages, but the outcome at the high court probably will determine the fate of vaccine requirements affecting more than 80 million people.


In Omicron Outbreak, U.S. Governors Lose Appetite for Mandates

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Governors across the U.S. took sweeping action during earlier surges of the COVID-19 pandemic, but are taking a much different approach during the record-setting caseloads caused by the omicron variant. Previously, many of them closed schools or ordered businesses shut down. They issued mask mandates, vaccine requirements and, in some places, quarantines for those who had traveled to hot spots out of state. While governors are now sending help to hospitals, they are displaying little appetite for widespread public orders or shutdowns even as the omicron surge shatters COVID-19 case records. Even Democratic governors who passed strict mandates early on are relying more on persuasion than dictates.


DCF Extending Pandemic SNAP Benefits 

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — The Kansas Department for Children and Families is extending the emergency food benefits offered during the COVID-19 pandemic. The increase raises the maximum food stamp benefit through the SNAP program for more than 60,000 Kansas families. Emergency food assistance will continue through July 31 or whenever the federal public health emergency ends. The emergency benefits allowed under the federal rules bring an average of an additional $232 a month for SNAP recipients. The federal government is paying the additional $15 million a month in Kansas benefits. Department for Children and Families Secretary Laura Howard says these benefits are crucial for some families to access food. 


Kansas Attorney General Clarifies Laws on Delta-9 Cannabis Products

HAYS, Kan. (KNS) — Some Kansas shops have been selling a cannabis product called delta-8. The product is a molecular variant of the traditional THC compound in marijuana that produces a high. Law enforcement officials have complained that they didn’t know if the substance was illegal. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt now says delta-8 is only legal in hemp products that contain very small amounts. Some shops sell vape oils and other items with high amounts. So far, store owners in at least one city, Hays, have been put on notice. Ellis County Attorney Robert Anderson told shops to give their supplies of delta-9 to local police or they could face legal consequences 


Authorities: Beware of Vapes, Gummies in Some Kansas Stores

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Confusion is clouding the legality of vapes, gummies, teas and other products that include a chemical cousin of marijuana’s main intoxicating ingredient. A recent Kansas attorney general opinion, court decision and law change have raised questions for prosecutors and law enforcement as the products, which are frequently sold in smoke shops and even gas stations, proliferate. At issue is a chemical called delta-8 THC that is billed as producing a milder high than the better-known delta-9 THC. Delta-8 is often marketed as being legal even where marijuana is not. That argument stems from the fact that most delta-8 is synthesized from CBD, a popular non-intoxicating chemical that’s prevalent in hemp, a form of cannabis that Congress legalized in 2018.


Woman Charged with Helping Man Escape from Larned State Hospital 

LARNED, Kan. (AP) - A Ulysses woman is charged with helping a man escape from the Larned State Hospital this week. The Pawnee County Attorney's Office says 38-year-old Emilia Melinda Brown is charged with aiding escape. Investigators allege Brown drove 43-year-old Isaac Watts away from the Larned campus after he escaped Monday night. Watts and Brown were arrested Tuesday morning at a Garden City hotel. Watts is jailed in Finney County pending any possible charges for the escape. Authorities have not said how he got out of the state hospital. He was the second patient to escape from Larned since June, and state officials are looking for a firm to review security procedures there.


Security Check at Larned State Hospital Accelerated After Escapes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State officials say they are working to find an independent firm to review procedures after two convicts escaped from Larned State Hospital since June. The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services said Tuesday it is working with the Correctional Leaders Association to find a firm to conduct a comprehensive security review at the facility. The effort began after John Colt escaped from the prison in June. He was not arrested until September in Utah. The governor's office says the effort will accelerate after another inmate, Isaac Watts, escaped from Larned Monday night. He was arrested Tuesday in Garden City.


Man Pleads Guilty to Charges in Death of Topeka Woman 
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A man has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and other charges in the 2019 killing of a woman whose body was found in a natural gas-filled Topeka home. Jeremy Lardner pleaded guilty Wednesday to the murder charge, as well as aggravated robbery and kidnapping in the death of 36-year-old Brandi Prchal. Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay says as part of a plea agreement, Lardner's defense team agreed to a sentence of nearly 49 years on all the counts when Lardner is sentenced on January 27. Lardner remains in custody on $1 million bond. On November 1, 2019, police and paramedics found Prchal's bludgeoned body and Lardner unconscious in a Topeka home filled with natural gas.  


Substitute Teacher Shortage Continues in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — Schools across Kansas can’t find enough substitute teachers in the midst of the lingering COVID-19 pandemic so the state could soon loosen some requirements for people who want to work as substitutes. State education leaders will consider a proposal next week to ease some of the requirements to work as a substitute teacher. Many Kansas schools say the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with a nationwide labor shortage, has left their schools struggling to staff classrooms. School districts are asking the Kansas Board of Education to drop some of the requirements for substitutes. Kansas requires even emergency subs to have at least 60 hours of coursework at an accredited college or university. State officials say they could lift that requirement temporarily but would still require subs to pass a fingerprint and background check. 


Kansas School Board OKs $425,000 for Outgoing Superintendent

GARDNER, Kan. (AP) — An outgoing suburban Kansas City, Kansas, school superintendent has secured a $425,000 severance package just days before newly-elected conservative school board members who campaigned on ousting her take office. The Kansas City Star reports that the Gardner Edgerton School District board last month approved the severance package covering the remaining 18 months of Superintendent Pam Stranathan's contract. Stranathan's resignation takes effect Sunday. On Monday, new members take office, giving the board a 4-3 conservative majority. That conservative majority was elected on its opposition to Stranathan’s policy of remote learning and mask requirements in the face of a global pandemic.


Parents Sue Kansas City Fire Department After Fatal Crash

KANSAS CITY, Mo . (AP) — The parents of a man who died in a crash involving a Kansas City firetruck are suing the city, the fire department and the truck driver. Michael Elwood was one of three people who died when the firetruck hit a car and then struck a pedestrian before crashing into a building in the Westport entertainment district last December. His parents allege in the lawsuit that the firetruck driver was negligent and too inexperienced to be driving the truck, which was responding to an emergency call at the time. A spokesman for the fire department said he would not comment on a pending lawsuit.


University of Kansas Suspends 2 Fraternities Until 2027

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP/LJW) — The University of Kansas has suspended two fraternities for five years following an investigation that accused the clubs of fostering a culture of hazing. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the university on Tuesday informed Phi Gamma Delta and Phi Delta Theta in a letter that they will be removed from KU's campus until the spring of 2027. The letter says investigations by national fraternity leadership and reviewed by a university panel found the fraternities engaged in a pattern of hazing, including action that hurt students. One instance attributed to Phi Gamma Delta says a pledge suffered a concussion after being thrown against a locker. Phi Delta Theta was also accused of causing harm to pledges through forced workouts and other actions.


Wichita Man Given 4 Consecutive Life Sentences for Child Sex Abuse

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 40-year-old Wichita man has been sentenced to four consecutive life sentences for sexually assaulting a young girl. Jeremiah Orange was sentenced Wednesday for abusing a girl during the summer of 2016 while she and her mother were staying with him. He was convicted in November of two counts of rape and two counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child. The four life sentences each have parole eligibility after 25 years. District Judge Jeffrey Syrios said each of the four sentences represents a separate act against the child.


Wichita Police Find Man Fatally Shot Inside Crash Vehicle

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police are searching for a gunman after finding a man fatally shot inside a crashed vehicle. Police say the shooting happened in northwestern Wichita around 2 am Friday, when several people reported hearing shots fired in the area. Arriving officers discovered a vehicle that had crashed into a home's detached garage and found a man believed to be in his 20s inside the vehicle who had been shot several times. Police say the man died at the scene. Officials did not immediately release his name. Police said no one else was injured in the shooting or the crash, and no information on a suspect or suspects has been released.


Texas Tech Upsets No. 6 KU, 75-67

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Texas Tech up-ended the no. 6-ranked University of Kansas Jayhawks by a score of 75 to 67 on Saturday. For the no. 25-ranked Red Raiders, Bryson Williams scored 22 points, and Clarence Nadolny had a career-high 17. Texas Tech never trailed in the second half. For KU, Ochai Agbaji had 24 points with six 3-pointers, and Jalen Wilson scored 20 points. The Jayhawks had their eight-game winning streak snapped. 


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, 11 am weekends. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today!  



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