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Headlines for Thursday, April 15, 2021


Panel of Scientists Warns Against Use of Bogus “Air Cleaner” Machines

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KNS) — Scientists want schools in Kansas to stay away from potentially harmful air cleaner machines and turn them off if they’re already in use.  The electronic air cleaners go by a lot of names such as “bipolar ionizers,” “electronic air cleaners,” or a variety of other names. The group of scientists says vendors used unproven claims of ridding indoor air of COVID-19 to market the devices to schools. But researchers say they have found no evidence that the machines actually work. Marcel Harmon is a building scientist based in Lawrence who is warning schools not to rely on the machines. “Just don’t do it at this point,” Harmon says. “And if you have it already installed in your building, we would suggest that you consider turning it off.” Fourteen engineers and chemists signed an open letter warning that some brands of the “air cleaning” devices even discharge dangerous chemicals into the air such as ozone and formaldehyde.


Kansas Health Officials Warn of Unhealthy Air as Ranchers Burn Grassland

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — Air pollutants are at unhealthy levels in parts of Kansas, while ranchers burn grassland in the Flint Hills. The burning is spreading dangerously smoky air across southern Kansas and into Oklahoma. Kansas health officials have issued a warning against strenuous outdoor exercise. They advise people with lung or heart problems to remain indoors, drink plenty of water and run an air conditioner to filter the air. Unhealthy air could be a problem as far west as Liberal, in southwest Kansas, while the smoke keeps moving. Ranchers burn land each year to eradicate invasive plants and produce more nutrient-rich grass for cattle.


Lawrence Lifts Limits as More KU Students, Staff Get Vaccine

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Lawrence area has lifted more coronavirus restrictions, with a growing number of University of Kansas employees and students getting vaccinated. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the Douglas County Commission voted Wednesday to eliminate the mass-gathering limit while keeping its mask mandate in place. The newly-approved health order also provides more flexibility about the occupancy rules for businesses and venues. Andrew Foster, the university's emergency management coordinator, said Wednesday that 62.7% of KU's employees and 17.7% of its students had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of Monday. Those figures include people who were vaccinated through the university and those who told the school they had been vaccinated elsewhere.


Tourist Town of Branson Repeals Mask Mandate Early

BRANSON, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri tourist town of Branson is ditching its mask mandate early after electing a new mayor who ran on a platform that called for doing away with it. Newly elected Mayor Larry Milton said that the “city heard your voices loud and clear" after the Board of Alderman voted 6-0 on Tuesday night to repeal the public masking ordinance effective Friday. The ordinance was first enacted July 31 after extensive discussion amid rising COVID-19 case counts. Last month, the Board of Aldermen voted 4-2 to repeal it, but delayed implementation until May 24 to allow Branson’s tourism industry an opportunity to vaccinate its front-line workers. But that wasn’t fast enough for Branson voters.


Kansas Senator Marshall Votes No on Advancing "Hate Crimes" Legislation

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Republican Senator Republican Roger Marshall is among a handful of conservative U.S. senators who opposed moving forward with a Democratic-sponsored measure for confronting hate crimes against Asian Americans. Marshall's office said today (THUR) that an existing federal hate crimes law already prohibits intentionally injuring or trying to injure others based on their race, color, religion or national origin. The Senate voted 92-6 on Wednesday to have a debate on the proposed COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act. Republican Senator Josh Hawley, of Missouri, also voted against moving ahead with the debate. Hawley's office did not immediately respond to an email and phone message seeking comment.


Overland Park Republican Considers Challenging Representative Sharice Davids

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican state Representative Chris Croft is considering challenging Democratic U.S. Representative Sharice Davids in a Kansas City-area district. Croft, of Overland Park, is chairman of a Kansas House committee that will redraw the state's congressional districts ahead of next year's election. He met with the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee last month to discuss the race against Davids, who is seeking a second term. Kansas GOP leaders have said they hope to oust Davids by redrawing the 3rd District's boundaries to make it more friendly to Republicans. Democrats say it would be a conflict of interest for Croft to be lead the redistricting committee while running for Congress.


More than 1 Million Get at Least 1 Vaccine Dose in Kansas

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has crossed the threshold of vaccinating more than 1 million people as a third highly contagious variant is detected in the state. That means 35% of the state’s 2.9 million residents have received at least one shot, according to state data released Wednesday. The state hit the mark one day after the Kansas Department of Health and Environment announced that a particularly contagious variant of COVID-19 that is sweeping through Brazil has been detected for the first time in Kansas. The agency said it is investigating how someone in Sedgwick County became infected with the P.1 variant and whether others may have been exposed.


Brazilian Coronavirus Variant Discovered in Sedgwick County

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - An emerging coronavirus strain known as the Brazilian variant has been identified in an individual in Sedgwick County. State health officials are conducting an investigation to determine how the person became infected with the P.1 variant and if others may have been exposed.  The variant was originally identified in four travelers from Brazil and was detected in the U.S. at the end of last year. It has so far and has been found in 31 U.S. states and territories. Dr. Lee Norman, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, says the variant strain can reduce the effectiveness of some vaccines but he says, vaccines still provide strong protection against severe illness and death. “We continue to encourage people to take the appropriate precautions” Norman says. “This includes wearing a mask that fits snugly around the nose and face and has multiple layers of fabric”. Norman says Kansans should also continue to practice physical distancing, good hygiene and staying home if sick.


Kansas Suspends Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Distribution

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — The top health official in Kansas says the state is suspending distribution of Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccines as federal health officials investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. Lee Norman, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, predicted the pause won’t have a “big impact” on the state’s overall rate of providing vaccine shots. That’s because less than 4% of the shots administered in Kansas have been from Johnson & Johnson, according to KDHE data.


Kansas COVID-19 Case Total Passes 305,000, Including 4,944 Deaths, Since Pandemic Began

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR/AP) - The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reports that there have been 305,320 cases of COVID-19 in the state, including 4,944 deaths, since the start of the pandemic. That's an increase of 601 cases and 14 deaths since Monday. Another update of case statistics is expected Friday afternoon. 


Kansas College Paying Staff $250 to Get COVID-19 Vaccines

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — The largest community college in Kansas is paying staff members to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and one of the county's largest public school districts is making in-home testing kits available to students who want them. KMBC-TV reports that Johnson County Community College is paying employees $250 to get their inoculations in hopes of bringing more students back to campus in the fall. Meanwhile, KCTV reports that the 22,400-student Blue Valley school district in Johnson County began a voluntary COVID-19 testing program this week that sends rapid-testing kits home with students who sign up for them. State data showed that Kansas averaged 213 new cases a day for the seven days ending Monday.


Kansas City Man Testifies He Didn't Kill 2 Cass County Women

HARRISONVILLE, Mo. (AP) - A Kansas City, Missouri, man on trial for two counts of first-degree murder has testified that he did not kill the two women but suggested that his dead half-brother did. Kylr Yust took the stand in his own defense Wednesday in connection with the deaths of 17-year-old Kara Kopetsky and 21-year-old Jessica Runions nearly ten years apart. A mushroom hunter found the remains of the two young women in a Cass County, Missouri, farm field in 2017.  Kopetsky had filed a protection order against Yust in April 2007, a month before she was last seen. Witnesses testified that Yust left a party with Runions just before she disappeared in September 2016. Yust testified that he did not kill the women and suggested that his half-brother, who died by suicide in 2018, was involved in their deaths. The jury of 10 women and two men from St. Charles County in eastern Missouri, deliberated for about four hours last week and are expected to continue their deliberations this (THUR) morning.  


Ex-Police Chief in Central Kansas Convicted in Stalking Case

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A jury has convicted a former central Kansas police chief of several felony counts brought against him in a domestic stalking case. The Hutchinson News reports that a Reno County jury found Brian Treaster guilty Wednesday of stalking and criminal threat, as well as misdemeanor counts of violation of a protection order and battery. Treaster was acquitted of two counts each of phone harassment and disorderly conduct and a second count of violating a protection order. The charges stemmed from incidents in 2019, when Treaster confronted his ex-wife at her workplace while he was still Bushton's police chief, then later confronted and shoved the woman's boyfriend and made threatening calls to the pair.


Missouri Lawmakers Move to Make Daylight Saving Time Permanent

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri House has advanced a bill that would make daylight saving time permanent. The GOP-led House gave the proposal initial approval in a voice vote Wednesday. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 15 states have adopted similar provisions. Federal law prevents states from moving to daylight saving time permanently, so the Missouri bill would only take effect if Congress changes federal law.  Some Kansas lawmakers have floated the idea of making the permanent switch to daylight saving time as well, but so far, have not advanced any legislation. 


Kansas Fight Shows How Election 'Reforms' May Favor One Side

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A political fight in Kansas illustrates how proposals on voting laws billed as reform or anti-fraud measures can be a help to a specific party or policy priority. The Republican-controlled Legislature has approved a measure that would limit people to picking up and delivering 10 absentee ballots for voters. GOP lawmakers who back the bill argue that they're protecting the integrity of elections. They've been joined in supporting the measure by anti-abortion groups worried about abortion-rights supporters using that tactic to help defeat an anti-abortion initiative on the August 2022 primary ballot. Democrats see the bill as an attack on get-out-the-vote efforts that some of them have used.


Big Business Pushes Back Against Certain Voting Measures

UNDATED (AP) - A pushback against new voting bills and laws in numerous states is gaining momentum. Dozens of nation’s largest corporations and business leaders have signed a new statement objecting to “any discriminatory legislation.” Signatories to the letter published Wednesday in The New York Times and The Washington Post include Amazon, American Airlines, Bank of America, Google and Best Buy. Also signing were hundreds of business and civic leaders, such as Warren Buffett and Michael Bloomberg. More than 350 different voting bills are under consideration in dozens of states. On Tuesday, Arkansas was among the latest to approve changes to its election laws, including restrictions on outside polling places and on absentee ballots.


Bankers Report Strong Growth in Rural Parts of Kansas, 9 Other States

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new survey of bankers suggests strong economic growth continues in rural parts of 10 Western and Plains states even though business continues to lag behind the level it was at before the coronavirus pandemic began. The overall index for the region declined slightly from March’s 71.9 but remained at a strong level of 69. Any score above 50 suggests a growing economy. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss said improving grain prices, continued low interest rates and growing exports have all helped the economy in rural areas. Bankers from Kansas, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.


Inmate Battling Terminal Cancer Freed from Kansas Prison

LANSING, Kan. (AP) — A 47-year-old man with terminal cancer was freed from a Kansas prison after officials agreed his medical condition is so severe he is not a danger to public safety. The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas says Christopher McIntyre was released Monday from the Lansing Correctional Facility in Leavenworth County where he was serving time for aggravated burglary. The Kansas City Star reports that McIntyre is among 105 ACLU clients who requested clemency from Governor Laura Kelly. McIntyre was originally scheduled to be released in 2024. His attorneys have said he could die before then. McIntyre said in his clemency application that he has cancer masses in numerous parts of his body.


Kansas Sheriff's Deputy Arrested on Domestic Violence Counts

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Sedgwick County sheriff's deputy has been arrested on suspicion of several counts in a domestic violence case. Wichita police say Tyler Brooks was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of aggravated domestic violence battery, domestic battery, criminal threat and criminal damage to property. A news release from the sheriff's office said the charges stemmed from an incident involving a live-in intimate partner of the deputy's. Officials say Brooks has been employed by the sheriff's office for eight years. He has been suspended without pay.


12-Year-Old Kansas City Child Fatally Shot in Leavenworth

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — Police say a 12-year-old child from Kansas City was shot and killed at a Leavenworth pharmacy. Leavenworth Police Chief Pat Kitchens says officers responded to a several calls about a shooting at Kare pharmacy Wednesday evening but did not find any victims. About an hour later, Kansas City police reported that a family arrived at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City with a child who was shot. The child was pronounced dead at the hospital. Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson said Thursday that 25-year-old Darvon Thomas was charged with first-degree felony murder in the case. A 17-year-old suspect was also charged with felony murder and discharge of a firearm into an occupied vehicle.


Prosecutor Reviewing Abuse Claims Against Missouri Lawmaker

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri prosecutor says she's working with police after the House speaker raised concerns about a resigning lawmaker's contact with a child. Emails obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press show House Speaker Rob Vescovo flagged fellow Republican Rep. Rick Roeber's weekend visitation with a 12-year-old to Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker. Roeber’s adult children last year told House leaders that he sexually and physically abused them when they were young. Baker wrote to Vescovo that she's working with local police on a plan. Roeber submitted a letter of resignation Tuesday but didn’t mention the allegations against him.


Ex-Wichita Officer Sentenced for Abusing Minors for Years

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Wichita police officer and school employee was sentenced to five years in prison for molesting young boys for more than a decade. A judge ruled this week that 58-year-old Alex Robinson will begin serving his sentence after he is paroled in Colorado, where he was also convicted of sex crimes against a young boy. In Kansas, Robinson was accused of molesting four boys, aged 11 to 14, in the Wichita area between 2000 and 2012. The abuse case in Colorado happened in the 1990s. After serving most of his sentence in Colorado, Robinson was transferred back to Kansas last year.


Bombardier Aviation Announces Learjet Layoffs 

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) – Bombardier has formally notified the state of Kansas it plans to lay off more than 200 people at its Learjet facility in Wichita. The letter to the Department of Commerce says the layoffs will begin in June and continue for the next year. The move was expected after Bombardier announced in February it would stop building the iconic Learjet business jet. Learjet currently employs about 1,200 people at its plant in west Wichita. The plant will continue to serve as Bombardier’s primary flight-test center and as a service center.


Kansas City Approves Naming Street for Martin Luther King

KANSAS CITY, Mo (AP) — After years of debate, Kansas City, Missouri will have a street named for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The city's parks and recreation board has approved a proposal to rename a 5-mile route along thoroughfares that run east to west after the civil rights icon. City officials and civil rights activists celebrated the decision and vowed that the move was just the first step in larger plans to honor King, and to help foster racial unity in the city. This week's vote comes after a 2019 election in which voters chose to remove King's name from another well-known boulevard in the city. The new plan drew little opposition.


School Drop-off Gun Threat in KCK

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ Anyone who has ever negotiated the line of vehicles at a school drop-off zone knows how frustrating the daily process can be. But police say one mom took matters too far when she used a gun to threaten another mother in a Kansas City, Kansas, school drop-off line. Television station KSHB-TV reports the incident happened Tuesday morning at Junction Elementary School. Police say a mother was dropping off her children in the line when another car sped around her. Police say the mother got out of her car and confronted the other driver, who was also dropping off students. Police say the other woman then displayed a handgun and made threatening statements. Officers arrested the woman a short time later.


Missouri Town Decides to Keep "Savages" Mascot, Ditch Logo

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Leaders of a nearly all-white northwest Missouri school district have narrowly voted to keep the high school’s “Savages” nickname but will phase out the use of Native American imagery. The Maryville Daily Forum reports that the Savannah R-3 Board of Education’s 4-3 vote on Tuesday night came after months of dueling petitions and heated debates. Activists, including those that originally petitioned the board last summer to change the mascot, hoped to have the name and image eradicated. But many residents wanted nothing to change, and one board member walked out of the meeting after failing to stop the removal of Native American imagery.


Missouri House Advances Bill for Guns on Buses, in Churches

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri lawmakers are advancing a sweeping firearms bill that would allow concealed guns on public transportation and in churches. The Republican-led House gave initial approval to the bill in a voice vote. Currently, people need permission to bring firearms into places of religious worship. The bill would allow people with concealed carry permits to bring guns in churches, synagogues and mosques regardless. Another provision in the bill would ensure that gun stores are considered essential businesses. That means state and cities couldn’t order them closed during emergencies such as the coronavirus pandemic.


NWSL Imposes Additional 1-Game Suspension for Kansas City's Edmonds

CHICAGO (AP) — The National Women’s Soccer League has imposed an additional one-game suspension for Kansas City’s Kristen Edmonds following her actions in a game against the Portland Thorns. Edmonds was issued a red card and sent off the field after a scuffle with Portland’s Morgan Weaver in the final moments of the Thorns’ 2-1 victory. As a result of the red card, she was fined and suspended a game. The NWSL added the second game after a disciplinary review.


KPR's daily headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays and updated throughout the day. KPR's weekend summary is usually published by 1 pm Saturdays and Sundays.

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