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Headlines for Thursday, April 8, 2021

 

Records: Kansas Lawmaker's Blood Alcohol Was Twice Legal Limit

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — Legal affidavits say Kansas GOP Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop's blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit when he was arrested while driving the wrong way on a Kansas interstate in March. The affidavits released Thursday also say Suellentrop taunted the Kansas Highway Patrol trooper who arrested him. Suellentrop faces five charges, including driving under the influence and a felony offense of trying to elude law enforcement. The affidavit says that while a blood test was being administered, Suellentrop called the trooper “donut boy” and said he could “take him" in a fight. Suellentrop office said he would issue a statement later Thursday.

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Bill to Drop Concealed Carry Age Advances in Kansas Senate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has advanced a bill that would lower the legal age to carry concealed firearms in Kansas from 21 to 18. The Republican-controlled Senate on Thursday voted 30-8 for the bill, which would require permit holders to complete a background check and undergo gun safety training. The measure would increase the number of university and college students eligible to carry concealed firearms on campus, but education groups say it wouldn’t change current laws that allow high schools to prohibit guns on school grounds. The bill now goes to the House, which has passed a similar bill this session.

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Kansas Lawmakers Likely to Pass Bill on Transgender Athletes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — LGBTQ-rights advocates in Kansas are relying on Democratic Governor Laura Kelly or the courts to block a ban on transgender athletes in girls’ or women’s school sports. Conservatives on Thursday moved to push the proposal through the GOP-controlled Legislature. Republican negotiators for the Kansas House and Senate on education issues have agreed to strip an unrelated bill of its contents, drop in the proposed ban and send the measure to both chambers for an up-or-down vote this week. The resulting measure will probably pass, given both chambers’ GOP supermajorities and conservative leaders. Kelly has signaled that she will veto the measure.

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Kansas Lawmakers Close to Passing School 'Choice' Measure

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Conservative Republican legislators are close to winning final legislative approval for a measure to allow parents of academically struggling students to pay for private schooling with state dollars normally earmarked for public schools. The Kansas House approved, 64-59, a bill that ties education funding to a proposal to set up education savings accounts for students who are at risk of failing in public schools. The Senate’s approval would send the measure to Democratic Governor Laura Kelly. Conservative Republicans argued the measure would give parents more ways to help their children and promoting “school choice” pushes public schools to improve. But Democrats deemed it “anti-public education.”

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Ex-Kansas Sheriff's Official Faces Child Porn, Sex Counts

WAKEENEY, Kan. (AP) — A former official with a western Kansas sheriff's office has been arrested on charges of trafficking in child pornography and sex crimes involving children. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says 62-year-old Blaine Dryden, of WaKeeney, was arrested Wednesday on a warrant charging him with aggravated internet trading of child pornography and several counts of sexual exploitation of a child. Investigators say the alleged crimes occurred between November 2019 and last June, while Dryden was a lieutenant with the Ellis County Sheriff's Office. Dryden was placed on administrative leave when the department learned of the investigation, and his employment with the office ended in July. Dryden is being held in the Graham County Jail on $750,000 bond.

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Kansas Expects Thousands Fewer Johnson & Johnson Vaccines

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas health officials say the state is expecting to receive significantly fewer Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines in the coming weeks. The Department of Health and Environment said Wednesday Kansas expects to receive 5,000 doses next week and 1,700 each of the last two weeks of April. Kansas previously expected to receive 15,800 doses during those weeks. The health department didn't give a reason for the reduction, but Johnson & Johnson had to discard 15 million doses because a batch made at a Baltimore plant didn't meet quality standards. Vaccine supplies from Pfizer and Moderna are expected to remain consistent in coming weeks.

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Kansas COVID-19 Case Total Nearing 304,000, Including 4,932 Deaths, Since Pandemic Began

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR/AP) - The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reports that there have been 303,767 cases of COVID-19 in the state, including 4,932 deaths, since the start of the pandemic. That's an increase of 540 cases and five deaths since Monday. Another update will be released Friday.

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As States Expand Vaccines, Many Prisoners Still Lack Access

UNDATED (AP) — Vaccinating most Americans is plenty tough — and it's worse if you're in prison. Roughly half the country has opened up coronavirus vaccine eligibility beyond initial restrictions, vastly expanding the ability for most people to get a shot in the arm.  But inside many prisons, it's a different story. Prisoners are not free to seek out vaccines and still, on the whole, lack access.  Data collected by The Marshall Project and The Associated Press show fewer than 20% of state and federal prisoners have been vaccinated.  In some states, prisoners and advocates have resorted to filing lawsuits to get access.  In Kansas, prison inmates and staffers have been receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.  By mid-March, nearly 5,000 inmates statewide had already been vaccinated.  The Kansas Department of Corrections also reported last month that the majority of both staff and inmates who were offered the vaccine accepted the shot.

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After Complaint, Valley Center Might Drop COVID Restrictions

VALLEY CENTER, Kan. (AP) — The Valley Center school district is planning to vote Thursday on whether to drop its mask and social distancing requirements. The discussion comes after the board received a complaint from former Sedgwick County Commissioner Richard Ranzau, who opposes all COVID-19 restrictions. The board held a special hearing Monday to discuss the complaint from Ranzau, whose son attends Valley Center High School. He invoked a new state law that requires a speedy hearing for anyone objecting to COVID-19 restrictions. On Tuesday, the Blue Valley school district canceled a meeting called in response to the new law after a parent who attended refused to wear a mask or leave.

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Missouri Health Department IDs State's First Case of Virus Variant

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri's health department has confirmed the first case of a new virus variant in the state. This week, health officials announced a Jackson County resident tested positive for a variant first identified in South Africa. Health officials say there are also 35 active Missouri cases of a variant first identified in the U.K. Meanwhile, the University of Missouri is planning to have full-capacity, in-person classes and activities on the Columbia campus for the fall semester beginning in August. University President Mun Choi said the university had 13 active student cases as of Tuesday.

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Oklahoma Opens COVID-19 Vaccinations to All States

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma will begin providing COVID-19 vaccinations to residents of any state because both the vaccine supply and the number of vaccinated Oklahomans have increased. Deputy Health Commissioner Keith Reed said Wednesday that the state had reached a point where other states’ residents may be vaccinated starting Thursday. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that Oklahoma has received more than 2.9 million vaccine doses and has administered more than 2.1 million vaccinations. The state has about 4 million residents.

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Judge: 2019 Ruling Nullifies Ban on Kansas Abortion Procedure

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP/KPR) — A judge has ruled that a Kansas law banning a second-trimester abortion procedure is “unconstitutional and unenforceable” under a 2019 state Supreme Court ruling protecting abortion rights. Shawnee County District Judge Teresa Watson’s decision Wednesday was the first on abortion from a lower court since the decision from the state’s highest court. But Kansas has been unable to enforce the law since it was enacted in 2015 because of a lawsuit from two abortion providers. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled that access to abortion is a “fundamental” right under the state constitution but returned the case to district court for further review of the law. Opponents of the abortion procedure refer to it as a "dismemberment abortion."

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Federal Official Rescinds Haskell Orders on Employee Speech

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ The leader of the Bureau of Indian Education has rescinded directives regulating employee communication at Haskell Indian Nations University. One directive from Haskell President Ronald Graham forbid employees from publicly discussing complaints about the administration and others. A second directive from a Haskell vice president forbid employees from talking to the media or discussing their employment without permission. Tony Dearman, director of the BIE, told Haskell employees in a letter Tuesday that the federal agency is committed to free speech for students, faculty and staff. Earlier this month, the Haskell faculty approved a vote of no-confidence in Graham.
 
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Lawrence City Commission Defers Vote on Banning Conversion Therapy

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence City Commission members decided to delay a vote on banning conversion therapy for minors after questions arose about how it would affect counseling provided by religious organizations. The commission was scheduled to vote Tuesday on an ordinance that would ban therapy aimed at changing a minor's sexual orientation or gender identity. The ordinance currently contains a clause providing an exception for clergy. City legal staff said the exception was added to avoid legal challenges based on religious freedom. However, the city heard from two religious leaders who said the ordinance could stop religious schools from offering counseling on the subject, and that it was overly broad.

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Chip Shortage Forces More Production Cuts by General Motors

DETROIT (AP) — The global shortage of semiconductors is forcing General Motors to further cut production at six North American factories as chip supplies seem to be growing tighter. The shutdowns likely will crimp dealer inventory of vehicles made at the plants, but GM says it has managed to keep factories humming that make hot-selling and profitable full-size pickup trucks and SUVs. The chip shortage has already been rippling through various markets since last summer, but it has hit the global auto industry hardest. GM says Thursday that production cuts will take place at its Spring Hill, Tennessee; Ramos Arizpe, Mexico; Ingersoll, Ontario; Kansas City, Kansas, Fairfax; Lansing, Michigan, Delta Township; and Lansing, Michigan, Grand River factories.

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Wichita Aerospace Supply Company Files for Bankruptcy

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita aerospace supply company has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection following losses it blamed on the COVID-19 pandemic and suspension of Boeing's 737 Max plane. TECT Aerospace filed for the protection on Tuesday, which also covers the company's facilities in Park City, Wellington and Everett, Washington. It does not cover a facility in Nashville, Tennessee. The company said in its filings that it will continue its work during the bankruptcy reorganization and plans to separately sell its Kansas and Washington state operations. Court documents say among its creditors, TECT owes about $18.3 million to Boeing and $4.2 million to Spirit AeroSystems.

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Stray Bullet Hits Kansas Tourist Near NYC's Times Square

NEW YORK (AP) — Police say a tourist from Kansas has been hit in the shoulder by a stray bullet near New York's Times Square. Police say the 44-year-old man was shot shortly after 2 am Wednesday near West 38th Street and Eighth Avenue. Police do not believe he was the intended target. The man was taken to Bellevue Hospital and is stable. The Daily News reports that the victim told police he attended Tuesday's Mets-Phillies game in Philadelphia and then took a train or bus back to New York. Police say he was headed to his hotel when he was shot. No arrests have been made.

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Missouri Attorney General Files Suit to Shut Down Four Massage Businesses

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has sued four massages businesses in the state, alleging they advertise on websites that solicit prostitution. Schmitt announced Tuesday that he sued A Little Massage in Laclede County, Blue Lotus Asian Massage in Cole County, Shangri-La Massage in Jackson County and Ella’s Asian Massage in Clay County. He said during a news conference that he is seeking injunctions to close the businesses. He said landlords at the four businesses either did not respond to contacts from his office or were uncooperative. The lawsuits are part of Schmitt's Hope Initiative, which he started in October to crack down on illegal massage businesses in the state.

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Russell Man Sentenced for Death of 14-Month-Old Child

RUSSELL, Kan. (AP) — A 29-year-old Russell man was sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison for the death of a toddler in 2017.  Jody Steven Fox was sentenced Monday for second-degree murder and child abuse. He pleaded no contest after 14-month-old Gabriel Usoro's death in April 2017. The child died at a Wichita hospital. Fox will also have to register as a violent offender for 15 years after he completes his sentence. Fox was in a relationship with Gabriel's mother when the boy was killed. His mother, Brandi Niehoff, pleaded no contest in December 2020 to aggravated child endangerment. She is scheduled to be sentenced April 13.

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Man Who Repeatedly Stabbed Woman He Didn't Know Convicted

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man accused of stabbing a woman who he didn't know has been convicted of attempted second-degree murder. A Sedgwick Count jury convicted Wade Dunn Thursday. He stabbed the 28-year-old woman 30 times in September 2019 as she unloaded items from her car. Dunn said he was high on K2 and methamphetamine when he saw the woman as he walked in her neighborhood. The victim survived her injuries. The jury initially convicted Dunn of first-degree attempted murder but told the judge not everyone agreed. After being sent back to deliberate again, the jury returned with the second-degree attempted murder conviction.

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Biofuels Producers, Farmers Not Sold on Switch to Electric

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The president and the auto industry maintain the nation is on the cusp of a gigantic shift to electric vehicles and away from liquid-fueled cars, but biofuels producers and some of their supporters in Congress aren't buying it. They argue the U.S. should increase sales of ethanol and biodiesel, not abandon them. President Joe Biden has proposed an infrastructure plan that includes increased funding to promote a shift to electric vehicles. Producers of corn-based ethanol and soy-based biodiesel say that even if the U.S. dramatically increases sales of electric vehicles, liquid-fueled cars and trucks will make up a majority of vehicles on the road for many years.

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