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Headlines for Thursday, December 2, 2021

 

Kansas COVID Hospitalizations on the Rise

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — Kansas health professionals expect COVID-19 cases to rise when winter weather begins and  some rural communities are already seeing a spike in cases. The University of Kansas Health System’s Care Collaborative works to provide healthcare to rural areas in Kansas.  KU Health officials say more than 700 COVID-19 related hospitalizations were reported across the state this week. That's the highest tally since July.  The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says the best way to combat COVID is to get vaccinated.  The health department says 49% of Kansans are vaccinated but that figure is lower in rural parts of the state.

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Former Kansas Health Chief Says He Was 'Fauci'd' Out of His Job

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP/KPR) — Dr. Lee Norman, who led Kansas through the coronavirus pandemic until his abrupt departure last month, says he was "Fauci'd" out by COVID-19 politics. Democratic Governor Laura Kelly announced on November 19 that Norman had stepped down after serving as the health department's top administrator since Kelly took office in January 2019. But in an interview with Kansas Public Radio, Norman says he was asked to resign. He cites constant friction between the governor and the Republican-led legislature and compares himself to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert and a frequent target of criticism from the right. (Read more.)

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Kansas A-G: Kansas Universities Violating New Vaccine Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The Kansas attorney general is telling some universities that they are violating a new state law granting no-questions-asked exemptions to COVID-19 vaccine mandates. The law says Kansas workers can get religious exemptions to vaccine mandates with no questions asked. Attorney General Derek Schmidt sent a letter to the University of Kansas and Kansas State University saying their policies for requesting exemptions are too onerous and violate the law. The letter was obtained by the Kansas Reflector. Some universities in Kansas require the shot to comply with a federal COVID vaccine mandate. The schools have said they risk losing federal contracts if they don’t comply.

UPDATE:  Kansas Universities Backtrack on Vaccine Mandates

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KNS) - Two Kansas universities are now relaxing their COVID-19 mandates for employees after pushback from Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt.  In a letter to Kansas Board of Regents president Blake Flanders, Schmidt wrote that vaccine mandates in place at the University of Kansas and Kansas State University violated a new state law. The law, which was passed last week, makes it easier for people to claim religious exemptions from vaccine mandates.  Schmidt raised concerns that both universities’ religious exemption forms were intrusive and their timelines for vaccination did not line up with federal deadlines. Representatives from the University of Kansas and Kansas State University now say they have updated their vaccine mandate to align with state law and the federal deadlines.  KU officials say they have revised and simplified the form employees can use to obtain an exemption from getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

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Governor Names New Leader of Kansas Child Advocate Division

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Laura Kelly has appointed a Lawrence woman to lead a new division designed to improve the state's child welfare system. Kelly announced Thursday that Kerrie Lonard will be the Kansas Child Advocate. The governor created the Division of the Child Advocate in October. The independent office will review complaints against Kansas’s foster care system and recommend changes in child welfare policies. Lonard is an attorney who has worked at Kansas Legal Services in Topeka for nearly 14 years. Before that, she was a social worker for five years. Lonard will start on December 12 and will focus first on building the division's structure.

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1 Dead, 2 Hurt When Car Hits Walmart in Kansas City, Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police say one person died and two others were injured when a vehicle hit two pedestrians and crashed into a Walmart at a Kansas City, Kansas shopping plaza. Police spokeswoman Nancy Chartrand says the crash occurred Thursday afternoon in the Legends Outlet mall. Three people, including the driver, were taken to hospitals. One of the pedestrians later died. Chartrand says investigators believe the crash was accidental and might have occurred when the driver suffered a medical emergency.

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Kansas Man Pleads Guilty for Role in January 6 Riot at U.S.Capitol

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A 32-year-old northeast Kansas man has pleaded guilty to participating in the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.  Mark Roger Rebegila, of St. Marys, pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to a misdemeanor charge of parading, demonstrating or picketing in the Capitol building. Several other charges were dropped. He is scheduled to be sentenced March 10. He is the third of eight Kansas residents charged in the Capitol riot to plead guilty. A federal affidavit says Rebegila told the FBI that he entered the Capitol after others had crashed the barriers. Prosecutors say he also took videos of himself inside the Capitol. 

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Lawmakers Grill Kansas Education Officials over Low Test Scores

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — Kansas lawmakers questioned education officials over declining test scores during committee meetings this week. The discussion could set the stage for debates in the legislative session next year. Wide-ranging testimony before the Special Committee on Education centered on whether Kansas schools are focusing enough on academics and whether they’re listening to parents’ concerns.  Last spring more than 30% of Kansas students scored below grade level on state tests - a sharp decline since 2015.  Republican State Senator Renee Erickson says increased focus on social-emotional learning is taking time away from core subjects like math and reading. "On any objective measure, our kids are not growing and succeeding," Erickson said. "So what does it say when more kids are graduating with that diploma?”  School district officials said lawmakers should look at other metrics, such as the increase in students taking college-level courses.  

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North Carolina State Dean Named New K-State President

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Board of Regents has named a dean at North Carolina State University as the new president of Kansas State University. The board announced Thursday that Richard Linton, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State, will replace Richard Myers, who plans to retire at the end of the year. Prior to moving to North Carolina State, Linton worked in food science positions at Ohio State and Purdue. He is currently a member of the Food and Drug Administration Science Advisory Board. Linton was chosen after a national search that began when Myers announced in May that he planned to retire.

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Kansas Utility Commission Criticizes Hedge Fund Influence on Evergy

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas utility regulators have issued an order requiring Evergy to explain and justify a plan to spend $10.4 billion on its electrical system and report quality of service measures on a quarterly basis amid concerns that the plan is designed largely to benefit a hedge fund investor. The Wichita Eagle reports that members of the Kansas Corporation Commission sent a strong signal Tuesday that they won't tolerate efforts to increase shareholder profits at the expense of unreasonably high rates for Evergy's 1 million Kansas customers. In a written statement, Evergy said it was reviewing the commission's order before identifying "if there are appropriate next steps." (Read more.)

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Kansas Corrections Officer Hospitalized After Attack

LANSING, Kan. (KCUR) - The union that represents state employees in Kansas says not enough is being done to protect workers at the Lansing Correctional Facility, where an officer was hospitalized after an attack this week -- the second attack on a Kansas prison guard in the last month. Union president Sarah LaFrenz says the officer was working alone Monday inside a maximum-security unit with 100 inmates, when he was assaulted by an inmate swinging a bar of soap inside a sock. On November 3rd, a female officer was sent to the ICU after being attacked by an inmate wielding a padlock attached to a belt. Since then, LaFrenz said that she’s heard no reports of staffing changes, policy updates or any other measures to alleviate dangerous conditions at Lansing.

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Kansas Prison Staffing Problems Lead to Suspended Prison Visits

LANSING, Kan. (KNS) -In-person visits with inmates at the Lansing Correctional Facility are suspended indefinitely starting next week. Kansas prisons are going through one of the worst staffing shortages state officials have ever seen, and the Lansing facility doesn’t have enough workers to continue in-person visits.  Kansas Department of Corrections Secretary Jeff Zmuda says the department regrets suspending visits around the holidays but had no other choice. Governor Laura Kelly announced raises for prison staff and one-time retention bonuses to address staffing issues, but long-term solutions are still needed.  

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Woman in Wheelchair Hit, Killed on Wichita Street

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say a woman in a motorized wheelchair was hit and killed by a vehicle as she crossed a Wichita road, marking the city's second crash death of a pedestrian in a wheelchair since mid-November. Police say the crash happened Wednesday afternoon at an intersection in east Wichita, just north of McConnell Air Force Base. Police say 55-year-old Tracey Crawford, of Wichita, was crossing Rock Road when she was hit by a sport utility vehicle. There is no crosswalk at the intersection. Crawford died at the scene. Police say the SUV driver is cooperating with the investigation. On November 15, a 71-year-old wheelchair-bound man died after being hit by a car near the Wichita State University campus.

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One Injured in Shooting Near KCMO High School 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) -- One person was shot near Southeast High School in Kansas City, Missouri Wednesday afternoon.  The school's resource officer says the incident happened off of school property.  KCTV reports shots were heard near the school and a vehicle was seen driving away from the scene. The vehicle then pulled into the parking lot of the school and the officer made contact with the victim, who had been shot in the leg.  The victim, who's name has not been released, stated he was in the area of 64th and College when another car pulled up next to him and began shooting. The victim was transported to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.  No suspect information was released by police. 

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Two Die in Fiery Crash on I-435 in Kansas City 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KC Star) -- Kansas City police are investigating a fatal accident involving a semi truck that apparently rolled into a ditch and caught fire along a highway Wednesday afternoon. The Kansas City Star reports that the truck driver and a passenger were killed after the driver apparently lost control of the vehicle while taking a highway exit from westbound I-70 to  southbound I-435. The semi went off the left side of the roadway before tipping into a ditch and the cab was completely engulfed in flames, police said.  Investigators say the trailer was loaded with adhesives that were not burned in the fire.The Missouri Department of Transportation shared images of heavy smoke billowing from a flaming tractor trailer that had crashed between I-70 westbound and I-435. Police shut down the ramp where the crash occurred for several hours Wednesday as they investigated the cause of the crash.   

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Charges Dismissed in Missouri Woman's 1988 Killing

AURORA, Mo. (AP) - A prosecutor has dismissed a murder charge against a southwestern Missouri man in a woman's 1988 killing.  Lawrence County, Missouri prosecutor Don Trotter dismissed the first-degree murder charge against Lawrence Timmons, who was indicted in 2019 in the killing of Cynthia Smith. The 31-year-old Smith was last seen leaving a bar in Mount Vernon in July of 1988. Her body was found in a cemetery a few miles away 10 days after she disappeared. The case could be refiled if new evidence is found. Trotter says he dropped the murder charge because witnesses have died and legal changes to requirements for first-degree murder charges would have made prosecuting the case more difficult. 

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Former Nurse Convicted of Raping Patient at Kansas City Area Hospital

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) - A 37-year-old Kansas man has been convicted of raping a patient at a hospital in Missouri. Chukwuemeka Emmanuel, of Overland Park, was found guilty Wednesday of first-degree rape after a bench trial. He was charged in 2019 after a patient at Centerpoint Medical Center in Independence reported she was raped in her hospital bed after she asked Emmanuel for help. Emmanuel worked at the hospital as a "float nurse" hired through an outside agency. He was fired after the accusations were made. His sentencing is scheduled for January 27. 
 
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Convicted Kansas City Officer to Be Sentenced March 4

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A white Kansas City police officer convicted in the fatal shooting a Black man will be sentenced March 4. A Jackson County judge on Thursday set the sentencing date for police Detective Eric DeValkenaere, who was convicted in November of second-degree involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action in the death of Cameron Lamb. Attorney Molly Hastings said Thursday his defense team plans to appeal DeValkenaere's conviction. He faces up to four years on the manslaughter conviction and at least three years for the armed criminal action charge. DeValkenaere remains free on bond. He has been suspended from the police force pending termination.

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Child, Suspect Dead and 2 Injured in Kansas City, Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - Wyandotte County officials say a man who barricaded himself inside an apartment shot two children and his girlfriend before shooting himself. The Wyandotte County Sheriff's office says the suspect and a 7-year-old girl died after the shooting at a Kansas City, Kansas apartment Wednesday morning. Officers responding to a shooting at Wellborn Park found a woman in her 20s suffering from gunshot wounds. The suspect fled the scene and barricaded himself inside the house. When officers entered the apartment, they found the suspect dead and the girl dead. A 3-year-old boy was injured. The woman and the other child were hospitalized. Authorities have not discussed a possible motive for the shootings. 

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Wife of Injured Wichita Officer Settles with Dealership

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A lawsuit filed against a Wichita car dealership by the wife of a police officer injured when he was run over by a sport utility vehicle from the business has been settled for an undisclosed amount. Officer Brian Arterburn was critically injured in February 2017 when he was hit by the SUV while putting down stop sticks to stop the vehicle. His wife, fellow Wichita police officer Claudale Arterburn, sued Eddy's Chevrolet Cadillac, its owners and the driver of the SUV, Justin Terrazas. Terrazas pleaded guilty to charges in the case and was sentenced to nearly 29 years in prison. The lawsuit had sought $75 million in actual and punitive damages.

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Texas Woman Sentenced in Death of 2 Kansas Carnival Vendors

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — A 55-year-old Texas woman has been sentenced to life in prison without parole for her role in the death of a Kansas couple who were vendors at a county fair. Kimberley Stacy Younger, of Aransas Pass, Texas, was sentenced Monday for capital murder and other charges. She was one of four carnival workers convicted in the July 2018 killings of 78-year-old Alfred Carpenter and his 79-year-old wife, Pauline, of Wichita. They were killed after working at the Barton County Fair in Kansas. Their bodies were later found in northwest Arkansas. Investigators said one of the suspects ordered their deaths as part of an initiation into a "carnival mafia," which did not exist.

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After Pandemic Delay, Truman Library Reopens

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) - The Harry S. Truman Museum and Library in Independence is scheduled to reopen with limited hours Thursday. The museum closed in October because of an increase in COVID-19 cases in Jackson County. It previously reopened in July after nearly two years of renovations. Museum officials said the museum will initially be open Thursday through Saturday from 9 to 3:30 for people who buy advanced tickets online. Visitors will be required to wear masks. The museum underwent a nearly $30 million renovation project starting in 2019 that was slowed by the coronavirus pandemic. 

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November Economy Index Falls, But Confidence Ticks Up

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - A new monthly survey of business leaders in nine Midwest and Plains states shows the region's economy remains healthy, and overall confidence in the economy over the next six months has improved. But about half of supply managers surveyed expect supply chain disruptions to get worse for the first six months of 2022. Firms reported that transportation issues such as trucking, air and rail delays were the greatest factors accounting for supply chain disruptions. The overall index for November of the Creighton University Mid-America Business Conditions released Wednesday fell to 60.2 from October's 65.2.  Any score above 50 on the survey's indexes suggests growth. The monthly survey covers Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. 
 
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KU Volleyball Jayhawks to Face Oregon in First Round of 2021 NCAA Tournament

LAWRENCE, Kan. - The University of Kansas women's volleyball team is heading to Omaha, Nebraska, to take on the No. 19 Oregon Ducks in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament. The match will take place today (THUR) with the first serve set for 4:30 pm.  This is the 10th time in program history that Kansas has qualified for the NCAA Tournament and the first time since 2017.  The Jayhawks finished the regular season with a 16-11 overall record and 8-8 in Big 12 play.  Kansas is going into the tournament on a four-match winning streak, having swept the last two regular season series. KU and Oregon have met three times, most recently in 2008. Oregon leads the series 3-0.

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Chiefs Leaning on Unsung Heroes in Their Super Bowl Pursuit

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The top-ranked cornerback in the NFL, at least according to some advanced metrics, is not Jalen Ramsey or some other high-profile player that was a first-round pick and developed into a Pro Bowl-caliber talent. The top center isn’t Jason Kelce or some other longtime stalwart in the middle of the offensive line. Rather they are Rashad Fenton and Creed Humphrey of the AFC champion Chiefs who, along with cornerback L’Jarius Sneed and a few others, have emerged as the unsung heroes of a club seeking a third consecutive Super Bowl appearance.

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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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