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Headlines for Thursday, July 1, 2021

 

U.S. Supreme Court Ruling Could Help Kansas Defend Voting Laws

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A U.S. Supreme Court ruling narrowing the Civil Rights-era federal Voting Rights Act could help Kansas defend election measures enacted by Republican state legislators. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the assessment of Thursday's decision came from both Republican state Attorney General Derek Schmidt and veteran election-law attorney Mark Johnson. The new state laws took effect Thursday and are being challenged in separate lawsuits in federal and state courts. Kansas now limits the number of absentee ballots people can deliver to election officials for others and bars out-of-state groups from mailing absentee ballot applications to voters. Supporters say the changes prevent fraud, while critics argue that they limit help for voters.

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Kansas Starts COVID Campaign Amid Fears About Delta Variant

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has launched public-service announcements Wednesday about COVID-19. The 30-second television spots reflect officials’ fears that people who travel over the Fourth of July holiday will return with the fast-spreading delta variant. One 30-second television spot features Kelly and another features her and U.S. Representative Sharice Davids, a fellow Democrat who represents the state’s portion of the Kansas City area in Congress. Both tell viewers that the coronavirus pandemic is not over; the best protection is to get vaccinated, and people should wear masks and social distance if they aren’t inoculated. Kansas reported 283 delta variant cases as of Wednesday, up 27.5% since Monday.

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Missouri Governor Urges Vaccinations Amid Spiking COVID-19 Cases

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri Governor Mike Parson says the state wants to increase the vaccination rate for COVID-19. Missouri's vaccination rate lags behind the rest of the nation and the state is in the midst of a major surge in cases and hospitalizations. Missouri reported 854 newly confirmed cases Wednesday, one of the largest one-day totals since February. The state also reported nine new deaths. The increase is driven largely by a big jump in cases in southwestern and northern Missouri. Those areas have been hit hard by the fast-spreading delta variant. Hospitalizations have risen sharply over the past month, mostly in southwestern Missouri. State data shows 334 people are hospitalized in southwestern Missouri, compared with just 86 in mid-May. 

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Mask Requirement Will End Soon in Wichita Public Schools

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas’s largest school district won’t require students and teacher to wear face masks or to get a COVID-19 vaccination during the upcoming school year. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Board of Education for Wichita Public Schools on Wednesday reviewed the district’s reopening plan, but took no formal action. The board previously delegated COVID operational decisions to Superintendent Alicia Thompson. She said that: “Current data and public health recommendations, as well as feedback from stakeholders, lead us to masks being optional for all.”  The mask requirement in district facilities will end July 6.

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Governor: Kansas Will Keep Providing Extra COVID Food Aid

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Laura Kelly has moved to keep 63,000 households from losing extra food aid because Kansas is no longer under a state of emergency for the coronavirus pandemic. The announcement Tuesday that Kelly plans to continue the extra $14.5 million a month in aid came two weeks after top Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature ended the state of emergency. The Democratic governor’s chief of staff had told reporters that the extra pandemic-related aid would end once the state of emergency expired June 15. Republican leaders had argued that Kansas could continue to manage its pandemic response without an emergency declaration. The aid averages about $230 a month per household.

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Kansas Audit Says COVID Top Cause of Death for Last 4 Months of 2020; GOP Suspicious

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A legislative audit says COVID-19 was the leading cause of death in Kansas during the last four months of 2020. The report Tuesday prompted Republican lawmakers to call for more investigation of the numbers based on unsubstantiated theories that they could have been inflated. The short report from the GOP-controlled Legislature’s auditing division said COVID-19 caused more than 2,500 deaths during those four months, surpassing deaths from each of the traditional top 10 causes. But Republican Senators Caryn Tyson of Parker and Mike Thompson of Shawnee said they want more information about how doctors and medical examiners have concluded that COVID-19 is the underlying cause of a death.

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Panel Backs Appointment of 3 to Board that Leads Kansas Universities

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A legislative panel voted Wednesday to approve the appointment of a former railway executive, a former state senator and an educator to the board that governs the state’s six universities after members previously expressed concerns. The vote by the Senate Oversight Committee means former president and CEO of BNSF Railway Carl Ice, education consulting firm leader and former school superintendent Cynthia Lane and former Republican state senator and lawyer Wint Winter can serve until their appointment is confirmed by the full Senate. Democratic Governor Laura Kelly's administration announced the appointments earlier this month.

(–Related–) 

Lawmakers Question Board of Regents Candidates About "Critical Race Theory"

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — A panel of Kansas lawmakers is planning to consider the confirmation of three candidates for the Kansas Board of Regents today (WED) after postponing a decision earlier in the week. Republican legislators used a hearing to ask the nominees about critical race theory.  Republican Senate President Ty Masterson asked each nominee how they felt college instructors teaching the theory which is based on the idea that racial biases are embedded in American culture and policies. The group of senators will meet again today (WED) to decide whether to recommend Carl Ice, Cynthia Lane, and Wint Winter to fill the Board of Regents vacancies.  Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s office did not comment on the delay of her nominations. 

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Kansas Group Suspends Voter Registration, Education Efforts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A voting rights group plans to pause its voter registration and education activities for fear of criminal prosecution under a new election law passed this year by the Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature. The state voting rights organization Loud Light said in a news release that it will suspend on Thursday its voter outreach efforts. The group says it will hold off on its efforts until a Shawnee District Court rules on its motion to block the law, which makes it a felony to cause someone to believe another person is an election official.

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GOP Congressmen Assail Kansas Governor over Border Security

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Republicans are trying to pull Democratic Governor Laura Kelly into a national debate over border security as the GOP works to undercut her standing with voters ahead of her re-election bid next year. Republican U.S. Representative Ron Estes publicly urged Kelly on Wednesday to send law-enforcement resources to Arizona and Texas to help them with security along the border with Mexico. Estes and the state’s other two Republican congressmen sent Kelly a letter last week urging such action, and earlier this month, the Kansas GOP accused Kelly of being “silent” on border security. Kelly said the congressmen should focus on immigration legislation rather than what she called “political games.”

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UPDATE:  Authorities Say Man Illegally Making Fireworks Led to Blast in Kansas City Suburb

RAYTOWN, Mo. (AP) - Federal investigators say a man illegally making fireworks in his basement led to an explosion that leveled part of a suburban Kansas City duplex, killing him and injuring at least three others. A spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives tells the Kansas City Star that investigators came to that conclusion after sifting through the rubble at the explosion site in Raytown. Officials found the body of the man in the basement of the duplex hours after the explosion and fire Monday night. Authorities have not released the man's name. 

(–Earlier Reporting–) 

Explosion, Fire at Suburban KC Duplex Injures 3 People

RAYTOWN, Mo. (AP) — Three people, including two children, have been injured in an explosion at a suburban Kansas City duplex. Firefighters, police and medics responded around 7 p.m. Monday to the explosion and subsequent fire at the Raytown home. Witnesses reported seeing two boys who were conscious and alert wheeled from the scene on gurneys. A man also was injured and taken to a hospital for treatment. Officials have not said what caused the explosion that leveled part of the duplex, but neighbors told television station KMBC they believed fireworks set off in the area led to the explosion and fire. The Missouri Fire Marshal is investigating with assistance from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

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UPDATE: Kansas City Man Charged with Murder in Plaza Hotel Killing

 A Kansas City man has been charged with fatally shooting a friend at a hotel in the city's upscale Country Club Plaza shopping district. 35-year-old Derell Thompson is jailed without bond on a charge of second-degree murder in the Tuesday morning shooting of Darron Mitchem at the Sheraton Suites County Club Plaza. Police say Thompson then fled with his 12-year-old son. Thompson also is charged with armed criminal action, endangering the welfare of a child and unlawful possession of a firearm. No attorney is listed for him in online court records. 

(–Earlier Reporting–) 

Victim Dies After Shooting at Plaza Hotel in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say a person who was shot at a hotel in the upscale Country Club Plaza shopping and dining district has died. Police spokeswoman Captain Leslie Foreman says the victim was suffering from critical injuries when officers responded Tuesday to the Sheraton Suites Country Club Plaza. The victim later died at a hospital. Foreman says a person has been detained. Police didn’t immediately release either of their names or a motive.

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Man Who Infected 46 Patients with Hepatitis C Denied Release

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A former traveling medical technician who stole drugs and infected more than 40 patients with hepatitis C...including one who died in Kansas...will remain in prison after a New Hampshire judge called his request for compassionate release “the least meritorious” he’d ever seen. David Kwiatkowski was sentenced in 2013 to 39 years in prison for stealing painkillers and replacing them with saline-filled syringes tainted with his blood. At a hearing Thursday, a judge denied his request to be released from a federal prison in Florida, saying even if medical issues put him at high risk for COVID-19, releasing him early would undermine respect for the law.

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Wichita Police Make Arrest in Last Month's Fatal Double Shooting 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Police in Wichita have arrested a man suspected of pulling the trigger in a double shooting last month that killed one man and injured another. Television station KAKE reports that officers arrested 39-year-old Jermall Campbell on Wednesday on suspicion of first-degree murder, aggravated battery, criminal possession of a firearm and gambling. He is being held on $1 million bond. Police say Campbell was still at the scene of the June 20 shooting inside a home when officers arrived and found 47-year-old Deandre Freeman shot to death. Police say a 53-year-old man also had been shot and was taken to a hospital. Police say five men were at the home when a disturbance broke out and Campbell fired several shots. 

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Arma Man Sentenced for Killing Wife, Hurting Her Grandmother

ARMA, Kan. (AP) _ A southeast Kansas man has been sentenced to more than 15 years in prison for a 2019 stabbing that killed his wife and injured her grandmother. The Kansas Attorney General's Office says 34-year-old Jeremy Delmarco, of Arma, was sentenced Wednesday to 184 months for second-degree murder in the death of 36-year-old Brandy Delmarco. He was also sentenced to 43 months for attempted murder in the stabbing of Dorma Lemaster.  Delmarco had earlier pleaded no contest to the charges in Crawford County Court. Officers found the victims with stab wounds after Lemaster called 911 on February 4, 2019, to report that Jeremy Delmarco was assaulting her granddaughter. Brandy Delmarco later died at a hospital. Arma is located about 12 miles north of Pittsburg.

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Human Skull Found Along Kansas River in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police are investigating after a human skull was found along the Kansas River. A member of the public made the discovery Sunday afternoon and then directed police to the skull, said Gretchen Spiker, a police spokeswoman. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that no other skeletal remains had been located. Police weren’t revealing further information about specifically where the skull was found. Spiker said a forensic pathologist will examine the skull in an attempt to identify whose it was and learn more about how that person died.

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Area Closed After Partial Collapse of Historic Missouri Hotel

EXCELSIOR SPRINGS, Mo. (AP) _ The partial collapse of a vacant hotel in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, has led authorities to evacuate nearby businesses and apartments and close roads and sidewalks in the area. Officials say a corner section of the former Royal Hotel in downtown Excelsior Springs collapsed onto the sidewalk Wednesday afternoon. No one was injured in the collapse. The building is more than 120 years old and has been abandoned for about 20 years. Police say the building was scheduled to be demolished before the partial collapse happened. City officials say years of water leaking into the building from the roof likely led to the collapse.  Excelsior Springs is 30 miles northeast of Kansas City.

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Strong Growth Continues in Nine Midwest, Plains States

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new monthly survey of business leaders suggests the economy continues growing at a strong pace in nine Midwest and Plains states. The overall index for the region crept up to 73.5 in June from May's already strong 72.3 reading. Any score above 50 suggests growth. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss said the region is expected to keep growing and return to pre-pandemic levels early next year.  Business leaders said supply delays are causing problems in manufacturing and high inflation remains a concern. The monthly survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

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Truman Presidential Library Set to Reopen after Two Years

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — After nearly two years of renovations, the Harry S Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri, is ready to welcome visitors again. The museum looks similar from the outside, but the inside has been completely reimagined in how it presents Truman's story and his legacy for the modern world. The nearly $30 million project is the most extensive since the museum opened in 1957. Work was slowed by the coronavirus pandemic. The new museum presents Truman's story from his Missouri childhood until his death. It has interactive exhibits and videos combined with hundreds of artifacts. Museum director Kurt Graham said a primary focus was explaining how decisions Truman made still affect today's world.

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Two Men Who Ran Onto Super Bowl Field Sentenced to Year of Probation

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Two men who ran onto the field during the final quarter of the Super Bowl in February have pleaded no contest to trespassing and agreed to a year of probation. The two reached the deal Tuesday during a virtual hearing in Tampa, Florida. Under the terms of their probation, the men must perform 100 hours of community service, pay a $500 fine and write letters of apology to the National Football League. One man scampered onto the field wearing shorts and a pink leotard or swimsuit. The other ran onto the field first, distracting security officers.

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