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Headlines for Thursday, July 15, 2021

Heavy Rains Lead to Flooding Across Eastern, Central Kansas

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - As much as five and a half inches of rain fell across the Manhattan and Junction City areas in a short amount of time this (THUR) morning, leading to flooding in Geary, Riley, Dickinson, Pottawatomie and Clay Counties. A Flash Flood Watch remains in effect for much of central and eastern Kansas through the evening hours. Forecasters say thunderstorms producing heavy rains are possible into the evening and overnight hours.

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Judge Strikes Down Limits on Kansas Officials' COVID Powers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A trial-court judge in Kansas’s most populous county has struck down as unconstitutional a state law requiring unusually speedy legal hearings for people challenging mask requirements and other COVID restrictions. Johnson County District Judge David Hauber’s ruling also struck down limits on state and local officials’ power to impose pandemic-related restrictions. The law allowed people to file grievances with cities, counties and local school boards over mask mandates or other restrictions and mandated decisions within 10 days. It also set a 10-day limit for courts to rule in lawsuits. Hauber said the law denied officials due legal process and violated the separation of powers between the courts and the Legislature.

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Kansas Board of Education Issues Statement on "Critical Race Theory"

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS/KPR) - Kansas education leaders have approved a statement aimed at correcting what they say are misconceptions about "Critical Race Theory." The Board of Education voted Wednesday to send a letter to Governor Laura Kelly and state lawmakers clarifying that critical race theory is not part of Kansas academic standards. Board member Ann Mah said outrage over critical race theory is misplaced. “They’re conflating everything all together," she said. "And I think it’s important that we make the distinction: Culturally relevant teaching and educational equity are not critical race theory.” Critical race theory is the academic concept that institutional racism and discrimination are built in to American society and affect every aspect of daily life.  

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Racial Justice Panel in Kansas Issues Recommendations

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas racial justice panel appointed by Democratic Governor Laura Kelly has recommended expanding Medicaid, adding another income tax bracket for top-income earners, restoring a food sales tax rebate and banning Native American mascots and team names in public schools. The 15-member Commission on Racial Justice and Equity created the recommendations after meeting with Kansas Department of Commerce officials, Kansas Department of Health and Environment staff and others, according to the report. Governor Laura Kelly established the commission last year in response to the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

(–Additional Reporting–) 

Kansas Governor's Commission Releases 51 Recommendations for More Racial Equity

TOPEKA, Kan. (KMUW/KNS) - Governor Laura Kelly’s Commission on Racial Equity and Justice has released a report with 51 recommendations for improving racial equity in Kansas. The recommendations covered a variety of topics such as additional tax brackets for high-income earners and keeping college tuition stable for low-income students. It also suggested anti-racism and implicit bias training for school resource officers and a rebate on the food sales tax. The report's recommendations are designed to bring awareness and suggest potential solutions to issues like higher pregnancy-related deaths among minority women, diversifying teachers, Native American imagery in school mascots, wage supplements for essential workers and vaccine distribution to the most impacted communities. Kelly established the commission in June and it released its first report last December. That report focused on law enforcement and policing and made more than 30 recommendations. The Kansas Legislature did not act on any of the proposals. This latest report also lists subjects for future study, like accessible broadband and the racial wealth gap. The commission has to submit a final report by the end of the year.

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2 Teenage Girls Accused of Running over Woman with Her Car

SALINA, Kan. (AP) - Saline County authorities say two teenage girls are in custody after they allegedly stole a woman's car at a foster care facility and then ran over the woman when she tried to stop them from leaving. Authorities say two girls -- aged 14 and 17 -- ran away from St. Francis Ministries in rural Saline County Monday evening. An employee jumped on the hood of the car when the girls tried to drive off. The woman was eventually thrown off the hood and the girls drove over her before fleeing. The woman was hospitalized with injuries that are not life threatening. The girls were later arrested in Ellsworth.

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New Case Linked to Illness Outbreak at Kansas Splash Park

GODDARD, Kan. (AP) - Health officials have identified another person infected with the bacteria that may have caused an outbreak of illness at a water park near Wichita. State and Sedgwick County health investigators say that at least seven people who visited Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Goddard on June 11 have now tested positive for the Shigella bacteria. Investigations continue into other possible linked illnesses. The Shigella bacteria is spread from person-to-person through exposure to contaminated feces.

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Kansas Targets Early Literacy with $15 Million in Pandemic Funds

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Education officials say Kansas is setting aside $15 million to improve early literacy. The money comes from federal funding that must be used to address learning loss stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. Kansas plans a three-year initiative to train educators in the science of reading. It intends to focus training on pre-kindergarten through third-grade teachers, English as a second language educators, reading specialists and special education teachers.

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Many Kansas Nursing Homes Miss Goal for Vaccinating Workers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Government data says that only about 10% of the federally regulated nursing homes in Kansas have met the industry’s goal of vaccinating 75% of their workers against COVID-19. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that federal data shows that as of late June, 34 of the 324 federally licensed homes in Kansas met the goal. The new data about nursing homes comes with state officials worry about the growing presence of the faster-spreading delta variant. The federally regulated homes are among more than 800 long-term care facilities that also include 476 that are state-licensed only. The state didn’t have vaccination data for those facilities.

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KU Leaders Considering Vaccine Incentive Programs as Students Return to Campus

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Officials at the University of Kansas are considering vaccine incentive programs as students return to campus, even though Chancellor Douglas Girod says incentives don't work very well. He says unvaccinated students either don't have access to the shot, or just don't want to get it, incentives or not. Girod says unvaccinated students will also be required to quarantine if they come into contact with a positive case. KU officials say they anticipate a normal beginning for the fall semester despite a second surge in virus cases. Girod says the school will offer vaccines and incentives to get the shot. “A lot of folks who have not gotten a vaccine, it’s not because they weren’t incentivized, it’s because they were making a decision that they didn’t want to access it," he said. Girod says he is concerned about vaccine access for international students, which make up about 8% of the student body. Some international students might not have easy access to vaccines in their home countries, he said. And, he said, the school will be encouraging vaccinations any way it can. KU will begin classes in roughly a month.

(-Related-)

Big 12 Encourages but Doesn't Require Athletes to Get Vaccinated

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) - Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby says the league is doing everything it can to encourage vaccinations for all of its athletes. He says the conference won't mandate the shots. But those not getting vaccinated will be required to submit to multiple COVID-19 tests weekly. That's what every athlete had to do throughout the last school year during the pandemic. Bowlsby says it's very short-sighted to not get vaccinated. He says unvaccinated players risk being unable to play.

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Survey Shows Continued Growth in Rural Parts of 10 States

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new monthly survey of bankers in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states suggests continued economic growth in the region, even as nonfarm jobs in most of those states remained below pre-pandemic levels. The overall Rural Mainstreet economic index dropped to 65.6 in July from June’s 70.0. Any score above 50 suggests growth. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says federal labor statistics show nonfarm jobs across the region came in at 55,000 fewer jobs than before the COVID-19 pandemic began. But three states — Minnesota, Nebraska, and South Dakota — reported nonfarm employment levels above pre-pandemic levels. Bankers from Kansas, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.

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Man, 3-Year-Old Girl Wounded in South Wichita Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say a man and a 3-year-old girl were wounded in a shooting in south Wichita. Television station KAKE reports that the shooting happened around 7 p.m. Wednesday at a mobile home park. Investigators say the 38-year-old man who was shot called 911, and arriving officers found him, the wounded 3-year-old girl and another young child at the scene described as “panicked.” Police say they believe the shooting was accidental, but did not immediately give details about how the shooting occurred. Police did, however, admonish parents to keep guns away from children. Police say the man and injured child were taken to a hospital and were in serious condition.

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Small Plane Makes Emergency Landing Outside Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Officials say no one was injured when a small plane made an emergency landing in a field just outside northwest Wichita. The incident happened around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. The Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office says the 41-year-old Wichita man piloting the single-engine Piper Sport was flying to Augusta, Kansas, from Boulder, Colorado, when he experienced engine failure and was diverted to Wichita's Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport. Officials say strong winds forced him to land in a nearby field. Officials say the plane landed safely.

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UPDATE: Police Say 2 Killed in Kansas City House Fire Were Children

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police have confirmed that two people killed in a house fire in northwest Kansas City were children under the age of 11. Police said Thursday in a news release that two others injured in the Wednesday fire remained in critical condition and a third injured person has injuries not believed to be life-threatening. Officials have not released the identities of the five victims. In the aftermath of the fire Wednesday, fire officials said three children and one adult had been taken to local hospitals. Officials have not given the cause of the fire, saying it's under investigation.

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Police: Human Remains Found Near Grain Valley, Missouri

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Authorities say they have found human remains on a residential property in unincorporated Jackson County, Missouri, amid a missing person investigation. Officer John Syme, of the Independence Police Department, said Wednesday that he could not identify the missing person or release any other details about the remains, which were found near Grain Valley. The FBI and the Jackson County Sheriff's Office are helping Independence police with the investigation. Investigators will need to conduct a forensic examination to confirm the identity of the remains.

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Police Probing 5 Overdose Deaths in Wichita Since July 5

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Wichita police are investigating following five suspected drug overdose deaths in the city over a nine-day period. Police say that in each case, evidence of crack cocaine use was found. Police say a 38-year-old woman was the first to die on July 5, followed by a 48-year-old woman on July 11. The next day, police found a 56-year-old man dead, and on Tuesday, a 67-year-old man and a 44-year-old woman likely overdosed at a Wichita motel and died. The OD victims ranged in age from 38 to 67 but police did not give the names of those who died. Autopsies and toxicology reports will determine the cause of each death.

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Authorities: Inmate Assaults Detention Deputy at Kansas Jail

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Authorities say a detention deputy has been assaulted by an inmate at the Sedgwick County jail and has sustained multiple facial fractures. The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office says the deputy was attempting to get the inmate to return to a cell after he'd been let out to shower. Authorities say the inmate struck the deputy in the face with a closed fist at least twice, knocking him to the floor. The deputy received 15 stitches.

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Missouri Governor Signs Policing Bills into Law

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - Missouri Governor Mike Parson has signed bills that would increase police accountability, limit the use of officer chokeholds and, critics say, shield police while ramping up penalties for protesters. Parson signed the bills Wednesday. One measure puts limits on investigations of officers and provides protection against civil claims unless the officer is criminally convicted. The other bans police use of chokeholds, the technique used by former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin to kill George Floyd last year. Missouri NAACP President Rod Chapel said the measure makes little progress, especially considering it includes numerous provisions to further protect police that he said are unnecessary.  

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Police, Civil Rights Groups Settle Missouri Protester Case
 
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Civil rights groups say police in Kansas City, Missouri, have agreed as part of a lawsuit settlement to stop banning protesters from returning to areas in the city where protests were held. The ACLU of Missouri and the MacArthur Justice Center sued Kansas City, Missouri, police commissioners last year challenging what they called an unconstitutional verbal banishment order. The Kansas City police department did not immediately comment. The lawsuit stems from protests against police brutality and racial injustice last year at the Country Club Plaza, a popular dining and shopping district. About 100 people were arrested.

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Kansas Man Who Skipped Sentencing Last Week Gets Prison

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A week after missing his first sentencing hearing, a Kansas man has been sentenced to more than 12 years in federal prison for carrying out a phony debt-selling scam involving millions of dollars. Joel Tucker, of Prairie Village, was sentenced Tuesday after pleading guilty last year to transporting stolen money, bankruptcy fraud and tax evasion. He was also ordered to pay more than $8 million in restitution to the IRS. Tucker had been set to be sentenced last week, but did not show up for the hearing, and an arrest warrant was issued for him. His lawyers said Tucker was in Colorado dealing with a family matter.

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Wichita Delays Vote on Anti-Discrimination Ordinance

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The Wichita City Council has put off a decision on a proposed anti-discrimination ordinance, saying it needed more community input even after two marathon public listening sessions. The Wichita Eagle reports that the proposal bans discrimination in employment, housing and businesses. About 40 people weighed in Tuesday during the three-hour meeting. Some described how discrimination has impacted their lives and others said that the ordinance would infringe on their religious liberties. The discussion focused mainly on sexual orientation and gender identity. The council tentatively agreed to take the proposal up again on October 12.  
 
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2 Die in Small Plane Crash in Iowa; One Formerly from Kansas

MUSCATINE, Iowa (AP) — Authorities in eastern Iowa say two people from Missouri died in the crash of a small plane in a cornfield in rural Muscatine County. The county sheriff identified them as 68-year-old Daniel Slack and 69-year-old Sharon Slack, of El Dorado Springs, Missouri. Daniel Slack was superintendent of schools in Deerfield, Kansas, from 2015 until he retired last year. Investigators believe the plane was flying from Iron Mountain, Michigan, to Missouri when it crashed Wednesday about 4 miles north of Muscatine. Sheriff Quinn Riess says the investigation into the cause of the crash is continuing.

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Groups Worried About Racism Push to Rename Asian Carp
 
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - What's in a name? When it comes to Asian carp, quite a lot. For decades, that term has been used to describe four fish species that have infested many U.S. rivers and threaten to invade the Great Lakes. They were imported to cleanse fish farms and sewage ponds but escaped into the wild. Now some government agencies are changing the label to "invasive carp" in the wake of anti-Asian hate crimes that surged during the pandemic. At the same time, Illinois officials and partner groups are planning to give the four species yet another name in a marketing campaign to get more people to eat them.  

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Missouri K-12 Students Could Get Scholarships for Private School

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - Missouri students as soon as next year could have access to scholarships for private school through a new tax credit program. Republican Governor Mike Parson on Wednesday signed the tax credit program into law. Under the voucher-style program, private donors would give money to nonprofits that in turn would dole out scholarships to low-income families. Donors would get state tax credits equal to the amount they donate. Parson's signature represents a long-sought victory for primarily GOP advocates of school choice legislation. Critics say such programs funnel money away from public schools by drawing students out of those districts, leading to a drop in attendance and a subsequent drop in funding.

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Big 12 Coaches Want to Expand College Football Playoffs

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) - Big 12 coaches say they like the proposal to expand the College Football Playoff to 12 teams. They feel the conference would never be left out of the playoffs again. Oklahoma and Iowa State missed the four-team playoff last season. But under a 12-team format, the Sooners would have made it for the sixth year in a row. The Cyclones would have become the first league team other than the Sooners to make it. Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley says the proposed expansion plan is a great start. Any playoff changes are still at least a couple of years away.

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