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Headlines for Thursday, July 23, 2020


Kansas Board of Education Blocks Governor's Plan to Delay the Reopening Schools

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas schools will be allowed to reopen in mid-August. Republican officials on Wednesday again thwarted a plan from Democratic Governor Laura Kelly aimed at reversing a resurgence in coronavirus cases. The GOP-controlled State Board of Education voted 5-5 Wednesday and rejected a proposal from Kelly to delay the restart of K-12 classes until after Labor Day. Decisions on when school buildings reopen will be left to locally-elected school boards. Conservatives have argued that it’s inappropriate for the governor to impose “one size fits all” pandemic measures. Republican legislators made similar arguments to successfully pressure Kelly into lifting statewide restrictions on businesses.  The decision by the state education board means local school boards will be allowed to reopen elementary, middle and high schools in mid-August as they normally would or, delay the start of school.  The governor had been pushing for a three-week delay for all 286 of the state's school districts.   Voting against the governor's plan were Republicans Jean Clifford of Garden City, Michelle Dombrosky of Olathe, Deena Horst of Salina, Ben Jones of Sterling and Steve Roberts of Overland Park. Republicans voting in favor were board Chairwoman Kathy Busch of Wichita, Jim McNiece of Wichita and Jim Porter of Fredonia. They were joined by Democrats Ann Mah of Topeka and Janet Waugh of Kansas City, Kansas.  (Read more.)

Kansas AG: Local Officials Can Opt Out of School Mask Order

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says he believes both counties and local school districts can exempt themselves from Gov. Laura Kelly’s coronavirus-inspired order requiring schools to have staff and students wear masks. Kelly responded Thursday with a scathing statement saying Schmidt is wrong and that he and fellow Republicans have “only created more hurdles and uncertainty” during the pandemic. Schmidt said in an Associated Press interview that a law enacted last month allows counties to do so, and the state constitution gives local school districts the same authority. Kelly's order also requires schools to do daily checks for fever in all staff and students. 

3 Large Kansas School Districts to Open After Labor Day

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Three of the largest school districts in the state will not resume classes until after Labor Day in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Leaders of the Wichita School voted Thursday to delay the return to school. That came after the Blue Valley and Shawnee Mission districts in Johnson County announced their delayed openings Wednesday, hours after the Kansas State Board of Education rejected Gov. Laura Kelly’s order to delay school. School officials cited concerns over providing for the safety of students and staff if schools opened as scheduled in August. Topeka and Kansas City, Kansas, districts voted earlier to postpone their return to in-in person education.


2 Kansas State Graduates File Lawsuit over Campus Closure

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansas State University graduates say in a lawsuit against the university that they didn't get the education they paid for because the classes went online in the spring in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The students filed the class action lawsuit on behalf of all students affected by the closing of the Kansas State campus on  March 16. Similar lawsuits have been filed against universities across the country, including the University of Kansas. The Kansas State students, Noah Plank and John Garfolo, of Salina, said the university has not offered any refund of tuition or fees after classes went online. Kansas State officials declined to comment on the lawsuit.


Kansas City Man Charged in Shooting Death of Pregnant Woman

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 19-year-old Kansas City man is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of a pregnant woman as she was pushing a baby stroller. Jovon Burrell was charged Wednesday in the death of 20-year-old Diamon Eichlburger. Burrell told police the person who shot Eichlburger was a passenger in his car but he didn't know the shooter. Police say Eichlburger was pushing a stroller with her 1-year-old child and walking with her boyfriend at a convenience store Monday when a car pulled up and began shooting at her. She was pronounced dead at the scene. The child wasn't hurt. A motive for the shooting has not been released.


Overland Park City Councilman Charged with Domestic Battery

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors have charged an Overland Park city councilman with one count of domestic battery. The Kansas City Star reports that court documents show Scott Hamblin was arrested after police were called to his home Tuesday night for a report of a disturbance. A police incident report says Hamblin was accused of physical contact with a person "in a rude, insulting or angry manner" and police indicated they believed Hamblin was drunk at the time. Police reported damage to drywall in the home. No injuries were reported. Hamblin has pleaded not guilty to the charge. He did not immediately return a message left Thursday by The Associated Press seeking comment.


Kansas Reports More than 24,000 COVID-19 Cases, Including 308 Fatalities

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — Kansas health officials have recorded 24,104 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.  State health officials reported Wednesday that the virus, now confirmed in 103 of the state's 105 counties, has also claimed 308 lives. Johnson, Wyandotte, and Sedgwick Counties have the most cases. The next update is expected Friday.     

(Kansas health officials release new data on COVID-19 case numbers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.


Sedgwick County Commission Modifies Health Department's Requirement for Bars to Shutdown

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Restaurants won’t have to close early in Wichita and bars won’t be shut down for as long as a local health officer had wanted because of the coronavirus pandemic. Sedgwick County commissioners voted 4-1 Wednesday to make an order from the county health officer, Dr. Garold Minns, less restrictive before the directive takes effect on Friday. Minns’s initial order shut bars down until September 9. The county commission said the shutdown will last until August 21. The health officer directed restaurants serving alcohol to close at 12:01 am but the county commission removed that restriction.


Missouri Reports Record-Breaking 1,138 New COVID-19 Cases

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri has again broken its own record for the highest single-day increase in reported coronavirus cases. The health department on Tuesday reported another 1,138 cases, breaking a record set Saturday. So far, the state has reported 34,762 cases. The state's health department director has said cases among young people are driving the surge. Kansas City's mayor now is urging local K-12 schools to wait until after Labor Day to reopen. The Kansas City Star reports Mayor Quinton Lucas said Tuesday that he doesn't need to issue an order because almost all Kansas City schools have acted responsibility during the pandemic.


Missouri Governor Clarifies Comments on School Kids, Virus

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Governor Mike Parson is clarifying comments he made in a radio interview in which he said children returning to school will come down with the coronavirus but will “get over it." The comments drew criticism from several Democrats as well as the head of a state teachers’ union. Parson made the comments on “The Marc Cox Morning Show” in St. Louis. In another radio interview, with KMOX host Mark Reardon this week, Parson said he “didn't do a good job” of communicating his point, but that he never meant to imply he didn't care about children.


Investigation Clears Kansas Highway Patrol Superintendent

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The governor's office says an independent investigation into complaints of sexual harassment against Kansas Highway Patrol Superintendent Herman Jones found them to be unsubstantiated. Gov. Laura Kelly also announced leadership changes at Highway Patrol in which two top troopers are no longer employed with the agency after investigations cleared Jones. The governor’s office summarized the findings of an internal and independent investigation into complaints against Jones alleging sexual harassment in the form of unwanted physical contact and comments, misuse of state aircraft and gender discrimination. The investigation exonerated him of sexual harassment complaints and found his use of the aircraft and other actions appropriate.


Kansan Who Abused Mentally Ill Patients Denied Early Release

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — A judge has refused to free an ailing inmate from Kansas who, along with his wife, was convicted of abusing mentally ill patients at their treatment center, including by forcing them to work naked and engage in sexual acts. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten cited the “particularly heinous nature” of the abusive treatment of mentally ill patients in a ruling Tuesday to deny the request from Arlan Dean Kaufman for compassionate release from his 30-year prison sentence because of the COVID-19 pandemic. During their trial, federal prosecutors called the facility Kaufman and his wife operated a “house of horrors kept financially afloat by fraud.” 


Hutchinson Woman Sentenced to About 13 Years in Meth Bust

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A 46-year-old Hutchinson woman was sentenced to nearly 13 years in prison for what the district attorney called the largest methamphetamine bust in the county during his 19 years in office. Jennie Rebecca Wallace was sentenced Thursday after authorities found a 5-pound package of methamphetamine in her home in January. The Hutchinson News reports Wallace was also convicted of making at least two drug sales from her home. Before her sentencing, Wallace apologized to the court, law enforcement and her family.


Body of Kansas Man Who Suspiciously Died in 2004 Exhumed in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have exhumed the body of a Black man who died in 2004 in Kansas as federal officials continue to investigate the death as a possible hate crime. The body of Alonzo Brooks was exhumed from a Topeka cemetery on Tuesday. Brooks was 23 when he disappeared after attending a party in La Cygne, Kansas, in May 2004. His family later found his body in a creek near where the party was held. The FBI reopened the investigation in 2019 and in June of this year offered a $100,000 reward for information. KSNT-TV reports his family said new information has come in since the case was featured recently on a national crime show.


New Charges for Former Massage Therapist for KU Female Athletes

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A man who provided massages for female athletes at the University of Kansas is facing six new misdemeanor charges of sexual battery. The amended charges come after 49-year-old Shawn O'Brien was charged in February with a child sex crime, prompting Kansas to cancel its contracts with him. The university said in March that six female athletes told investigators they had experienced "unwarranted" touching during massages provided by O'Brien. The Kansas News Service reports the amended charges filed July 14  do not specify the alleged victims' genders or if they are current of former Kansas students or student-athletes. O'Brien's attorney declined to comment on the new charges.


Federal Operations Target Violent Crime in Kansas City, other Cities

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — A massive federal operation underway in Kansas City that targets violent crime has been largely welcomed by law enforcement and state officials, while being criticized by civil rights organizations and drawing concern Wednesday from Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas. The federal effort is dubbed "Operation LeGend" after a 4-year-old boy named LeGend Taliferro, who was fatally shot while sleeping in his bed in Kansas City. Under the effort, 225 federal agents from the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives joined 400 agents already working and living in the Kansas City area.  President Trump also says he will send federal agents into Chicago and Albuquerque to help combat rising crime.  On Wednesday, Trump painted Democrat-led cities as out of control, even though criminal justice experts say the increase in violence in some cities defies easy explanation.  


Topeka City Council Bans Use of Police No-Knock Warrants

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Topeka City Council has banned the use of no-knock warrants by law enforcement in the city. The Capital-Journal reports that the council voted 8-to-1 Tuesday night to adopt the ordinance banning the controversial practice. Police Chief Bill Cochran has said this department already had a policy of not allowing no-knock warrants before the ban was made local law. Councilwoman Christina Valdivia-Alcala was the only member to vote against the measure. She said while she opposes the use of no-knock warrants, she doesn't trust the city's police auditor to offer an independent review of possible violations because he answers to the city manager.


Kansas City Officer Shot in Head Released from Hospital

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City police officer who was shot in the head earlier this month left the hospital and will enter a rehabilitation center. The name of the officer, who was shot July 2, has not been released. Another officer shot and killed the gunman, 31-year-old Ky Johnson. Police spokesman Sgt. Jacob Becchina says the officer was released from the hospital Thursday. He will go to an out-of-state rehabilitation facility that focuses on brain injuries and neurological rehabilitation. The officer was shot while responding to a call that a man was waving a gun at a McDonald's restaurant in eastern Kansas City. Johnson's family said he suffered from a mental illness.


“Friends of the Kaw” Group Stops in Topeka While Kayaking Kansas River 

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – A group of Kansas River fans called “Friends of the Kaw” stopped in Topeka Wednesday morning while kayaking the Kansas River from end to end.  KSNT TV reports that the eight-day, 173-mile journey started in Junction City last Friday and is expected to reach the end of the river on Saturday.  Program Manager Kim Bellemere said the group is trying to raise awareness for the Kansas River Water Trail and get more people interested in seeing the river for themselves.  “We’re really trying to highlight that it can be used for recreation,” said Bellemere. “A lot of people fish on the river and because it’s a national water trail and in Kansas it’s actually public property so anyone can get on the river.”  The journey did require careful planning. The group has been camping on sand bars and meeting people at boat ramps to stock up on supplies along the way.  River Guide David Sain said they did a practice run before this to get a sense of what the full journey would entail. 


USDA Study Shows Gulf Between Cattle, Processed Beef Prices

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A study released by the U.S. Agriculture Department into the disparity between cattle prices paid to ranchers and the higher prices earned by meat processors offers more details about the factors that have led to the situation. The 20-page analysis by the USDA released Wednesday explains how after a 2019 fire at a Tyson Foods beef plant in Holcomb, Kansas, and this year’s temporary closure of slaughterhouses amid the coronavirus pandemic, ranchers saw cattle prices drop while concerns about meat scarcity caused prices at grocery stores to rise. Some members of Congress have called for an investigation into possible violations of the Packers and Stockyard Act, which is designed to protect ranchers and consumers. 


President to Award Medal of Freedom to Former Kansas Congressman

WASHINGTON (KPR) - President Trump will award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Jim Ryun, an Olympian and former Kansas Congressman.  The award is the nation’s highest civilian honor.  It's given by the president to individuals who have made noteworthy contributions to the United States.  Ryun is one of the most accomplished athletes in American history.  Despite being cut from every athletic team in junior high, he made the track team at Wichita East High School.  There, Ryun broke a world record by becoming the first high school runner to clock a mile in under 4 minutes.  Ryun also competed in the 1964 Olympic Games.  While a student athlete at the University of Kansas, he broke several more world records.  He also won the silver medal at the 1968 Mexico City Games and competed in the 1972 Munich Games. Among many other accolades, he was named ABC Wide World of Sports' Athlete of the Year.  Following his athletic career, he served his home state of Kansas in Congress from 1996 to 2006. He has since written three books and currently gives motivational speeches around the country.  The three-time Olympian will receive the Medal of Freedom Friday, during a ceremony at the White House. 


Kansas Man Dies in Montana Climbing Accident 

WEST GLACIER, Mont. (AP) — Glacier National Park has released the name of a Kansas man who died in a climbing accident in the park. Officials say 20-year-old Josh Yarrow of Wichita was mountain climbing off-trail Tuesday evening in the Logan Pass area when he fell while trying to retrieve a backpack. His 500-foot fall was witnessed by a climbing partner who went for help. Yarrow was spending the summer working for a business in the West Glacier area.


Bowyer Heads to Kansas Speedway Without His Typical Crowd

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Emporia, Kansas native Clint Bowyer would usually be swamped by family and friends during the first of two trips to his home track this season. Instead, the Cup Series star will be running in front of mostly empty seats again at Kansas Speedway. The series has had limited fans for select races since returning to action during the coronavirus pandemic, but hot spots in Kansas and neighboring Missouri forced officials to pull the plug on fans earlier this month. That doesn't take the pressure off Bowyer, though. He's still looking to secure a playoff spot for this season and a ride for next season. 


Big League Debuts to Be Made Without Family, Friends on Hand

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Brady Singer will make his big league debut on the mound for the Kansas City Royals in their second game Saturday in Cleveland. But unlike the thousands of players who have made it to the pinnacle of the sport, and were celebrated by tearful mom and dad and family in the stands, the culmination of Singer’s lifelong dream will only be shared by his teammates. When the decision was made to play an abbreviated 60-game major league season without fans, it meant that anybody making their debut this season would do so without their support system there to enjoy it.


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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