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Headlines for Thursday, October 21, 2021

 

LMH Health: We May Not Accept Blue Cross / Blue Shield Insurance in 2022

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KNS) - LMH Health, also known as Lawrence Memorial Hospital, says it may not accept Blue Cross / Blue Shield insurance next year. The Lawrence hospital is currently locked in a battle over prices with the state’s biggest private insurer. The Lawrence hospital wants Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas to pay higher prices. Blue Cross says that would cost its members millions of dollars. Now thousands of state employees may be a bargaining chip. LMH announced that talks with Blue Cross might fall through.  It said patients should pick a health plan that will ensure their care is covered in 2022. This comes during the annual window when university and state employees pick between Blue Cross and Aetna.  Blue Cross says it "will not rest" until it reaches a deal with LMH.

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Some Lawrence Area Voters Mistakenly Received 2 Ballots

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Some voters in the Lawrence area mistakenly received two ballots for the upcoming election because of a mix-up that officials are blaming on a third-party printing and mailing company. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said Wednesday that the mistake would not affect the operation of November’s local elections. His office has notified voters who may have received two ballots to destroy one of them. But Shew says that even if voters receive two ballots and return both of them, the system only allows workers to log one of them.

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CDC: Onions Caused Salmonella Outbreak that Sickened 14 in Kansas, 21 in Missouri

UNDATED, (KCTV) -The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified red, white and yellow onions imported from Mexico as the source of a salmonella outbreak in 37 states, including Kansas and Missouri.  KCTV TV reports the onions were imported from Chihuahua, Mexico and distributed by ProSource Incorporated and are linked to 652 illnesses and 129 hospitalizations.

In Kansas, 14 people were sickened.
In Missouri, 21 people were sickened.

The onions were sold to restaurants and grocery stores around the U.S. Onions distributed from ProSource were last imported on August 27, but these imported onions can last up to three months in storage and could still be in homes and restaurants.  The CDC says investigators are working to determine if other onions and suppliers are linked to this outbreak.  To avoid getting sick, the CDC recommends not buying or eating whole fresh red, white or yellow onions if they were imported from Chihuahua, Mexico and distributed by ProSource Inc.  Health officials suggest throwing away any red, white or yellow onions at home that do not have a sticker or packaging.

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Man Shot by Law Enforcement Officers in Sabetha

SABETHA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say two law enforcement officers shot a man during a confrontation in the northeast Kansas town of Sabetha. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation said Sabetha police and Nemaha County officers responded to a call Wednesday night of a person who was possibly suicidal. The KBI says law enforcement officers tried to convince 38-year-old Kelly J. Hall to come out of the house, and he eventually came out holding a nail gun. The KBI says Hall was shot when he began firing nails at the officers. He was taken to a Topeka hospital, where he was in critical but stable condition Thursday afternoon. No officers were injured.

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Man Pleads Guilty to Shutting Down Rural Water System in Ellsworth

ELLSWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A former employee of a rural Kansas water system pleaded guilty to closing down the system. Twenty-two-year-old Wyatt Travnichek pleaded guilty Wednesday to shutting down the Post Rock Rural Water District in Ellsworth in March 2019. Prosecutors said Travnichek told investigators he was too intoxicated to remember what happened. A plea agreement calls for him to be sentenced to a year in jail. The system supplies water for about 1,500 customers in central Kansas. Travnichek worked for the district before quitting in January 2019. In March 2019, he shut down the system using a shared pass code that allowed remote access to software that controls the plant.  

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Rural Housing Prices Skyrocketed in Past Year

HAYS, Kan. (KNS) - Rents shot up across Kansas in the past year, and not just in big cities. It's yet another ripple effect of the pandemic that’s putting a strain on rural life. A new report from Headwaters Economics shows that 20 rural counties across Kansas are now considered unaffordable for renters. That’s thanks to housing prices that jumped sharply during the pandemic. Demand rose, but supply stagnated.  Economist Megan Lawson, who led the research for this report, says that for renters in rural areas, it means they might get priced out of their home or even their town. “You know, especially in the really rural places, these price increases are especially difficult for renters because there isn't an outlying community for people to move to," she said.  Nemaha County in northeast Kansas, for instance, saw a jump of 27% in the past year. In Phillips County north of Hays, prices went up 34%.  

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Rural Providers Seek State Intervention on Drug Price Program

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Rural hospitals and clinics want Kansas lawmakers to side with them in a fight over prescription drug prices.  Kansas health-care providers say drug makers and health-plan administrators are violating the rules of a federal drug discount program designed to help mainly rural hospitals and clinics. Denise Cyzman, the head of the state’s network of safety-net clinics, says the program frees up money that providers then use to expand services and care for the uninsured. “They used the program as intended, to stretch scarce federal resources to serve more and to do more," she said. Providers are asking Kansas lawmakers to join other states in cracking down on companies they say are undermining the program to increase their profits. The companies in question say they’re trying to rein in a program that has become too costly.

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Audubon's Lawsuit Concerning Quivira National Wildlife Refuge Dismissed

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Audubon of Kansas over water rights at the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in central Kansas. Audubon sued the U.S. Department of Interior and other government agencies in January. The environmental group contended the government agencies had not protected senior water rights at the refuge. U.S. District Judge Holly Teeter ruled Audubon did not have jurisdiction to file the claim against state entities in federal court and had not identified any action that would allow it to sue the federal agencies. The lawsuit contended Quivera has a shortage of water because of groundwater pumping upstream by irrigators.  

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Lawrence Man Charged in Accidental Shooting Death

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - A 21-year-old Lawrence man is charged with several felonies after an accidental shooting killed a toddler.  Bishop Mendoza was charged this week with involuntary manslaughter and three other felonies. Officers responding to a shooting report at a Lawrence home on September 17 found a 2-year-old critically wounded. The child, Legend King, later died. Police said at the time the shooting appeared to be accidental. Court records indicate Mendoza is also accused of endangering a nearly 4-year-old child who was in the home at the time. Police have not released details of how the shooting happened.

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Kansas City Settles Case of Child Shot by Police Officer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Kansas City will pay a $100,000 settlement to a family whose child was injured when a police officer fired several rounds at their vehicle. Court records indicate officer Terrence Brown fired at a car he was pursuing for speeding in August 2015. He said he was concerned the driver was aiming at him or was going to hit his motorcycle. A 1-year-old girl in the car was hit in the foot. The family sued the city last year.  A police spokesman said state law prevents him from saying if Brown was disciplined. Brown remains on the police force.  

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Kansas Gas Prices Hit $3 a Gallon; Highest Level Since 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - According to data from the American Automobile Association (AAA), the average gallon of gas in Kansas costs $3, the highest it’s been since 2014. WIBW TV reports that on average, AAA data shows Kansas has seen a rise of 4 cents in the past week and over $1 in the past year.  AAA’s Scott Martin said the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was supposed to release crude oil into the market, which would help lower gas prices. The report shows Geary County is seeing the highest prices in northeast Kansas, with prices at the pump around $3.02 a gallon. Shawnee and Wabaunsee counties are seeing some of the lowest at $2.94 per gallon.  While being above the $3 mark may be the highest price in seven years, it’s still the sixth cheapest in the country.  Experts have some advice for motorists to help save money on fuel: make sure the vehicle's air filter is clean and all tires are properly inflated.

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Fire Kills 77-Year-Old Man in Overland Park

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a fire at an Overland Park home killed a 77-year-old man who lived there. The fire was reported Thursday morning at a home east of the Oak Park Mall. The victim was identified as David L. Zabriskie. Firefighters say smoke was coming from the back of the two-story home when they arrived. They found Zabriskie on the second floor. He died later at a hospital. KMBC-TV reports the man's wife had recently died and he was frail. The cause of the fire is under investigation but no foul play is suspected. The fire was contained to a living room.

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Deer Crashes Expected to Increase in Kansas

TOPEKA (KSNT) – Motorists may start seeing more deer on the roads this fall. KSNT TV reports that more crashes are expected as peak deer mating season approaches.  “There’s just a lot of movement that you don’t typically see other times of the year. So you have to be prepared,” said Gary Herman, assistant manager of behavioral traffic safety for the Kansas Department of Transportation.  The number of deer crashes in the state dropped in 2020 to more than 9,600. That’s after steadily increasing for the last six years with a high of more than 11,100 two years ago.  The recent decrease in deer / vehicle accidents is likely due to fewer drivers on the roads during the coronavirus pandemic.  The highest number of crashes in Kansas in 2020 happened in Butler County, followed by Johnson, Shawnee, and Sedgwick, the three counties with the largest populations.

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Mandatory 10-Digit Dialing Begins Sunday in Kansas Area Codes 785 and 620

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – Kansans who live in area codes 785 or 620 will be required to use 10-digit dialing when making local calls beginning this Sunday (October 24).  At that time, local calls dialed with only seven digits will not go through, and a recording will inform you that your call cannot be completed as dialed. The change, while it may take some time to get used to, will make it easier for persons in crisis to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  KSNW reports that last July, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved 988 as the new abbreviated number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. As a result, any area code that uses the 988 prefix in telephone numbers is mandated to adopt 10-digit dialing. That includes Kansas area codes 785 and 620, which cover the majority of the state. In total, 82 area codes in 36 states will make the change.  The FCC initiated a practice period in April allowing both 7-digit and 10-digit dialing to help callers adjust to the change. On Sunday, 10-digit local calling becomes mandatory with the exception of any three digit abbreviated numbers available in the community, such as 911. Callers will still dial 1 + the area code and telephone number for all long-distance calls.  With the switch to 10-digit dialing about to take effect, residents are encouraged to make sure any services with automatic dialing equipment, such as life safety systems, medical monitoring devices, security systems and fire alarms, mobile phone contact lists and call forwarding settings are reprogrammed if needed.  Beginning July 16, 2022, callers can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 988. Until then, callers will continue to dial 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).

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Judge Limits Strikers' Conduct at Deere Plant in Iowa

DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) - A judge has issued a temporary restraining order limiting how striking workers at the John Deere plant in Davenport, Iowa, should conduct themselves. The injunction says only four picketers can be near gates of the plant.  It also bans the use of chairs and barrel fires by picketers and prohibits them from harassing people entering and leaving the plant. A spokeswoman for Deere (Jen Hartmann) said the company sought the injunction to maintain a safe environment for those entering the plant and for the picketers. The strike began October 14 after after union members overwhelmingly rejected a proposed contract.  The union has three days to respond to the court with its compliance plan.

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Strong Economic Growth Continues 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 strong economic growth continues in the region. The overall economic index for the region improved in October to 66.1 from September’s already-strong 62.5 reading. Any score above 50 suggests growth.  Creighton University economist Ernie Goss said the area is benefitting from solid grain prices, continued low interest rates and growing agricultural exports. Goss said demand for workers is high but businesses are having trouble finding people to hire. Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.

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Christian Boarding School in Missouri Sues over New Oversight Law

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Christian boarding school is suing to stop Missouri officials from implementing new regulations that were put in place following long-running abuse at some unlicensed residential care facilities. The Kansas City Star reports that CNS International Ministries, also known as Heartland, filed the lawsuit in federal court last week against the Missouri Department of Social Services. Governor Mike Parson signed the measure into law in July after an emotional outcry from lawmakers, child advocates and former students who said the state desperately needed some oversight of Missouri's troubled boarding schools.

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Police: Fired Grain Elevator Worker in Nebraska Shot 3 People, Killing 1

SUPERIOR, Neb. (AP) — The Nebraska State Patrol says a man who was fired from a grain elevator returned later in the day and shot three people, killing one, before he was shot to death by another employee. The patrol says the shooting happened Thursday afternoon at the Agrex Elevator in Superior. A preliminary investigation found that 61-year-old Max Hoskinson, of Superior, was fired Thursday. The patrol says he came back around 2 pm and shot three people before an employee retrieved a shotgun and shot Hoskinson, who died at a hospital. One of the people shot by Hoskinson had life-threatening injuries. The other was treated and released at a Superior hospital. Superior is in Nuckolls County, Nebraska, and is near the Kansas state border. 

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Missouri Budget Officials Outline $50 Million Cost of Data Breach

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - Help for roughly 100,000 teachers whose Social Security numbers were vulnerable in a massive state data breach could cost Missouri as much as $50 million. Republican Governor Mike Parson's spokeswoman on Tuesday confirmed that the rough cost estimate includes credit monitoring and the cost of a call center to help teachers. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch says it found the vulnerability and flagged the issue to the education department. The newspaper says it gave the agency time to fix the issue before the paper published a report on it. Parson has cast blame on the newspaper for reporting on the problem.

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KC Man Guilty in Fatal Shooting of Another Man

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A 20-year-old Kansas City man pleaded guilty this week in the shooting death of another man. The Jackson County Prosecutor says Thorne McKendrick pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the death of Michael Brown. Police say Brown was killed outside an east Kansas City home on August 1, 2020. Court documents say security video showed McKendrick shot Brown as the two men struggled over a gun. McKendrick's sentencing is scheduled for January 28.

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Wichita Man Charged with Shooting 11-Year-Old Girl

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A 25-year-old Wichita man has been charged in a shooting that injured an 11-year-old girl. Byron Purcell is being held on $250,000 bond after being charged Tuesday in a drive-by shooting on October 12. Police say shots were fired at a house and a girl who was inside lying on a bed was hit by a bullet. Her injuries were not life threatening. Police Chief Gordon Ramsay said investigators believe Purcell was targeting someone who lived at the house. None of the other four people inside the home were injured. Purcell was charged with aggravated battery, criminal discharge of a weapon and possession of a firearm by a felon.

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Colin Powell's Military Service Included Stints at Ft. Leavenworth

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (KCUR) - Colin Powell's military and political career included two stints at Fort Leavenworth. The four-star general died this week from complications from COVID.  It was 1967 when then-Major Powell first arrived at Fort Leavenworth. He would return throughout his career, and left a lasting impact there. Jeff Wingo is the Fort Leavenworth public information officer. “He came back in ... 1982 as a brigadier general … and served as the deputy commanding general of the Combined Arms Center in Fort Leavenworth, so a very prestigious assignment here.” Powell helped establish the fort’s Buffalo Soldier Monument, and the “Circle of Firsts,” which recognizes the military contributions of Black Americans. Powell was himself the country’s first Black national security adviser, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of state. He was 84.

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Williams, No. 3 Sooners Visit Struggling KU

LAWRENCE, Kan (AP) — Caleb Williams has settled in as the starting quarterback at No. 3 Oklahoma. After replacing Spencer Rattler, Williams has thrown for 661 yards, and has eight touchdowns.  He threw for 295 yards and four touchdowns in a 21-point win over TCU last week. The Sooners visit the University of Kansas on Saturday. The Jayhawks are heavy underdogs and looking for their first Big 12 win of the season.

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What Code? NASCAR Drivers Lament Lack of On-Track Etiquette

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Tensions are high in NASCAR as the season races toward next month's championship finales. Drivers are pushing hard and and tempers are rising. Chase Briscoe and Denny Hamlin had a terse exchange on social media this week over the race in Texas. It brings up key questions: Should non-playoff drivers move out of the way of title contenders? Are drivers taking too many risks trying to make it to the championship round? The Xfinity and Cup series are in Kansas this weekend.

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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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