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Headlines for Thursday, October 6, 2022

 

Laura Kelly, Derek Schmidt Press for Specifics on Medical Marijuana, Other Issues in Final Debate

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (TCJ) — As the Kansas governor's race enters its crucial final month, Governor Laura Kelly and Attorney General Derek Schmidt pressed each other for specifics on a wide range of issues in their second and final debate Wednesday. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that both candidates expressed an openness to the legalization of medical marijuana. Polls have deemed the race a tossup, adding a new sense of urgency to the showdown between the two candidates.

Schmidt accused Kelly of lacking specific policies on a range of issues, from fighting crime to energy.

Kelly countered by defending her vision and arguing Schmidt's plans would lead the state off track in a manner reminiscent of former Governor Sam Brownback, at one point saying she "would not be lectured" by Schmidt on school finance owing to his past defense of funding cuts before the Kansas Supreme Court. "No kidding around, Kansans are facing another critical choice this November," Kelly said. "We can either stay on track with an economy that is growing or we can turn back the clock and return to the same disastrous policies that broke our government and broke our schools."

Schmidt was not impressed by this line of attack.

"The governor has an unhealthy obsession with one of her predecessors who served in office eight years ago," he said. "But the fact of the matter is no matter how many times she says it, Kansans are far less worried about what some former governor did or the mistakes he made than they are about the mistakes this administration is making every single day."

The debate included the candidates' most extended back-and-forth on the legalization of medical marijuana, with Schmidt saying he was open to the idea in limited circumstances and with appropriate guardrails. Kelly is a longtime supporter of legalization and introduced unsuccessful legislation last year to pay for Medicaid expansion with tax proceeds from medical marijuana sales. (Read more.)

(-Related-)

Republican Nominee Pivots to Crime in Kansas Governor's Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Republican candidate for Kansas governor is pivoting from education to crime as a focus in the final weeks of the campaign. GOP challenger and Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is portraying Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly as anti-police because she created a commission on policing and racial justice in response to the state’s protests following the death of George Floyd in 2020. Schmidt launched a new television ad Thursday suggesting the commission pushed what the ad called “anti-policing laws” and said Kelly called police racist by referencing systemic racism at the outset. Kelly has said her support for police is shown by increases in state spending on law enforcement.
(note: The Kansas City Star has produced a fact-check of the claims made in the Schmidt campaign ad, which you can find by clicking here.)

Kansas Governor Responds to Criticism of Education Policies in Debate

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Kansas’s Democratic governor is responding to Republican criticism of her education policies in her tough race for reelection. That race recently featured Republican attacks over transgender athletes and what’s taught in the classrooms instead of her preferred focus on increases in public school spending on her watch. In their final debate, Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly sought Wednesday to portray Republican challenger Derek Schmidt as a threat to adequate funding for public schools. Schmidt said he's committed to adequate funding but argued that Kansas should protect parents' rights. A GOP proposal vetoed by Kelly would have made it easier for parents to object to classroom materials or library books.

Kansas Gubernatorial Candidates Split over Possible Kansas Transgender Ban in Female Sports

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (KNS) — The two leading candidates for Kansas governor sparred Wednesday over how to let transgender athletes compete in girls' and women’s sports. Republican Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said transgender athletes pose a threat to Title IX, the federal education law barring discrimination based on gender. The law is credited for elevating athletic opportunities for female high school and college students. He said during a debate that he would quickly sign a bill into law that prohibits competitors in female sports who were identified as male at birth. Democratic Governor Laura Kelly, who is seeking a second term, twice vetoed such a bill. "It's fundamentally unfair to female athletes,” Schmidt said. “People who are biologically male should not be allowed to compete in sports that are reserved for female athletes.” Kelly argued the matter should be decided by state organizations dedicated to those matters, like the Kansas State High School Activities Association.  The Republican-led Kansas Legislature twice passed a bill that banned transgender girls from girls sports, but Kelly vetoed both. Lawmakers were unable to override either of her vetoes. (Read more.)

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Olathe Health Plans to Join KU Health System

OLATHE, Kan. (KNS/KCUR) - Olathe Health is planning to join the University of Kansas Health System.  The proposed merger will affect patients across several Kansas counties.  KU Health System leaders says the merger will allow them to improve existing clinics and expand specialized services to patients in the Olathe Health coverage area. That includes parts of Johnson, Miami, Franklin and Linn counties. All existing Olathe Health employees are expected to be retained. KU Health System president Bob Page said at a press briefing that the merger is still in its beginning stages. “What’s effective immediately is that we have a signed letter of intent. What now we are doing is starting the due diligence process," he said. The health systems did not give a date when a final agreement may be reached.

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Nurses Try to Unionize at Wichita's St. Francis Hospital

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS/KMUW) - Nurses at one of Wichita’s largest hospitals are trying to form a union. More than 600 nurses at St. Francis hospital could soon have a union. The nurses filed this week for an election with the National Labor Relations Board. If they vote to unionize, the nurses would be represented by the National Nurses United. It’s the biggest nurses' union in the country, with more than 175,000 members. Overall, about 20% of registered nurses in the U.S. are union members. The Kansas State Nurses Association says there are more than 50,000 registered nurses in the state. About a fifth of all registered nurses in the U.S. are union members. St. Francis is a part of the Ascension Via Christi network, which has hospitals across Kansas.

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KBI Identifies Victims in Labette County Double Homicide 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) – The Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the Labette County Sheriff's Office have released more information related to the deaths of two people found Monday in Mound Valley. The KBI said in a press release that autopsies have determined both victims died from gunshot wounds, and the cases are now considered homicides. The victims were identified as 43-year-old Leanda R. Pound and 39-year-old Jason M. Bakken, both of Mound Valley. The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the KBI at 1-800-KS-CRIME, or to submit a tip online
 
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Kansas Deputy Keeps License Following Taser Incident of Handcuffed, Autistic Child

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - A former Jackson County Sheriff’s Deputy can keep his police license after he tased a handcuffed, autistic child. The agency that reviews Kansas police officer’s conduct says former deputy Matthew Honas acted unreasonably. He tased, hogtied and used excessive force on an autistic 12-year-old who was complying and posed no threat to officers. But the agency says Honas should only get a written reprimand, which means he can keep his law enforcement license. The Kansas City Star reports that Honas was fired by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office in northeast Kansas, but he could be hired by another law enforcement agency.

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Woman Whose Toddler Died in Fire Sentenced to Probation

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas mother whose 17-month-old son died in a fire after she left him home alone was sentenced Thursday to three years of probation. Karlie Phelps, of Shawnee, pleaded guilty in August to involuntary manslaughter and endangering a child. If she violates the terms of her probation, she faces 18 years in prison. Authorities say her son's body was found in February in a crib as firefighters battled the flames. 

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Kansas Highway Patrol Needs More Troopers

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The Kansas Highway Patrol is hiring more troopers after it changed policies to become more competitive in the job market. But as the Kansas News Service reports, there's still a shortage of troopers. Wages at the Kansas Highway Patrol were sometimes up to five dollars less per hour than surrounding states. Raises helped make the state more competitive and a shorter application process is getting troopers onto the job quicker. This has increased staffing, but the agency is still down 78 sworn employees since 2019. Major Andrew Dean says that can hurt response times. “We're going to be less timely and assisting our local partners and agencies when requested," he said. "There's obviously officer safety concerns in some instances, and burnout retention is another factor.” KHP says its next training class had over 175 applications, which could help improve the situation.

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2 South American Researchers Killed in Missouri

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri homicide and arson detectives are investigating the deaths of two South American scientists whose bodies were found after a weekend apartment fire near the Kansas City biomedical research center where they worked. Kansas City police identified the victims as 24-year-old Camila Behrensen, of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and 25-year-old Pablo Guzmán Palma, of Santiago, Chile. The Stowers Institute for Medical Research said in a tweet Tuesday that both were predoctoral researchers there. Police released few details but said there is a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. They asked Tuesday for help from anyone with surveillance video.

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Police Shoot and Kill Burglary Suspect in Lawrence 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) – The Kansas Bureau of Investigation has launched an inquiry into a fatal police-involved shooting that happened on Sunday night in Lawrence. A KBI-issued press release says that police received a report of a burglary and broken window at a residence on East 21st Terrace around 5:30 p.m. Sunday. When officers arrived, they learned a male suspect was inside the residence. The man was later identified as Michael S. Blanck, age 43, of Lawrence. The homeowner was not present at the time, and police did not enter the house. Blanck exited the house around 7:20 p.m. and the officers attempted to make verbal contact with him. The KBI says that during that interaction, Blanck pulled out a handgun and pointed it at officers. Three of the five responding officers fired, and multiple rounds struck Blanck. Blanck was pronounced dead at the scene. No law enforcement officers were injured. The KBI will conduct an independent investigation into the incident, and the findings will be turned over to the Douglas County District Attorney for review. 

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Missouri Man Convicted in Brothers' Deaths Admits to Fraud

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri man pleaded guilty Tuesday to a cattle fraud scheme that he tried to cover up by killing two Wisconsin brothers. The U.S. attorneys office said 28-year-old Garland Nelson, of Braymer, must forfeit more than $215,000 after admitting to mail fraud and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He entered the plea just days after pleading guilty to two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of 24-year-old Justin Diemel and 35-year-old Nicholas Diemel, of Shawano County, Wisconsin.

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Kansas Man Charged with Child Sex Abuse in New York State

ALEXANDER, N.Y. (WHAM) — A Kansas man faces charges following investigations into child sexual abuse allegations in western New York state that date back 13 years. WHAM TV reports that New York State Police received two complaints against 41-year-old Daniel Goodell between 2019 and 2021. He's accused of abusing two victims, aged 12 and 13, multiple times. Goodell moved from New York state before the investigation began. Police found him in Wichita, Kansas. He was arrested on 12 counts of first-degree sexual abuse and other charges. Goodell was extradited Friday to Genesee County, where sheriff's deputies say Goodell sexually abused a victim under age 11 multiple times in 2009 and 2010. He's charged with first-degree sex abuse. Goodell has been arraigned in Alexander, New York, and is being held on bail. Anyone with more information is asked to call New York State Police at (585) 344-6200.

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Kansas Revenues Exceed Forecasts Again for September

TOPEKA. Kan. (KNS) - Kansas tax revenue for September came in $96 million higher than expected. The report marks the 26th month in a row where revenue outpaced projections.  Kansas collected a total of $961 million during September. That’s 11% more than the state estimated and nearly 10% more than the state collected during the same time last year. The largest increase came from corporate taxes. They were almost $50 million higher than expected. Governor Laura Kelly says stronger tax collection comes from the state’s focus on job creation and attracting new businesses.

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Mobile Abortion Clinic Open in Illinois, No Immediate Plans for Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS/KMUW) - On the heels of news that Planned Parenthood is opening a mobile clinic in Southern Illinois to provide abortions, the organization’s Great Plains branch says it doesn’t have any immediate plans to do the same in Kansas. The Kansas News Service reports that’s not for a lack of demand. Part of the reason there isn’t a plan to offer mobile clinics in Kansas is because Planned Parenthood Great Plains opened a new clinic this summer in Wyandotte County. But president and CEO Emily Wales says that even with the new clinic, the organization can only see 10-15% of the patients who call seeking abortions. “We’re telling them you really do have to look to other options. It may be in your best interest to look to Illinois, New Mexico, Colorado," she said. She says the organization is thinking about how to offer more appointments in Kansas but has to weigh things like security concerns and state laws restricting abortion. While restrictions remain in place, abortion is legal in Kansas until 22 weeks' gestation.

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Are All Native American School Mascots in Kansas on the Way Out?

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS/KMUW) - A committee formed by the Kansas Board of Education is urging schools to retire Native American mascots. More than 20 Kansas schools still have mascots that feature Native American images and names such as Raiders, Braves or Indians. The state school board will consider a proposal next week to urge districts to remove those mascots and help them pay for changes. Raphael Wahwassuck serves on the tribal council of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation. He’s seen parents wearing jackets that say “tribal elder” on the back, which he says is insulting to Native students. “To us that’s a status that somebody earns through their lifetime. And for these folks to just, you know, put that on a T-shirt and wear it around, no big deal — it affected them," he said. Schools in Wichita, Atchison and Shawnee Mission recently retired their Native American mascots.

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Home Sales in Kansas Projected to Fall by Year's End

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Home sales across Kansas are projected to drop by the end of the year, but they won’t stay down for long. The Kansas News Service reports that sales are expected to rebound in 2023. That's according to Stan Longhofer at Wichita State University, who says a year of volatile housing markets in Kansas will end with home sales cooling off. He says even as the demand for homes eases, values should still remain strong, up 12% from last year. Even with the fluctuations, he says there’s a clear upward trend. "Home prices have been appreciating at an absolutely incredible pace. We have never seen anything like that," he said. Longhofer says the changes are not just due to the pandemic, and it has been a seller's market even years before COVID.

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Kansas Public Radio Searches for New Statehouse Bureau Chief

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Kansas Public Radio (KPR), at the University of Kansas, is seeking a new Statehouse Bureau Chief.  This position works primarily at the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka. The position duties include managing all aspects of KPR’s capital news bureau, which provides broadcast and digital news reports to a number of radio stations in Kansas and Missouri. This position is primarily responsible for reporting on all aspects of state government. This includes but is not limited to covering the Kansas legislative session, the governor, attorney general, supreme court, the state’s congressional delegation and statewide elections. The KPR Statehouse Bureau Chief researches, writes, reports and produces spot news, digital stories and long-form audio features for KPR and its reporting partners. Learn more about this position.

The University of Kansas prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, national origin, age, ancestry, disability status as a veteran, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, gender identity, gender expression, and genetic information in the university's programs and activities. Retaliation is also prohibited by university policy.

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Company Picked to Build Terminal at Topeka's Philip Billard Municipal Airport

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) - A company has been selected to build a new terminal at Topeka's Philip Billard Municipal Airport.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Metropolitan Topeka Airport Authority (MTAA) accepted the lowest of two bids Tuesday. The winning bid came from Wichita-based Icon Structures, which offered to do the project for $4.67 million. The MTAA received one other bid, from Topeka-based Senne Corporation, which totaled $5.2 million. The five-member MTAA is a volunteer board that oversees the operations of Philip Billard Municipal Airport, Topeka Regional Airport — formerly known as Forbes Field — and Topeka Air Industrial Park, located at Topeka Regional Airport. Though only two bids were received, MTAA President Eric Johnson said the project was advertised in print and online, and about 35 contractors viewed the plans.  Some of those were subcontractors. Grant funding from the Cares Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law — Airport Terminal Program are being used to finance the project to replace the Billard terminal. Johnson says the current terminal, built in 1954, is in poor condition. Construction on the Topeka terminal is expected to begin next March.

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Missouri Lawmakers Approve $40 Million in Tax Breaks for Farmers

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Legislature has passed $40 million in annual tax breaks for farmers. The GOP-led Senate on Tuesday voted 26-3 to send the tax incentive package to Governor Mike Parson. Lawmakers had passed a similar bill in May. But the Republican governor vetoed it, in part citing the short two-year sunset on many of the tax credits. He called a special legislative session to extend the agricultural tax credits for a longer period of time. He also asked lawmakers to spend some of the state's surplus revenue on an individual income tax cut, which they approved last week.

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Birds Need Help During Peak Migration Period Over Kansas

TOPEKA. Kan. (KNS) - It’s peak bird migration season in Kansas and Missouri. Scientists are asking people to turn out their lights at night to help birds survive the trip. On nights with favorable wind, tens of millions of birds fly over Kansas and Missouri this time of year. Cornell University Lab of Ornithology scientist Andrew Farnsworth says to turn off any outdoor lights you can and to use curtains to keep indoor light indoors. “As little light at night as possible,” Farnsworth said. “That’s super important because it allows birds not to be attracted or disoriented.” North America’s bird population is dropping dramatically, and migration is a vulnerable time. On nights with clear skies and tailwinds, tens of millions of birds migrate over our region. The Cornell ornithologists predict heavy migration over Kansas and Missouri Wednesday night, considered the peak of the bird migration season.

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Kansas Farm Bureau Donates $5 Million for K-State's New Agriculture Buildings Project  
 
MANHATTAN, Kan. (KPR) — The Kansas Farm Bureau has pledged $5 million over five years to support the Kansas State University College of Agriculture's innovation centers for grain, food, animal and agronomy research. It’s the largest donation in the Farm Bureau's history. The two new innovation centers will focus on the development and diversification of the food and agricultural economy, both in Kansas and around the world. This investment will fund new facilities, renovations of current buildings and improvements in the technology and equipment necessary for interdisciplinary, cutting-edge research and continue to enhance the college's exceptional student experience.  (Read more)

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Missouri Deputy Injured, Suspect Dies After Shooting

KANSAS CITY, MO. (WDAF) - The suspect in a police shooting Saturday in Excelsior Springs has died at a local hospital. The Clay County, Missouri, Sheriff's Office is investigating the shooting that also left a police officer wounded.  WDAF TV reports that Excelsior Springs police approached a man in a parking lot who had a warrant out for his arrest; he fled the scene in a truck and then shot at police after they stopped his truck.  An officer was shot in the shoulder and the hand.  The suspect, identified as 65-year-old Carl Carrel, was pronounced dead on Sunday. The officer has non life-threatening injuries, but a police department spokesman says the officer will require additional surgery.

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KC Man Accused of Fatally Shooting Cousin in Dispute over Playing Card Game

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (KSHB) — A Kansas City man was charged Monday for allegedly fatally shooting his cousin after a tense moment while playing a card game. KSHB TV reports that 28-year-old Jordan Huff is now facing second-degree murder and other charges. On Saturday, police officers in Independence, Missouri, were dispatched to an apartment (on the 3900 block of Redwood Drive) where they found James Robertson dead.  He had suffered four gunshot wounds to his chest and back. His siblings told police they were at the residence with the victim and Huff, smoking marijuana and playing drinking games. According to police, at one point, Huff grabbed his AR-15 and shot James Robertson. Eight bullet holes were found in the apartment's drywall.

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Junction City Man Arrested After Fatal Shooting

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (WIBW) - A 34-year-old Junction City man has been arrested following a deadly shooting early Sunday morning. Officers responding to reports of gunshots fired found 38-year-old Justin J. Rose, of Junction City, suffering from a gunshot wound. WIBW reports that Rose was pronounced dead at Geary Community Hospital. Sunday evening, Junction City Police arrested 34-year-old Joshua Sturgis on charges of 2nd Degree Murder and 2 Counts of Aggravated Assault. The Missouri Highway Patrol spotted Sturgis driving in Saint Charles County Missouri, where he is being held on $1,000,000 bond pending extradition.

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Leavenworth Chosen as Regional Veterans Day Site

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (KFDI) - The Veterans Day National Committee has selected Leavenworth as a regional site for celebrating the holiday. The Committee is part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. KFDI reports that this Veterans Day will mark the 103rd consecutive year for the Leavenworth County Veterans Day Parade. The parade was first held on November 11, 1919, the one-year anniversary of the armistice agreement of World War I between the Allies and Germany in France. The celebration is recognized as the largest parade west of the Mississippi River.  Retired U.S. Army Tech Sgt. Wilbur Grisham, who served in World War II, will be the Grand Marshal of the parade.  More information about the Leavenworth County Veterans Day Parade can be found at lvvetsparade.com.

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Royals Fire Manager Mike Matheny After 65-97 End to Season

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals fired manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred on Wednesday night, shortly after the struggling franchise finished the season 65-97 with a listless 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians. The Royals had exercised their option on Matheny’s contract for 2023 during spring training, when the club hoped it was turning the corner from also-ran to contender again. But plagued by poor pitching, struggles from young position players and failed experiments with veterans, the Royals were largely out of playoff contention by the middle of summer. Matheny is the fifth big league manager to be fired this year.

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Royals Begin Manager Search as Picollo Charts New Course

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — New Kansas City Royals president of baseball operations J.J. Picollo wasted no time in firing manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred hours after the end of another dismal season. Now, the pressure is on Picollo to chart a new course for the franchise. Picollo says he will cast a wide net in his search for a new manager, though he wants to find someone on the forefront of baseball's data-driven revolution. Picollo is new to the job after replacing the fired Dayton Moore last month.

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France Hoping Embiid Will Join Team for 2024 Paris Olympics

HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — France is hopeful that reigning NBA scoring champion Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers will choose to wear its colors for the 2024 Paris Olympics. Embiid recently became an American citizen. Embiid may choose to play internationally for the U.S. or France, but not both. It was widely presumed that he would play for France at the Paris Games, and possibly even next year’s Basketball World Cup in the Philippines.

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Lance Leipold Happy at No. 19 Kansas Despite Links to Wisconsin

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas football coach Lance Leipold says he's happy to be with the Jayhawks. Kansas is No. 19 in this week's Associated Press poll and plays No. 17 TCU on Saturday. But Leipold's happiness doesn't mean there isn't going to be plenty of interest in hiring a coach that took a downtrodden program to 5-0 this season. The rumors began when Nebraska fired Scott Frost a few weeks ago, but they really built up steam this week after Wisconsin fired Paul Chryst. Leipold grew up in Wisconsin and was a graduate assistant for the Badgers. He also played at Wisconsin-Whitewater and later led it to six Division III national titles.

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Chiefs Could Miss Harrison Butker for Fourth Straight Game

UNDATED (AP) – The Kansas City Chiefs could be missing kicker Harrison Butker for the fourth consecutive game because of swelling that won’t abate in the left ankle that he sprained in the opener against the Arizona Cardinals. They would use Matthew Wright for the second consecutive week on Monday night against the Las Vegas Raiders. First-round pick Trent McDuffie also appears close to returning from the hamstring injury that he sustained in Week 1. The defensive back has been on injured reserve and is eligible to return after this week’s game.

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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, 11 am weekends. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today. And follow KPR News on Twitter.
 

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