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Headlines for Thursday, October 7, 2021

 

Blood Donations Urgently Needed; American Red Cross Reports Worst Blood Shortage Since 2015

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - The American Red Cross is experiencing an emergency blood shortage, the worst in six years. A sharp drop in blood donor turnout has contributed to the lowest post-summer blood inventory level since 2015.  In some areas, the blood inventory is less than a day's supply. Donors of all blood types are needed, but especially those with type O blood.  The blood shortage is now so severe that the Red Cross is giving away prizes to those who donate. Those who give blood soon could get a limited-edition, football-inspired Red Cross T-shirt, free haircut coupons from Sport Clips and a coupon for a free Zaxby’s® chicken Sandwich or other freebies.  Learn more at RedCrossBlood.org.

A blood drive is underway in Lawrence today (THUR) and Friday at Immanuel Lutheran Church (2104 Bob Billings Parkway). Blood donations can be made from 11 am to 6 pm today (THUR) or Friday from 9 am to 2 pm. 

Find a list of area blood drives.  

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Kansas County GOP Chair Accused of Forced Kissing Resigns

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — The Republican Party chair for the most populous county in Kansas has resigned following disclosure of an accusation that he forcibly kissed another local GOP leader at an anti-abortion group’s fundraiser this summer. The Kansas City Star reported that Fabian Shepard’s decision to step down as the GOP’s Johnson County chair was confirmed Thursday by the county party’s vice chair and the Kansas Republican Party’s executive director. Wyandotte County GOP Vice Chair Stephanie Cashion said earlier this week that she filed a battery complaint with Bonner Springs police accusing Shepard of kissing twice her without her permission at an August 20 Kansans for Life event. He has denied the allegation.

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Masks Touted as Kansas Reports Fewer School COVID Outbreaks

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Health officials are frustrated that many school boards remain reluctant to adopt mask mandates, even though most COVID-19 outbreaks in Kansas schools are occurring in districts without such requirements. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said Wednesday that Kansas has 68 active school clusters, down from 79 a week ago. Those clusters are connected to 596 cases, one hospitalization and one death. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that of those active outbreaks, only 29% were in districts that reported having a mask requirement. Only about 20% of school districts report requiring masks for most or all of their students. Those districts educate about 63% of the state’s student population.

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Police: 2nd Lawrence Homicide Suspect Arrested in Tennessee

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Police in Lawrence say U.S. Marshals have arrested a second suspect in the fatal shooting last month of a Wichita man near the University of Kansas campus. Police say 19-year-old Andrel Darnell Spates Jr., of Lawrence, was arrested Wednesday in Tennessee. Police say Spates is expected to be extradited to Kansas in the coming days. Spates' arrest is the second in the September 8 shooting death of 21-year-old Christian Willis. On September 17, police arrested 18-year-old Javier Isidro Romero, who was later charged with first-degree murder and possession of marijuana with the intent to sell.

(Earlier reporting...)

U.S. Marshals Arrest Lawrence Man Accused of Murder; Suspect Apprehended in Tennessee

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - The Lawrence Police Department says a 19-year-old man accused of murder has been apprehended in Tennessee. The U.S. Marshals Service arrested 19-year-old Andrel Darnell Spates, Jr., of Lawrence, for suspicion of first-degree murder in the death of 21-year-old Christian Willis. Willis was killed September 8 in Lawrence (in the 1500 Block of Kentucky Street). Authorities say Spates will be transported to the Douglas County Jail pending an extradition hearing in Tennessee.

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Kansas Man Charged in Shooting Death of His Brother

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas City, Kansas, man has been charged with murder and domestic battery in the shooting death of his older brother. Police say 34-year-old Ricky Salazar was arrested last week and charged with second-degree murder in the death of 38-year-old Ricardo Salazar. He also faces separate charges of aggravated robbery, being a criminal in possession of a weapon and cocaine possession. Police say the older brother was shot August 15 in an area along State Avenue and died of his injuries on September 23. Ricky Salazar is being held in the Wyandotte County Jail on  $250,000 bond.

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Topeka Police Investigate Suspicious Death

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Police say the death of a person in Topeka appears to be suspicious. Officers were called to a North Topeka neighborhood near the riverfront Tuesday evening to check on the welfare of a person. Arriving officers found an unresponsive person at the scene. Paramedics pronounced the person dead a short time later. Police did not reveal the person's identity or give any details about the death, other than to say the death is considered suspicious and is being investigated.

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"Critical Race Theory" an Issue in Local Kansas School Board Elections

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - State education leaders say critical race theory is not taught in Kansas schools, but it’s still becoming an issue in some local school board races this year. Conservative candidates are vowing to fight controversial teaching methods regarding racism.  And those candidates are getting support from powerful national groups. Sharon Iorio is former dean of the College of Education at Wichita State University. She says these types of controversies in local school board races take the focus away from actual, serious issues in education,  “That’s a problem,” Iorio said,  “because it moves us toward national issues, and sometimes hot-button issues like critical race theory and mask-wearing.”  Kansas education leaders say critical race theory is not part of the state’s current academic standards. But candidates are raising the issue anyway and some have support from powerful national groups. Critical race theory is the idea that racism and discrimination are ingrained in public policy.

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Solemn Ceremony Aims to Remember Victims of Lynching in Lawrence

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - The Lawrence/Douglas County Community Remembrance Project Coalition will conduct a special Soil Collection Ceremony Saturday under the Kansas River bridge, on the south bank of the Kansas River, near Lawrence City Hall. The ceremony begins at 10 a.m. The public is invited to witness the event, which includes the filling of glass jars with soil from where three Black men - Isaac King, George Robertson and Pete Vinegar - were lynched from the bridge on June 10, 1882.  This soil was collected by the Coalition earlier in September and has been drying to prepare it for placement in jars that will become a permanent memorial at The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, a national lynching memorial in Montgomery, Alabama. Speakers on Saturday will include retired Pastor, Rev. Verdell Taylor Jr, of St. Luke African Methodist Episcopal Church. Representatives of the Lawrence Black community will fill the jars with soil, some of which will be sent to Watkins Museum of History. The ceremony can be accessed by driving along the gravel road on the north side of 6th and Kentucky. Signs will be posted, and limited parking is available. Social distancing and masking guidelines will be in place. (Read more.)

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Inmates Spend More Time in Cells Because of Staff Shortages

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Officials say staffing shortages have gotten so bad at one of the largest prisons in Kansas that inmates are spending more time confined to their cells. Kansas Department of Corrections spokesperson Carol Pitts said in an email that staffing is a problem across the prison system but that the “greatest challenge” is at the El Dorado Correctional Facility. The result is more cell time and less access to programs and activities. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the prison population has shrunk during the pandemic, and the agency has closed some housing units to reduce staff needs. The agency also has increased recruiting efforts.

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Housing Forecast for Kansas Looks Good... for Sellers

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - A new housing report says that Kansas will continue to be a seller’s market into 2022. On Wednesday, the Wichita State University Center for Real Estate released reports on home sales for the state and several metro areas.  The report predicts high demand and limited supply will continue in the Kansas housing market. Kansas home prices are expected to increase by as much as 10.5% by the end of this year.  Prices may fall in the years to come as more single-family home permits are approved in the state.   

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Forecast: Kansas Economic Recovery Will Be Slow but Wages Will Rise

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas will continue its slow economic recovery from the pandemic in 2022. That’s according to Wichita State economist Jeremy Hill, while addressing the annual Economic Outlook Conference in Wichita. Hill says employment in Kansas is expected to grow about 1%. But he expects continued growth in worker’s wages due to a tight labor market. Hill says wages for Kansas workers will be about 8% higher next year than they were before the pandemic, and he says the service sector will add the most jobs next year, mostly in the leisure and hospitality industry.

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Natural Gas Prices Expected to Remain High Through Winter

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Natural gas prices are more than double what they were at this time last year and experts predict prices will remain high through the winter. Utility companies pass the cost of natural gas directly on to their customers. As the price of wholesale natural gas increases, so will the fee Kansas utilities charge every month. For Kansas Gas Service customers that fee this month is $5.67 per thousand cubic feet of gas used. Last October, it was $3.76. Other large gas utilities such as Atmos Energy and Black Hills Energy have made similar increases. The price could remain high all winter. If it does, some people could see their monthly bill increase by as much as $30 to $40 dollars compared to last year. 

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Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita to Require Employee Vaccinations

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - Spirit AeroSystems will require all employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19 by December 8th. Spirit is the 2nd largest private employer in Kansas. The aerospace manufacturer told employees in a memo that the mandate applies to all of the company’s U.S. employees. Spirit says it must follow a directive from President Joe Biden that applies to contractors who do work for the federal government. Spirit is involved in several U.S. defense programs. Workers who are not vaccinated by December 8th will be terminated. There will be exemptions for people who can’t get vaccinated because of medical conditions or religious beliefs.  

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Child COVID-19 Vaccination Rates Lag in Many Kansas Counties

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Data from the Kansas health officials show that some counties are seeing youth vaccination rates for COVID-19 far below the national average. A school pandemic workgroup received information from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment this week showing that in about a quarter of the state’s counties, less than 20% of vaccine-eligible children, aged 12 to 17, had received at least one vaccine dose as of September 24. U.S. regulators in May expanded the use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to children as young as 12. The national vaccination rate for youth is 57%.

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Mass COVID Vaccination Site to Open in Springfield

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A mass COVID-19 vaccination site will soon open in Springfield as vaccine mandates and boosters have increased the number of people seeking a shot.  Jon Mooney, assistant director of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, said that 500 people a day will be vaccinated a day at the site after it opens Monday in a space that once housed a Gordmans and Toys “R” Us store. It’s not just that more people must get the vaccine to keep their jobs or that boosters are now available for a group that includes frontline medical workers and those with immune system issues. Part of the demand also is expected to come from parents. Pfizer has submitted research on the effectiveness of its COVID-19 vaccine in 5- to 11-year-olds.

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Kansas Man Arrested in Death of 67-Year-Old Mother

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man has been arrested in the killing of his 67-year-old mother who was found dead at her Wichita area trailer home. The Wichita Eagle reports that 42-year-old Kyle Romey was booked into jail Wednesday night on suspicion of first-degree murder in the death of Denyce Briet. He is being held in lieu of $500,000 bond. Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter said Thursday that deputies found Briet dead on the floor of the trailer after receiving a 911 call requesting a welfare check. Easter said it wasn’t clear what led up to the killing but told reporters that Romey had a history of arguments and violence with his family.

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New Search Announced for Long-Missing Oklahoma Girls Bodies

PICHER, Okla. (AP) — Authorities have announced a new search for the bodies of two northeast Oklahoma girls missing since 1999. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and Craig County District Attorney Investigator Gary Stansill say investigators will search a cellar Friday on vacant land in the former town of Picher where a suspect in the girls' disappearance lived at the time. The search is for the remains of Ashley Freeman and Lauria Bible, who were 16 when they disappeared from Freeman's home near Welch on Dec. 30, 1999. Freeman's parents were found dead in the burned rubble of the home and Ronnie Busick of Wichita, Kansas, pleaded guilty to an accessory to murder charge in the case in August.

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Judge: Kansas City's Plan to Divert Police Funds Was Illegal

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri judge has ruled that Kansas City officials violated state law when they moved toward shifting 18% of the police department’s budget into community services. Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Patrick Campbell sided Tuesday with a five-member state board overseeing the police department’s budget and operations. The Kansas City Star reported that the police board's lawsuit over funding argued that once the City Council determined in March how much to allocate to the department, it couldn’t change it later under state law. The City Council voted in May to shift $42.3 million into a special fund that could be used for community services.

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Fed up by Pandemic, U.S. Food Workers Launch Rare Strikes

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A summer of labor unrest at U.S. food manufacturers has stretched into fall. Around 1,400 workers at Kellogg Co.’s U.S. cereal plants walked off the job this week. In Kentucky, a strike by 420 workers against Heaven Hill Distillery is in its fourth week. The actions come on top of strikes this summer by Frito-Lay and Nabisco workers. Labor experts say pandemic gave food workers a rare upper hand. Labor shortages make it difficult to replace them, and the pandemic put a spotlight on their essential – and sometimes dangerous – work.

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Missouri Man Executed for Killing 3 Convenience Store Workers in 1994 Robbery

BONNE TERRE, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri man has been put to death for killing three workers while robbing a convenience store nearly three decades ago. The execution was carried out over objections from racial justice activists, lawmakers and even the pope. Ernest Johnson died from an injection of pentobarbital at the state prison in Bonne Terre. The state moved ahead despite a clemency request from the pope and despite claims by Johnson’s attorney that doing so would violate the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits executing intellectually disabled people. In addition to low IQ scores, Johnson had fetal alcohol syndrome and lost brain tissue when a benign tumor was removed 13 years ago.

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Kansas Governor Bypasses Lawmakers, Creates Child Advocate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Laura Kelly has created an independent office to review complaints against the Kansas foster care system and recommend changes in child welfare policies. Her order establishing the new agency fulfills a longtime goal of advocates for abused and neglected children. The Democratic governor’s move to create the office by executive order also bypasses the Republican-controlled Legislature. It deadlocked on the issue earlier this year after some lawmakers pushed to put the new office under the state attorney general. Some Democrats saw that as a partisan move because Attorney General Derek Schmidt is widely expected to be the GOP nominee challenging Kelly next year.

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Missouri State Officials Grilled over Report on Missing Foster Kids

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri state lawmakers are seeking answers after a federal investigation found that nearly 1,000 foster children went missing in 2019, and at least one was sex-trafficked. A House committee on Tuesday grilled social services administrators. The report says Missouri doesn't do enough to identify at-risk kids, take steps to prevent them from running away or find them once they go missing. Missouri officials say state workers might have done more to find the children but just didn't document their efforts. Republican state Rep. Dottie Bailey of Eureka called the report's findings “disturbing.”

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Woman Shot by Wichita Police Released from Hospital

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A woman who was shot and wounded by police at a Wichita grocery store has been released from the hospital and taken to jail. The Wichita Eagle reports that 31-year-old Danielle Robinson, of Salina, was booked Tuesday on three counts of aggravated assault, two counts of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer and one count of aggravated robbery. Wichita police Captain Jason Stephens said two officers were dispatched Monday night to a Whole Foods store in response to reports of a woman with a gun. He said she was shot after she refused to drop her weapon and fired at officers.

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2 Southern Missouri Men Charged in Kidnapping of Woman Photographed Nude in Cage

WINDYVILLE, Mo. (AP) — Two southern Missouri men have been charged in the kidnapping of a woman missing since July after photos of her, nearly naked and apparently locked in a cage, were found on one of their phones. Fifty-eight-year-old James Phelps and 56-year-old Timothy Norton have been in jail since mid-September on a kidnapping charge in the disappearance of Cassidy Rainwater. Their attorneys didn’t immediately return Associated Press phone messages Tuesday seeking comment. The Springfield News-Leader reports that Phelps told police in August that Rainwater had been staying on his property while she “got back on her feet.” But he said she left in the middle of the night, possibly to go to Colorado. The photos of Rainwater were later discovered on Phelps' phone.

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Procedural Hearing Set for Missouri Man Seeking Exoneration

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A hearing about procedural issues is scheduled for Friday in the case of a Kansas City man who is seeking to be exonerated in a triple murder committed more than 40 years ago. Judge James Welsh scheduled the hearing Tuesday during his first case management conference after being assigned the case of Kevin Strickland. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters-Baker announced in May that new evidence indicated that Strickland did not commit the murders. The purpose of Friday’s hearing is to determine what evidence can be admitted into court during a future hearing that will determine if Strickland should be freed. Welsh also will rule on the role the attorney general should play in the case.

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Corps of Engineers Considers Nature-Based Flood Control

UNDATED (AP) - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is known for working against nature by damming rivers and building levees to keep waterways at bay. But a new initiative seeks natural flood control solutions as climate change brings increasingly frequent and severe weather events that test the limits of concrete and steel. The head of the initiative says it makes sense to use all available tools to combat flooding and destruction from intense rains, storms and sea level rise. But the Corps is often constrained by its own rules and the way it evaluates the costs and benefits of projects it undertakes.

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Big 12 Joins SEC in Letting Schools Set Athlete Compensation

IRVING, Texas (AP) — The Big 12 says it will allow its schools to decide the amount of benefits to give athletes each academic year. The decision follows a U.S. Supreme Court ruling related to caps on compensation. It also follows a similar decision last month by the Southeastern Conference. The Supreme Court ruling meant that the NCAA could not ban schools from offering additional education-related benefits to Division I football and basketball players. That left it up to individual conferences to set limits if they choose. The Big 12 is using the legal maximum of $5,980 per athlete as a benefits ceiling.

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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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