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Headlines for Thursday, October 8, 2020

 

Kansas Reports Nearly 64,000 COVID-19 Cases, Including 723 Virus-Related Deaths

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - State health officials say Kansas has recorded nearly 64,000 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. The Department of Health and Environment reported Wednesday that the state had 63,952 cases, including 723 deaths. That's an increase of 1,244 cases and 17 deaths since Monday. The next update will be released Friday. 

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Kansas COVID-19 Hospitalizations Spike; Emergency Extended

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Top Republican legislators have signed off on Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s request to extend a state of emergency for the coronavirus pandemic. Their action Wednesday came as the state set another record for COVID-19-related hospitalizations. Eight leaders of the GOP-controlled Legislature, six of them Republicans, quickly and unanimously approved Kelly’s plan to extend the state of emergency until November 15. Meanwhile, the state health department reported that Kansas had another 1,244 new coronavirus cases since Monday, an increase of 2%. 

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Washburn Students Push Back After Spring Break is Canceled

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Students are urging Washburn University officials to reconsider their decision to cancel spring break in an effort to minimize COVID-19 transmission.  The Washburn Student Government Association passed a resolution Wednesday calling on the administration to consider an alternative that would add three "mental health days" into the spring calendar, The Topeka Capital-Journal reports.  The student leaders said they were blindsided by last week's announcement that students would go through 15 uninterrupted weeks of classes, with "finals week" held one week earlier, between May 1 and 7.  "We understand the need for safety, but we can't sacrifice safety for mental health," said student body president Victoria Smith.  JuliAnn Mazachek, vice president for academic affairs, said in an email late last week that spring break was being eliminated to protect the health and safety of faculty, staff and students.  "As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow both nationally and in our state, it is incumbent upon the university to design an academic schedule that minimizes opportunity for contraction and transmission of this virus," Mazachek wrote.  The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported another 1,244 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases from Monday to Wednesday to bring the pandemic total to 63,952, which includes 723 deaths.  The number of new deaths rose by 17.  

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Police Arrest Man After 3 Shot, Wounded Outside Topeka Hotel

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Police say they have arrested a man after an overnight shooting outside a Topeka hotel that injured three people. Police say in a news release that officers were called around 2:40 am Thursday to a Holiday Inn in north Topeka for a report of a fight. Arriving officers found two people suffering from gunshot wounds. Both gave police a description of the shooter and were taken to a hospital with injuries not believed to be life-threatening. More than two hours later, police found a third shooting victim, who was also treated for injuries. Police say they arrested 20-year-old Jacob Reisinger on suspicion of two counts of aggravated robbery, three counts of aggravated battery and criminal damage.

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Lawrence Leaders Approve Temporary Campsite in Park for Homeless

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Lawrence City Commission has approved a campsite in a city park for the homeless, but made clear the move was temporary while community leaders seek other ways to address homelessness. The Journal-World reports that the commission voted 4-0 Tuesday to approve a 6-month special event permit for a temporary homeless campground at Woody Park. The move comes as the Lawrence Community Shelter recently reduced its capacity from 125 to about 25 people in an effort to maintain social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic. The campsite will provide portable trailers, toilets, showers and social services for 20-25 people who are homeless.

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Judge Rules Kansas Polling Site Buffer Zone Constitutional

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has ruled a Kansas law that prohibits electioneering within a 250-foot buffer zone of a polling location is constitutional and does not infringe on the First Amendment. On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Holly Teeter dismissed the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas against Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and the Johnson County election commissioner. In her ruling, Teeter cited a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Burson v. Freemen, that rejected a challenge to a similar Tennessee statute. Teeter noted the Kansas electioneering law has also stood unchallenged for nearly 60 years and that all 50 states have similar laws.

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More Voting Options, Fewer Polling Sites Planned in Kansas

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas voters will have more options this year to cast their ballot, easing the pressure on fewer, available, in-person polling sites on Election Day. The plans come amid pandemic concerns that have closed traditional voting locations in many churches and nursing homes. Local election officials have been scrambling to find alternative handicap-accessible sites that are large enough to allow for social distancing on Election Day. They are counting on more voters using advance ballots that can be mailed in, dropped in new ballot boxes or taken to polling sites. Some Kansas counties are also opening more in-person polling sites — and opening them sooner than usual — for in-person early voting this year.

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Some GOP Candidates for U.S. Senate Edge Away from Trump but Not in Kansas

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vulnerable Republicans are increasingly taking careful but clear steps away from President Donald Trump in the final stretch of the 2020 election. It's a sign of GOP anxiety that their leader’s crisis-to-crisis campaign could bring down Senate candidates across the country. GOP strategists eyeing dire internal polling say the distancing reflects a marked decline in support for Trump over the last 10 days, from his ferocious debate performance through his dramatic return from the hospital to the White House. The race for the Senate majority centers on four seats Democrats must flip to win.  One of those seats is in Kansas.  But in this race, the GOP candidate, Dr. Roger Marshall is embracing Trump while his Democratic opponent, Dr. Barbara Bollier, is trying to appeal to red state voters as a moderate alternative.

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Missouri Economy Better than Expected; State Set to Release $133 Million in Funds

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Governor Mike Parson said the state will release $133 million in funding to support critical services in the state. The governor said Wednesday the state's economy has not been as severely impacted by the virus as officials anticipated when they restricted spending and made cuts in June. For example, officials had forecast an unemployment rate of 16.3% but unemployment is currently at 7%. And he said general revenues were 3% better this September compared to last September. The funds to be released include $38 million in general funds and about $95 million in federal CARES Act funding for coronavirus-related expenses.

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KU Football Coach Les Miles Tests Positive for COVID-19

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas head football coach Les Miles has tested positive for COVID-19 and is quarantining in his home, where he plans to fulfill his head coaching responsibilities remotely as the Jayhawks spend a week off before visiting West Virginia. Miles announced his positive test in a statement Thursday. The school did not say whether any other players or staff have tested positive, though the Jayhawks have had clusters of positive tests since the beginning of the season.

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Report: Driver in Deadly Crash Didn't See Woman Who Is Blind

UNDATED (AP) – A driver who fatally injured a women who is blind in a Lawrence crosswalk told police he didn’t see the woman or her service dog. The crash report said the driver stopped to help after hitting 61-year-old Tamara Lucille Kearney while attempting a left hand turn in his work pickup truck. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Kearney died ten days later on August 8. Her obituary described her as a yoga instructor, Braille proofreader and a clinical massage therapist. Police said previously that her dog, Rex, suffered only minor injuries and was fine. A police officer indicated in the report that he believed that a cellphone may have been a distraction. Prosecutors are reviewing the case.

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Debate over Policing Roils Kansas Cradle of Brown v. Board Decision

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A debate over policing is roiling the Kansas cradle of the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision against school segregation. Some advocates in Topeka see long-standing tensions between the police and the city's 125,000 residents, particularly minorities. When police used force in 2018 and 2019, Black residents were on the receiving end 35% of the time, though they make up less than 11% of the community's population. But advocates of police reform have been met by vocal support for the police. A recent Facebook page for a Blue Shield group that supports law enforcement now claims thousands of members.  

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Charges Filed in Weekend Shooting Death of Topeka Man

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas woman has been charged in connection to the weekend shooting of a Topeka man in his home. Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay said Thursday that 27-year-old Tishara Renee Moran is charged with felony first-degree murder and aggravated robbery linked to Saturday’s gunshot slaying of 28-year-old Christopher J. McMillon. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports police were called Saturday morning to McMillon’s home after a family member checking to see why he failed to appear at a youth basketball game found him dead.

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Deputy Who Fatally Shot Missouri Woman Reinstated to Force

SEDALIA, Mo. (AP) — A sheriff's deputy who shot and killed a Missouri woman in June is back at work. The Pettis County sheriff's deputy returned to work last week after an internal investigation found he had not violated any department policies in the June 13 shooting death of 25-year-old Hannah Fizer. A special prosecutor announced last month the deputy would not face criminal charges. The deputy's name has not been released. The deputy told investigators that Fizer said she had a gun and threatened to shoot him after he stopped her car for traffic violations. Her family and friends have questioned that story. No gun was found in Fizer's car.

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Finalists for Kansas Supreme Court All Women for 1st Time

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Gov. Laura Kelly is set to fill a vacancy on the Kansas Supreme Court from the first all-female group of finalists in state history. But the state’s most influential anti-abortion group is publicly opposing one of the candidates. The Democratic governor has until Dec. 5 to choose among the three finalists named by the state’s nominating commission earlier this week. They are state Court of Appeals Judge Melissa Taylor Standridge, Washington County District Judge Kim Cudney and Wichita attorney Kristen Wheeler. The anti-abortion group Kansans for Life is opposing Standridge because she sided in a 2016 ruling with other judges who said the state constitution protects abortion rights.

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KCK Couple Sentenced in Mexican Methamphetamine Conspiracy

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KPR) – A married couple has been sentenced to federal prison for taking part in a drug ring that distributed methamphetamine from Mexico in the Kansas City metro.  U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said in a news release that 41-year-old Marlon Gutierrez was sentenced Tuesday to 260 months in federal prison and 43-year-old Karen Ortega was sentenced to 168 months in federal prison. Both are from Kansas City, Kansas.  Previously, co-defendant Edelfonso Gonzalez-Gonzalez was sentenced to 30 years.  Gutierrez and Ortega had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine.  In their pleas, they admitted they rented a house from co-defendant Gonzalez-Gonzalez (in the 3000 block of North 34th Street in KCK).  They lived there with Ortega’s minor children. One condition of renting the house was to monitor the property including a detached garage where the traffickers stored narcotics. Gutierrez, who was a drug courier for Gonzalez-Gonzalez, had a key to the garage. When investigators served a search warrant at the residence they found approximately 20 pounds of methamphetamine, 1.8 pounds of heroin and more than $230,000 in cash.  In her plea, Ortega admitted federal investigators had her under surveillance when she met another conspirator in a Wal-Mart parking lot and sold almost two pounds of methamphetamine for $4,500.

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Catholic Bishop in Missouri Criticized for Letter on Voting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The bishop of the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese has come under criticism for sending a letter urging parishioners to vote for candidates who oppose abortion. The letter is seen by some as an endorsement of Republican candidates, although Bishop James Johnston Jr. does not explicitly endorse a party or specific candidates. The letter says Catholic voters should weigh a candidate's position on God-given rights, particularly the right to life. Johnston told KCUR Radio that he was simply telling people to vote with their conscience. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops last year called abortion a “preeminent priority” of the church.

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Kansas City Area Principal Sorry for Demanding Girls Remove Controversial T-Shirts

RIVERSIDE, Mo. (AP) — An interim principal at a Kansas City-area high school has apologized for storming onto the volleyball court and demanding that the girls team take off their racial unity T-shirts before a game. The shirts were emblazoned with the words “Together We Rise” and depicted three raised fists in different skin tones. WDAF-TV reports that the Park Hill South School’s girls volleyball team wore the T-shirts for warm-ups before their September 29 game.  Interim principal Kerrie Herren made them put on different shirts.  He has since repeatedly apologized, saying he made a mistake and that the girls can wear them from now on.

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Governor Celebrates Improved Access to Flint Hills Trail in Osawatomie

OSAWATOMIE, Kan. (KPR) – Kansas Governor Laura Kelly visited the Flint Hills Trail in Osawatomie today (WED) to help cut the ribbon on recent improvements, including a new two-mile portion of the trail and a parking lot.  The enhancements are designed to improve trail access for pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians who want to enjoy outdoor recreational opportunities in Miami County.  "Public access to trails, parks, and other green spaces plays a key role in growing economic development opportunities, promoting healthier lifestyles, and improving quality-of-life for Kansans statewide,” Kelly said.  In 2018, the City of Osawatomie established the Flint Hills Trail Taskforce to complete a new portion of the trail.  More improvements to the trail are planned.  The 117-mile Flint Hills Trail State Park stretches from Osawatomie to Herington and passes through five counties and several communities along the way. The trail is built on an old rail corridor and is the seventh-longest rail-trail in America. The Flint Hills Trail generally follows the Santa Fe National Historic Trail route and was designated a State Park in 2018.

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Elusive Eastern Black Rail Threatened by Rising Sea Levels

UNDATED (AP) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has declared the Eastern black rail a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.  According to the agency, the bird nicknamed the "feathered mouse" is threatened by sea level rise and the increasing frequency and intensity of storms as well as habitat destruction. Populations have declined by more than 75% over the last 10 to 20 years. The "threatened" designation falls short of what some environmentalists were seeking. The Center for Biological Diversity, which first proposed protections for the bird 10 years ago, had hoped it would be listed as "endangered," which would bring more protection for the remaining population.  The small, secretive, marsh bird can be found in Kansas and dozens of other states east of the Rocky Mountains.  Historically, the eastern black rail is known to exist in 35 states as well as Puerto Rico, Canada, Brazil, and several countries in the Caribbean and Central America, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.  While their geographic range is still relatively widespread, they are few in number.

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Missouri Governor Repeats Pledge to Pardon St. Louis Couple

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Governor Mike Parson is repeating his pledge to pardon a St. Louis couple if they are convicted of gun charges for waving guns at protesters in front of their home this summer. Parson said Wednesday he “most certainly would” pardon Mark and Patricia McCloskey. The couple was indicted Tuesday on charges of unlawful use of a weapon and tampering with evidence after they confronted people marching past their home during a racial injustice demonstration in June. They have said the demonstrators were threatening them and their home. They have become heroes to conservatives and gun-rights advocates nationwide and received support from President Donald Trump.

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Clint Bowyer to Retire and Move to Fox NASCAR Coverage in 2021

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Clint Bowyer will retire at the end of the NASCAR season and join the Fox Sports booth as an analyst. Bowyer is in his 15th full season and heads into Sunday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway facing elimination from the playoffs. In a two-page letter posted to Twitter on Thursday night, Bowyer said he’s pursuing a new opportunity and will move into a full-time television job. Bowyer is a popular veteran who has won races for Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota during his career with Richard Childress Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing and now Stewart-Haas Racing.

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Big 12 Takes Hit from Shoddy Defenses of Oklahoma, Texas

UNDATED (AP) - Oklahoma and Texas are struggling on defense again, and it's cost both programs and the Big 12 Conference. The league's two marquee teams started off with national title hopes. Neither are where they expected to be as they prepare to meet Saturday at the Cotton Bowl. Texas is barely ranked at No. 22 and Oklahoma is out of the Top 25 for the first time since 2016. Oklahoma probably has no shot at the College Football Playoff after getting there the past three years and Texas likely would be out of the running with a loss.

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