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Headlines for Thursday, September 9, 2021

 

Looming Flu Season Worries COVID-Strained Kansas Hospitals

WICHITA, Kan. (AP/KPR) — Kansas hospitals are worried about the upcoming flu season because they’re already strained by the surge in COVID-19 cases. The Wichita Eagle reports that Wichita’s four hospitals have been operating for weeks at full capacity, with limited beds and staff. At various points, they have had to ask ambulances to take patients to other facilities. Sam Antonios, the chief clinical officer at Ascension Via Christi, says the prospect of COVID-19 being combined with typical flu and other seasonal respiratory illnesses is “alarming.” Lowell Ebersole, the chief medical officer at Wesley Healthcare, also sounded the alarm about the coming flu season. Meanwhile, The University of Kansas Health System said 13 COVID-19 patients died at its facilities in less than a week. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported Wednesday that the total number of COVID-19 cases rose by 5,727 since the previous Friday, and the total number of deaths from the illness has risen by 63 to 5,693. 

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Kansas Plan for Extra Nurses' Pay Stalls over GOP Concerns

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A plan in Kansas to allocate up to $50 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds towards retention incentives for nurses and frontline workers has stalled. Top Republican legislators voiced concerns Wednesday about which hospitals would receive the money and how those funds would be spent. Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s bipartisan pandemic-response advisory task force delayed approving the proposal after GOP Senate President Ty Masterson proposed excluding hospitals that require employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Meanwhile, Republican House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr. argued that the task force should allow hospitals to use the funds to address other pandemic-related issues including mental health.

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Former Kansas Legislator Charged with COVID Relief Fraud

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal grand jury has indicted former Kansas state Rep. Michael Capps on 19 counts alleging that he tried to defraud federal, state and county government organizations out of more than $450,000 in coronavirus relief funding. The U.S. Attorney’s office in Kansas said in a news release Thursday that the Wichita Republican filed forms inflating the number of employees he had at two businesses and a sports foundation, and then applied for loans to pay the non-existent employees. Capps is charged with multiple counts of making a false statement, bank fraud, wire fraud and money laundering. The Associated Press couldn't immediately find a phone number for Capps to reach out to him for comment about the charges.

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Kansas Official: Unemployment Claims Grew More Complicated

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A top Kansas Department of Labor official isn’t disputing a legislative audit’s finding that hiring hundreds of workers during the coronavirus pandemic didn’t appear to result in the agency answering more calls from unemployed workers seeking benefits. But Deputy Labor Secretary Peter Brady said Wednesday that calls to the department became more complicated as the federal government created six programs to help workers after COVID-19 restrictions on businesses in the spring of 2020 caused unemployment to surge.  He also said during a meeting on unemployment issues that some of the 500 workers hired by the department sometimes were diverted to resolving problems with individual claims so that people would get benefits.

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Lawyer Demands Kansas School District Alter COVID Rules

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A lawyer who has filed lawsuits challenging mask mandates in two Kansas counties is demanding that a Kansas City-area school district revise its COVID-19 policies. Attorney Ryan Kriegshauser argues that the policies imposed by the Gardner-Edgerton school district in southwestern Johnson County are discriminatory and violate state and federal laws. The district's policies say people who've had contact with others with COVID-19 won't be quarantined if they're fully vaccinated or wear masks. Kriegshauser sent a letter this week demanding a response by Friday. A district spokesperson said Thursday that its attorney is reviewing the letter. Kriegshauser filed lawsuits last week against mask requirements in Johnson and Morris counties.

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Kansas School Districts Working to Attract Substitute Teachers

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas school districts are still scrambling to fill vacancies for teachers who are sick with COVID or under quarantine. Some schools are hiring long-term substitute teachers and are giving them full-time pay and benefits. School districts, including the state’s largest, Wichita, and several in the Kansas City area, have assembled teams of their most experienced substitute teachers to help with the staffing shortages. Many districts are also boosting pay to attract more qualified subs. Andover School District Superintendent Brett White said he started hiring substitutes as soon as the pandemic hit last year. “We hired 25 substitutes and basically said, ‘Every day you’re going to be working at one of our schools’” White said. The Shawnee Mission School Board recently contracted with out-of-state temp agencies to help fill teacher vacancies.

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Douglas County Approves Use of Hotels to Shelter Homeless People with COVID

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - The Douglas County Commission has voted unanimously to approve an emergency order allowing the city to open alternative shelter options, such as motels for people who have tested positive for the coronavirus and are experiencing homelessness.  The Lawrence Journal World reports that Douglas County’s Emergency Management Director Robert Bieniecki told the commission that community shelters currently need to provide isolation housing for homeless people who have tested positive for COVID-19. Social distancing measures have limited the ability of community shelters to provide adequate space within their facilities that do not put staff, other clients and the larger community at risk.

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Nonprofits Argue New Law Disenfranchises Voters

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Two national nonprofit groups argued Wednesday that a new Kansas law placing restrictions on out-of-state-groups' ability to mail advance ballot applications disenfranchises voters, but the state countered that the groups’ mailing efforts led to a flood of duplicate applications during the 2020 presidential election. U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil issued no ruling on VoteAmerica and the Voter Participation Center’s request for a preliminary injunction against the law. Both sides will return to court on October 8 to finish making arguments in the case.

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Senator Roger Marshall Endorses A-G Derek Schmidt in Kansas Governor's Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Republican Senator Roger Marshall is endorsing Attorney General Derek Schmidt in the Kansas governor's race. Marshall had initially endorsed former Governor Jeff Colyer, who dropped out of the race last week after announcing he has prostate cancer. Marshall says Colyer's decision to leave the race will avoid a contentious GOP primary. With Marshall's announcement, Schmidt now is endorsed by nearly every major Republican political leader in the race against incumbent Democratic Governor Laura Kelly. The only exception is Kansas Republican Senator Jerry Moran, who has a policy of not endorsing candidates in primary elections.

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Kansas Abortion Opponents Say They Will Not Try to Copy Texas Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) – A new law in Texas which bans abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy could intensify the fight over a proposed change in the Kansas constitution. Leaders of a major Kansas anti-abortion group say they will not attempt to copy the Texas legislation. Instead, anti-abortion activists say they are focused on changing the state constitution to say there is no right to an abortion in Kansas. Voters will decide that issue when they vote in the primary election next August.  Abortion opponents in some other states are already pushing for legislation that would duplicate the Texas law, but Danielle Underwood from Kansans for Life says they are not. She says the group is working to pass the constitutional amendment because it will stop court challenges from overturning Kansas abortion laws. “We have one and only goal,” Underwood says. “That is to support the amendment to protect our life saving laws currently in place.” Critics of the amendment say it could leave no protection for abortion rights in Kansas and could clear a path for more abortion restrictions in Kansas, like the strict Texas law.

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UPDATE: Herington Police Chief Announces Resignation

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KNS) – City officials say the Herington police chief is resigning after facing charges for allegedly entering a home without a search warrant. The Kansas News Service reports that the Kansas Bureau of Investigation looked into the incident in the town southwest of Manhattan. Court documents show that Herington Police Chief John Matula and the assistant police chief are being charged with misdemeanors. Matula is charged with trespassing and damaging property for allegedly breaking a door and camera and entering a home in May. Assistant police chief Curtis Tyra is appearing for alleged criminal trespass. Herington City Manager Branden Dross confirmed the resignation and says the charges haven’t hurt the city’s police services. The officers were helping code enforcement post condemnation notices on the property when the incident happened

(–Earlier Reporting–) 

Herington Police Chief, Assistant Accused of Trespassing

HERINGTON, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says the police chief and an assistant chief in Herington have been accused of trespassing. The KBI announced Wednesday that Chief John Matula and assistant Chief Curtis Tyra have been issued summons to appear in Dickinson County District Court. Both men are charged with criminal trespass. Matula is also charged with criminal damage to property. The charges are misdemeanors. The KBI says the two men are accused of forcing their way into a home on May 18 without a search warrant. James Brun, an attorney from Overland Park, has been appointed special prosecutor in the case.

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UPDATE: Wichita Man Dies in Shooting near University of Kansas

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence police are investigating the shooting death of a 21-year-old man near the University of Kansas campus. The police department said officers found the body of Christian Willis, of Wichita, Wednesday evening after responding to a report of a possible shooting. Police said Thursday that no arrests have been made in the case. The shooting site on Kentucky Street is about two blocks east of campus and less than a mile from Memorial Union.

(–Earlier Reporting–)

Man Fatally Shot in Lawrence

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KMBC) - Police are investigating a fatal shooting near the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence. Officers arriving around 7:15 Wednesday night found a male victim who was pronounced dead at the scene. Neighbors near 15th and Kentucky Streets reported hearing several gunshots. KMBC reports that officers are looking for a maroon colored Pontiac that was seen leaving the area. Police are requesting that anyone with information about the shooting call the Crime Stoppers line at 785-843-TIPS.  

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Two Sedgwick County Deputies Injured by Jail Inmate

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County sheriff's officials say two detention center officers suffered injuries to their hands when they were attacked by an inmate at the county jail. The department said in a news release that two corporals and a deputy were escorting a 56-year-old male inmate to his cell Wednesday evening when the inmate swung a metal shank at them. The deputies scuffled with the inmate and eventually ended the assault. The inmate, whose name was not released, was taken to a hospital for treatment before being returned to the jail. The inmate is being held on charges of attempted second-degree murder, aggravated domestic battery, aggravated battery and cruelty to animals.

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Wichita Man Killed Inside Car by Shooter in Passing Car

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a 23-year-old man was killed while sitting in his car at an intersection. Police say Jacquez Carter was stopped at a red light in southeast Wichita Wednesday when a white SUV stopped beside his vehicle and a passenger inside fired several times at Carter. Carter was shot several times and died at the scene. The vehicle then drove away. Police said the shooting was not random. No suspects have been publicly identified.

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Charges Dropped Against Priest Accused of Molesting Girl

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Wyandotte County District Attorney's office will not retry a Catholic priest who was accused of sexually molesting an 11-year-old girl. Reverend Scott Kallal had been charged with two counts of indecent liberties with a child while he was working at St. Patrick Catholic School in Kansas City, Kansas. A trial on the charges ended in a hung jury in September 2019. The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas said in a statement released Wednesday the district attorney has decided not to retry Kallal. The diocese said the priest remains on a leave of absence while church officials determine if he will be allowed to return to priestly ministry.

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Lawmakers Consider Renovation of Docking Office Building

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) – State lawmakers are discussing what to do with the Docking State Office Building. Legislators are considering several options for the long-delayed renovation of the 62-year-old building in downtown Topeka. The Topeka Capital Journal reports that two proposals are currently on the table. One would renovate the entire building. Another, less expensive, option reduce the building’s size from 13 stories to just six. Many lawmakers say they favor the plan for a smaller building saying it would cost about $15 million less to renovate and would also be cheaper to maintain. Earlier this year, the Legislature approved $120 million in bond sales to fund the overhaul of the building but stipulated that lawmakers approve a plan for the building and start spending that money by 2026. A legislative committee is expected to make recommendations on the proposals next month.

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Kansas Man Gets 30-Year Term for Murder of Emaciated Mother

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A Olathe man has been sentenced to more than 30 years in prison in the killing of his 75-year-old mother, who was emaciated and riddled with infected bed sores when she died in 2019. The Kansas City Star reports that 54-year-old Raymond McManness was sentenced Wednesday to 374 months. He pleaded no contest in July to second-degree murder and physical mistreatment of his mother, Sharon McManness. Police say McManness didn’t seek medical care for his mother before she died weighing just 58 pounds. The medical examiner’s office found she died from an infection due to open bed sores.

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Wichita City Council Forms Environmental Concerns Board

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Wichita City Council has formed a board that will advise city leaders on environmental concerns such as climate change. The council voted unanimously Tuesday to support a board that will focus on advancing the city's environmental goals, such as reducing emissions and finding economic opportunities that are environmentally friendly. The vote came after a months long effort by environmental activists. Currently, the plan is for 14 members who would meet four times a year. Some supporters said the board would be too large and should meet more often. Mayor Brandon Whipple called Tuesday's vote a good first step.

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Police Investigate 'Suspicious Death' in Topeka Home

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Police are investigating what they've dubbed the ``suspicious death'' of a person inside a Topeka home. Police officers were flagged down Wednesday afternoon by someone in the Briarwood neighborhood and were told a person was dead inside a nearby home. The officers went inside and found the body. Investigators say the circumstances surrounding the person's death are suspicious, but did not give any details about how the person may have died or the person's identity. The investigation into the death is continuing.

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Ex-Kansas Youth Volleyball Coach Accused of Sex Exploitation

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ A former Kansas City, Kansas, youth volleyball coach has been arrested after turning himself in on a warrant charging him with sexual exploitation of a child. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation said in a news release that 27-year-old Levinson ``Levi'' Gibson drove from his home in Indianapolis on Wednesday to Leavenworth County to face the charge. The KBI says authorities launched an investigation after receiving a report in July 2020 of Gibson soliciting a nude photo of an underage girl he coached at Dynasty Volleyball Academy in Kansas City, Kansas. Following a search of Gibson's workplace that month, he resigned. The KBI says an arrest warrant was issued for Gibson last week.

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Kansas Sheriff's Office Says K-9 Died After Chasing Suspect

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in southwestern Kansas say a police dog has died after being sent to chase a suspect. Television station KAKE reports that the Ford County Sheriff's Office reported on its Facebook page that a police dog named Kyra was called in Monday to help in chasing down a suspect in the county. Officials say the female Belgian Malinois began showing signs of distress immediately after the chase and was rushed to a veterinary clinic for emergency surgery. The sheriff's office says that “despite all efforts, she crossed over the rainbow bridge.” Kyra had served the Ford County Sheriff's Office for eight years as a trained narcotics detection and patrol dog.

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Man Fatally Shot in Kansas City Historic District

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Police in Kansas City, Missouri say a man was fatally shot in the city's historic 18th and Vine neighborhood early Wednesday.  Investigators are looking for clues and a suspect. Police said in a news release that the shooting happened just after midnight. Officers called to the area were told that a man who had been shot was taken by a private vehicle to a hospital, where he died from his injuries. Police did not immediately release the victim's name, and no suspects in the shooting were immediately identified. The Kansas City Star reports that the killing marks the city's 104th homicide this year, compared with 143 homicides by this time last year.

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Kansas City Police Identify Two Drivers Killed in Wrong-Way Crash on I-29

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Police have identified two people from Kansas City, Missouri, killed in a crash on Interstate 29 caused by a wrong-way driver. Police say the crash happened just after 5:30 a.m. Monday when a car driven by 23-year-old Roslyn Esau was traveling northbound in the southbound lanes of the interstate. Investigators say the car then collided head-on with another car driven by 60-year-old Oree French. Police say Esau died at the scene of the crash. French was taken to a hospital, where he died a short time later.

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Four Injured After Driver Flees from Arkansas City Police

ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Arkansas City police say four people were injured when a driver attempted to flee from a traffic stop. Police say an officer tried to stop a truck driven by 27-year-old Casiopia Price, of Arkansas City, Tuesday morning because she was believed to be driving with a suspended license. Police say Price drove away and collided with a van. The 46-year-old driver of the van and a 3-year-old passenger were hospitalized in stable condition. A 37-year-old passenger in the van was in critical condition. Police say Price was taken to an Arkansas City hospital, where she is listed in fair to critical condition.

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Former Olathe Teacher Found Guilty of Stalking Young Girl

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A former Olathe teacher has been convicted of reckless stalking of a young girl he taught at an elementary school. Fifty-nine-year-old James Loganbill of Lenexa was found guilty Wednesday after the girl, who is now 12, testified against him. Loganbill admitted to police in March 2020 that he was obsessed with the girl in his classroom at Meadow Lane Elementary School. He took 230 photos and 31 videos of the girl's legs and buttocks. The girl was 10 at the time. Loganbill's sentencing is set for November 3. His attorney said he would try to overturn the conviction on appeal.

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Wichita State’s Aviation Research Institute to Convert 777 Passenger Plane

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - Wichita State’s National Institute for Aviation Research, known as NIAR, received its first Boeing 777 passenger aircraft Wednesday.  The project marks the next step in NIAR's Maintenance Repair and Overhaul program. The institute’s plan is to convert the passenger airliner into a freighter. It's expected to help address a growing demand for cargo planes as the e-commerce industry continues to expand. Governor Laura Kelly was in Wichita to celebrate the rapidly growing WSU program. Kelly says it will strengthen the state's aviation sector. “There is no better state than Kansas to take full advantage of the 777 passenger to freighter project” Kelly said. “The opportunity is tailor-made for our state and our aerospace assets."  The conversion program will provide learning opportunities for WSU engineering and WSU Tech students. The program is based out of facilities adjacent to McConnell Air Force Base.

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Farmers Restore Native Grasslands as Groundwater Disappears

MULESHOE, Texas (AP) — To avoid Dust Bowl conditions, more farmers are restoring native grasslands in areas where the nation’s largest aquifer is drying up and rainfall is often scarce. Groundwater from the Ogallala aquifer has sustained farming for generations in the Plains states, even through droughts. But it’s becoming increasingly difficult to grow crops that require irrigation. A recent study projects that more than half of currently irrigated land in portions of Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma could be lost by the end of the century. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture has identified a Dust Bowl zone where grasslands conservation is a priority.

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Chiefs Ride 14-Game September Win Streak into Season Opener

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — It has been nearly five years since the Kansas City Chiefs have lost a game in the opening month of the NFL season. The remarkable streak of perfection predates quarterback Patrick Mahomes, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and a multitude of players that hope to usher the Chiefs to a third consecutive Super Bowl. The biggest reason is that the Chiefs have remained remarkably consistent over the years. The key players have remained the same, the coaching staff has mostly been stable, and that allows them to carry success from year to year.

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No. 17 Coastal Carolina Looks to Keep Rolling vs KU

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — No. 17 Coastal Carolina looks to continue its rise, this time with its first home game against a Power Five conference opponent. The Chanticleers host the University of Kansas Friday night and have won 12 of their past 13 games. They opened the season with a 52-14 victory over The Citadel. Coastal Carolina has won both games against the Jayhawks the past two seasons, and both contests were played in Lawrence, Kansas. The school has called for fans to wear white for a “White-Out” this week. Coastal Carolina is hoping to set an attendance record at its 20,000-seat Brooks Stadium.

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Big 12 Quickly Working to Expand Before Texas, OU Departures

UNDATED (AP) — The Big 12 quickly moved into expansion mode with Texas and Oklahoma preparing to leave for the SEC. There will be no perfect replacements for the only two Big 12 teams to win national championships. And there will be no teams coming from other Power Five leagues. Cincinnati, Central Florida, BYU and Houston are four likely expansion candidates. That's a top 10 team, a huge school that recently had a perfect season, an independent with a nationwide fan base and a Texas team in the nation's fourth-largest city. Texas and Oklahoma will start SEC play no later than 2025.

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K-State Set for Home Opener Against Southern Illinois

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University head football coach Chris Klieman knows better than just about anyone the perils of overlooking Southern Illinois. Klieman spent most of his career in the Missouri Valley, first as a player and assistant coach at Northern Iowa and later as the head coach at North Dakota State. Along the way, Klieman's teams made it a habit of beating teams from Power Five conferences, including a road upset of the Wildcats when he was in charge of the Bison. So it hardly matters that Kansas State looked so good in a season-opening win over Stanford last weekend. All that matters now is making sure there is no letdown with the Salukis coming to town for the Wildcats' home opener Saturday night.

“The Missouri Valley is a really good league. I think a lot of our teams in our league know that," Klieman said earlier this week, gazing out at a room full of skeptical reporters. “I wish you guys had the appreciation I do for the eight years I spent at NDSU and how good the football really was.”

Southern Illinois, the eighth-ranked team in the Football Championship Subdivision, certainly looked good in its opener. Its quarterback, Nic Baker, set a school record with 460 yards passing in a 47-21 blowout of Southeast Missouri State. But just as Klieman knows the danger in overlooking the Salukis, so does Southern Illinois coach Nick Hill know that the Wildcats and Redhawks are hardly the same level of opponent. Kansas State rolled to a 24-7 win over the Cardinal last weekend, earning votes in the Top 25 for the Football Bowl Subdivision in Tuesday's poll.

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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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