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Headlines for Tuesday, August 6, 2019


Kansas Governor Declares End to El Dorado Prison Emergency

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has declared an end to an emergency at the state's most-crowded prison that had officers there scheduled for 12-hours shifts.  The Department of Corrections said Monday that it expects the El Dorado Correctional Facility to return to a regular schedule of five, eight-hour days a week for officers in early October.  Kelly declared the emergency in February to allow the prison about 30 miles east of Wichita to schedule officers for four, 12-hour shifts a week. The prison houses more than 1,950 inmates.  The department said the number of vacancies among uniformed officers dropped to 50 in late July from 75 in mid-June. It attributed the decline to increased funding for higher wages that boosted starting pay to $18.26 an hour from $15.75.


Former KDCF Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel Appointed as Youth Suicide Prevention Coordinator

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas attorney general has appointed the state's first Kansas Youth Suicide Prevention Coordinator.  Attorney General Derek Schmidt has appointed Gina Meier-Hummel to the job, which was created after recommendations from a task force.  Meier-Hummel was secretary of the Kansas Department of Children and Families under former Governor Jeff Colyer. Previously, she was executive director of The Shelter, a nonprofit focused on intervention with at-risk youth.  The appointment takes effect immediately. Meier-Hummel will be coordinator on a part-time basis because of her work as executive director of the O'Connell Youth Ranch in Douglas County.  The Youth Suicide Prevention Task Force was created in June 2018 to survey efforts in the state to reduce youth suicide. The Legislature adopted several of the task force's recommendations in May.


Union: Mulvaney Comments Confirm Agency Moves Meant to Cut

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal employees union says recent comments by acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney confirm the Trump administration's "grand strategy" to cut the federal workforce by relocating agency offices out of Washington. Mulvaney said last week the U.S. Department of Agriculture's plan to relocate several hundred jobs from Washington is "a wonderful way to streamline government." He was speaking to fellow Republicans in South Carolina and said it's "nearly impossible" to fire federal workers but that many would not move to a new location. The USDA said in June it would move most employees of two research agencies, partly to bring them closer to farmers and agribusinesses. Government workers union local president David Verardo says it's a strategy to reduce the government workforce and eliminate checks and balances.


Garden City Native Running for 1st District Congressional Seat

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A 34-year-old Garden City native is running for the 1st Congressional District seat in Kansas. Kali Barnett, a Democrat, is a political newcomer who taught school in Kansas and New York City. She is running for the seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall. Marshall has not formally announced he will seek a U.S. Senate seat, but he is expected to enter that race. The Hutchinson News reports Barnett officially launched Kali for Kansas during the weekend. She is the first Democrat to announce her candidacy for the 1st District, which has never sent a woman to Congress. Barnett said she will advocate for federal support of schools, better health care and access to health care for rural areas. She will have campaign operations in Garden City and Manhattan.


Kansas: Aetna Risks Losing $1 Billion Medicaid Contract

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas health department says insurance company Aetna is at risk of losing its $1-billion-a-year contract with the state's Medicaid program. The Kansas City Star reports the agency gave Aetna 10 days to get its act together. A Kansas City Star request for comment to Aetna was not immediately returned. The insurance company joined Kansas' privatized Medicaid program this year. But the newspaper reports that medical providers have complained about Aetna for months. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment sent Aetna a non-compliance letter July 24. The letter cites concerns including claims issues, vague service plans for Medicaid recipients, and delays in credentialing medical providers for billing. Medicaid provides health care coverage for about 400,000 people in Kansas. Most are children, the elderly, people with disabilities and pregnant women.


Corps to Keep Water Releases into Missouri River High

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — As predicted, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it plans to keep water releases into the lower Missouri River elevated, as runoff continues to keep upstream reservoirs full. The Corps said in a news release Tuesday that water releases from Gavins Point Dam on the Nebraska-South Dakota border will remain at current levels, which — at 70,000 cubic feet per second — are more than double the average amount for this time of year. The Corps says areas of Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota and Nebraska received two to three times the normal amount of rain in July. July runoff in the upper basin was 7 million acre feet, more than twice the average. The Corps says this year's upper basin total runoff is forecast at nearly 53 million acre feet, which would be the second highest total runoff in 121 years of record-keeping. Only the 61 million acre feet seen in 2011 would be more.


Woman Killed, 6 Hurt in Southeast Kansas Crash

FREDONIA, Kan. (KAKE) - Authorities say a 19-year-old woman has died and six other people were hospitalized following a crash in southeast Kansas.  According to KAKE TV in Wichita, the collision happened just after 8:30 pm Monday at the intersection of Route 400 and Harper Road near Fredonia. The Kansas Highway Patrol says the driver of a Chevy Malibu failed to yield at a stop sign and collided with a Dodge Minivan.  The passenger in the Chevy, Haley Surber of Erie, died at the scene. The 18-year-old woman driving the Chevy was taken to a Wichita hospital for treatment of serious injuries. The patrol says they were not wearing seat belts.  Two adults and three children in the minivan were treated for minor injuries. The family is from Wichita.


Coroner Rules Wichita Toddler's Death a Homicide

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An autopsy report says a Kansas toddler found bound in pajamas died of dehydration and starvation.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the local coroner ruled 2-year-old Zaiden Javonovich's death a homicide.  The toddler's mother, Brandi Marchant, 22, and his father, Patrick Javonovich, 28, are charged with felony murder and child abuse in his death.  His body was found April 11 when police went to the family's Wichita home after receiving a call about a domestic disturbance. Zaiden's 4-month-old brother, who is Marchant's son, was found injured and hospitalized in critical condition.  Police found Zaiden face down in a crib and bound tightly around the chest with knotted pajamas. The autopsy says that might have led to asphyxia and could have contributed to his death.  Zaiden's brain tested positive for methamphetamine.


Police Seek Driver Who Hit 9-Year-Old in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police are looking for the driver of a car that hit a 9-year-old boy riding a tricycle.  Police say the boy was hit Sunday evening. First responders found him unconscious in the street after he was thrown from the tricycle.  Captain Tim Hernandez said the child was in serious but stable condition at a hospital.  The driver of the vehicle left the scene and has not been found by police. The vehicle was described as a silver passenger car.


Lawrence House Fire Displaces 5 People

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) -- The Lawrence Journal-World reports that an overnight structure fire has displaced five occupants of a southwestern Lawrence home.  Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical officials say firefighters responded to the single-family home at 4121 Teal Drive at 1:32 am today (TUE) to find heavy fire involvement on the front side of the home that extended into the garage. The fire was under control in about 30 minutes.  Two LDCFM members were evaluated at the scene.  The occupants of the home were not injured.  The cause of the blaze remains under investigation.


Lawrence Developer Loses Motion for Acquittal

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A judge has denied Lawrence developer Thomas Fritzel's motion for acquittal after he was convicted of illegally disposing of roofing material containing asbestos.  Fritzel was convicted July 30 of three federal charges related to the failure to properly handle the debris while remodeling the Alvamar Country Club in 2016.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports Fritzel's attorney argued in his motion the government didn't provide sufficient evidence that the material removed from the demolition site contained the kind of asbestos that becomes airborne, or that Fritzel knowingly removed and disposed of the asbestos improperly.  U.S. District Judge Holly Teeter rejected the motion Friday. She said state health employees and sample tests provided sufficient evidence to conclude Fritzel was guilty.  Fritzel will be sentenced November 13. He remains free on $50,000 bond.


Topeka Rescue Mission Might Close Soon Without New Funding

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Officials with the Topeka Rescue Mission say the organization could close next month if new funding isn't found.  Leaders said in a statement Monday that the mission is facing a $180,000 shortfall each month. It will close all its shelters and end all services if new funding isn't found by September 15.  WIBW reports Mission leaders say they've already made money-saving moves, including announcing last week that the TRM Thrift Store would close soon.  The mission provides shelter for an average of 250 people each night, and provides hundreds of meals every day.  TRM started in 1953 as a small room providing shelter and food to homeless men. It has expanded over the years to include shelters for women and families, and to provide education, care, and programs for children.


GOP Commentator Running for U.S. Senate Seat in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A conservative commentator says he is joining the race of the U.S. Senate in Kansas.  Bryan Pruitt said Monday he will return to the state from Washington D.C. for what he acknowledged is a "long shot" bid for the Senate seat held by retiring Senator Pat Roberts.  Pruitt, who is a Wichita native, would be the first openly gay senator from Kansas if elected. He plans to base his campaign in Manhattan.  The Wichita Eagle reports Pruitt expressed many typical Republican views Monday. He said he supports President Donald Trump's re-election but said the GOP needs to change how it talks about abortion and to add diversity.  Pruitt previously worked for RedState. In 2017, he resigned as executive director of Capital Pride after LGBTQ advocate accused him of making transphobic comments.


Kansas, Missouri See Uptick in Drug Overdose Deaths

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Federal data indicates the number of drug overdose deaths has increased in Kansas and Missouri even as national drug fatalities decline.  The Kansas City Star reports that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released provisional data in July projecting overdose deaths in Kansas rose from 326 in 2017 to 341 in 2018. It projects Missouri's overdose deaths rose from 1,406 in 2017 to 1,635 in 2018.  Randall Williams is the director of Missouri's health department. He says more than 1,100 of Missouri's overdose deaths in 2018 involved opioids.  A Kansas drug abuse task force found more than 80% of overdoses from 2012 to 2016 involved a prescription medication and one-third involved methamphetamines.  Both states have expanded access to naloxone, a drug that counteracts opioid overdoses.


Wisconsin Man Charged in Death of Missing Missouri Woman

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A Wisconsin man has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of a Missouri woman who's been missing for 13 years.  KRCG-TV reports 37-year-old Keith Comfort is being held in jail on a $1 million bond.  Police in Columbia, Missouri say Comfort implicated himself in the death of his former wife, Megan Shultz, when speaking with police in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin on Sunday.  Sunday was the 13th anniversary of Shultz's disappearance.  Shultz was last seen August 4, 2006 leaving the couple's Columbia apartment. At the time of her disappearance, Comfort told police that Shultz left on foot.  Comfort filed for divorce less than three weeks after she went missing.  Columbia detectives are heading to Wisconsin to interview him.


New Kansas Governor Brings Sharp Shift on LGBTQ Foster Kids

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas' child welfare agency has drafted guidelines urging foster parents to allow LGBTQ kids in their care to "express themselves as they see themselves."  The move has riled conservatives a little more than a year after the state granted legal protections to faith-based adoption agencies that do not place children in LGBTQ homes.  The Department for Children and Families issued its draft guidance in mid-July, six months after Democratic Governor Laura Kelly took office.  It called for foster homes to recognize LGBTQ children by their preferred identities.  Conservatives saw it as a directive meant to reshape foster families' lives. They also worry it's an attempt to skirt a 2018 law that Kelly doesn't like that protects faith-based adoption agencies refusing to place children in homes violating their religious beliefs.


Navy Releases Name of Sailor Killed After Traffic Stop

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — Military authorities have released the name of a sailor who was fatally shot by security personnel at a Navy base in Virginia after a traffic stop.  Navy officials on Monday identified the sailor as 25-year-old Juan Gerardo Medina-Reynaga.  Medina-Reynaga was a native of Kansas assigned to USS George H.W. Bush.  Investigators say security personnel stopped a 2016 Dodge Charger that was being driven erratically on the Virginia Beach military base Friday night.  Officials say Medina-Reynaga sped away from the traffic stop, hitting a gas pump while trying to avoid an automatic barrier.  Medina-Reynaga then led security officers on a foot chase that ended in a struggle. Officials say he was shot after assaulting security personnel and trying to take a weapon from a security officer.


Report: Kansas Medicaid Complaints Went to Unchecked Email Inbox

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new report says dozens of complaints about Kansas Medicaid fraud went to a government email account that no one checked.  The Kansas City Star reports that the state attorney general released findings on Monday that show more than 200 emails were left unread.  The attorney general's office found 42 of the unread emails contained at least partially substantiated claims of waste, fraud or abuse that weren't checked out.  The newspaper reports that the issue comes after state lawmakers in 2017 voted to move a long-vacant Medicaid watchdog position from the state health department to the attorney general's office.  From August 2017 to January 2019, emails went to a defunct account that no one monitored.


Hays Woman Sentenced for Falsely Claiming Inheritance

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 66-year-old Hays woman will serve a year of supervised probation for falsely claiming that her employer left her half of his estate when he died.  U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said Wanda Oborny was sentenced Monday for mail fraud. She also was ordered to make $100 monthly payments to Fort Hays State University during her probation.  In her plea, Oborny admitted that in 2013 she mailed a fraudulent codicil to Kansas banker Earl Field's will to Fort Hays State. The document falsely claimed Field had Oborny half of his $20 million estate to her.  Oborny had been Field's part-time bookkeeper. She claimed to have found the modified will in his desk the night he died in 2013.  In reality, Field left most of his estate to the university.


Commission Would Examine Exertional Heath Stroke in Athletes

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey has introduced legislation to create a commission to study exertional heat strokes in athletes after a player from his district died at Garden City Community College in southwest Kansas.  Smith, a Republican, proposed the bill Friday to honor 19-year-old Braeden Bradforth, of Neptune, New Jersey. He died in August 2018 after the first day of practice in Garden City.  The Joplin Globe report s the bill would establish a commission to study exertional heat stroke among student athletes at educational institutions across the country.  Smith said the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury confirmed 64 exertional heat stroke deaths among football players since 1995.  Bradforth, a 300-pound lineman, collapsed less than an hour after a conditioning session. An autopsy concluded he died of exertional heat stroke.


Old Riverton Store Gets Route 66 Preservation Grant

RIVERTON, Kan. (AP) — A Route 66 destination in southeast Kansas is receiving a cost-share grant from a federal preservation program that is expected to end this fall.  The Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program awarded Nelson's Old Riverton Store a $2,500 matching grant to upgrade its exterior.  The Joplin Globe reports the Riverton store opened in 1925, one year before U.S. 66 was designated.  Originally intended to last 10 years, the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program was extended for another decade in 2009. It is set to expire in October.  Bill Thomas, chairman of the Road Ahead board of directors, said supporters are working to ensure the passage of federal legislation to designate Route 66 as a National Historic Trail, and to ensure the National Park Service oversees the trail.


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