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Headlines for Tuesday, January 5, 2021

 

Kansas GOP Senator Jerry Moran Says He'll Vote to Certify Biden's Win

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Senator Jerry Moran says he will vote to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the Electoral College. Moran's announcement Tuesday means he is breaking with President Donald Trump and others in the GOP trying to overturn the result. Moran's stance ahead of a joint session of Congress on Wednesday that is expected to confirm the Democratic president-elect’s victory in November also puts Moran at odds with all of the other Republicans in Kansas’s congressional delegation. Trump's unfounded claims of voter fraud have been rejected roundly by courts and election officials. Moran said “in every instance the the judgments were clear” that the evidence wasn’t sufficient to change the results.

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13th Inmate Dies of COVID-19 as Virus Hits Kansas Prisons Hard

EL DORADO, Kan. (AP) — A 13th Kansas inmate has died of COVID-19 as the virus continues to spread in the state's prisons, infecting thousands. The Kansas Department of Corrections said the latest inmate to die had been serving a 24-year sentence for attempted first-degree murder and second-degree murder at the El Dorado Correctional Facility. He was 65 and had an unspecified underlying medical condition. He was taken to a hospital Saturday and died Monday. The state prison system, housing about 8,600 inmates, has reported 5,303 COVID-19 cases among offenders and another 1,063 among staff. Four staff members have also died.

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GOP Sees Privacy as Key as Kansas Legislature Debates Contact Tracing

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Republican legislators and Kansas's GOP attorney general say privacy is key, as lawmakers prepare to decide whether to rewrite a law that allows people exposed to COVID-19 to refuse to disclose their close contacts to health officials. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly wants legislators to rewrite the law enacted last year, arguing recently that provisions allowing people to opt out of contact tracing "served no purpose.`` Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature aren't ruling out changes, but some say they want to make sure people's privacy remains protected. The law is set to expire May 1. 

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Kansas Leaders Reflect on Pandemic Lessons from 2020

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — As 2021 begins, health officials and elected leaders in Kansas are reflecting on the lessons learned so far about the coronavirus pandemic. Democratic Governor Laura Kelly said the pandemic showed Kansas that a "patchwork" response does not work. She closed schools in mid-March and late that month issued a statewide stay-at-home order that remained in place for five weeks. A law approved in June by the Republican-controlled Legislature gave the state's 105 counties the authority to opt out of Kelly's orders. She argued recently that she was forced to accept local control to keep a state of emergency for the pandemic in effect.

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COVID-19 Caseload in Kansas Exceeds 230,000; Virus-Related Deaths Approach 2,900

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The Kansas Department of Health reported Monday that there have been 231,317 cases of COVID-19, including 2,897 deaths, since the pandemic began.  KDHE will release another update Wednesday.   

(-Related-)  

Kansas Governor "Very Comfortable" with Vaccine Distribution

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Gov. Laura Kelly says she’s “very comfortable” with how Kansas is distributing the COVID-19 vaccines despite U.S. government data showing that its inoculation rate is the lowest of any state in the nation. The governor argued Monday that Kansas likely has a more efficient distribution system than other states and is getting vaccine doses more quickly to more communities. The state health department has said federal data shows Kansas lagging behind other states because of a lag in reporting vaccinations, and Kelly told reporters the state has concentrated on “getting vaccinations in people’s arms.” But Kansas House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr. says people “are tired of hearing excuses.”

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Wichita Diverts COVID Grant to Police Anti-Cheating Software

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Wichita City Council is diverting COVID-19 grant funding intended for hiring a pandemic-control officer and is instead using it to lease software that ensures police officers don’t cheat on their training. The Wichita Eagle reports that in May the council earmarked about $250,000 to hire an emergency management coordinator to manage the police department’s response to the pandemic. Police told the council Tuesday that they were unable to fill the position and wanted to divert $165,000 of the funds to lease for three years software that will track officers’ training online. That is a capability the department has sought for years.

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Missouri Coronavirus Cases Topped 400,000 on Sunday

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The number of coronavirus cases in Missouri has now topped 400,000, and hospitalizations remained at a high level on Sunday. The state reported 2,305 new cases and 19 deaths to give it 401,761 cases and 5,562 deaths since the pandemic began. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is down significantly from the peak of 4,723 set on November 20, but it has been rising since Wednesday’s 2,183 and it hit 2,810 on Sunday. The number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus in the state declined to 2,701 from the previous day’s 2804, but it remained around the high level the state has been reporting since mid-November.

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Kansas to Use Genetic Testing to Find New Coronavirus Strain

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas health officials plan to use genetic testing to identify a new, more contagious coronavirus strain. No cases of the new strain have been found yet in Kansas. The new strain was first detected in England and cases have since been confirmed in Colorado, California and Florida. Dr. Lee Norman, head of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said this week that the state already does genetic testing with about 1% of COVID-19 patients and it plans to increase its lab capacity so it can do more tests. He said viruses often have minor genetic variations, and they generally don't make much difference.

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Kansas Paramedic Dies of COVID-19 Complications

EDWARDSVILLE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas paramedic died of complications related to COVID-19 on New Year's Day. Edwardsville Fire Chief Tim Whitham said Saturday he was saddened by the death of Jason Taylor who had worked for the department for three years. Earlier in his career, Taylor worked for Bonner Springs and for Franklin County Emergency Medical Services. He had been a paramedic since 1998. Funeral arrangements are pending. Three members of the Kansas City Fire Department have died of COVID-19.

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Kansas Swears in New State Treasurer, Lieutenant Governor

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Lynn Rogers has been sworn in as Kansas state treasurer, and David Toland has taken the oath of office to replace Rogers as lieutenant governor. Democratic Governor Laura Kelly held separate, brief ceremonies for both officials Monday at the Statehouse. Rogers replaced Republican Jake LaTurner as state treasurer. LaTurner stepped down after winning an eastern Kansas seat in Congress in November. Rogers is a former state senator who was elected lieutenant governor on Kelly’s ticket in 2018. Toland has been serving as Kelly’s commerce secretary since she took office in January 2019, and he will keep that job in addition to serving as lieutenant governor.

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2 Homeless Men Found Dead During Cold Weekend in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say two people who were homeless died in Kansas City during cold weather over the weekend. A volunteer for an organization that helps the homeless found a man dead inside a vacant building on Sunday, Alina Heart, a volunteer with Free Hot Soup Kansas City, found the man after being asked to check on him. Police are investigating how the man died. Temperatures were below freezing when Kansas City police were called Friday night to an area where homeless people stay. They found a 41-year-old homeless man dead.

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UPDATE: 2 Additional Victims Added to KC's 2020 Homicide Count; Total Now Stands at 182

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two more victims have been added to the record 2020 homicide count in Kansas City, Missouri. The Kansas City Police Department said Monday that a 19-year-old man who was wounded in a December 28 shooting died four days later. Officers found Abdulbasid Yassin unresponsive on the ground when they responded to a shooting call. He was taken to a hospital where he died of his injuries on January 1. Police are also investigating the death of 27-year-old Chayne Pearl as a 2020 homicide. She was found cut about 10 pm December 31 and died January 1. The Kansas City Star reports that the deaths bring the city’s 2020 homicide count to 182.

Earlier reporting...

Kansas City Suffers Deadliest Year Ever with 180 Killings

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City recorded 180 homicide victims in 2020, the highest number of killings in a single year in its history, as gun violence surged nationwide. The Kansas City Star reports that the last time the city saw anywhere close to as many homicides was 2017, when it recorded 155 killings, including four fatal police shootings. In addition to the homicide record, 2020 also marked a dramatic surge in nonfatal shootings. More than 620 people were shot and survived — a statistic that Mayor Quinton Lucas described as “crazy” and “embarrassing.”

(-Related-)

St. Louis' 2020 Homicide Rate is Highest in 50 Years

ST. LOUIS (AP) — St. Louis recorded its worst homicide rate for 50 years in 2020, even though the total number of homicides last year fell just short of the city’s all-time record. Police say 262 people were killed in St. Louis last year — five less than the record of 267 set in 1993. But because the city’s population has declined since 1993, the homicide rate was much higher in 2020. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the city’s homicide rate hit 87 killings per 100,000 residents in 2020, the highest on record since 1970. The figure exceeds the previous high of 69 per 100,000 people set in 1993.

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Kansas Governor Promises Another Push for Medicaid Expansion

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Governor Laura Kelly will push again this year to expand Medicaid in Kansas even though top Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature are less receptive to the idea than they were last year. Kelly said during a recent Associated Press interview that she will "never stop fighting" for expansion. But the Republican supermajorities in both chambers became more conservative in last year's elections. Incoming Senate Majority Leader and Wichita Republican Gene Suellentrop said GOP leaders have a long list of issues they want to tackle, and Medicaid expansion "is not on the radar." Kelly responded that she never said passing an expansion bill would be easy.

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More GOP Lawmakers Enlist in Trump Effort to Undo Election

WASHINGTON (AP) — A growing number of Republican lawmakers have joined President Donald Trump’s extraordinary effort to overturn the election, pledging to reject the results when Congress meets next week to count the Electoral College votes and certify President-elect Joe Biden’s win. On Saturday, Texas Senator Ted Cruz announced a coalition of 11 senators and senators-elect who will vote against certain state electors unless Congress appoints an electoral commission to immediately conduct an audit of the election results. The GOP Senator-elect from Kansas, Dr. Roger Marshall, is one of the members of this coalition.  The members acknowledge they are unlikely to change the results of the election.  Biden is set to be inaugurated January 20.

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Lawrence Area Named After Slave Owner to Change Name

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence neighborhood bearing the name of a slave owner plans to change the name. The Pinckney Neighborhood Association said it is taking suggestions for a new name for the neighborhood named for either Charles Pinckney or Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. They were cousins who had successful political careers in the late 1700s and early 1800s but also supported slavery. Neighborhood association president Bart Littlejohn said residents began discussing the name change after racial injustice demonstrations this summer. The neighborhood hopes to begin voting on the change this spring.

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Man Found Dead in the Snow in Kansas Had Been Shot

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man found dead in the snow on New Year's Day in Kansas City, Kansas, apparently had been shot. Police said in a news release that it appears that the shooting happened in the early morning hours. The name of the man who was killed wasn't immediately released. Police also provided no information on a suspect or motive. Anyone with information is urged to call a tips hotline.

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25-Year-Old Topeka Man Identified as Fatal Shooting Victim

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have identified the victim of a New Year's Eve shooting in Topeka as a 25-year-old man. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that police said the death of Jesus Noel Soto-Villareal brought the city's homicide total for 2020 to 25. Police said in a news release that officers were on patrol around 5:40 pm Thursday when they heard gunshots. Police were then notified that a man suffering from life-threatening injuries had arrived at a local hospital where he was later pronounced dead. 

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Authorities Identify 2 Kansas Shooting Victims

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Law enforcement authorities have identified the two victims of the December 29 shooting near Wichita. The Sedgwick County Sheriff’s office on Monday said they are 43-year-old Bradley Michael Reece and 22-year-old Kayla Schmidt, both of Wichita. Reece died at the scene and Schmidt died from her injuries at a local hospital on Thursday.

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Wichita Man Sentenced to 2 Years for Deadly 2018 Crash

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A Wichita man has been sentenced to two years in prison for a 2018 traffic collision that killed a 24-year-old woman. Sedgwick County District Judge Stephen Ternes imposed the punishment Tuesday. The Wichita Eagle reports authorities have said that 25-year-old Dylan T. Lynn of Wichita was driving under the influence of drugs when he lost control of a 2000 Ford Contour and crashed into a tree. His front-seat passenger, Tiana T. Thomas, died of her injuries at a Wichita hospital. Another passenger had non-life-threatening injuries. Court records show Lynn pleaded guilty on Oct. 8 to involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence and other charges. 

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Authorities: Pittsburg Police Car Hits Pedestrian

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol is investigating after a Pittsburg police vehicle struck a pedestrian. The Pittsburg police department says the vehicle struck 23-year-old Marco Dias in a city street Thursday night in Pittsburg. He was taken to Ascension Via Christi Hospital. The hospital said Dias was not listed as a patient at the Pittsburg hospital on Monday. The patrol says the police vehicle was driven by 24-year-old Nicholas Cook. Further details were not released.

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Appeals Court Vacates Order Delaying Woman's Execution

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal appeals court has cleared the way for the only woman on federal death row to be executed before President-elect Joe Biden takes office. Lisa Montgomery was sentenced to death for killing a woman in northwest Missouri in 2004. The ruling, handed down Friday by a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, concludes that a lower court judge erred when he vacated the execution date in an order last week. The judge had ruled the Justice Department unlawfully rescheduled Montgomery’s execution and he vacated an order from the director of the Bureau of Prisons scheduling her death for January 12. But the appeals panel disagreed.

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Wichita Names New Library After Late Civil Rights Leader

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new library branch in Wichita will be named for a late civil rights leader who grew up in the city. The city council voted Tuesday to name the library for Ronald Walters, who organized a sit-in in 1958 at a Wichita diner that served only takeout food to Blacks. The three-week sit-in ended when the manager of Dockum Drug Store began serving Blacks inside the business. The national NAACP says it was the first youth-led sit-in that got the desired results. Walters had a distinguished academic career, wrote several books and was an advisor to presidents. He died in 2010.

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Police Identify Man Killed in Fight at Wichita Apartment

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police are investigating as manslaughter the death of a 26-year-old man who fell to the ground and lost consciousness during a physical fight at an apartment in Wichita, Kansas. The Wichita Police Department identified Tuesday the victim as 26-year-old Sharrod Rollen of Wichita. Officers responding Saturday to call to assist emergency medical responders learned that Rollen had been found deceased in the apartment by acquaintances. Police say an investigation found that Rollen and three others had gone out to celebrate on New Year’s Eve. When they returned to the apartment, Rollen got into the fight. An autopsy found he had internal head trauma.

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Washington, Oregon, 29 Tribes Sue over Plan to Move Archives

SEATTLE (AP) — Washington, Oregon and more than two dozen Native American and Alaska Native tribes are suing the federal government to stop the sale of the National Archives building in Seattle. The sale would force the relocation of millions of invaluable historical records to California and Missouri. The government is planning to sell the vast warehouse under a law aimed at unloading excess civilian property, but the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on Monday says the building is anything but “excess.” It contains irreplaceable documents dating to the 1840s and is used all the time for research about everything from tribal history to Japanese internment during World War II.

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Some Kansas Jail Inmates Have Access to Tablet Computers

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Inmates at the Sedgwick County Jail now have access to tablet computers they can use for education, entertainment and staying in touch with family. The jail started using the tablets provided by jail communications firm Securus Technologies in November. The devices include a number of free options. The company charges $5 a month for access to premium services like making calls and downloading movies. Securus said the tablets are being used at more than two dozen Kansas jails that it works with. The devices are provided to detention facilities free, and the company makes money off the subscription fees and by selling media to inmates.

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Midwest Economy Improving but Businesses Less Optimistic

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The economy continues improving in nine Midwest and Plains states but business leaders are less optimistic after the latest surge in coronavirus cases in the region, according to a new monthly survey released Monday. The overall index for the region suggests strong growth even though it dipped to 64.1 in December from November's 69. Any score above 50 on the survey's indexes suggests growth, while a score below 50 suggests recession. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey, said the survey's confidence index suggests business leaders are worried about the economy after the recent growth in virus cases across the region.

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