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Headlines for Tuesday, May 11, 2021

 

Kansas COVID Shots Top 2 Million; Cities, Counties Due $1 Billion in Aid

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas reports that more than 2 million coronavirus vaccine shots have been administered in the state, as the federal government detailed plans to distribute nearly $1 billion in aid to Kansas cities and counties. The state health department said Monday that nearly 1.15 million people or 39.5% of the state’s population had received at least one vaccine shot. Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury Department spelled out for the first time how it would distribute a majority of aid Kansas expects to receive from a federal coronavirus relief measure that became law in March. The aid includes $566 million to counties and $427 million for cities.

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Kansas COVID-19 Case Count Over 310,000; Death Toll Tops 5,000

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reports there have been 310,927 cases of COVID-19, including 5,016 deaths related to the coronavirus, since the pandemic began. That's an increase of 345 cases and zero deaths since Friday. Another update is expected Wednesday. 

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U.S. Schools Fight to Keep Students Amid Fear of Dropout Surge

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — U.S. educators are doing everything they can to track down high school students who stopped showing up to classes and to help them get the credits needed to graduate. Their efforts, including relaxing graduation requirements, come amid an anticipated surge in the country's dropout rate during the coronavirus pandemic. There isn't data available yet on how the pandemic has affected the nation's overall dropout rate. But soaring numbers of students who are failing classes or are chronically absent have experts fearing the worst. Schools have been busy tracking down wayward seniors through social media, knocking on their doors and assigning staff to help them make up for lost time.

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Kansas Plan Could Give $500 Million in COVID Relief to Businesses

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republicans have pushed a plan through the Kansas Legislature that could provide roughly $500 million to small businesses to offset losses tied to state and local restrictions meant to check COVID-19's spread last year. The measure approved early Saturday would require the state, cities and counties to set aside part of their federal coronavirus relief funds to pay claims from small businesses. Supporters said creating a system for paying claims could avoid a larger total payout from potential lawsuits, but doing so would help small businesses that cannot afford to hire attorneys to sue state or local officials. Critics questioned whether the claims process would be transparent enough.

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New Plan Keeps Kansas Governor in Decisions on COVID Funds

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature has backed off its effort to remove Democratic Governor Laura Kelly from final decisions on how federal coronavirus relief funds are spent. Budget legislation approved Friday gives top lawmakers more say but still allows Kelly to veto their proposals. The State Finance Council has been making the final decisions. It is Kelly and eight top lawmakers. Frustrated legislators last month approved a measure to give only their leaders the final say, and Kelly vetoed it. The new plan allows the Finance Council to still make final decisions, but proposals would first be approved by a task force with four of seven members appointed by legislative leaders.

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Missouri in No Rush to Spend $2.7 Billion of Flexible Pandemic Aid

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri will get nearly $2.7 billion of flexible federal aid under President Joe Biden's coronavirus relief act. But the state isn't in any rush to spend it. The U.S. Treasury Department released guidelines Monday for how states can use the money. States that apply quickly could get at least part of their share this month. But the 2022 state budget passed by lawmakers last week doesn't include the new flexible federal funds. A spokeswoman for Governor Mike Parson says the administration will present a plan next year to lawmakers for how to spend the money.

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Kansas Hit Hard by Identity Theft During COVID-19 Pandemic

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Identity theft rose sharply last year during the COVID-19 pandemic, and no place was hit harder than Kansas. The Wichita Eagle reports that 43,211 Kansans alerted the Federal Trade Commission in 2020 that someone had stolen or tried to steal their identity. That was 2,272 more cases than in 2019. The state's 1,802% year-over-year increase was the highest among the states and more than three times the national average. Of all the 2020 identity theft reports in Kansas, 88% were classified as government documents or benefits fraud. The Kansas Department of Labor has cited a barrage of fraudulent unemployment claims since the coronavirus pandemic began.

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Kansas State University Changing Mask Policy, Cites CDC Guidance

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University is altering its mask policy for outdoor settings, citing updated guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. WIBW-TV reports that starting May 17, those who are fully vaccinated can participate in campus outdoor activities and recreation without a mask, except in crowded settings and venues. Those exceptions may include live performances, parades and sporting events. The university says masks will still be required in all indoor spaces on university property. The CDC announced the new guidance in late April, saying fully vaccinated Americans don't need to cover their faces anymore unless they are in a big crowd of strangers.

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Plan Ties Kansas School Tax to Break for Closed Businesses

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A measure approved by Kansas lawmakers ties the renewal of a tax that's crucial to funding public schools to a proposed tax break for businesses that are forced to shut down during future emergencies or pandemics. The bill approved early Saturday is a response from the GOP-controlled Legislature to frustrations that businesses shut down or restricted last year during the coronavirus pandemic still owed local property taxes. The votes were 35-0 in the Senate and 108-3 in the House, sending the measure to Democratic Governor Laura Kelly. Starting next year, counties would have to give property tax rebates to businesses shut down or restricted during a declared state of emergency.

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Leader of New Group, Another Democrat to Leave Kansas House

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansas City-area Democrats plan to resign later this year from the Kansas House, one of them announcing his decision less than a week after helping launch a liberal nonprofit group. State Representative Brett Parker, of Overland Park, said he will spend more time with his family, explore “new career opportunities” and look for new ways to help Democrats. He helped last week to start Prairie Roots as a group aiming to energize low-turnout voters and promote liberal candidates. Parker sent an email to his colleagues days after freshman Representative Stephanie Day posted on Facebook that she plans to move into a new home outside her Overland Park district. 

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Officials: House Explosion Near Holton Kills 1, Injures 1

HOLTON, Kan. (AP) — Officials in northeastern Kansas say a house explosion has left one man dead and a woman seriously injured. Television station KSN reports the explosion happened around 6 p.m. Monday about 3 miles north of Holton. Jackson County Sheriff Tim Morse says firefighters and medics arriving at the scene found the home leveled and on fire. Morse says 61-year-old Billy “Lu” Griffiths died in the explosion. The woman was flown to a Kansas City hospital with serious injuries. Her name has not been released. Morse says investigators believe the home was under renovation, and officials have not ruled out a gas leak as the cause of the explosion. 

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Kansas Man Sentenced to Life for Killing Woman, 2 Children

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man who killed his estranged girlfriend and her two children and then set their house on fire has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Ismael Caballero was sentenced Tuesday in the December 30, 2019, deaths of 32-year-old Yazmin Rodriguez-Santillan and her two children, 14-year-old Amerikha Rodriguez and 10-year-old Jeancarlo Rodriguez, of Kansas City, Kansas. He was given the life sentence for the deaths of the children and another 14-and-a-half years for Rodriguez-Santillan's death. Prosecutors said he killed the woman, then returned to kill the children to prevent them from testifying against him. He then set the house on fire.

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Services Set for Kansas Priest Considered for Sainthood

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas priest who died in a prisoner of war camp during the Korean War will be buried in Wichita on September 29. The family of the Reverend Emil Kapaun and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wichita announced Tuesday that Kapaun's remains will be flown from Hawaii on Sept. 25. His body will be taken to his hometown of Pilsen until Sept. 27, when the remains will be returned to Wichita. A vigil and funeral Mass will be held at Hartman Arena on Sept. 28-29. Kapaun's remains were identified in March. The Roman Catholic Church is considering him for sainthood because of his selfless service during the war.

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AP's Sally Buzbee Named Exec Editor of The Washington Post

NEW YORK (AP) — Sally Buzbee, senior vice president and executive editor of The Associated Press, has been named executive editor of The Washington Post. She succeeds the recently retired Marty Baron. As AP’s top editor since 2017, Buzbee has directed AP’s journalism through the COVID-19 pandemic, Donald Trump’s presidency, the #MeToo movement, Brexit, protests over racial injustice and the 2020 U.S. election. Buzbee previously served as the agency’s Washington bureau chief and was Middle East editor, among many other positions in an AP career stretching back to 1988, when she was hired as a reporter for the Associated Press in Topeka after graduating from the University of Kansas. At the Post, Buzbee succeeds the widely revered Baron, who had led the Post since 2013. Baron retired earlier this year at age 66.

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3 Teenagers Die, 1 Girl Injured, When Car Crashes into River

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Three teenagers died and a fourth teen was injured when the car they were riding in crashed into the Cottonwood River south of Emporia. The Lyon County Sheriff's office said the wreck was discovered around 6:30 pm Saturday after the injured girl, 15-year-old Ashley Edwards, was spotted walking down the road. Edwards told deputies that she had been a passenger in a car that crashed. Authorities pulled a 2005 Pontiac Grand Prix from the river with three people inside. The sheriff's office said 17-year-old Chase Luby, 13-year-old Paxton Luby and 17-year-old Shelby Phoenix were all dead. Edwards was taken to a hospital.

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Kansas Lawmakers Want to Keep "Cocktails to Go" After Pandemic

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state that made saloon smasher Carrie Nation famous is moving to allow people to get beer and cocktails to go after the coronavirus pandemic. Kansas lawmakers last week approved a bill to allow to-go beer and alcoholic drinks from clubs, bars and restaurants until 11 pm, as long as the drinks are in sealed containers and clear bags that discourage tampering. The measure is headed to Governor Laura Kelly after both chambers approved it Friday. It continues a policy Kelly set by executive order in April 2020 restaurants when Kansas was under a statewide stay-at-home order and that remained in effect through March.

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Man Charged in Death of Wichita QuikTrip Security Guard

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 41-year-old Wichita man is charged with second-degree murder in the death of a QuikTrip security guard and former Wichita police officer. Laroy Monzell West was charged Tuesday after the May 5 shooting, which led to the death of 39-year-old Will Robinson. Police said Robinson was working as a security guard at the QuikTrip when a man began causing a disturbance. Robinson was shot after he took the man out of the store and off the property. Robinson worked for the Wichita police department for about 10 years, and had worked at QuikTrip for about a year. West is being held on $250,000 bond.

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Driver Running Red Light Blamed in Fatal KCK Accident

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — One person is dead and another is hospitalized after a wreck in Kansas City, Kansas, that police believe was caused by a driver running a red light. The accident happened about 6:45 pm Sunday. Police say the initial investigation shows that a vehicle was speeding when the driver ran a red light and struck another vehicle in the intersection. The impact caused the vehicle that was struck to roll several times. The driver of that vehicle was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the vehicle that allegedly ran the red light was taken to the hospital with what police described as non-life-threatening injuries. An investigation continues.

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Huge Tree Falls in Kansas City, Damaging Three Homes

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Three homes in Kansas City, Missouri, are facing repairs after a massive tree collapsed onto them. KCTV-TV reports that the roots of the tree snapped after a thunderstorm Saturday night. Part of the sidewalk on Kensington Avenue came up as the tree went down. Neighbors believe the ground became so saturated that the already-leaning tree gave way. No one was hurt but three families were displaced.

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Wichita Police Work to Crack Down on Street Racing

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police are trying to crack down on street racing after several recent incidents involving injuries and deaths. The exact number of racing incidents is hard to pinpoint because police don't track them separately and often people caught racing are charged with other crimes, such as reckless driving, that carry tougher penalties. At least two people have been killed and two people injured in racing incidents over the past year. Sedgwick County Assistant District Attorney Aaron Breitenbach said street racing has been growing slowly over the past couple years.

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