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Headlines for Wednesday, December 9, 2020


Kansas Joins GOP Effort to Overturn Results of Presidential Election

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP/KPR) — The Republican attorney general of Kansas has brought the state into an effort by GOP officials across the nation to reverse President Donald Trump’s election loss. Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced Wednesday that Kansas is among 17 states asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case filed by the Republican attorney general of Texas, attacking election procedures in four battleground states where Democrat Joe Biden prevailed. The Texas lawsuit alleges voter fraud and makes claims about illegal mail-in balloting. Schmidt said the case presents “important and potentially recurring constitutional questions” but some legal experts see it as a long-shot bid to overturn the election.


Jobless Kansans Go Weeks Without Benefits as Problems Linger

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansans who have lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic say they are going weeks or months without unemployment benefits. Some lawmakers say they can’t get answers from the state Department of Labor about the problems its having with aging technology. Problems persist nearly six months after the department’s former leader resigned amid unemployment missteps.  Unemployed Kansans have taken to social media, saying they have gone weeks without receiving benefits they’re due. Republican legislators suggested this week that the department is being evasive. The department blames an aging computer system and says it's working to eliminate backlogs.


Another Minor Earthquake Rattles Wichita, Fifth One Since Thanksgiving

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS/AP) — The Kansas Geological Survey reports that another earthquake has rattled the Wichita area, the fifth one since Thanksgiving.  Today's (WED) 2.6 magnitude quake was centered near Central and Greenwich in Wichita.  Further details about this latest earthquake are still pending.  On Tuesday, the U.S. Geological Survey reported an earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 3.0 was felt in parts of Wichita, making it the fourth quake of 2.0 magnitude or greater reported in the Wichita area in the last two weeks. No serious damages or injuries were initially reported after Tuesday's quake. The geological survey says the quake hit in east Wichita, about 1.86 miles northeast of the enclave known as Eastborough. Its epicenter was about 3.1 miles underground. Other earthquakes were reported in the Wichita area on Thanksgiving, November 27 and November 30.

(– Related–)

Wichita Area Feels 5 Low-Intensity Earthquakes in 2 weeks

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — Five low-intensity earthquakes have rattled part of the Wichita area since Thanksgiving. But an earthquake expert says residents of Kansas's largest city shouldn't be overly alarmed. An earthquake with an estimated 2.6 magnitude was felt Wednesday in the same area around southeast Wichita where four other quakes have been recorded in the last two weeks. The highest magnitude was 3.3 on Tuesday. No damage or injuries were reported. Rick Miller is a senior scientist with the Kansas Geological Survey. He says the area has a long history of minor earthquakes. He says it's always possible a more damaging earthquake could occur but that it's unlikely.


Driver Dies in Fiery FedEx Truck Crash on Kansas City Highway

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in suburban Kansas City, Kansas, say the driver of a FedEx semitrailer has died after the truck sailed over the side of a highway bridge, crashed onto the road below and erupted in flames. Police say the crash happened around 4 am Wednesday when the truck launched off the side of the Kansas Highway 7 bridge and landed on Kansas Highway 10 below, near Olathe. The crash led to a large fire that consumed the truck and shut down all lanes of K-10 in the area as fire crews battled the flames and police investigated. The name of the driver was not immediately released.


Kansas Board of Education: Continue In-Person Elementary Classes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state school board is recommending that Kansas elementary schools continue in-person classes even if the spread of the coronavirus in their communities is so great that schools otherwise would close. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the State Board of Education on Tuesday updated its pandemic guidance. The change comes after a surge in coronavirus cases across the state over the past month prompted some districts to return to online classes for many or all of their students. The state health department reported that as of Monday, only 3.3% of the state's 174,000 cases and none of its more than 1,800 deaths were in children 9 years old or younger.


As Virus Spreads, Kansas Hospital Runs Out of Staff

UNDATED (AP) — A small-town hospital in western Kansas has been running out of staff because of the coronavirus. The situation at Rush County Memorial Hospital in La Crosse illustrates the depths of the COVID-19 crisis in rural America. The radiological technologist had been sleeping in an RV in the parking lot because his co-workers were out sick with COVID-19 and no one else was available to take X-rays. A doctor and physician's assistant tested positive on the same day, briefly leaving the hospital without anyone who could write prescriptions. The virus is sidelining nurses, doctors and medical staff nationwide, but the problem is particularly dire in rural communities because they don’t have a deep bench - or many places to send patients because regional hospitals are full or nearing capacity.


COVID-19 Case Total in Kansas Approaches 180,000

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS/KPR) - Kansas has recorded more than 179,000 COVID-19 cases.  Health officials reported Wednesday that Kansas had identified 179,803 coronavirus cases and 1,941 virus-related deaths since the pandemic began.  Another update of Kansas COVID-19 cases is expected Friday. 


Missouri Cites 161 Additional COVID-19 Deaths

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — Missouri’s death toll from the coronavirus is rising sharply. On Tuesday, the state announced 161 new fatalities. One county alone reported 27 deaths over the past two days. The Springfield-Greene County Health Department cited 19 deaths Monday and eight more Tuesday. All but four of the victims were 70 or older, 17 lived in long-term care facilities and all had underlying health conditions. Greene County officials say 51 of the county’s 247 COVID-19 deaths have happened since December 1.


COVID-19 Forcing Some Missouri Jails, Police Departments to Close

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — The coronavirus surge is creating problems for Missouri police departments and sheriff’s offices, forcing some to temporarily close to the public and prompting others to relocate jail inmates. On Monday, Springfield police shut down the lobby of the police station, citing a staffing shortage made worse by the impact of COVID-19. Smaller departments are feeling the impact too. COVID-19 illnesses and quarantines left the Howard County Sheriff’s Department with just two full-time and one part-time deputy, so the sheriff’s office has been closed since Thanksgiving. Staffing shortages forced Howard and Pike counties to transfer jail inmates to nearby counties.


Public Health Workers in Kansas Leaving Jobs Amid Pandemic, Politics

FREDONIA, Kan. (AP) — Public health workers across Kansas are leaving their jobs amid the pressures of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and the politics surrounding it. The Kansas News Service reports that 27 county health officials have left their jobs in the nine months since the state had its first documented COVID-19 case. Some retired, but others resigned or were fired. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says that number includes 15 county health department administrators and 18 health officers. Six of those leaving held both positions.


Wichita Bar Owners Seek Return to Pre-Pandemic Rules

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Bar owners in Kansas’s largest city are challenging rules designed to slow the spread of COVID-19, hoping to use the courts to overturn a mask mandate, limits on public gatherings and an 11 pm closing time for bars and restaurants. The Wichita Eagle reports that if the bar owners and others suing officials in Wichita and its home of Sedgwick County are successful, they would take the county back to business as it was before the coronavirus pandemic reached Kansas in early March. The lawsuit is partially crowd-funded by “Unmask the Truths,” a Facebook and web-based group of mask opponents.


Kansas Man's Obit Criticizes Those Who Won't Wear Masks

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — An obituary for an 81-year-old Kansas man who died of COVID-19 is garnering attention. Dr. Marvin James Farr of Scott City died last week in isolation at a nursing home. His son, Courtney Farr, wrote an obituary lamenting how his father died in a world where many of his fellow citizens refuse to wear a mask to protect one another. His father was a farmer and a veterinarian. The obituary says the science that guided his life has been disparaged and abandoned by many of the same people who depended on his knowledge to care for their animals and to raise their food. (Read more.)


Kansas Lawmaker-To-Be Under Order Not to Contact Foe's Aide

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A soon-to-be seated Kansas lawmaker has had a temporary, anti-stalking order issued against him in court at the request of a former opponent's campaign manager. She accuses state Representative-elect Aaron Coleman of sending her harassing messages, coming to her home twice and trying to get her evicted. Coleman faces a December 16 hearing in Wyandotte County District Court on whether the order will stay in place. Coleman is a 20-year-old Democrat from Kansas City, Kansas, who once was charged with threatening to shoot a high school student. He also admitted on social media that he'd circulated revenge porn as a middle-school-aged boy. He declined to comment Tuesday on the allegations.


Governor Announces New Pretzel Production Facility in Lawrence 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - Governor Laura Kelly has announced that a snack food production facility will soon be built in Lawrence.  The company, Pretzels, LLC, will construct a 146,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Venture Park.  The 42-year-old Indiana-based snack company sells pretzels under the Harvest Road brand. Its product lineup also includes corn snacks made with real cheese, corn puffs, crunchy cheese curls, and other snack items.  “Food manufacturing has been growing at an incredible rate in Kansas, and we’re proud to add Pretzels, LLC to our roster,” Kelly said. “This project will create good-paying jobs and generate a significant investment for Kansas."


Kansas Mayor's Perjury Charge Stems from Open Records Filing

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — A court document shows the perjury charge filed against Shawnee Mayor Michelle Distler stems from an open meetings complaint she allegedly filed using the name of another person without his permission. The probable cause affidavit released Tuesday shows the investigation was opened on March 10 after a local government “watchdog” informed police in Shawnee, Kansas, that he had received an email from the state attorney general’s office confirming receipt of an online open records complaint that he had not filed. An investigator with the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office subsequently obtained the IP address associated with the open records complaint and traced it to Distler.


Wichita Man Who Stole Vehicle with 3 Kids Inside Sentenced to Four Years

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 32-year-old Wichita man who stole a vehicle with three children inside has been sentenced to nearly four years in prison. Jason Barjas pleaded guilty in October to theft and aggravated endangering a child. He was sentenced Tuesday to 47 months in prison. On June 19, 2019, a Wichita woman reported that she left her three children in a van when she went inside a convenience store. The children were 2, 1 and 8 months old. Police say the keys were left in the van and Barajas jumped in and drove away. The van was found 30 minutes later abandoned with the children inside.


DNA Identifies Missouri Toddler Found in Mississippi in 1982

PASCAGOULA, Miss. (AP) — Investigators say DNA testing has identified a Missouri toddler whose body was found on a riverbank in Mississippi in 1982. The sheriff of Jackson County, Mississippi, says the child long known only as “Baby Jane”  or “Delta Dawn” has been identified as 18-month-old Alisha Ann Heinrich. Her mother, Gwendolyn Mae Clemons was a 23-year-old resident of Joplin, Missouri, who left home on Thanksgiving 1982 along with her baby and a boyfriend. Sheriff Mike Ezell says Clemons told relatives that they planned to start a new life in Florida, but she hasn’t been heard from since 1982. The baby's identify was announced at a news conference.


Wichita Hoax Call Case Notes History of Police Shootings

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Civil rights attorneys representing the family of a Kansas man killed by police responding to a hoax emergency call are using the case to try to hold the city of Wichita accountable for what they call a troubled history of police shootings. A brief filed at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals says that in the six years leading up to the 2017 fatal shooting of 28-year-old Andrew Finch, Wichita police shot at citizens 21 times. That resulted in a dozen deaths. The brief comes amid calls around the U.S. for changes in policing.


Kansas Governor Faces Conservatives as Legislative Leaders

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Governor Laura Kelly could have a tough time with the Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature during the last two years of her four-year term. The selection of legislative leaders on Monday left no doubt that conservative Republicans are firmly in control. GOP senators and senators-elect unanimously picked Andover Republican Ty Masterson as the Senate’s next president. Masterson last year called Kelly’s election as governor in 2018 “a tragic collision of timing." The new Senate majority leader will be conservative Wichita Republican Gene Suellentrop. Masterson and Suellentrop are replacing retiring Senate President Susan Wagle and Majority Leader Jim Denning. The House's top leaders will remain Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr. and Majority Leader Dan Hawkins.


Kansas City, Kansas Police Warn About Fentanyl Overdoses

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas City, Kansas, police are warning residents a surge in drug overdoses and deaths is likely being caused by drugs being laced with fentanyl. The department said there have been 41 suspected overdoses and nine deaths this year, compared with 23 overdoses in all of last year. Capt. Richard Harris said there have been 16 overdoes and two deaths in the last 30 days. The department is warning people not to purchase any opioid, including OxyContin, Vicodin and morphine. Harris said it is possible those drugs are being cut with fentanyl to increase their potency.


Police: Woman Fatally Shot in Kansas City; Person Arrested

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police in Kansas City say a woman has died in a shooting at the south end of the city and another person has been arrested. The Kansas City Star reports the shooting happened just before 6 pm Sunday at a home along Ditman Avenue. Arriving officers found a woman at the scene suffering from gunshot wounds. Police say the woman died at the scene. Her name was not immediately released. Police say one person was taken into custody, and detectives are not looking for additional suspects. The shooting death marked Kansas City's 175th this year, compared with 143 homicides by the same time in 2019.


Kansas City Police: Body in Burned Car Ruled a Homicide

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police in Kansas City say the death of a person whose body was found inside a burned car last week has been ruled a homicide. Kansas City police said Monday in a news release that officials are still working to identify the person whose body was found Friday afternoon at East 10th Street and Winner Road. Firefighters who responded to the fire around 6 am Friday called police hours later after the body was found. The death was initially characterized as suspicious. Investigators believe the body was in the car during the fire. Police have not announced any suspects or arrests in the case.


Water Quality, Flooding Mean Low Grade for Major Watershed

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — A new report card gives a low grade to the Mississippi River Watershed and cites a need for billions of dollars in new spending to address concerns like flooding and water quality involving the nation’s largest rivers. America’s Watershed Initiative on Tuesday released its first report since it gave the watershed a D+ grade in 2015. The 2020 report is only a slight improvement, to a C-. At issue is the watershed that includes the Mississippi River and its tributaries — the Missouri, Tennessee and Ohio rivers and others. All told, the system covers two-fifths of the continental U.S. and 31 states.


Amount of Water Released into Missouri River Reduced

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Federal officials say the amount of water being released into the Missouri River from a key dam on the Nebraska-South Dakota border has been reduced to winter levels. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said in a news release Tuesday that the amount of water flowing out of Gavins Point Dam has been reduced to a rate of about 17,000 cubic feet per second. That's down significantly from the reduction seen a year earlier, after heavy rain and snow melt in the spring of 2019 sent the river to record levels and flooded parts of Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri.


Missouri Officially Certifies Election Showing Trump Win in Show-Me State

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri officials have certified this year's election results showing that President Donald Trump easily won the state's 10 electoral votes over Democrat Joseph Biden. The State Board of Canvassers said Tuesday that Trump won 56% of the vote to Biden's 41%, with the remainder going to lesser-known candidates. The board said 70% of the state's registered voters cast a ballot, compared to a 66% turnout for the 2016 election. The board also certified that Republican Gov. Mike Parson easily defeated Democratic challenger Nicole Galloway by a margin of 57% to 40%. All states must officially certify election results before the Electoral College meets on December 14.


D-II Fort Hays State Shocks K-State Basketball Team in Stunning Victory, 81-68

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The Fort Hays State University Tigers, a Division II school, shocked the Kansas State Wildcats, 81-68 in Manhattan. And the Tigers did it without their top two coaches. FHSU's Jared Vitztum scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.  Caleb Hammeke added 15 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four steals for the Tigers, who played the game as an exhibition and without coach Mark Johnson, who tested positive for COVID-19, and associate head coach Jeremy Brown, who is in quarantine as a close contact. Behind second-year assistant Todd Johnston, 29, Fort Hays State never trailed and led by 21, 71-50, after Hemmeke hit a 3-pointer with 7:07 to play. Mike McGuirl led Kansas State with 22 points.


Jalen Wilson Shines as No. 5 Kansas Slips Past No. 8 Creighton, 73-72

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Jalen Wilson hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 42 seconds remaining, then watched as Marcus Zegarowski missed the last of three free throws after fouling him with 1.1 seconds left, allowing fifth-ranked Kansas to escape with a 73-72 victory over No. 8 Creighton. Wilson finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Christian Braun added 14 points, missing a foul shot that could have clinched the game with 12.5 seconds to go, and David McCormack contributed 13 points as the Jayhawks won their fifth straight against the Bluejays. Denzel Mahoney had 19 points to lead Creighton.


KPR's daily headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays and updated throughout the day. KPR's weekend summary is usually published by 1 pm Saturdays and Sundays.

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