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Headlines for Wednesday, July 1, 2020


Pittsburg-Based NPC, a Large Franchisee of Wendy’s and Pizza Hut, Files for Bankruptcy

PITTSBURG, Kan. (KOAM/KPR) – NPC International, the operator of 1,200 Pizza Hut and nearly 400 Wendy’s restaurants in the United States, has filed for bankruptcy.  KOAM TV reports the franchisee has been dealing with a perfect storm of problems that led to its Chapter 11 filing Wednesday, including coronavirus-related shutdowns, a massive debt burden of nearly $1 billion and rising labor and food costs. Pizza Hut, of which NPC is the company’s largest franchisee, has also been struggling with sales recently.  NPC’s restaurants will continue to operate while it navigates the Chapter 11 process.  NPC International's corporate office is located in Pittsburg, in southeast Kansas, and was once owned by billionaire and Kansas native Gene Bicknell.  The company website says it employs nearly 40,000 people in 27 U.S. states. 

Pizza Hut said the filing “was expected” and remains supportive of NPC.  Pizza Hut, which is owned by Yum! Brands, pointed toward a recent filing showing that sales at its U.S. restaurants open at least a year have begun rebounding off their March lows. Pizza Hut has 7,100 restaurants in the United States.  NPC is the latest U.S. company to file for bankruptcy during the Covid-19 pandemic. Chuck E. Cheese’s parent company, GNC, 24 Hour Fitness, Neiman Marcus, J. Crew have all filed in the past two months.  J.C. Penney is another American company that has declared bankruptcy.


Leavenworth Hospital Closing Because of Coronavirus Costs

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — The owners of Saint Luke's Cushing Hospital in Leavenworth say the hospital will close this fall because of the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Saint Luke's inpatient unit will close July 17 and the rest of the hospital will close Oct. 1. About 70 employees at the hospital will be able to apply for other positions in the Saint Luke's Health System. Hospital CEO Adele Ducharme said in a news release Tuesday hospital transitioned to emergency services last year to make it financially viable but was only a few months into the effort when the costs of the virus pandemic hit.


Douglas County to Close Bars Beginning July 3 Due to COVID Spike 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) — The Douglas County local health officer today (WED) announced a new order that will close bars and nightclubs in the county for two weeks, beginning Friday, July 3rd. Dr. Thomas Marcellino said through a press release that a surge of COVID-19 cases linked to bars prompted the move. He said that public health experts around the country are recommending the closure of bars. This (WED) afternoon, Douglas County reported 190 COVID-19 cases since its first lab-confirmed case in March. 66 of the newest cases have been identified since June 26th. Douglas County already issued a mandatory mask order for indoor public spaces where six feet of separation is not possible, and the county is planning to align with Governor Laura Kelly's statewide mask executive order that is expected to be published Thursday. The local order will close bars and nightclubs beginning Friday, excluding curbside and carryout services of beverages to be consumed somewhere other than the bar's premises.  

See the press release and more details at the Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health website


Kansas Counties Could Make Governor's Order to Wear Masks "Toothless"

MISSION, Kan. (AP/KPR) — Governor Laura Kelly’s planned order requiring Kansas residents to wear masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus could be toothless in many parts of the state. Counties can exempt themselves and even those that don’t might not enforce it. Officials in some counties have already signaled that they planned to opt out of the mandate Kelly plans to have take effect Friday. She plans to make masks mandatory in stores, restaurants and in any situation where social distancing cannot be maintained. Sedgwick County Commissioner Jim Howell said he has been inundated with negative emails since Kelly announced the mask requirement Monday.  Orders to wear masks in public are already in effect for Douglas and Wyandotte counties.  Masks are also required in Kansas City, Kansas, and Missouri.


Top State Health Official Suggests Kansas Blew Chance for Coronavirus Respite

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The top public health official in Kansas predicts the state will face steeper increases in new coronavirus cases.  The state's health secretary, Dr. Lee Norman, also suggests Kansas blew its chance for a summer pandemic respite by reopening its economy too quickly. Norman blamed a recent surge in new reported cases on gatherings over the long Memorial Day weekend and the lifting of statewide restrictions on businesses and gatherings on May 26. He said Kansas is not “anywhere close” to leaving the first wave of the pandemic. Norman's comments came after the Kansas State Fair's board voted to hold the annual event despite his opposition. 


Number of Kansas COVID-19 Cases Closing in on 15,000, Including 272 Deaths

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — Kansas has recorded 14,990 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. That number includes 272 deaths. The virus has now been identified in 97 of the 105 Kansas counties, with Wyandotte County's 2,394 cases continuing to lead the state. State health officials released the figures Wednesday; the next update is expected Friday.      

(Kansas health officials release new data on COVID-19 case numbers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.)


Missouri's Coronavirus Death Toll Passes the 1,000 Mark

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri has reached a grim new milestone in its battle with the coronavirus. The state's COVID-19 death toll rose by 17 on Tuesday, surpassing the 1,000 mark amid a resurgence of the disease that has seen cases skyrocket in recent weeks. The state health department also added more than 500 confirmed cases to the statewide tally, raising it to 21,551 since the pandemic started. The number of confirmed cases has quickly increased since the state reopened for business on June 16, swelling by 10.9% in just the last seven days, health officials said. Despite the worsening situation, the University of Missouri said Monday that it is preparing to welcome back students for on-campus classes this fall.


Kansas State Fair to Go on Despite Surge in COVID-19 Cases

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas still will hold its annual State Fair in September despite opposition from the state’s top public health official and a surge in new coronavirus cases. The Hutchinson News reports that state health secretary and Dr. Lee Norman told the State Fair Board on Tuesday that it would be difficult to enforce mask wearing, social distancing and smaller crowd sizes at a fair. The board voted to hold the event Sept. 11-20 with some precautions.  The state Department of Health and Environment said Wednesday that the state has 14,990 reported coronavirus cases, up 3.8% or 547 since only Monday. Kansas has had 272 COVID-19-related deaths.


University of Kansas Backs Away from In-Person Teaching Requirement

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas is providing faculty more flexibility if they don’t feel comfortable teaching in-person classes in the fall.  KU Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer told the university’s department chairs and directors that decisions on courses, how they would be taught and teaching assignments “should be the purview of the department or program.” The move came after faculty members had pushed back last week after they were told to return to campus beginning August 24, unless they could invoke an exemption under the Americans with Disabilities Act. More than 50 department leaders signed a letter to Bichelmeyer raising concerns.


Bruce Mensie, Longtime Engineer for Audio-Reader and Kansas Public Radio, Dies at 69

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - Bruce Anthony Mensie, a retired broadcast engineer for the University of Kansas, has died at the age of 69.   Mensie worked for decades as an engineer for both the Kansas Audio Reader Network and for Kansas Public Radio (KANU FM).  He died Tuesday in Lawrence.  Mensie was born January 11, 1951, in Independence, Missouri, the son of Vern and Jean (Reiss) Mensie.  He graduated from Rockhurst High School and studied at the University of Kansas, where he fell just a few credit hours short of graduating with a degree in journalism.  As a student, Mensie worked as a transmitter engineer for KANU, the university's non-commercial radio station.  This experience eventually turned into a decades-long job at KU, where he worked on transmitters and other kinds of broadcast equipment for both Audio-Reader and Kansas Public Radio.  Mensie also worked as an electronics repairman, a mechanic and a bus driver.  He also became a pilot.  He leaves his wife, Mary Jo of the home; brother, Jon of Leawood; and best friend, A. K. Bailey of western Douglas County.  Private family services will take place at a later date.  Memorial contributions may be made to Audio Reader, sent in care of Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home in Lawrence.


NCAA Case Against Kansas Hoops Taken for Independent Review

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ The NCAA's infractions case against the University of Kansas men's basketball program has been accepted into a newly created independent investigation process that was created to handle especially complex cases. The Independent Accountability Resolution Process said Wednesday that a referral of the case against the Jayhawks and coach Bill Self had been approved by the infractions referral committee. It is the first step in a process that was created in August 2018 to deal with select cases and minimize perceived conflicts of interest.


Douglas County Sheriff's Report: Ford Fusion Crossed Centerline in K-10 Crash that Killed 6 Occupants

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - A Ford Fusion with six people on board crossed the centerline in a crash that killed all six occupants, according to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office’s crash report released to the Journal-World this (WED) morning.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that five family members and a longtime family friend had driven close to 20 hours and were within an hour of their destination before they were killed in a head-on crash on Kansas Highway 10.

Anico Kirk, 29; her three daughters, Yamel Kirk, 11, Umariel Lee, 9, and Nah’Liyah Cay, 4; Anico’s brother Maurice Ross, 27; and longtime family friend Felecia Harvey, 49, were killed in the crash the evening of June 18, according to family members. They were from Topeka, though Kirk and her daughters had moved to Lakeland, Florida, about a year prior.

It remains unclear why the westbound Fusion crossed the centerline, but investigators believe both the Fusion and the eastbound GMC with which it collided were rounding a curve on K-10 at the time.  The collission happened about half a mile west of the interchange at Iowa Street. Both vehicles caught fire.  Christine Wiseman, a 41-year-old from Tonganoxie, was the sole occupant of the GMC. She survived the crash but was taken to an area hospital with serious injuries.  Investigators do not suspect that either driver was impaired, but test results are pending.


K-State Launches Diversity Programs After Football Boycott

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas State University is launching a diversity and education fund to address racial injustice after football players threatened a boycott in response to an insensitive tweet by a student about the death of George Floyd. The school also said student-athletes, coaches and staff would undergo mandatory diversity and inclusion training that includes monthly town hall sessions. And it announced that it would provide transportation for athletes to voting locations on Election Day.


Kansas City Mayor Slams GOP Depiction of 'Defund Police'

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City's mayor says the Missouri Republican Party is lying by connecting the push for local control of the city's police department with broader calls to defund the police. The head of the Republican party this week said Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nicole Galloway supports defunding the police because she supports local control of the Kansas City Police Department. The Kansas City Star on Wednesday reported that Democratic Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas says that's a “bald-face lie" and that the two issues are unconnected. A spokesman for Galloway says she supports local control of the city's police department but doesn't support defunding police departments. 


Kansas City Board Votes to Remove Name from Iconic Fountain

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City officials have voted to remove the name of an influential developer from the city's most recognizable fountain because he barred Blacks and Jews from his neighborhoods. The Board of Parks and Recreation voted unanimously Tuesday to remove J.C. Nichols's name from a fountain near the city's upscale Country Club Plaza, and from an adjacent street. The city will take suggestions for a replacement name until at least July 7. Nichols's development of the Plaza and thousands of upscale and middle-class homes transformed the city and its surrounding suburbs in the early 1900s, but deed restrictions kept minorities out of his developments.


Lawsuit: Kansas City Ordinances Target Protesters

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Civil rights advocates have filed suit on behalf of three protesters who were arrested on charges of violating city ordinances during demonstrations against police brutality and racial injustice in Kansas City, Missouri. Kansas City police have arrested more than 200 nonviolent protesters in May and June for violating these ordinances which criminalize the “failure to obey” law enforcement orders. The ACLU of Missouri says in a news release that these ordinances are unconstitutional as they give law enforcement unlimited power to silence speech and violate due process rights.


15-Year-Old Girl Shot and Killed in Kansas City, Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 15-year-old girl was fatally shot inside a vehicle in Kansas City, Kansas, early Monday. Police were called to a hospital at about 1:50 am in response to a young gunshot victim, Officer Dustin Dierenfeldt, a police department spokesman, told The Kansas City Star in an email. The victim underwent surgery but died shortly after. Officer T.J. Tomasic said someone shot into the vehicle, which was in the Armourdale neighborhood.


Family Awoke to Gunfire Outside Kansas City Apartment, Boy Fatally Shot

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities have identified the young boy who was shot at a Kansas City apartment. The Kansas City Police Department said in a news release that 4-year-old Legend M. Taliferro was shot around 2:30 am Monday. Police say that based on their preliminary investigation detectives believe this was not a random shooting and that the apartment was targeted. Police responding to the shooting were told a family member was driving the boy to a hospital. He a short time later. People at the same apartment as the boy told police they awoke to gunshots coming from outside the home.


U.S. Treasury Department Loaning $700 Million to Struggling Trucking Company Based in Overland Park

SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) — A struggling trucking company once sued by the Department of Defense is getting a $700 million loan from the U.S. government because it is “critical to maintaining national security,” the Treasury Department said Wednesday. U.S. taxpayers will take a 29.6% stake in YRC Worldwide as a result of the deal, which was made as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. The announcement by Treasury did not mention that the Defense Department sued YRC in 2018 for overcharging the government for freight carrier services and making false statements. YRC Worldwide is headquartered in Overland Park. 


Man Sentenced to Life for 2018 Shooting at Kansas School

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A Missouri man was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison for a 2018 shooting outside an Olathe elementary school that killed one man and left another paralyzed. WDAF-TV reports that 34-year-old Anthony Grable of Kansas City will not be eligible for parole for 50 years. He pleaded guilty last year to first-degree murder, attempted murder, aggravated assault, aggravated robbery and burglary.  Grable was installing playground equipment at Sunrise Point Elementary in July 2018 when a fight over tools escalated to a crime spree. Grable shot and killed Todd Eugene Davis and critically injured Efren Joaquin Gomez.


Wichita Police Seek Clues in 2 Homicides in Recent Days

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police are asking the public's help to solve two separate homicides in the city in recent days. Police say the first occurred Sunday afternoon, when police were called to Planeview Park after the body of a man was found there. Police say 42-year-old Manuel Vargas-Avila had been shot several times, and investigators believe he had been involved in a fight with several people in the park Saturday night. The second homicide was reported late Monday afternoon when a man was shot to death in a driveway. That man's name has not yet been released. Captain Jason Stephens says that shooting apparently happened during a fight over personal property. No arrests have been reported in either case.


Kansas Police Officer Who Fatally Shot Teen Gets $70,000 Payout

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas police officer who fatally shot a 17-year-old received a $70,000 payout after he agreed to resign. Former Overland Park officer Clayton Jenison shot John Albers in January 2018 as the teenager was backing a minivan out of the family's garage. Jenison later was cleared of any wrongdoing in the shooting. The city of Overland Park said in a statement that the payout and severance package with Jenison was in the best interest of the community. Jenison and other officers went to the home when Albers' friends reported he was threatening to hurt himself. His parents were not at home at the time.


Records: Suspect in Death of Wichita Radio Host Had Been Drinking and Driving

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Newly released court records say a man charged in a crash that killed longtime radio host and Wichita State University basketball announcer Don Hall had empty alcohol bottle at his feet. KWCH reports that an affidavit released Tuesday in the case against Ray Watkins said he had a 0.243 blood alcohol on the day of the April 29 crash. The legal limit in Kansas is 0.08. He faces a charge of involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence. In an interview, Hall admitted to drinking beer prior to driving. The affidavit said that when he asked about how much he had to drink, Watkins responded, “probably too much."


Nation's High Court Refuses to Block Executions of Federal Inmates, Including Two from Kansas

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has refused to block the execution of four federal prison inmates, including two from Kansas, who are scheduled to be put to death in July and August.  The executions would mark the first use of the death penalty on the federal level since 2003.  The justices rejected an appeal from four inmates who were convicted of killing children. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor noted that they would have blocked the executions from going forward.  The court's action leaves no obstacles standing in the way of the executions, the first of which is scheduled for July 13.  The inmates are separately asking a federal judge in Washington to impose a new delay on their executions over other legal issues that have yet to be resolved.  The activity at the high court came after Attorney General William Barr directed the federal Bureau of Prisons to schedule the executions. Three of the men had been scheduled to be put to death when Barr first announced the federal government would resume executions last year, ending an informal moratorium on federal capital punishment as the issue receded from the public domain.

The inmates scheduled for execution are: Danny Lee, who was convicted in Arkansas of killing a family of three, including an 8-year-old; Wesley Ira Purkey, of Kansas, who raped and murdered a 16-year-old girl and killed an 80-year-old woman; Dustin Lee Honken, who killed five people in Iowa, including two children; and Keith Dwayne Nelson, who kidnapped a 10-year-old girl who was rollerblading in front of her Kansas home and raped her in a forest behind a church before strangling the young girl with a wire.

Three of the executions — for Lee, Purkey and Honken — are scheduled days apart beginning July 13. Nelson’s execution is scheduled for August 28. The Justice Department said additional executions will be set at a later date.


Business Leaders Say Area's Economy Improving with Reopening

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new survey of business leaders released Wednesday suggests the economy has begun to recover as businesses reopened in the past month in nine Midwest and Plains states. But Creighton University economist Ernie Goss said the region's economy remains weaker than before the coronavirus outbreak began. And business leaders expect the economy to continue improving over the next six months. The region's overall index jumped into positive territory at 50.3 in June from May's 43.5. Any score above 50 suggests growth, while scores below 50 suggest decline. The monthly survey covers Kansas, Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.


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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