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Headlines for Wednesday, June 30, 2021



Kansas Starts COVID Campaign Amid Fears About Delta Variant

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has launched public-service announcements Wednesday about COVID-19. The 30-second television spots reflect officials’ fears that people who travel over the Fourth of July holiday will return with the fast-spreading delta variant. One 30-second television spot features Kelly and another features her and U.S. Representative Sharice Davids, a fellow Democrat who represents the state’s portion of the Kansas City area in Congress. Both tell viewers that the coronavirus pandemic is not over; the best protection is to get vaccinated, and people should wear masks and social distance if they aren’t inoculated. Kansas reported 283 delta variant cases as of Wednesday, up 27.5% since Monday.


Mask Requirement Will End Soon in Wichita Public Schools

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas’s largest school district won’t require students and teacher to wear face masks or to get a COVID-19 vaccination during the upcoming school year. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Board of Education for Wichita Public Schools on Wednesday reviewed the district’s reopening plan, but took no formal action. The board previously delegated COVID operational decisions to Superintendent Alicia Thompson. She said that: “Current data and public health recommendations, as well as feedback from stakeholders, lead us to masks being optional for all.”  The mask requirement in district facilities will end July 6.


Governor: Kansas Will Keep Providing Extra COVID Food Aid

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Laura Kelly has moved to keep 63,000 households from losing extra food aid because Kansas is no longer under a state of emergency for the coronavirus pandemic. The announcement Tuesday that Kelly plans to continue the extra $14.5 million a month in aid came two weeks after top Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature ended the state of emergency. The Democratic governor’s chief of staff had told reporters that the extra pandemic-related aid would end once the state of emergency expired June 15. Republican leaders had argued that Kansas could continue to manage its pandemic response without an emergency declaration. The aid averages about $230 a month per household.


Kansas Audit Says COVID Top Cause of Death for Last 4 Months of 2020; GOP Suspicious

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A legislative audit says COVID-19 was the leading cause of death in Kansas during the last four months of 2020. The report Tuesday prompted Republican lawmakers to call for more investigation of the numbers based on unsubstantiated theories that they could have been inflated. The short report from the GOP-controlled Legislature’s auditing division said COVID-19 caused more than 2,500 deaths during those four months, surpassing deaths from each of the traditional top 10 causes. But Republican Senators Caryn Tyson of Parker and Mike Thompson of Shawnee said they want more information about how doctors and medical examiners have concluded that COVID-19 is the underlying cause of a death.


UPDATE: Panel Backs Appointment of 3 to Board that Leads Kansas Universities

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A legislative panel voted Wednesday to approve the appointment of a former railway executive, a former state senator and an educator to the board that governs the state’s six universities after members previously expressed concerns. The vote by the Senate Oversight Committee means former president and CEO of BNSF Railway Carl Ice, education consulting firm leader and former school superintendent Cynthia Lane and former Republican state senator and lawyer Wint Winter can serve until their appointment is confirmed by the full Senate. Democratic Governor Laura Kelly's administration announced the appointments earlier this month.


Lawmakers Question Board of Regents Candidates About "Critical Race Theory"

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — A panel of Kansas lawmakers is planning to consider the confirmation of three candidates for the Kansas Board of Regents today (WED) after postponing a decision earlier in the week. Republican legislators used a hearing to ask the nominees about critical race theory.  Republican Senate President Ty Masterson asked each nominee how they felt college instructors teaching the theory which is based on the idea that racial biases are embedded in American culture and policies. The group of senators will meet again today (WED) to decide whether to recommend Carl Ice, Cynthia Lane, and Wint Winter to fill the Board of Regents vacancies.  Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s office did not comment on the delay of her nominations. 


Kansas Group Suspends Voter Registration, Education Efforts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A voting rights group plans to pause its voter registration and education activities for fear of criminal prosecution under a new election law passed this year by the Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature. The state voting rights organization Loud Light said in a news release that it will suspend on Thursday its voter outreach efforts. The group says it will hold off on its efforts until a Shawnee District Court rules on its motion to block the law, which makes it a felony to cause someone to believe another person is an election official.


GOP Congressmen Assail Kansas Governor over Border Security

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Republicans are trying to pull Democratic Governor Laura Kelly into a national debate over border security as the GOP works to undercut her standing with voters ahead of her re-election bid next year. Republican U.S. Representative Ron Estes publicly urged Kelly on Wednesday to send law-enforcement resources to Arizona and Texas to help them with security along the border with Mexico. Estes and the state’s other two Republican congressmen sent Kelly a letter last week urging such action, and earlier this month, the Kansas GOP accused Kelly of being “silent” on border security. Kelly said the congressmen should focus on immigration legislation rather than what she called “political games.”


Human Skull Found Along Kansas River in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police are investigating after a human skull was found along the Kansas River. A member of the public made the discovery Sunday afternoon and then directed police to the skull, said Gretchen Spiker, a police spokeswoman. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that no other skeletal remains had been located. Police weren’t revealing further information about specifically where the skull was found. Spiker said a forensic pathologist will examine the skull in an attempt to identify whose it was and learn more about how that person died.


Damage Discovered on Exterior of Riley County Courthouse

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Officials say a cleaning crew hired to clean the exterior of the Riley County Courthouse in Manhattan discovered damage that will require repair or replacement of some of the building's stone walls. The Mercury reports that crews with Mid-Continental Restoration Co. Inc. hired to clean the exterior walls of the courthouse and other buildings recently found the damage. Public works director John Ellermann told county commissioners Monday that he doesn't yet know how much it will cost to make the repairs. The commission took a tour of the county courthouse building on Monday, but did not vote or take any formal action on the issue.


Explosion, Fire at Suburban KC Duplex Injures 3 People

RAYTOWN, Mo. (AP) — Three people, including two children, have been injured in an explosion at a suburban Kansas City duplex. Firefighters, police and medics responded around 7 p.m. Monday to the explosion and subsequent fire at the Raytown home. Witnesses reported seeing two boys who were conscious and alert wheeled from the scene on gurneys. A man also was injured and taken to a hospital for treatment. Officials have not said what caused the explosion that leveled part of the duplex, but neighbors told television station KMBC they believed fireworks set off in the area led to the explosion and fire. The Missouri Fire Marshal is investigating with assistance from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.


Wichita Man Sentenced to 46 Years for 2018 Homicide

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man has been sentenced to more than 46 years in prison for a 2018 homicide at a west Wichita motel. Prosecutors said in a news release that District Judge Bruce Brown handed down the punishment Monday to 25-year-old Cory Bentley of Wichita. Bentley plead guilty to second-degree murder in May for the shooting death of 43-year-old Jackie Jerome of Wichita. He was shot on October 18th, 2018, in the parking lot of the Delux Inn in Wichita. The judge also ordered Bentley to pay $760 for Jerome’s funeral as well as $500 in expenses to the victim’s son who traveled from Iowa after learning of his father’s murder.


Clemency Is Rare in Kansas; Advocates Hope for Change

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas trails most states in how frequently clemency is applied for and granted, but advocates are hoping that will change under Democratic Governor Laura Kelly. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the eight clemency petitions she acted upon last week were the most in at least 15 years. Five were commutations, which reduce or eliminate a sentence altogether. The other three were pardons, which effectively wipe away a prior conviction, enabling applicants to apply for professional licenses or permanent residency. Most of the crimes occurred years prior, were non-violent drug offenses or, in some cases, fell into both categories.


Victim Dies After Shooting at Plaza Hotel in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say a person who was shot at a hotel in the upscale Country Club Plaza shopping and dining district has died. Police spokeswoman Captain Leslie Foreman says the victim was suffering from critical injuries when officers responded Tuesday to the Sheraton Suites Country Club Plaza. The victim later died at a hospital. Foreman says a person has been detained. Police didn’t immediately release either of their names or a motive.


9-Year-Old Missouri Girl Helps Deliver Baby Sister at Home

BELTON, Mo. (AP) _ A suburban Kansas City family is celebrating their newest addition, born early at home with the help of the infant's 9-year-old big sister. Television station WDAF reports that the surprise at-home birth happened Monday, when Angelica Gunn of Belton started having contractions more than a week before her due date. She called her husband to rush home, but he became stuck in heavy traffic. That's when nine-year-old Aakayla Gunn stepped in to help, catching her sister Aubree Rose, as the baby was born. Luckily for all involved, Angelica is a nurse and certified doula and was able to talk Aakayla through the delivery process. 


Motorist Accused of Striking Officer with Car, Fleeing

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have arrested a Salina woman who is accused of backing a car into an officer and then fleeing. Salina Police Capt. Paul Forrester said officers responded Sunday to a report that 33-year-old Delilah Ross was on a property in violation of a protection from abuse order. Forrester said that as officers tried to arrest her, she was able to get the key in the ignition and start the car. He said that as she was backing away, her open driver’s side door struck an officer. The officer fell down and suffered minor scrapes and bruises. Forrester said Ross then fled and was arrested in the parking lot of the Salina Regional Health Center after a pursuit.


Airline Adds Nonstop Service from Wichita to Florida

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Allegiant Airlines is adding a new nonstop route from Wichita to Florida. KSNW reports that the airline announced Tuesday that flights from Eisenhower National Airport to St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport will begin on November 19, operating twice weekly. The company is offering introductory one-way fares for as low as $49. This will be Allegiant’s sixth destination from Wichita.


Report: Kansas Wheat Harvest Behind Schedule

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The government’s latest crop snapshot shows the Kansas winter wheat harvest is running a bit slower than usual for this time of year. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that about 41% of the state’s wheat has been cut. That is behind both the 44% at this time last year and the 48% five-year average for this date. The report reflects crop conditions as of Sunday and comes amid recent rains that have kept many combines out of fields. The agency also reported that 83% of the wheat had already matured.


Truman Presidential Library Set to Reopen after Two Years

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — After nearly two years of renovations, the Harry S Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri, is ready to welcome visitors again. The museum looks similar from the outside, but the inside has been completely reimagined in how it presents Truman's story and his legacy for the modern world. The nearly $30 million project is the most extensive since the museum opened in 1957. Work was slowed by the coronavirus pandemic. The new museum presents Truman's story from his Missouri childhood until his death. It has interactive exhibits and videos combined with hundreds of artifacts. Museum director Kurt Graham said a primary focus was explaining how decisions Truman made still affect today's world.


2 Men Who Ran Onto Super Bowl Field Sentenced to Year of Probation

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Two men who ran onto the field during the final quarter of the Super Bowl in February have pleaded no contest to trespassing and agreed to a year of probation. The two reached the deal Tuesday during a virtual hearing in Tampa, Florida. Under the terms of their probation, the men must perform 100 hours of community service, pay a $500 fine and write letters of apology to the National Football League. One man scampered onto the field wearing shorts and a pink leotard or swimsuit. The other ran onto the field first, distracting security officers.


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