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Headlines for Wednesday, June 9, 2021

KBOE Approves Computer Science as Graduation Requirement

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Local Kansas school boards can now allow students to take a computer science class instead of a math or science class to meet state graduation requirements. The Kansas State Board of Education voted 8-2 to allow high schoolers to substitute computer science for a required math or science credit. Board members say they need to overhaul Kansas graduation rules to prepare students for future careers. Janet Waugh was one of the members who voted in favor of the change. She says it might be the only chance for many students to try the courses. “Some of these kids going on are unable to take computer science because they have other courses that they need to take and I think that’s why this is important," she said. Two members of the board voted against the move. They worry Kansas already has too few math and science courses in graduation requirements.  

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Spate of Fatal Kansas City Shootings Under Investigation

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities have identified the victims of a string of Kansas City area shootings and are asking the public for help. Three of the victims died in separate shootings in Kansas City, Missouri, within an hour Tuesday afternoon. They were identified as 52-year-old Jose Lugo, 31-year-old Lavance Jones and 15-year-old Terrell Bell. There are rewards of up to $25,000 for information leading to arrests in the three cases. Meanwhile, police in neighboring Kansas City, Kansas, also are investigating after 15-year-old Kaden Bauswell was killed Tuesday in a shooting near an elementary school. Police are urging anyone with information about that shooting to call a tips hotline.

For jurisdictions that utilize the Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers Tips Hotline, anonymous tips can be made by calling 816-474-TIPS (8477), or by submitting the tip online

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Teenager Fatally Shot Near KCK Elementary School

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - Police say a teenager has died after being shot near an elementary school in Kansas City, Kansas. The shooting happened Tuesday near Hazel Grove Elementary. Police responding to calls about shots fired found a male teenager on the sidewalk near the school. He died later at a hospital. His name has not been released. No arrests have been made. Hazel Grove Elementary, which is hosting summer school, went into lockdown after the shooting, but children were later released to go home. In a letter to families, the school said no children were in danger but some students did witness the shooting.  

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Five-Year-Old Girl Dies in Kansas Accident

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 5-year-old girl is dead after an accident involving three vehicles on U.S. Highway 50 near the Garden City Airport. Plliana Mupenzi died in Tuesday's accident. Five others were hospitalized with minor injuries. The Kansas Highway Patrol said a Ford Edge crossed the center line and struck a Chevrolet Traverse, causing the Traverse to go into a ditch. The Ford then struck another vehicle, a Toyota Tacoma. The child was a passenger in the Traverse.

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1 Killed, 2 Injured in Kansas Air National Guard Accident

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a Kansas Air National Guard airman was killed and two others were injured when their Humvee overturned during a training accident. The Adjutant General’s Department said in a news release Wednesday that members of the 284th Air Support Operations Squadron were training Tuesday afternoon near Salina. Two of the injured airmen were taken to a Salina hospital where they are being treated. One man who was unresponsive at the scene was evacuated by helicopter and died on the way to a Wichita hospital. The cause of the accident is not known and the name, age and hometown of the man who died have not been released.

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Kansas City Police Say Street Racing Led to Fatal Crash

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Investigators say two cars street racing on the south end of Kansas City led to a crash early this (WED) morning involving a third car that killed its driver. Kansas City police say the crash happened after 1 am. Investigators say a Ford Thunderbird and another car were racing and traveling at extreme speeds on Blue Ridge Boulevard when the Thunderbird ran a red light and crashed into a Lexus that was crossing the boulevard at Red Bridge Road. Police say both drivers were thrown from their cars, and the driver of the Lexus died at the scene. His name has not yet been released. The driver of the Thunderbird was taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries.

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Keystone XL Pipeline Project Canceled After Biden Had Blocked Permit

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP/KPR) _ The sponsor of the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline says it is pulling the plug on the contentious project after Canadian officials failed to persuade the Biden administration to reverse its cancellation of the company's permit on the day the president took office. Calgary-based TC Energy said Wednesday it would work with government agencies ``to ensure a safe termination of and exit from'' the partially built project. The pipeline would have transported crude from the oil sand fields of western Canada to Steele City, Nebraska, a small town that sits just north of the Kansas-Nebraska border. A portion of the Keystone pipeline...not the XL extension...runs through Kansas, linking Steele City with Cushing, Oklahoma. TransCanada currently has operations in 17 Kansas counties. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt joined a federal lawsuit earlier this year against the Biden administration's decision to revoke the Keystone XL pipeline permit, saying President Biden's "unilateral action" set a precedent creating risk for other permits and projects affecting the state.  

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Missouri Governor: Pardon of 4-Decade Inmate Not a Priority

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Republican Missouri Governor Mike Parson says addressing the clemency petition for Kevin Strickland isn't a "priority," even though prosecutors say Strickland didn't commit the triple murder that put him behind bars more than four decades ago. The Kansas City Star reports that Parson has a backlog of about 3,000 clemency requests and says that cases drawing attention don't necessarily jump to the front of the line. Several state lawmakers signed a letter seeking a pardon for Strickland, who has maintained his innocence since he was convicted of the 1978 killings in Kansas City. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker has called for his release.

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Wichita Moving Company Hit with $119,000 Civil Penalty

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A now-defunct Wichita moving company has been ordered to pay more than $119,000 in restitution, civil fines, penalties and court costs after the company president ignored a consumer protection lawsuit filed by the Sedgwick County prosecutor. District Attorney Marc Bennett says the company, Get A Move On, engaged in deceptive and unconscionable business practices, violating the Kansas Consumer Protection Act. The Wichita Eagle reports that a the case was prompted by the complaint of a 70-year-old man who hired the company last year for $6,000 to move the contents of his house from Kansas to Georgia. The man reported that Get A Move On delivered only part of the load and that some items that were delivered were damaged.

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Wichita Police: 12-Year-Old Hospitalized After Accidental Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Police say a 12-year-old is hospitalized after being accidentally shot in a Wichita apartment by an adult carelessly handling a gun. Wichita police say the shooting happened Monday night at the Magnolia Woods Apartments. Arriving officers found a 12-year-old girl with a gunshot wound to her arm and shoulder. The girl was taken to a Wichita hospital and is expected to recover. Police arrested 23-year-old Christian Lehl, whom investigators say was caring for the girl, his niece, along with another niece and nephew, all under 14. Investigators say Lehl was showing the gun to an 18-year-old friend when it accidentally fired.  

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Amtrak Expansion in Kansas Under Consideration

WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW) - Leaders in south-central Kansas say the benefits of passenger rail service will outweigh any costs to the state. But those costs remain largely unknown. Amtrak estimates the long-awaited extension of the Heartland Flyer route from Oklahoma City to Newton via Wichita could cost about $500 million dollars. Amtrak's proposal to Congress would cover the capital costs of extending the Heartland Flyer, as well as some early operating expenses. After that, costs would pass on to the states along the route -- Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Kansas state Senator Carolyn McGinn says details about the costs are still unclear. But Sedgwick County Commission chairman Pete Meitzner says the state is anticipating covering any gaps in revenue. "All of our work that we've been doing over the years has included the realization that if there is some operating shortfall that the communities and the states would have to step up for be obligated for it," he said.   Revenue would be dependent on the frequency of trips, and how many riders the route would bring in.

Additional reporting...

Amtrak Meets with Kansas Officials on Expansion of Service

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (JC Post/KPR) - The senior U.S. Senator from Kansas and leaders from Wichita and Newton met Tuesday with Amtrak officials and representatives from Texas and Oklahoma to discuss the future of expanding passenger rail service. The Junction City Post reports that Kansas Republican Senator Jerry Moran led the discussion about extending the Heartland Flyer from Oklahoma City to Newton. Such a connection would make it easier for Wichita and Newton residents to travel south by train. Currently, the route is served by buses. The route expansion has been talked about for years, but that's as far as talks have progressed. The proposed expansion would connect Amtrak routes run by the Southwest Chief and Texas Eagle, which also connects to service in Arizona and California. The expansion is part of an effort to expand Amtrak to more than 160 cities across the nation.

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Symphony in the Flint Hills Returns Saturday After Two Year Absence

COUNCIL GROVE, Kan. (KMUW) - The Symphony in the Flint Hills returns this Saturday (June 12) after a two-year hiatus. Storms and the pandemic led organizers to cancel the annual concerts the past two years. But this year, the event is back on track. The symphony's theme this year is the Santa Fe Trail, which is marking its 200th anniversary. This year's concert site is near Council Grove, in Morris County, which was a stop along the trail. Kelly Tastove is the operations manager for the event. She says people are excited as vaccinations rise and the weather forecast remains clear. “It's looking good. I hate to say that out loud too many times, and it's a "knock on wood" moment, but so far, so good," she said. The event raises awareness and celebrates the culture of the Flint Hills. Concertgoers can listen to 30-minute presentations about the Santa Fe Trail and check out an art exhibit. People can also purchase a copy of the Field Journal, which features articles about the Santa Fe Trail, including its role in harming Native tribes who lived along it. The Kansas City Symphony will conclude the evening with a sunset concert. (For more information, visit SymphonyInTheFlintHills.org.)

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Kansas Public Radio Aims for More Sustaining Members

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - After getting a $216,000 budget cut from the University of Kansas, Kansas Public Radio is hoping to make up the difference by holding a special two-day fund drive later this month. KPR's goal is to increase membership by 300 new or upgrading sustainers. Sustainers are donors who sign up for automatic monthly contributions to the radio station. The recent budget cut from KU is the largest in the 69-year history of the station and represents about 70 percent of the station's annual funding from the university. The on-air portion of KPR's two-day fund drive begins Thursday, June 24, but fundraising is already underway. KPR supporters have pooled their money to create a $30,000 matching grant for all membership pledges made during the month of June. (Anyone can pledge anytime to KPR on the station's website: KansasPublicRadio.org.)

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Topeka Zoo Expanding, Upgrading Giraffe Facility

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Topeka Zoo is expanding and upgrading its giraffe facility, a move that also will provide new housing for other animals. Zoo officials say the project is expected to cost nearly $8 million. Private donations will cover $6.25 million of the cost, and a countywide sales tax will provide $1.5 million. Plans call for a 10,000-square-foot giraffe facility known as Giraffe and Friends. The project also will include a 4,000-square-foot facility that can house antelope, gazelles and large birds. The zoo says a three-acre outdoor habitat will wrap around the Camp Cowabunga project. Officials say it will be the largest project ever at the zoo.

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World Class Clay Shooters Get a Shot in Southeast Kansas

COLUMBUS, Kan. (KOAM) - Some of the world’s best clay shooters, including an Olympian, are competing in the U.S. Open in the southeast Kansas town of Columbus. KOAM TV reports that clay shooters from 45 states and four foreign countries are gathered west of Columbus for the competition. Organizers say more than 1,000 of the best shooters in the world are taking part, including more than two dozen world and national champions. The event runs through Sunday.

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Kansas COVID-19 Case Count Passes 315,000; Death Toll Tops 5,100

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported Wednesday that there have been 315,500 COVID-19 cases in Kansas, including 5,103 virus-related deaths, since the pandemic began. That's an increase of 401 cases and three new deaths since Monday. Another update is expected Friday.

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Missouri Officials Urge Vaccinations Before Fourth of July

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to spike in southwestern Missouri, and residents there are being urged to get vaccinated before gathering for Fourth of July activities. Springfield-Greene County Acting Health Director Katie Towns said 142 new cases of the coronavirus were reported Tuesday, and the seven-day average has reached 62, the highest level since Feb. 10. Meanwhile, 76 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized in Greene County. Towns says Memorial Day gatherings were a source of some of the recent spread, and she says there is concern about the pending gatherings for Independence Day. Meanwhile, vaccination rates in southwestern Missouri lag far behind the state and national averages.

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Pandemic Aid Available for Former Foster Children

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - A new federal law means more young adults who were once in foster care can get financial help for rent, food and more. Young adults who were taken from their homes at age 14 or later and put into custody of the state, tribal authorities or juvenile corrections can contact the Department for Children and Families for details. The federal law temporarily expands assistance so more people will be eligible to get help with housing, childcare, college tuition, and other daily needs. And opportunities for support that are normally open only to people under the age of 21 are now open to people under the age of 27. 

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Wichita Moving Company Hit with $119,000 Civil Penalty

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A now-defunct Wichita moving company has been ordered to pay more than $119,000 in restitution, civil fines, penalties and court costs after the company president ignored a consumer protection lawsuit filed by the Sedgwick County prosecutor. District Attorney Marc Bennett says the company, Get A Move On, engaged in deceptive and unconscionable business practices, violating the Kansas Consumer Protection Act. The Wichita Eagle reports that a the case was prompted by the complaint of a 70-year-old man who hired the company last year for $6,000 to move the contents of his house from Kansas to Georgia. The man reported that Get A Move On delivered only part of the load and that some items that were delivered were damaged.

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Kansas, Wyoming, Idaho, S.C. Only States Where Marijuana Remains Illegal

CASPER, Wyo. — The nation has seen a variety of marijuana reform measures advance in recent years, but marijuana use remains illegal in Kansas, Wyoming, Idaho and South Carolina. However, Oil City News reports there is movement in Kansas, Wyoming and Idaho that could change marijuana’s legal status. Medical marijuana legalization bills in Kansas and South Carolina stalled in May but could see movement in 2022, according to Marijuana Business Daily. As other states loosen their marijuana restrictions, one of the first states to fully legalize the drug is looking at tightening some restrictions. Colorado is contemplating changes to their medical marijuana program under a bill that would place some new requirements on physicians recommending marijuana to their patients.

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Kansas Braces for New Round of Toxic Algae Blooms

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas health officials are warning there could be major toxic algae blooms in the state this summer. And it could impact more than just recreation. A wet spring followed by a hot and dry summer is a recipe for an outbreak of toxic blue-green algae. Those are the exact conditions experts are predicting this summer. The state has already issued health warnings for Marion and Webster reservoirs. Blue-green algal blooms contain toxic cyanobacteria that cause skin irritations and vomiting if touched or ingested. The algae also cause problems for public water systems because it can make the water taste bad. The state is working with several universities on projects to better monitor and control the blooms.

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Great Horned Owl Rescued from Kansas Batting Cage

Maize, Kan. (AP) - A great horned owl is now on the road to recovery after getting stuck in the netting of a Kansas batting cage. The owl was discovered Monday in the town of Maize. Police contacted a local raptor center for help. Ken Lockwood of Eagle Valley Raptor Center talked officers through the process of removing the owl from the netting. The owl was then placed in a cardboard box and delivered to the center. The owl had some damaged feathers but is expected to heal in just a few weeks.  

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Mormon Sex Therapist's Ouster Stirs Worries of Shame Culture

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A decision by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to kick out a sex therapist who had publicly challenged the faith’s policies on sexuality has triggered concerns from mental health professionals. They fear the move will further embolden a culture of shame that stops church members from seeking help. Natasha Helfer was excommunicated after a hearing at her regional stake in Derby, Kansas, and lost her appeal last month to remain in the faith known widely as the Mormon church. Helfer moved from Kansas to Utah in 2019. The Salt Lake City-based church has cited comments she made in support of removing the stigma around pornography, masturbation and same-sex marriage. It said those remarks contradict church teachings.

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AFC Champion Chiefs Make Several Promotions in Front Office

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs have promoted Mike Borgonzi to assistant general manager and Brandt Tilis to vice president of football operations amid a wave of moves within the AFC champions’ front office. Top scout Ryan Poles was appointed executive director of player personnel and Mike Bradway senior director of player personnel. Ryne Nutt will be senior director of college scouting, Trey Koziol a senior director of pro personnel, Trey Koziol the assistant director of college scouting and Willie Davis the senior personnel executive.

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