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Headlines for Wednesday, March 10, 2021


Red Flag Warnings Take Effect for Much of Kansas as Risk Increases for Wildfires   

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) High winds and tinder-dry conditions combined with possible lightning strikes from thunderstorms have created an extreme fire danger across much of Kansas.  The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for most of eastern Kansas through 7 pm today (WED).  A Red Flag Warning means that critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now, or will shortly. A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity, and warm temperatures can contribute to extreme fire behavior.  Any fires that develop will likely spread rapidly.  Outdoor burning should be avoided.  Shifting winds will cause fire control problems.  Strong, sustained winds of 20 to 30 mph are expected from the south and southwest with some wind gusts reaching up to 50 mph at times.   These winds will shift to the northwest at 10 to 20 mph, with gusts around 25 mph, during the evening hours.


Risk of Kansas Wildfires Remains High; Governor Issues Disaster Declaration

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has declared an emergency disaster due to the high risk of fire caused by high winds and dry conditions. The governor's office says that "elevated to critical" fire weather conditions are expected for the rest of the week.  Today (WED) will be especially dangerous as a storm system with strong winds will make fighting fires more dangerous. The declaration makes state resources more readily available to help fight fires and for recovery operations. Kansans are being urged to avoid activity that could cause fires, such as driving or stopping on dry grass or throwing cigarettes on the ground.

Car Tire Ignites Grass Fire in Johnson County

JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. (KSHB) - A tire caused a grass fire Monday in suburban Kansas City.  KSHB TV reports that the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office announced in a Facebook post Monday afternoon that K-10 at Edgerton Road was closed for a short period of time because of the blaze that erupted “after a car lost a wheel.”  No injuries were reported.  Kansas Governor Laura Kelly issued a state of disaster emergency Monday due to “high risk of wildland fires and red flag warnings in several Kansas counties,” according to a news release from the governor's office.  Johnson County is among those counties with an elevated risk of wildfires.


KU Athletic Director Steps Down Following Les Miles Departure 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) – University of Kansas Chancellor Doug Girod announced via press release this (WED) afternoon that the school's athletic director, Jeff Long, has stepped down from his position. The move comes days after the school parted ways with its head football coach, Les Miles, following accusations that he engaged in inappropriate behavior toward female students at his prior head coaching position at Louisiana State University. Earlier reports had indicated that Long had been fired. Kurt Watson, a KU alumnus and prominent donor, will serve as interim athletic director as KU begins a nationwide search for a new athletic director and a new head football coach.

 (–Earlier Reporting–)

KU AD Jeff Long Resigns After Les Miles Debacle

UNDATED (AP) – University of Kansas athletic director Jeff Long resigned Wednesday, less than two days after the school mutually parted with Les Miles amid sexual misconduct allegations dating to the football coach’s time at LSU and one day after Long vowed he would lead the Jayhawks’ search for a replacement. Kurt Watson will serve as the interim athletic director as the school begins searching for both a new AD and new football coach.

KU Athletic Director Jeff Long Fired After Les Miles Debacle

UNDATED (AP) – The University of Kansas has fired athletic director Jeff Long. The move comes less than two days after Kansas mutually parted ways with Les Miles amid sexual allegations dating to the football coach’s time at LSU. Kurt Watson will serve as the interim athletic director as the school begins searching for both a new AD and new football coach.


GOP Lawmaker Pushes Plan to Undo Kansas Policy on Vaccines

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Republican lawmaker in Kansas outlined a measure Wednesday that would overturn Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s policy of withholding doses of COVID-19 vaccines from counties wanting to move to a new phase of inoculations before the rest of the state. Senate Health Committee Chair Richard Hilderbrand of Galena called the policy “blackmail or extortion.” The state Department of Health and Environment has described withholding vaccine doses as an “enforcement mechanism” and Kelly says the goal is to “keep the train running as smoothly as we possibly can.”


Kansas House Speaker's Father Sworn in as New State Senator

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr.’s father is now serving in the Kansas Senate. Republican Sen. Ron Ryckman Sr. of Meade took his oath of office during the Senate’s brief Senate session as family members watched, including the House speaker. The elder Ryckman also served in the House from 2011 through 2016, when he decided not to seek reelection. He and his son served together in the House for four years, starting in 2013. The younger Ryckman grew up in western Kansas but lives in Olathe. The elder Ryckman replaces the late Republican Sen. Bud Estes of Dodge City, who died last month.


1 Person Dead in Police Shooting in Southwest Kansas

MINNEOLA, Kan. (AP) — Law enforcement officers fatally shot a driver in southwest Kansas when he got out of his sport utility vehicle with a gun after a chase, authorities say. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation said in a news release that 67-year-old Jim Wright, of Fowler, was pronounced dead Tuesday night at the scene in Minneola. Deputies tracked Wright down after his relatives called the Meade County Sheriff’s Office expressing concerns about his welfare, but he drove off when he saw them. The chase ended in Minneola after Wright drove over tire-puncturing spike strips. The KBI said Wright then exited his vehicle holding a firearm and was shot.


Police: Missouri Man Reported Missing Found Dead of Homicide

HARRISONVILLE, Mo. (AP) — A western Missouri man reported missing last week has been found dead and declared the victim of a homicide in Lafayette County. The Cass County Sheriff's Office said that the body of 25-year-old Tyler Gooding, of Pleasant Hill, was found Monday following a lengthy police chase of a suspect in Gooding's death that ended in Ray County. Investigators say Ray County sheriff's officials received a tip that a homicide had occurred and that several law enforcement agencies set out to track the suspect, which led to a vehicle chase. Investigators say Gooding's body was found beside the suspect's pickup truck once authorities were able to stop it in a field.


Sedgwick County Officials: Crash Kills Man, Injures Woman

DERBY, Kan. (AP) — Sheriff's investigators in suburban Wichita say a man has died in a two-vehicle crash in the city of Derby. The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office says the crash happened late Tuesday morning, when a southbound minivan ran a red light and crashed into a Jeep that was turning left. The sheriff's office says the 65-year-old man who was driving the van died at the scene of the crash. He was identified as Carl C. Miller II of Hutchinson. Authorities say the 29-year-old woman driving the Jeep was not seriously injured.


Man Charged After Missouri Trooper Headquarters Shooting

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. (AP) — A man has been charged more than two months after police say he fired several shots with an assault-style rifle at a suburban Kansas City office for the Missouri State Highway Patrol before being shot by troopers. Court records show 28-year-old Tayland Rahim, of Kansas City, was charged Monday with two counts of unlawful use of a weapon. Investigators say people inside the Troop A headquarters in Lee's Summit heard shots the night of January 4. Troopers then saw Rahim approach the main entrance before firing. Investigators say he was shot after he didn't comply with several orders from the troopers. No law enforcement officials were injured. Rahim remains hospitalized for his injuries from the shootout. Online court records didn't list an attorney for him.


Kansas Records More than 297,000 COVID-19 Cases, Including 4,851 Deaths, Since Start of Pandemic

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR/AP) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reported Wednesday that there have been 297,229 cases of COVID-19, including 4,851 deaths, since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. That's an increase of 778 cases and 35 deaths since Monday. Johnson County has the highest number of recorded cases in Kansas with nearly 55,100.  KDHE will provide another update Friday.  Health officials say the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to drop in the state while vaccination efforts are expanding.


Kansas to Move to Next Vaccination Phase in 4 Weeks or Less

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — The top health official in Kansas says the state could finish vaccinating seniors and essential workers and move on to the next phase of coronavirus vaccinations in the next month. Dr. Lee Norman said Tuesday that the state could reach the third phase in four weeks or sooner. The next phase includes people aged 16 to 64 with medical conditions that put them at severe risk if they are infected with COVID-19, including cancer and Type 2 diabetes, as well as workers in critical industries such as information technology and government. He says some rural communities already have finished vaccinating people in the current phase, which includes those over age 65 and critical workers including firefighters, law enforcement and teachers.


Older Wichita Students Can Return Full Time This Month

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Middle and high school school students in the largest school district in Kansas will be able to return in-person five days a week after spring break as more staff members are vaccinated and coronavirus numbers improve. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Board of Education in the Wichita district, which has about 47,000 students, voted 6-0 Monday to make the change. It will take effect starting March 29, although the district will continue to offer a virtual learning option. Elementary students already had been in-person five days a week. But older students are attending classes in a hybrid mode in which they learn at home part of the time and and in-person the rest of the time.


Washburn University Plans Fall Return to In-Person Classes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Washburn University plans to start its fall semester with in-person classes after the Shawnee County Health Department updated its vaccine plan to include university faculty and staff. Washburn President Jerry Farley says this additional level of protection should allow them to return fully to a traditional campus model. University officials said that Washburn students can expect a more normal fall 2021 semester with university faculty and staff now prioritized for vaccine distribution. It was not immediately clear what prompted the change in vaccination policy. Vaccine distribution has ramped up in recent weeks and COVID-19 transmission rates and hospitalizations have fallen


Missouri Lawmakers Consider Bill to Relax Immunization Rules

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri lawmakers are considering a bill that would relax the rules for immunizations. A House committee debated a proposal Tuesday that would require only students in public schools to have immunizations. and allow students to attend school without vaccinations if they have evidence of acquired immunity from a disease. The bill also would make it easier for Missourians to exempt themselves and their families from immunizations. Republican Rep. Suzie Pollock, of Lebanon, is sponsoring the bill. She said she believes schools and health departments need to be reined in from implementing such requirements. Medical organizations oppose the bill, saying it would hamper efforts to slow the spread of diseases like COVID-19.


Analysis: Some Kansans Hesitant to Get Vaccination

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — A new analysis, by the Kansas Health Institute of U.S. Census Bureau survey data, indicates that most Kansans want to receive the COVID-19 vaccine but many remain undecided.  As of mid-January, a bit more than half of Kansans had either gotten their shot or said they definitely would get it. Another quarter said they would “probably” agree to be vaccinated.  But nearly 10% say they definitely do not want the vaccine. Kansans undecided about getting the vaccine give a wide variety of reasons for being hesitant. Some worry about side effects while others say they distrust the government.


GOP Attorney General Launches Campaign for Kansas Governor

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Attorney General Derek Schmidt has launched his campaign for Kansas governor. Schmidt's kickoff Tuesday came after weeks of heightened visibility for the three-term Republican because of the GOP-controlled Legislature's debates over Democratic Governor Laura Kelly's handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Schmidt is the first major Republican to formally announce a candidacy for the right to challenge Kelly in 2022, though former GOP Governor Jeff Colyer signaled his plans to run last Friday. Lawmakers have boosted Schmidt's visibility by pushing legislation to give the attorney general a check on the governor's power during future emergencies. He's clashed with Kelly during the pandemic and joined battles over the 2020 election.


Missouri Democrat Kunce Enters Race for U.S. Senate Seat

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri Democrat who works at an organization that fights corporate monopolies is running for U.S. Senate. Lucas Kunce launched his candidacy Tuesday. The 38 year old from Independence, Missouri, is a Marine veteran. He's the national security policy director at the American Economic Liberties Project. The organization advocates for government action against business concentration. Other Democratic contenders include former state Senator Scott Sifton and activist Timothy Shepard. Republican U.S. Senator Roy Blunt isn't running for re-election.


Is Missouri Senator Roy Blunt's Exit an Opening for Ex-Governor Eric Greitens to Return to Politics?

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — Eric Greitens’ political future seemed doomed by scandal when he resigned as Missouri governor, but now he appears primed to test whether Senator Roy Blunt's retirement provides a path for redemption.  Greitens was a political outsider when he was elected governor in 2016. By the end of his first year in office, he was getting buzz as a potential future presidential contender. His political fortunes turned upside down in 2018 after reports surfaced about an affair in which he allegedly took a compromising photo and threatened to blackmail the woman with whom he was involved.  


Les Miles Out as KU Football Coach Due to Behavior with Women While Coach at LSU

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Les Miles is out as the head football coach at the University of Kansas, just days after he was placed on administrative leave amid sexual misconduct allegations from his tenure at LSU. KU described Miles' departure as a mutual agreement to part ways. He has three years left on his original five-year contract with the school. Last week, LSU released a 148-page review by a law firm about the university's handling of sexual misconduct complaints. It described how Miles "tried to sexualize the staff of student workers in the football program by, for instance, allegedly demanding that he wanted blondes with big breasts, and "pretty girls."


Kansas AD: Miles Shared Nothing of Misconduct Allegations

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas athletic director Jeff Long says he asked Les Miles during the hiring process to be next football coach of the Jayhawks whether there was anything in his background that could potentially embarrass the university. He says Miles replied, “No.” Three years later, Miles is out as head coach. He was placed on administrative leave last week amid sexual misconduct allegations from his tenure at Louisiana State University. Now KU is looking for another head coach.


U.S. Narrows in on Organized Extremists in Capitol Siege Probe

UNDATED  (AP) — Authorities investigating the January 6 protest at the U.S. Capitol say two extremist groups that traveled to Washington along with thousands of other Trump supporters weren’t whipped into an impulsive frenzy by President Donald Trump that day. Instead, authorities allege evidence points to the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys laying attack plans well in advance. Internal communications and other evidence emerging in court papers and hearings show how authorities are trying to build a case that small cells hidden within the masses mounted an organized assault.  Defense attorneys accuse prosecutors of distorting their clients’ words and actions to falsely portray the attack as premeditated.


Kansas Senator Announces Funding for Breast Cancer Research at KU Med Center

WASHINGTON (KPR) – Kansas Senator Roger Marshall, M.D., has announced that the University of Kansas Medical Center received more than $850,000 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to study the effectiveness of combining menopausal and hormone therapies to reduce the risk of breast cancer, while also alleviating menopausal symptoms in women.  “As an OBGYN, I understand the complexity of women’s health, especially the risks that develop as they age from their reproductive years to menopause,” said Marshall. “Sadly, breast cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer death among women, he said.  "Researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center developed an ingenious approach at reducing the risk of breast cancer while also alleviating common symptoms that occur as women go through menopause. I applaud their work and hope that these trials yield promising results.” The project, funded by the National Cancer Institute, aims to prevent cancer in women by studying the effects of a combination of hormonal and non-hormonal treatment.  Over the next five years, the research team will use breast imaging to evaluate its effectiveness in preventing breast cancer.  The clinical trial is expected to begin early this summer and will enroll 120 women ages 45-60 with hot flashes and at increased risk for breast cancer from five NCI-designated Cancer Centers.


No. 11 KU Without McCormack, Enaruna for Big 12 Tournament

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas men's basketball team will be without starting center David McCormack and backup forward Tristan Enaruna for the Big 12 Tournament due to COVID-19 protocols. The No. 11 Jayhawks hope to have both players back for next week’s NCAA Tournament. Jayhawks coach Bill Self said Tuesday the pair entered the protocol “semi-recently” but did not say whether either tested positive for the virus. The No. 2 seed Jayhawks open tournament play in Thursday’s quarterfinals against No. 25 Oklahoma or Iowa State.


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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