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Headlines for Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Governor: Kansas Agencies Resuming Normal Operations in June

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Laura Kelly says Kansas state government offices will return to normal operations in mid-June after more than a year of having many employees work remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic. Kelly said Wednesday that state employees and visitors to their offices still will be required to wear masks and maintain social distancing. She also said agency directors can allow people to work from home, particularly when social distancing is not possible. The changes take effect the week of June 13, which means Monday, June 14 for most workers. Kansas House Speaker and Olathe Republican Ron Ryckman Jr. responded to the Democratic governor's move by saying, “It's about time.”


Kansas COVID-19 Case Count Over 311,000; Death Toll Tops 5,000

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reports there have been 311,338 cases of COVID-19, including 5,029 deaths related to the coronavirus, since the pandemic began. That's an increase of 411 cases and 13 deaths since Monday. Another update is expected Friday. 


Kansas COVID Shots Top 2 Million; Cities, Counties Due $1 Billion in Aid

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas reports that more than 2 million coronavirus vaccine shots have been administered in the state, as the federal government detailed plans to distribute nearly $1 billion in aid to Kansas cities and counties. The state health department said Monday that nearly 1.15 million people or 39.5% of the state’s population had received at least one vaccine shot. Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury Department spelled out for the first time how it would distribute a majority of aid Kansas expects to receive from a federal coronavirus relief measure that became law in March. The aid includes $566 million to counties and $427 million for cities.


U.S. Schools Fight to Keep Students Amid Fear of Dropout Surge

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — U.S. educators are doing everything they can to track down high school students who stopped showing up to classes and to help them get the credits needed to graduate. Their efforts, including relaxing graduation requirements, come amid an anticipated surge in the country's dropout rate during the coronavirus pandemic. There isn't data available yet on how the pandemic has affected the nation's overall dropout rate. But soaring numbers of students who are failing classes or are chronically absent have experts fearing the worst. Schools have been busy tracking down wayward seniors through social media, knocking on their doors and assigning staff to help them make up for lost time.


Officials: House Explosion Near Holton Kills 1, Injures 1

HOLTON, Kan. (AP) — Officials in northeastern Kansas say a house explosion has left one man dead and a woman seriously injured. Television station KSNT reports the explosion happened around 6 pm Monday about 3 miles north of Holton. Jackson County Sheriff Tim Morse says firefighters and medics arriving at the scene found the home leveled and on fire. Morse says 61-year-old Billy “Lu” Griffiths died in the explosion. The woman was flown to a Kansas City hospital with serious injuries. Her name has not been released. Morse says investigators believe the home was under renovation, and officials have not ruled out a gas leak as the cause of the explosion. 


Man Pleads Guilty in Woman's Death at Kansas City Arts Event

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 20-year-old man has pleaded guilty in the death of a woman who was struck by a stray bullet while attending a Kansas City arts event. Deon’te Copkney, of Kansas City, pleaded guilty last week to second-degree murder and armed criminal action for the August 2019 killing of Erin Langhofer, of Overland Park. She was hit by a bullet during a First Friday event in the city's Crossroads District. Thousands of people were mingling in the district when gunfire erupted. Langhofer was shot in the head. Police said she had no connection to the fight that prompted the shooting.  


Kansas Man Sentenced to Life for Killing Woman, 2 Children

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man who killed his estranged girlfriend and her two children and then set their house on fire has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Ismael Caballero was sentenced Tuesday in the December 30, 2019, deaths of 32-year-old Yazmin Rodriguez-Santillan and her two children, 14-year-old Amerikha Rodriguez and 10-year-old Jeancarlo Rodriguez, of Kansas City, Kansas. He was given the life sentence for the deaths of the children and another 14-and-a-half years for Rodriguez-Santillan's death. Prosecutors said he killed the woman, then returned to kill the children to prevent them from testifying against him. He then set the house on fire.


Officials: Big Cat Captured on Wichita Door Camera is a Mountain Lion

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wildlife officials say a Wichita doorbell camera captured video of a mountain lion trotting along a residential back alley earlier this week. Kansas Department of Wildlife Research Biologist Matt Peek says it's the first confirmed cougar sighting in Wichita. The video was captured early Monday morning on Cris Boyle's doorbell camera, showing the large cat padding along the alleyway in the Riverside neighborhood. The wildcat can even be heard growling as it passes by Boyle's house. Peek says wildlife officials have notified Wichita police of the sighting so that if someone else reports seeing a mountain lion on their property, police know to take it seriously.


Services Set for Kansas Priest Considered for Sainthood

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas priest who died in a prisoner of war camp during the Korean War will be buried in Wichita on September 29. The family of the Reverend Emil Kapaun and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wichita announced Tuesday that Kapaun's remains will be flown from Hawaii on Sept. 25. His body will be taken to his hometown of Pilsen until Sept. 27, when the remains will be returned to Wichita. A vigil and funeral Mass will be held at Hartman Arena on Sept. 28-29. Kapaun's remains were identified in March. The Roman Catholic Church is considering him for sainthood because of his selfless service during the war.


Leader of New Group, Another Democrat to Leave Kansas House

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansas City-area Democrats plan to resign later this year from the Kansas House, one of them announcing his decision less than a week after helping launch a liberal nonprofit group. State Representative Brett Parker, of Overland Park, said he will spend more time with his family, explore “new career opportunities” and look for new ways to help Democrats. He helped last week to start Prairie Roots as a group aiming to energize low-turnout voters and promote liberal candidates. Parker sent an email to his colleagues days after freshman Representative Stephanie Day posted on Facebook that she plans to move into a new home outside her Overland Park district. 


Missouri to Drop Extra Federal Pandemic Unemployment Aid

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Governor Mike Parson says he's cutting off all federal pandemic unemployment benefits to Missourians. Parson on Tuesday announced those federal benefits will end June 12. The Republican governor says there's a labor shortage. He hopes cutting off extra unemployment aid will push people back to work. At least four other states are also ending the $300 federal benefit that is on top of state benefits. Those states are Arkansas, Mississippi, Montana and South Carolina. Some labor experts say the shortage can also be attributed to people reluctant to work because they fear catching the virus. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Kansas Governor Laura Kelly issued a statement saying that Kelly does not intend to end the federal unemployment benefit programs in her state early. 


Northwest Missouri Man Charged with Murder of Infant Son

GOWER, Mo. (AP) — A northwest Missouri man is charged with second-degree murder in the death of his 5-month-old son. Dillon Livingston, of Gower, also faces counts of child abuse or neglect of a child in the February death of his son. Livingston is scheduled for a motion hearing in Clinton County on Friday. A probable cause statement alleges first responders were called to Livingston's home on a report about an unresponsive child on February 12. Court documents say Livingston initially told investigators the child rolled out of a recliner but he later said he handled the baby too forcefully when he became fussy. Livingston has pleaded not guilty and is being held on without bond. Gower is a small town located midway between Kansas City and St. Joseph, Missouri.


Missouri Lawmakers Approve Hike in Gasoline Tax

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Republican lawmakers in Missouri have passed a bill to raise the gas tax for the first time in decades. The GOP-led House on Tuesday voted 104-52 to gradually raise Missouri's 17-cent gas tax to pay for road and bridge maintenance. If signed by Republican Governor Mike Parson, the measure would raise the tax by 2.5 cents a year until it hits 29.5 cents per gallon in 2025. Drivers could get a refund if they save their gas receipts. Some GOP lawmakers argued the tax hike will impact poor families the most.


Missouri Lawmakers Pass Statewide Prescription Drug Database

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri is closer than ever to joining every other state in having a statewide prescription drug database to flag possible opioid misuse. The House on Tuesday voted 91-64 to send Governor Mike Parson legislation that would create such a program. Parson has said he supports prescription monitoring programs. The proposal has for years failed to pass the Legislature over some Republicans' concerns about patient privacy. Doctors use such databases to see if their patients have been getting addictive opioid prescriptions from other physicians.


Forecast: Kansas Farmers Will Harvest Bountiful Wheat Crop

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A government report forecasts a bountiful winter wheat crop this year in Kansas. The National Agricultural Statistics Service estimated on Wednesday that the state's wheat crop will come in at 331 million bushels, up 18% from last year’s crop. It anticipates average yields in the state of 48 bushels per acre, an increase of 3 bushels from last year. The agency also estimated 6.9 million acres will be harvested in Kansas. That is 650,000 more acres of wheat than a year ago.


AP's Sally Buzbee Named Exec Editor of The Washington Post

NEW YORK (AP) — Sally Buzbee, senior vice president and executive editor of The Associated Press, has been named executive editor of The Washington Post. She succeeds the recently retired Marty Baron. As AP’s top editor since 2017, Buzbee has directed AP’s journalism through the COVID-19 pandemic, Donald Trump’s presidency, the #MeToo movement, Brexit, protests over racial injustice and the 2020 U.S. election. Buzbee previously served as the agency’s Washington bureau chief and was Middle East editor, among many other positions in an AP career stretching back to 1988, when she was hired as a reporter for the Associated Press in Topeka after graduating from the University of Kansas. At the Post, Buzbee succeeds the widely revered Baron, who had led the Post since 2013. Baron retired earlier this year at age 66.


Judge Dismisses NRA Bankruptcy Case in Blow to Gun Rights Group

DALLAS (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed the National Rifle Association's bankruptcy case. Judge Harlin Hale announced his decision Tuesday in the case over whether the powerful gun-rights group should be allowed to incorporate in Texas instead of New York. Lawyers for New York Attorney General Letitia James argued the bankruptcy filing was an effort by NRA leaders to avoid accountability for using the group's coffers as their piggybank. The ruling leaves the NRA to face a New York state lawsuit that accuses it of financial abuses and aims to put it out of business. The NRA's embattled CEO, Wayne LaPierre, pledged in a statement to continue to fight for gun rights in New York.


New KU Football Coach's Staff to Be a Mix of Jayhawks, Buffalo Assistants

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas head football coach Lance Leipold is keeping on his staff longtime assistant coach Emmett Jones, who had served as the Jayhawks’ interim coach when the program was missing both a football coach and athletic director. Leipold, who was hired away from Buffalo two weeks ago, announced the majority of his staff on Wednesday. Offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki and defensive coordinator Brian Borland followed Leipold from Division III power Wisconsin-Whitewater to the Division I level, where together they helped to turn around the Bulls program.


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