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Headlines for Wednesday, October 13, 2021

 

Kansas Legislators Press State School Board on Race Theory

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Chairpersons of the House and Senate education committees are taking the Kansas State Board of Education to task because they don’t think the panel is taking seriously enough lawmakers’ and parents’ concerns about how race and racism are discussed in schools. Republican state senator Molly Baumgardner of Louisburg, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, told board members to direct state Department of Education staff to look into how Kansas schools are applying the concept of “critical race theory,” which centers on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions. Baumgardner said in Wednesday’s meeting that she is aware of four bills being prepared for the 2022 session that oppose teaching some theories of race and racism.

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2 Larned State Hospital Employees Charged in Sex Offender's Escape

LARNED, Kan. (AP) — Two employees at Larned State Hospital are charged with helping a convicted sexual offender escape last summer. The two female employees, 50-year-old Rachel Rena Perez, of Larned, and 45-year-old Liliana Guadalupe Houser, of Garden City, made their first court appearances Tuesday. They each face more than a dozen charges related to the escape of John Freeman Colt in June. Colt was recaptured in Utah in September. Pawnee County Attorney Douglas McNett said in a release the charges against Perez and Houser include having unlawful sexual relations with a patient and trafficking in contraband.

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National Weather Service Confirms Tornadoes in Western Kansas

SHARON SPRINGS, Kan. (AP) — The National Weather Service says an EF-0 tornado touched down in northwest Kansas as severe storms swept through the state Tuesday evening and early Wednesday. The weather service in Goodland said a twister near Sharon Springs traveled about 3.3 miles, with a peak gust of 85 mph. No injuries were reported. A cart and maintenance shed at the Sharon Springs Golf Course were destroyed. Meteorologists with the weather service in Dodge City were surveying damage from at least four tornadoes in lightly-populated areas near Dodge City. Those twisters were reported near Howell, Spearville, Trousdale and between Sublette and Copeland.

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2 Hospitalized, Others Sickened in Carbon Monoxide Leak in Kansas Store

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Fire department officials say two people were hospitalized and several others sickened in a carbon monoxide leak inside a Kansas City, Kansas, supermarket. Officials say firefighters were called to the El Rio Bravo supermarket around noon Tuesday. Firefighters used handheld detectors and discovered carbon monoxide levels in the store to be potentially lethal. Crews evacuated the building, took two people to hospitals and treated several others at the scene. The Kansas Gas Company was called in to investigate the cause of the leak.

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Heating Bills Set to Soar as Inflation Hits Energy Prices

NEW YORK (AP) — With prices surging worldwide for heating oil, natural gas and other fuels, the U.S. government said Wednesday it expects households to see jumps of up to 54% for their heating bills from last winter. The sharpest increases are likely for homes that use propane, but others are also likely to see big increases. Homes that use natural gas, which make up nearly half of all U.S. households, may spend $746 this winter, 30% more than a year ago. A forecast for a colder winter means people will likely be burning more fuel to keep warm, on top of paying more for each bit of it.

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University of Kansas Museum Reinstalls Vandalized Native American Art Exhibit

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Native American art exhibit that was vandalized at the University of Kansas has been reinstalled. The Spencer Museum of Art announced Wednesday the exhibit, called “Native Hosts,” is back in front of the museum. Officials are inviting the public to an event Thursday afternoon to celebrate the artwork. The exhibit consists of five aluminum signs that name tribes who historically or currently live in what is now Kansas. University police said two people vandalized four of the panels on September 4. The fifth panel was later taken but it was recovered.

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John Deere Workers Prepare for Strike After Rejecting Contract

MOLINE, Ill. (AP/KPR) — More than 10,000 Deere & Co. workers appear ready to go on strike if negotiators can't deliver a new agreement by the end of the day. The United Auto Workers union has said its members would walk off the job if no deal has been reached by 11:59 pm today (WED). The vast majority of the union rejected a contract offer earlier this week that would have delivered at least 5% raises. Thirty-five years have passed since the last major Deere strike, but workers are emboldened to demand more this year after working long hours throughout the pandemic and because companies are facing worker shortages.  A strike could affect Deere dealerships and farmers across the nation, especially in the farm belt.

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Kansas Hospitals Get Retention Funding for Workers

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — Kansas hospitals will split $50 million meant to retain and attract frontline hospital workers as the pandemic continues. During the pandemic, health care workers have often grappled with too many patients and not enough resources, along with other challenges faced by frontline workers. The money from federal COVID-19 relief funding can be used to increase pay for nurses to entice them to stay or to return from retirement. The money will be distributed among hospitals based on bed capacity.  The amounts vary widely. Ascension Via Christi hospital in Wichita is set to get more than $7 million. The University of Kansas Health System will get around $5 million. The much smaller Edwards County Hospital will receive less than $50,000. While the latest surge in COVID-19 cases is beginning to wane, many hospitals are still struggling to care for their patients and employees.

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Kansas Legislators Seek Halt to Gas Payment Plans for Utilities

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) —A group of Kansas lawmakers is asking state regulators to stop approving payments to utilities to recover the costs associated with spikes in natural gas prices during a winter storm in February. During the storm, the price of natural gas from one of the main pipelines in Kansas went from around $2.00 per unit to more than $600.00.The current plans allow gas utilities to pass their costs on to customers. Kansas legislators are asking for a pause while the federal government finishes its investigation into potential price gouging and market manipulation. Kansans are currently on the hook for about $1 billion in gas bills due to those spikes. But if federal regulators find the market was manipulated, that bill could be significantly decreased. The major gas utilities in Kansas are asking regulators to approve payment plans that would have customers pay the extra costs over a period of 10 to 15 years. 

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Tornadoes Cause Damage in Oklahoma; Severe Storms Slam Central U.S.

COWETA, Okla. (AP) - Several reported tornadoes ripped through Oklahoma causing damage late Sunday into early Monday morning. The severe weather system also brought heavy rain, lightning and wind to parts of Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Texas. News outlets report a possible tornado struck Coweta, Oklahoma, late Sunday causing significant damage to a high school, homes and a gas station.  A hail storm earlier in the evening caused damage to homes, cars and businesses in Norman. No deaths or injuries were immediately reported. The National Weather Service says crews are heading out to rural areas in southwestern Missouri to determine if tornadoes caused damage being reported late Sunday night. Weather radar indicated possible tornadoes near Neosho and Golden City before dawn Monday.

(– Related –)

National Weather Service Confirms Tornado Strike in Southwest Missouri

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) - Cleanup continues after two small tornadoes touched down early Monday morning in rural areas of southwest Missouri. The National Weather Service confirmed that an EF-1 twister touched down around 1:00 am in Newton County, Missouri, carrying 90 mph winds. A mobile home and farm outbuilding were damaged. The weather service says another, smaller tornado with winds of 85 mph touched down in Jasper County, Missouri, near Dudenville around 4:45 am Monday. Trees were knocked over, the roof was torn off of a barn, and an irrigation system was damaged. There were no reports of injuries.

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Wichita Passes Ordinance Aimed at Banning Discrimination

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Wichita City Council has passed an ordinance aimed at banning discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations. The Wichita Eagle reports that after four months of delays, the council voted 6-1 on Tuesday to approve the measure. Council member Jeff Blubaugh cast the lone dissenting vote. Council members rejected a proposed exemption that would have allowed religious groups to fire or refuse to hire LGBTQ individuals. The measure seeks to prohibit discrimination based on age, color, disability, familial status, gender identity, genetic information, national origin or ancestry, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, citizenship, veteran status or any other factor protected by law. The city will begin accepting complaints under the ordinance on January 1.

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Most Missouri COVID Vaccine Lottery Entrants Immunized Before Program Started

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Data shows that most of the people who participated in Missouri's COVID-19 vaccine lottery were already immunized before the program started. The incentive program was started in July as Missouri struggled to control a surge in cases driven by the more transmissible Delta variant in less-vaccinated communities. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services conducted the last of the drawings in the program Friday. The Kansas City Star reports that among the participants, 57,117 adults got the shot after the program was announced, while nearly 600,000 got the shot beforehand. 

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Kansas Senator Criticized for Dispensing Disputed Medical Advice on Virus Immunity

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Senator Roger Marshall won't let people forget he’s a doctor. That's clear because the obstetrician puts “Doc” in the letterhead of his U.S. Senate office news releases. But when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, other doctors say the Kansas Republican sounds far more like a politician than a physician. Marshall says people who've had COVID-19 don't need to get vaccinated because they have natural immunity that'll last longer than what the shots provide. But that belief is disputed and defies official U.S. government guidance. Marshall has company from other doctors, dentists and pharmacists, but critics say such statements are dangerous and unethical.

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First Lady Jill Biden Visits KCK Pre-School

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — First lady Jill Biden visited a Kansas City, Kansas, school as part of a tour to emphasize the Biden administration's interest in the Hispanic community. Biden met Tuesday with Hispanic representatives during a visit to El Centro Academy, a dual-language early childhood education program. Her visit is part of a series of stops she is making to hear the concerns of the Hispanic Americans during National Hispanic Heritage Month. Kansas Congresswoman Sharice Davids and U.S. Small Business Administrator Isabella Garcias Guzman joined Biden for the “charla” at El Centro. Charla is Spanish for chat.

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Kansas Lawmakers to Consider Relaxing Some Liquor Laws

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) _ Kansas lawmakers loosened state liquor laws to help bars and restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic, and now there’s pressure to go even further. Now, grocery store chains and liquor companies want more changes during the legislative session that starts in January.  Dillons, HyVee, Walmart and Whole Foods want the Legislature’s approval to include beer with groceries they deliver to their Kansas customers. Liquor companies, both small local distillers and large national firms, want to do what wineries can already do, sell directly to consumers online. The industry’s lobbyists say Kansans have been purchasing wine directly for years and they want the same convenient access to liquor. Opponents say that such a move would threaten the survival of local liquor stores and overwhelm state regulators, who are already are struggling to collect taxes on a flood of illegal wine sales.

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Former KCK Mayor Holland Announces Bid for U.S. Senate

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KNS) _Mark Holland, former mayor of Kansas City, Kansas, has launched his campaign for the U.S. Senate, taking on Republican Senator Jerry Moran. With a heavily Democratic base in Wyandotte County, Holland has a strong shot at winning his party’s nomination. But he faces a difficult challenge in the general election against Moran, who has held the seat since 2011. Holland said in his campaign announcement that Moran failed to stand up for Kansans against COVID-19 and help spread “despicable lies around our election integrity.” As KCK mayor, Holland faced criticism that he alienated public service workers before incumbent Mayor David Alvey defeated him in 2017.  Kansas is also still a solidly red state that hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since the 1930’s.

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Angler Catches First Alligator Gar Recorded in Kansas

PRATT, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas wildlife officials say an angler landed the first alligator gar ever documented in the state. The fisheries division of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks said in a news release Tuesday that a 39.5 pound alligator gar was caught last month in the Neosho River east of Parsons. Fisheries biologist Connor Ossowski said the agency has verified the fish was caught in the river. Biologists are now working to determine how the animal got into a Kansas waterway. The most likely scenario is the alligator gar was released by its owner after it became too large but fisheries officials will use several methods to determine its origin. 

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'We Have to Be Heard': Texas Women Travel to Seek Abortions

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) — The nation's most restrictive abortion law is driving many women from Texas to seek services as far away as Oklahoma and Kansas. The Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport, Louisiana, near the Texas border, is among the clinics seeing a major influx of Texas patients. On a recent Saturday, more than a dozen women arrived at the single-story brick building. Some came alone. Others brought their children because they were unable to get child care. All were seeking to end pregnancies. One of the patients was a 33-year-old woman who already has three kids. She said adding a baby to the family would take time and resources away from her other children.

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Police: 1 of 3 Shot at Kansas City Bowling Alley Has Died

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Police say one of the three people who were injured earlier this month in a late-night shooting at a Kansas City bowling alley has died. Police said in a news release Tuesday that 21-year-old Avery Williams, who had been on life support following the shooting, has been declared dead. Williams, another man and a woman were all shot around 11 pm on October 3 outside Ward Parkway Lanes. Police said the other man was critically injured and the woman suffered less serious injuries in the shooting. Police still have not found any suspects in the case and are asking for the public's help to find the shooter. 

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Police: 11-Year-Old Girl Hurt in Wichita Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Police in Wichita say an 11-year-old girl was wounded in an early-morning drive-by shooting Tuesday. Television station KSN reports that the shooting happened shortly after midnight in the city's Ken-Mar neighborhood. Witnesses tell police that someone in a black sport utility vehicle shot into a house, then sped away. Police say the girl was hit by gunfire and taken to a hospital with serious injuries, but she is expected to survive. Police say four other people in the home at the time of the shooting were not injured. Investigators say they have identified a suspect, but no arrests have been reported. 

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Pedestrian Killed Near Stadium After Leaving Chiefs Game

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A pedestrian from Kansas is dead after being struck by two hit-and-run drivers near Arrowhead Stadium as the man was leaving the Kansas City Chiefs game. Police are searching for the drivers who fled the scene Sunday night. The victim was 66-year-old man Steven Hickle of Wichita, Kansas. Police say Hickle and another person left the game early, so traffic crews were not yet on the scene to assist with exiting. The second person was not struck. Police say Hickle was struck by a vehicle and while lying in the roadway was run over by a second vehicle. He died at a hospital.

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Incendiary Devices Found at Home of Suspect in Missing Woman Case

WINDYVIILLE, Mo. (AP) — Springfield fire officials say two incendiary devices were found at the home of a suspect in the disappearance of a woman who reportedly was locked in a cage at the house. The house, rented by 58-year-old James Phelps, burned to the ground October 4. Springfield fire officials said bomb squad investigators found devices in a mortar tube covered by a balloon at the home in Dallas County. Both had trip wires. Phelps and 56-year-old Timothy Norton are charged with first-degree kidnapping in the disappearance of Cassidy Rainwater, who has not been seen since July. According to court documents, law enforcement officers have evidence Rainwater was held in a cage on Phelps’ property before she disappeared.

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Hearing in KC Strickland Triple Murder Case Set

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man who is seeking to be exonerated in a triple murder committed more than 40 years ago could get his chance to make his case to a judge in about a month. KSHB-TV reports that Retired Missouri Court of Appeals Judge James Welsh set the evidentiary hearing for Kevin Strickland for November 8th after a hearing in Jackson County Court. Both sides in the case have argued over discovery issues. A conference will be held before the November 8th hearing to be certain both sides have what they need for the hearing.

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Jay-Z's Group Raises $1 Million to Investigate Wrongful Convictions

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — An organization run by rapper Jay-Z has facilitated donations totaling $1 million for the local innocence project to investigate wrongful convictions in Wyandotte County. The Kansas City Star reports the money was raised by Team Roc, which is the criminal justice division of Jay-Z’s entertainment organization, Roc Nation. Tricia Rojo Bushnell, executive director of the Midwest Innocence Project, calls it “a huge investment.” She says the ability to look at these cases is going to shine a light on what the group needs to do to provide a just criminal legal system in Wyandotte County.

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Hutchinson Police: Teen Tried to Steal Humvee from Armory

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Police say a teen attempted to steal a military Humvee worth more than $100,000 from the National Guard Armory in Hutchinson and swung a hatchet at an armory staff member who tried to stop him. The Hutchinson News reports that prosecutors charged the 16-year-old from Nickerson in Reno County District Court with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, felony theft and criminal trespass. He remains in juvenile detention. Hutchinson Police Lt. Dustin Loepp said the teen jumped a fence at the Armory and broke into at least three Humvees.

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Kansas Legislative Committee Recommends More Medical Exams for Kids in Foster Care  

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — State lawmakers hope that collecting more information and requiring additional medical examinations could help keep children safe in the Kansas foster care system. The recommendations are from a committee studying ways the state can improve the system.  Democratic State Representative Jarrod Ousley, of Merriam, says the state should start tracking gender identity, sexual orientation, race, and ethnicity when children in state care die.  Ousley says collecting that information will help the state find trends in suicide or other child deaths. Republican Senator Molly Baumgardner, of Louisburg, says the state should require more physical examinations when abuse is suspected. She hopes that could lead to doctors finding hidden injuries as a result of child abuse. Lawmakers will consider the committee’s recommendations when they return to Topeka in January.  

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Chiefs Begin Prep for Washington Game with Mounting Injuries

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs practiced without five key starters on Wednesday, including wide receiver Tyreek Hill and pass rusher Chris Jones, adding a long list of physical ailments to their battered pride five games into the season. Hill was out with a bruised quad that he sustained in Sunday night’s blowout loss to the Bills, when the Chiefs also lost running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire to a sprained knee ligament. Jones continues to deal with a lingering wrist injury. Also out were linebacker Anthony Hitchens, defensive back Charvarius Ward and guard Joe Thuney.

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These area headlines are curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Kaye McIntyre and Tom Parkinson. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today

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