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Headlines for Wednesday, September 15, 2021

 

GOP Leader Questions Plans to Settle Afghan Evacuees in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A top Republican lawmaker in Kansas says he’s concerned about President Joe Biden’s plan to resettle almost 500 Afghan evacuees in the state because he doesn’t know how well they’re being vetted. Senate President Ty Masterson said Wednesday that he's worried both that the evacuees could come to Kansas with COVID-19 infections and that vetting by Biden’s administration won’t keep terrorists or terrorist sympathizers out. Biden's administration began notifying governors Wednesday of where it plans to resettle nearly 37,000 Afghan evacuees, and 490 are set to come to Kansas. Democratic Governor Laura Kelly's office declined comment, but she said last month that Kansas would welcome Afghan evacuees.

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Judge: Kansas Must Pay $1.42 Million to Voting Rights Attorneys

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge ordered Kansas to pay $1.42 million to attorneys who succeeded in getting the federal courts to strike down a state law requiring new voters to show papers documenting their U.S. citizenship when registering. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson ruled Wednesday that the attorneys suing the Kansas secretary of state’s office over the law should receive more than $1.07 million to cover their fees and another $350,000 for litigation expenses. The law was championed by former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who led former President Donald Trump’s now-defunct voter fraud commission. Kobach is running for Kansas attorney general in 2022.

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AG: Spike in Natural Gas Prices Appears to Break Kansas Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Attorney General Derek Schmidt says that sharp spikes in natural gas prices last winter appear to violate Kansas law and he is seeking outside legal help to investigate them. Schmidt's office said Monday it is looking to retain a law firm with expertise in the natural gas marketplace to help investigate and with any potential civil litigation aimed at enforcing the state’s anti-profiteering law. Schmidt said in a news release that state law prohibits unjustified price increases for necessary goods and services during a declared state of disaster emergency.

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Lawmaker Accused of Kicking Boy Pleads Guilty to 3 Charges

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas legislator accused of kicking a high school student in the testicles has pleaded guilty to three lesser misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct. A magistrate judge on Monday placed Republican state Representative Mark Samsel on a year’s probation under a deal with the local prosecutor. Samsel also agreed not to use social media for personal purposes or have any contact with two high school students whose complaints led to the charges. Samsel had faced three higher misdemeanor criminal charges of battery over interactions with the two students, ages 15 or 16, during an April 28 high school art class in his eastern Kansas hometown of Wellsville.

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Protesters Gather for Second Straight Night at Fraternity

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Crowds gathered to protest for a second straight night at a University of Kansas fraternity house where a member is accused of sexually assaulting another student. The Kansas City Star reports that about 250 people arrived Tuesday on the lawn of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house. They chanted “no means no” and “kick him out” for hours as about a dozen police officers stood watch. Private security guards also were present. A spokesman for the fraternity said the organization has been made aware of the allegations involving one of its new undergraduate members and the university was immediately notified.

(–Related–) 

Protest over University of Kansas Assault Claim Draws Crowd

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ Hundreds of people chanted and held signs outside a University of Kansas fraternity house where a member is accused of sexually assaulting another student. The Kansas City Star reports that the Monday night protest outside the Phi Kappa Psi house came after the fraternity officials reported the allegations over the weekend. The university's spokeswoman said Tuesday the university takes all allegations of sexual violence seriously and has robust processes to investigate them. A spokesman for the fraternity said the organization has been made aware of the allegations involving one of its new undergraduate members and the university was immediately notified.

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Data: Federal Aid Helped Keep Kansans Out of Poverty

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — New numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau show that federal tax dollars kept more Kansans from sinking into poverty during the COVID-19 pandemic. Census officials say the poverty rate would have gone up in 2020 if not for federal stimulus checks and beefed-up unemployment benefits. Analysts with the Washington-based advocacy group First Focus on Children say the child poverty rate in Kansas would have jumped by double digits without the aid.  The revised numbers reflect $2.3 billion in stimulus payments and nearly $2 billion in higher unemployment benefits made to Kansans.

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Democratic Governor Laura Kelly Appears Wary of Vaccine Mandate

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly is indicating that she’s wary of President Joe Biden’s mandate that companies with 100 or more employees require their workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that she said Tuesday at an economic development event that she needs to hear more details.  Her office issued a statement last week to that effect. But the Journal-World reported that Kelly later made comments indicating that a mandate may not be her preference. She said she prefers that Kansas continue to work cooperatively with businesses. Most Republicans in the Kansas congressional delegation and Kansas Legislature have condemned the mandate.

(–Additional reporting–)

Kelly Unlikely to Issue Teacher/Staff Vaccination Mandate

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly says she’s unlikely to follow President Joe Biden’s advice and require that all teachers and school staff be vaccinated. Kelly says she prefers to continue pushing voluntary vaccinations, even though the number of people in the state getting the shots has leveled off. About half of eligible Kansans have at least one COVID-19 shot. The governor says she will continue to push for voluntary vaccinations. Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt said he plans to “vigorously challenge” new federal vaccine mandates. The Biden administration now says all large employers must require workers to get vaccinated or tested regularly for COVID.

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Task Force to Examine Data on Mask Policies & Outbreaks

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) —Schools in Kansas continue to deal with COVID-19 cases and quarantines. A new task force plans to look at the relationship between outbreaks and mask policies. Governor Laura Kelly’s Safer Classrooms Workgroup met this week for the first time. Members learned that out of 179 active COVID cases that originated in schools, only 15 percent were in districts where masks are required. So far, four Kansas districts have temporarily closed some or all of their schools because of COVID outbreaks. About half of all Kansas students are required to wear masks.

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KU Hires New Campus Police Chief

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) _ The University of Kansas has chosen a new chief for the university’s police department. Nelson Mosley will also take over as director of the Office of Public Safety. He comes to the job with more than 30 years of law enforcement experience after rising through the ranks of the Wichita Police Department from patrol officer to Deputy Chief.  The Lawrence Journal World reports that Mosley has also served as adjunct professor of criminal justice at Wichita State University and was a trainer on ethics, diversity and racial profiling with the Wichita department.  Mosley will leave his current job as chief of the Rose Hill Police Department in Butler County to take the position at KU. He replaces retiring Chief Chris Keary.

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Unvaccinated Kansas High School Football Coach Dies of COVID

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — The father of a football coach at a suburban Kansas City high school said he hopes his unvaccinated son’s death from COVID-19 will convince people that the disease “is real.” Kim and Carolyn Burnett, told KMBC-TV that their son, Chris Burnett, died Saturday after two weeks in the hospital. The 34-year-old coached football for Olathe East High School and an all-female team called the Kansas City Glory. He also was studying to be a physical education teacher.

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Kansas, Oklahoma Continue Uptick in Abortions Following Texas Law 

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Abortion clinics in Kansas and Oklahoma say they're still seeing a high volume of patients from Texas as a new state law there banning most abortions remains in effect. The Biden administration this week sued Texas over the law, arguing it was enacted “in open defiance of the Constitution." The Justice Department is asking a judge to quickly declare the law invalid, although it is unknown how quickly a court might rule. In the meantime, the Trust Women abortion clinics in Kansas and Oklahoma say at least half their patients at both locations last week were from Texas. And appointments are booked through the end of the month.  

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Health Officials Heading to Court to Shut Down Blue Springs Restaurant

BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. (KMBC) — A hearing is scheduled for this (WED) morning on whether a restaurant in a Kansas City suburb can legally reopen. Rae's Café in Blue Springs has been disregarding Jackson County health orders to remain closed. The café owner is refusing to comply with the county's order requiring face masks in all indoor spaces. A Jackson County judge issued a temporary restraining order last week to shut down the restaurant for ignoring the county's orders. In response, the restaurant reopened, calling itself a private club. KMBC-TV reports that customers were observed this week paying a dollar to get into the café. The county says in its petition that Rae's Café is interfering with the community’s public health and safety.

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Kansas Farmers Busy Planting Wheat, Harvesting Other Crops

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas farmers have been busy planting next year’s winter wheat crop and harvesting the state’s other major crops. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that about 4% of the winter wheat in Kansas has now been planted. That’s about equal to the five-year average for this time of year. The agency also noted in its weekly crop update that about 11% of the state’s corn crop has been harvested. Just 1% of the sorghum has been cut so far in Kansas.

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Fire at Huge Nebraska Beef Plant Disrupts Production Briefly

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) - A fire at a one of the nation’s largest beef processing plants appears to have spared the main production area. So the impact from the Nebraska fire on the overall market is likely to be limited. While the blaze was burning at the JBS plant that normally slaughters about 6,000 cattle a day, industry observers feared there could be a similar impact to when a fire disrupted operations at a large Tyson beef plant in Kansas for months in 2019. JBS spokeswoman Nikki Richardson said the company expects to resume operations at the plant Tuesday because the fire did not impact the main production areas.

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Cost of Living on the Rise in Rural Kansas 

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) — The latest Cost of Living Index shows some parts of rural Kansas are relatively expensive. Places like Dodge City are becoming more costly. Jeremy Hill leads the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University. He says the cost of living has been consistently higher in western Kansas than it is in some other parts of the state, partly because of supply issues. “Because of the remoteness of each of those communities, the cost of getting goods there is higher," Hill said.  But prices are not rising as quickly in all rural areas.  Pittsburg, near Joplin, Missouri and just a few hours from Kansas City, benefits from more competition.  A dentist visit costs $130 in Dodge City but only $90 in Pittsburg. A loaf of bread goes for $3.59 in Dodge City and $3.19 in Pittsburg.

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GOP Group Held 'War Games' for State AGs Before Trump Loss 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An offshoot of the Republican Attorneys General Association held a special meeting weeks before the 2020 election to discuss its strategies if then-President Donald Trump lost. The Rule of Law Defense Fund later gained notoriety for sending a robocall urging people to support Trump at the January 6th rally that preceded the storming of the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters. The association's two-day conference in September 2020 was among 20-plus meetings the group held in the four months before the November presidential election for senior aides to Republican state attorneys general. It was a special event with “off the record” conversations and expenses covered. It was in-person during the COVID-19 pandemic with vaccines months away. 

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Fugitive Charged with Killing Boyfriend Arrested in Missouri

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Authorities have arrested a woman who is charged with fatally shooting her boyfriend one week after she was accused of disabling her electronic monitoring device and fleeing. The sheriff's office in Jackson County, Missouri, announced Monday that Katie Black, of Independence, had been apprehended in a rural part of the county. The Kansas City Star reports that court records show that she is now being held in the Jackson County Jail without bond. She is charged with second-degree felony murder, armed criminal action, domestic assault and illegal weapon use in the July 7 killing of 29-year-old Ryan Wheeler in the eastern Jackson County town of Sibley.

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Ruling on Who Will Hear Strickland Motion Expected Friday

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A judge says he will rule on Friday whether all Jackson County, Missouri, judges should be disqualified from hearings to determine if a Kansas City man could go free after serving more than 40 years in prison. At a hearing on Monday, Circuit Court Judge Kevin Harrell heard arguments in the case of Kevin Strickland, who Jackson County prosecutors have said did not commit a triple murder in Kansas City in 1978. Attorney General Eric Schmitt is seeking to have the Jackson County judges removed from further hearings in Strickland's case because of perceived bias in Strickland's favor.

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Buffalo Carved from Butter Featured at Kansas State Fair

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Kansas’s state animal — the buffalo — is being celebrated at the State Fair this year with a 700-pound butter sculpture. The Hutchinson News reports that a sculptor from Iowa, Sarah Pratt, had to do some research on buffaloes before she designed this year’s butter statue. Pratt said that if she winds up with any extra butter she may add a buffalo calf or some sunflowers. Pratt, who teaches school by day, lives in West Des Moines with her husband and three children, all of whom help her out with sculpting - from the Kansas State Fair to fairs in Iowa or Illinois.

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Invasive Insect Spotted in 4-H Entry at Kansas State Fair

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - Kansas State Fair officials judging the 4-H entomology entries last week discovered an invasive insect that prompted quarantines elsewhere. Fair Board member Gregg Hadley says the student who caught the bug didn't know it had prompted quarantines in at least 45 counties in Pennsylvania and New Jersey to try to stop its spread. Hadley, who is Director for Extension with Kansas State's Research and Extension, said it's not clear how the invasive bug made it to Kansas, but it may have hitched a ride on a camper. Federal officials are expected to try and learn how the insect reached Kansas. 
 
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7-Year-Old Arizona Girl Killed in Head-On Crash in Kansas

WICHITA, Kansas (AP) — A 7-year-old Arizona girl was killed in a head-on crash on U.S. Highway 50 in in southwest Kansas. The Kansas Highway Patrol says that the child, Isabella Rodriguez-Rivera, was a passenger in a Volkswagen Tiguan that tried to pass a vehicle Tuesday at around 1:50 p.m. near the highway’s intersection with County Road 118 in Ford County. A 29-year-old woman from Mesa, Arizona, who was driving the Volkswagon east on the highway struck a Ford Transit 250 head-on on the westbound shoulder. The Wichita Eagle reports both vehicles went into the ditch. The child, also of Mesa, died. Both drivers were hospitalized.

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Chiefs' Reid Deflects Attention as NFL History Approaches

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Good luck getting Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid to ruminate on the fact that he’s nearing NFL history, just one win away from becoming the first to reach 100 with two different franchises. Reid always deflects any such attention to his players, assistant coaches and others within the organization. Yet it's Reid who is closing in on the No. 5 spot in career wins as the Chiefs prepare to visit Baltimore on Sunday night. With a win, he'll have 100 with the Chiefs to go with 140 that he racked up over 14 seasons leading the Eagles.

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Royals Promote Dayton Moore to President, Picollo to GM

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals are promoting general manager Dayton Moore to club president. The team is also elevating longtime assistant GM J.J. Picollo to GM. The 54-year-old Moore presided over one of the most remarkable turnarounds in baseball history, leading them to consecutive World Series and the 2015 title. Picollo has long been considered Moore's heir apparent in Kansas City. The team is showing signs of another rebirth after a long rebuild.

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Royals Evaluate Stadium Options, Downtown Ballpark Possible

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals are evaluating options for once their lease expires at Kauffman Stadium. Owner John Sherman says a new downtown ballpark is a possibility. The Royals are tied to the 53-year-old stadium until 2031 under terms of a public-private partnership. The team must make a decision in the next couple of years to look elsewhere or press on with more renovations at Truman Sports Complex, which is also home to Arrowhead Stadium and the Kansas City Chiefs.

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Big 12 Coaches Says Swift Expansion Solidified League Future

UNDATED (AP) – Big 12 coaches feel the league is solidified for the long haul after the conference's swift action to expand. Kansas State coach Chris Klieman says the Big 12 got four really good programs with the additions of BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston. That quartet got invited to the league six weeks after Oklahoma and Texas accepted invitations to join the Southeastern Conference by 2025. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy says the league hit a home run, keeping the Big 12 status and getting back to 12 teams from 10.

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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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