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Headlines for Monday, May 9, 2022



Kansas COVID-19 Infection Rate Exceeds National Average

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCUR) - The majority of people in Kansas have now had COVID-19.  That's according to a new federal estimate. More than 62% of Kansans had COVID-19 at least once, as of the end of February. That’s according to estimates based on testing for antibodies in blood samples which were collected for lab work. The federal data, which were updated last week, show Kansas is slightly higher than the 58% national average infection rate. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that the testing did not determine the amount of antibodies in the blood samples, so the data should not be used to estimate how many people currently have immunity to the virus.


Douglas County Sees Spike in COVID Cases

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KNS) - Douglas County has seen an uptick in COVID cases in recent weeks. The Kansas News Service reports that Douglas is one of three Kansas counties with high COVID transmission right now. New cases have jumped tenfold since late March. The local health department urges people with underlying conditions to be cautious, even though hospitalization numbers remain low. It comes weeks after the Jayhawks NCAA championship victory sparked large celebrations. But a county health department official says the increase could be linked to other factors, too, such as spring break and the highly transmissible COVID variants currently circulating.


Allen County Man Arrested in Connection with Death of Neighbor

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - An elderly Allen County man has been arrested in connection with the death of his neighbor.  The Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the Allen County Sheriff's Office arrested 78-year-old Raymond Maloney Friday on suspicion of first-degree murder for the killing of 68-year-old Richard Diehl.  Diehl's body was found by a relative last week in the shop outside his home in LaHarpe in southeast Kansas. In a press release, the KBI says the investigation is continuing and formal charges are expected from the Allen County Attorney.


Topeka Police Arrest Man for April Murder

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Topeka police have arrested a man in connection with a fatal shooting last month. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 19-year-old Kayden Michael Smith was arrested Friday night in connection with the murder of 35-year-old Dustin Michael Clayton, whose body was found April 22nd with a single gunshot wound. Smith is being held at the Shawnee County Jail on a $1 million bond. Formal charges have not yet been filed.


Woman Killed in Olathe House Fire

OLATHE, Kan. (KPR) - A house fire has claimed the life of a woman in Olathe. The Olathe Fire Department was called to the residence just before midnight Friday. KMBC-9 News reports that the victim has been identified as 41-year-old Charmaine Marie Phillips. No other injuries were reported. The investigation into the cause of the blaze is continuing.


Moran: U.S. Has Moral Obligation to Supply Arms to Ukraine

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) -  Republican U.S. Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas says the United States has a moral obligation to supply Ukraine with enough aid to ensure a victory against Russia. Senator Moran says he thinks that the Ukrainian people can be successful. "My view is it would immoral for us to give the Ukrainians just enough materials, just enough tools, to survive and not enough to win, because I believe they can win," Moran said. He also expressed concern over the disruption of grain supplies the conflict has caused, as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin's ambitions beyond the Ukrainian border. Senator Moran visited the Ukrainian-Polish border with a bipartisan group of senators in March. 


K-State Scientists: “Virtual” Fences Could Aid with Cattle Control

MANHATTAN, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas State University scientists are studying how a technology called virtual fencing could help prevent water pollution from cattle. K-State biologists are testing the idea in the Flint Hills. They are putting GPS collars on cattle that give the animals a mild shock if they wander into certain areas. The researchers say the practice will help protect streams from pollution and protect patches of tallgrass for prairie chicken nesting. Professor Walter Dodds specializes in freshwater ecology at Kansas State. He says doing the same things with physical fencing is difficult and expensive. “If you just want to put a fence around a stream all the way up and down a watershed, it really takes a lot of fence, and it’s not easy,” Dodd said. The researchers say virtual fences also make it easy for ranchers to make sure cattle don’t overgraze any specific part of their pasture.


Kansas Senator Roger Marshall Calls for LGBTQ Advisories on TV

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Republican U.S. Senator Roger Marshall of Kansas is calling on regulators to update ratings for TV shows so parents can shield their children from LGBTQ characters. Marshall and four other Republican senators from North Dakota, Utah, Indiana and Montana said the use of LGBTQ characters in television is harmful to children and erodes parental rights. The letter to the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board specifically pointed to a Disney executive who said she wanted to have more LGBTQ characters in stories. The senators compared sexual orientation and gender identity to sexual content that children should not see. Critics say the Republican senators are using the issue as another attack against the LGBTQ community in the, ongoing, “culture wars.” The TV Parental Guidelines are a rating system meant to help parents decide what programming is appropriate for their children. 


Kansas Legislature Gives More Money to Public Defenders but Board Says More Help Needed

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Low-income Kansans charged with crimes could have better access to legal defense after the state Legislature gave public defenders more money. But the Kansas News Service reports the request for more staffing in public defender offices has not been approved.  State lawmakers approved around $7 million in pay raises for attorneys and public defenders who work with the Board of Indigents Defense Services. That money will boost morale, attract new staff and help retain qualified employees, public defenders say. Executive director of the board, Heather Cessna, welcomes the money but wishes more was done. She wants to hire more public defenders and says past attempts to do so have not been successful enough. “Not having counsel to provide that representation is, you know, is a failing of our constitutional obligation," she said. Cessna says the state is taking a step in the right direction, but it will take years to adequately address shortages in the public defense system. ( Read more.)


Foster Child Found Dead in Kansas City, Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - A Kansas foster child was found dead in Kansas City, Kansas, days after running away from state custody. Fifteen-year-old Ace Scott ran away from state foster care contractor Cornerstones of Care in mid-April. Authorities have confirmed that a body found in KCK on April 15 was that of Scott, a transgender teenager. The Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department says his body was found in an abandoned lot. The Kansas City Star reported that the teen was admitted to the hospital before running away and had run away before. The Kansas News Service had requested documents relating to the boy, but those requests were denied because there is an ongoing police investigation. Department for Children and Families Secretary Laura Howard called the death a tragedy. Howard says in a statement that the department is working to improve its systems to prevent future problems. 


Experts: Bird Flu Danger Abates in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas bird lovers have less to fear about the spread of avian flu than people in other states. The chance of transmission of the disease to humans is considered very low and, experts say, many of the wild birds carrying the virus have already migrated out of the state. Some states have recommended people stop using bird baths and feeders because they can help spread the virus that has devastated the poultry industry. But in Kansas, bird experts suggest regular cleaning is enough to control flu and other diseases. Audubon of Kansas says avian flu has mostly been seen among waterfowl that have already left the state. The Kansas Department of Agriculture reported six outbreaks of bird flu, with the most recent occurring in late April.  


Southeast Kansas County to Change Diversion Program Eligibility

COFFEYVILLE, Kan (KNS) - Montgomery County, in southeast Kansas, will change how it offers diversion to people arrested for crimes. The move comes after allegations that the county was not giving people a chance to use the programs. A lawsuit filed in 2017 by the ACLU said Montgomery County, home of Independence and Coffeyville, was not giving people adequate access to diversion programs. Some people did not even know the options existed. A diversion agreement gives someone an alternative to jail or prison. It’s used when someone is facing criminal charges but is offered treatment, counseling or other services. The county will now post diversion materials online, create a new policy and make it easier for low-income Kansas to use the programs


Some Kansas School Districts Cutting Staff

WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW/KNS) - Some school districts in Kansas are planning to cut jobs because of enrollment losses tied to the coronavirus pandemic. Enrollment is down more than 15,000 students statewide. Federal COVID relief helped districts cover shortfalls during the pandemic. Now, longer-term student losses will mean less state funding. Susan Willis is budget director for Wichita schools. She says the district needs to cut programs and leave some teaching vacancies unfilled. "We will have to start to reduce the budget footprint because the student footprint is down," she said. Similar cuts have been proposed in Olathe, Blue Valley and Lawrence.


Shawnee County Sheriff's Office Raids Shops Selling THC, Seizes Products

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Law enforcement officers have been carrying out raids in Topeka on shops selling cannabis products. The Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office is not answering questions about how many stores it has raided, on what dates or how much it seized. Cannabis advocacy groups in Topeka say officers seized goods from several sellers on April 20 — a date celebrated by cannabis enthusiasts — and April 28, and continued their campaign over the past few days. The move frustrates advocates holding out hope that the Kansas Legislature will take final steps later this month to seal a deal that would legalize medical marijuana. The raids also frustrate advocates because some cannabis products already count as legal under state law. ( Read more.)


Kansans Will Vote in November on Constitutional Amendment About Abortion

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansans will vote on a constitutional amendment this fall that could protect or limit abortion access in the state. The U.S Supreme Court appears ready to strike down protections at the federal level and send the issue back to voters in individual states.  Many anti-abortion groups are focusing on the upcoming vote in Kansas. A state supreme court ruling currently guarantees access to abortions, which mean the procedure would remain legal even if federal protections are removed. However, abortion protections would likely vanish at the state level if the amendment is approved in November. Such a vote would not immediately make abortions illegal, but the state Legislature could approve stricter laws. Proposed legislation banning abortions has already been introduced. Danielle Underwood, with Kansans for Life, says the state doesn’t do enough to regulate abortion providers. “If Kansans want to stop this, they must vote yes (on the amendment)." Abortion providers maintain the procedure is already regulated in Kansas and is a critical health care service people need. ( Read more.)


Missouri Set to Ban Most Abortions if Roe Ruling Falls

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri is slated to ban most abortions if the U.S. Supreme Court undoes Roe v. Wade. Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt says he will take immediate action to allow an abortion ban to take effect if the landmark ruling is overturned, as a draft opinion leaked last week suggests. Missouri's GOP-led Legislature passed the abortion ban in in 2019 in hopes that the 1973 ruling would later be tossed out. Abortions would only be allowed to save the life of the mother. Anyone who performs an unlawful abortion would face 5 to 15 years in prison.


In Abortion Fight, Conservatives Push to End All Exceptions

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Rape, incest and the health of the fetus or mother were once accepted reasons to obtain an abortion in even the most conservative Republican-led states. But now roughly 20 states have abortion bans in the works without some of those exceptions. The shift comes as the Supreme Court is expected to overturn the nationwide right to abortion this summer. Troy Newman with the national anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, says exceptions for rape and incest and to protect a pregnant woman's life were only included in previous legislation to appease centrists.


Some Hope Next Farm Bill Includes Funding for Climate Change

URBANA, Ill. - (HPM) - The federal farm bill, which funds food and agricultural programs every five years, is set to expire next year and some hope the next bill will bolster climate change mitigation programs. The bill includes funding for things like nutrition assistance programs and crop insurance but it also provides cost-share programs for farmers to adopt more climate-friendly practices on their farms. President Biden’s Build Back Better plan included billions of dollars of funding for farmers to help mitigate climate change but that funding was pulled off the table when the Senate voted against the bill. Now, some legislators are trying to figure out how to fund more conservation programs for agriculture and they see the 2023 Farm Bill as an opportunity to secure that funding.


Topeka Zoo Announces Birth of Orangutan

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Mother's Day came a little early to the Topeka Zoo this weekend. The Zoo reports on Twitter that their orangutan Rudy gave birth Saturday morning. Rudy and the baby orangutan are doing well and were on view Sunday for Mother's Day. The baby's name will be announced when its gender is determined. It's the third infant born to Rudy.


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, 11 am weekends. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members.  Become one today!