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Headlines for Thursday, January 19, 2023

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Kansas Public Radio
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KPR

UPDATE: Kansas Man Convicted of Threatening to Kill Congressman

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal jury has convicted a Kansas man who admitted he threatened to kill a congressman. Chase Neill, of Lawrence, represented himself at the trial and questioned U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner on the witness stand. Neill said he was a messenger from God, warning that the congressman had to die for ignoring his concerns about wizards and extraterrestrials. The judge found Neill competent to stand trial and act as his own attorney despite a serious head injury. Authorities have noted a sharp rise in threats against elected officials nationwide. Threatening a public official is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

(–Earlier Reporting–)

Jury Deliberates; Man Says Threat to Lawmaker Was from God

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Jurors have started deliberating in the federal criminal case of a man who told them that a death threat he made against U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner came from God. Chase Neill said Thursday that the threat was prompted by the Kansas Republican ignoring concerns about sorcery, wizards, extraterrestrials and a war for people’s souls. Prosecutors say the 32-year-old from Lawrence fixated on LaTurner before leaving a voicemail at the congressman’s Topeka office saying “I will kill you.” Neill’s trial comes amid a sharp rise in reported threats against the nation’s lawmakers and their families. Testimony ended Thursday. If convicted, Neill could face 10 years in prison.

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Kansas Researcher Given Time Served in China-Related Case

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A former researcher accused of concealing work he did in China while employed by the University of Kansas was sentenced Wednesday to time served and two years of supervised release. Feng “Franklin” Tao was convicted last year of three counts of wire fraud and one count of making a false statement. A federal judge threw out the three wire fraud convictions but let the false statement conviction stand. Tao was accused of not disclosing that he was working for Fuzhou University in China while employed at the Kansas university. In announcing the sentence, U.S. District Court Judge Julie Robinson said Tao was deceptive about his work in China but the offense did not warrant a prison sentence.

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Canadian Company: Most of the Keystone Oil Spill in Kansas Cleaned Up

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Kan. (KNS) - The pipeline company that spilled nearly 600,000 gallons of crude oil in north-central Kansas says it has cleaned up most of it. The Kansas News Service reports that TC Energy estimated that it spilled 588,000 gallons of crude oil when the Keystone pipeline burst in early December, 2022. The company says more than 800 workers are on site and crews have recovered more than 85% of the oil. Much of the work is focused on Mill Creek, several miles of which are undergoing intensive cleanup.

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Johnson County Man Convicted of Murder in 2020 Overland Park Library Shooting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KSHB) - A Johnson County man has been convicted for shooting and killing another man outside the Johnson County Library in Overland Park in April of 2020. Police say they were called to the main branch of the library on reports of a shooting. KSHB-TV reports that the officers found 30-year-old Micah Babick in the parking lot. He was declared dead at the scene from a gunshot wound. Investigators arrested Dvonte Jamal Brown a week later, and charged him with first-degree murder. Wednesday, a jury found Brown guilty. He will be sentenced on March 29.

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Topeka Police Take Man into Custody After Standoff

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Police in Topeka have arrested a man after a standoff in the Oakland neighborhood in northeast Topeka. Police say Timothy Evertson was trying to break into a garage Wednesday afternoon. When officers arrived, they say Evertson started throwing rocks and knives at them. WIBW reports that Everston was taken into custody Wednesday night after an hours-long standoff. He is facing numerous charges including: Aggravated Burglary, Aggravated Assault of a Law Enforcement Officer and Criminal Damage to Property.

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Kansas Commerce Department Seeks Extension of APEX Incentives Program

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The Kansas Department of Commerce is asking lawmakers to extend a financial incentive program credited with helping the state attract a $4 billion Panasonic factory to be built in De Soto. The two-year APEX program is aimed at attracting major economic investments with tax breaks and other incentives. The incentives for the Panasonic plant could total more than $800 million. Currently the program is set to expire at the end of this year. Extending it would allow the state to make one additional deal in 2024. The state estimates that every dollar from APEX will generate about $26 in private investment. Senate Commerce Committee Chairwoman Renee Erickson says lawmakers will review whether to extend the program. “As much as I do not like incentives, we could either continue to lose out on opportunities or take a chance,” Erickson said. The state says there are discussions for other projects and wants the program extended for one additional year.

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Kansas Legislature to Consider Changes to Open School Enrollment

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Some Kansas lawmakers want to change a new law that would allow public school districts to reserve slots for the children of employees. An open enrollment measure passed last year allows students to transfer to any public school district with enough space to take them. But it does not give priority to children who want to attend a school where their parent works. The open enrollment measure was part of a larger bill on public school funding. Critics say some districts aren’t prepared for an influx of students, and others could lose students and the funding that goes with them.

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KBOR Approves Criminal Justice Program for Kansas State

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The Kansas Board of Regents has approved a new criminology degree program at Kansas State University, despite concerns about similar degrees being offered elsewhere in the state. Officials from Emporia State University opposed the move, saying Kansas doesn’t need another criminal justice program. The Regents recently ordered a study that showed hundreds of duplicate degree programs across the system. But Kansas State officials say duplication of programs isn’t necessarily a bad thing and students should be offered the opportunity to study the field of their choice without having to move to another school. Four of the state’s six major universities already offer four-year degrees in criminal justice. Kansas State will begin offering its program this fall.

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Topeka Teacher Surprised with $25,000 Milken Educator Award

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - A fourth grade teacher in Topeka has been honored with an educator award that comes with a $25,000 prize. Kristine Becker, of Logan Elementary, received the surprise today (WED) when she was presented with a national Milken Educator Award by the Milken Family Foundation. The award honors outstanding educators across the country for excellence in and out of the classroom. Milken Educator Awards Vice President Stephanie Bishop and Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson presented the award at a school-wide assembly in front of students, colleagues and local and state dignitaries. According to a news release from the Milken Family Foundation:

"In Becker’s fourth grade classroom, she creates immersive environments where students have so much fun, they hardly realize they are learning. A master of classroom transformations, Becker’s unit on branches of government results in the classroom becoming a courtroom, where students take on the roles of judge, plaintiff, defendant, jurors and attorneys as they learn about the judicial system. She has held mock elections to mirror the national presidential vote, built a fake campfire in the middle of her classroom-turned-campsite for science experiments, and created a spy headquarters with black lights and glow-in-the-dark accessories. During project-based learning, students plan and sell breakfast items as they explore entrepreneurship, and concepts like supply and demand. The students connect deeply with the curriculum while building a lifetime of memories, and these creative methods contribute to meaningful results: The school’s fourth grade student proficiency nearly doubled in ELA and more than doubled in math from 2019 to 2021."

Becker is a graduate of Emporia State University, earning a bachelor’s in elementary education in 2013 and a master’s in instructional coaching with a concentration in elementary STEM in 2016.

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Kansas Lawmakers Question Distribution Method of Special Ed Funding

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Special education funding for public schools in Kansas is distributed differently than most education spending. Some Republican senators are questioning whether that’s efficient. The amount of money each Kansas school receives is based on how many special education teachers and staff the school employs. It's not based on the number of students receiving the services. Craig Neuenswander, of the Department of Education, says that process makes sure schools can provide special education without yet knowing how many students will need it. “If somebody new moves in, you’re required to provide that service. So, you need money on hand to do that," he said. Schools are audited to see if they receive more money than needed. Democratic Governor Laura Kelly has proposed increasing special ed funding to reach the level required by state law. Schools without enough funding must cover the remaining costs.

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Kansas Among Few States Without Clinics to Treat Long COVID Symptoms

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - Clinics designed to treat the after-effects of COVID-19 are specialized clinics with the expertise for treating long COVID. But Kansas is one of the few states without a clinic for long-COVID patients. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in five American adults who had COVID-19 developed long COVID symptoms. That means about 200,000 Kansas residents are suffering from the syndrome. Kathryn Burke works with a support group for people with long COVID. She says the shortage of clinics in the state often leaves people in rural areas a very long drive away from a health care provider who might restore their lung capacity or clear their brain fog. “It is hard for people in more rural locations, less wealthy locations to be able to access long COVID care simply because the medical clinics and medical centers around them simply may not have the funding or the staffing to dedicate time and money towards long COVID clinics," she said. (Read more.)

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10 Librarians Nationwide Receive "I Love My Librarian" Awards

NEW YORK (AP/KPR) — This year's winners of the "I Love My Librarian Award" include a Manhattan woman. Tara Coleman, based at Kansas State University, has been leading a campus-wide common reading program. Coleman is one of 10 librarians selected as winners based on nominations from library users around the country. Each of the 10 honorees receives a $5,000 cash prize and a $750 travel stipend to attend the library association's LibLearnX event later this month in New Orleans. The awards are made possible by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and support from the New York Public Library. The awards were established in 2008. This year, judges at the library association chose the winners from more than 1,500 nominations.

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KU Women’s Basketball Team Overcomes Deficit to Beat West Virginia, 77-58

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) – The Kansas Jayhawks surged in the second-half of the women’s match opposite West Virginia to turn a 14-point halftime deficit into a 77-58 victory over the Mountaineers on Wednesday night at Allen Fieldhouse. The 14-point margin is the sixth-largest halftime deficit overcome in school history and the largest since KU came from 17 points down to defeat Texas Tech, 68-66, on January 21, 2015. The win improves the Jayhawks' record to 13-4 overall, and 3-3 in Big 12 play. Next, the KU women will plays their third nationally-ranked opponent in the past five games as they hit the road to face No. 18 Iowa State on Saturday, January 21. That game will tip off at 5:00 p.m. and be televised on ESPN+.

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Pederson, Reid Face Off Again as Jags Visit KC for Playoffs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Jacksonville coach Doug Pederson has known Chiefs counterpart Andy Reid for nearly three decades. He learned from him first as a player and later as a coach. The two have matched wits plenty of times since going separate ways with Reid's Chiefs beating his proteges' Jaguars in November. But never have they met with so much at stake. The winner of Saturday's rematch at Arrowhead Stadium will advance to the AFC title game. The Jaguars last made it there in 2017 when they lost for the third time in three tries at making the Super Bowl. The Chiefs will try to advance for the fourth straight year.

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AP Source: Royals, Chapman Agree on $3.75 Million Deal for 2023

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals and Aroldis Chapman have agreed to a $3.75 million, one-year contract. A person familiar with the deal confirmed the move to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the contract is pending a successful physical for the seven-time All-Star. Chapman was once among baseball’s most dynamic pitchers, known for consistently throwing 100 mph or more. But the left-hander, who will be 35 on opening day, is coming off the worst season of his 13-year career, going 4-4 with a 4.46 ERA for the Yankees in 2022 while raising questions about his dedication to his team.

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This summary of area news is curated by KPR news staffers. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays. These ad-free headlines are made possible by KPR members. Become one today. And follow KPR News on Twitter.