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Headlines for Friday, December 18, 2020

 

Spokeswoman: Kansas Governor Laura Kelly to Seek Second Term in 2022

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A spokeswoman says Kansas Governor Laura Kelly is running for reelection in 2022. Spokeswoman Lauren Fitzgerald confirmed the Democratic governor's plans four days after Kelly announced that Commerce Secretary David Toland also would serve as the state's next lieutenant governor. Toland was the treasurer for Kelly's 2018 campaign for governor and is highly regarded by some business leaders. Naming Toland lieutenant governor could position him for a future run for governor and prompted speculation that Kelly might not run again. In an emailed statement to The Associated Press, Fitzgerald said Kelly is focused on the coronavirus pandemic and the state's economic recovery, but "of course she is running for reelection."

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Kansas Tops 200,000 Cases of COVID-19 Since Start of Pandemic

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS/KPR) - The number of COVID-19 cases in Kansas has now crossed the 200,000 mark. Health officials reported Friday that Kansas had identified 200,426 cases of coronavirus and 2,341 virus-related deaths since the pandemic began.  That's an increase of 5,857 cases and 88 deaths since Wednesday.  Another update of Kansas COVID-19 cases is expected Monday. 

(-Related-)

Kansas Reports COVID-19 Death Surge Amid First Vaccine Shots

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — COVID-19 deaths have surged in Kansas in the past week and health statistics show nearly every part of the state has lost people to the disease caused by the coronavirus. Kansas averaged a record 45 new reported COVID-19 deaths per day for the seven days that ended Wednesday, according to data from the state Department of Health and Environment. The department reported 144 new deaths since Monday, pushing the state’s pandemic death toll to 2,253. Kansas received its first shipment of a vaccine made by Pfizer on Monday and began getting it to health care workers, prison workers and nursing home staff and residents.

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Some States Say Pfizer Vaccine Allotments Cut for Next Week

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — Several states say they have been told to expect far fewer doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in its second week of distribution. That's leading to worries about potential delays in shots for health care workers and long-term care residents. Officials in Kansas, Missouri, California, Washington state and Florida confirmed to the Sacramento Bee that they were told to expect fewer vaccine doses next week than they had anticipated. But senior Trump administration officials on Thursday downplayed the risk of delays. Two officials who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity are citing a confusion over semantics. Pfizer said its production levels have not changed. The first U.S. doses of the vaccine were administered Monday. Already this week, hundreds of thousands of people, mostly health care workers, have been vaccinated. The pace is expected to increase next week. 

(-Related-)

Rural Kansas Getting COVID-19 Vaccine; 2nd Round to Be Short

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Doses from the state's first shipment of a COVID-19 vaccine are arriving in rural Kansas for hospitals to administer to health care workers, though the state expects its second shipment to be smaller than anticipated. The state health department said Thursday that Kansas received its first full shipment of two doses of the Pfizer vaccine for 23,750 people. Agency spokeswoman Ashley Jones-Wisner says federal authorities initially told Kansas officials that it would get a second vaccine shipment of 29,000 doses next week, but the state has since learned it will receive 17,750 doses. She did not elaborate.

Governor 'OK' with 2nd Round of Shots; Kansas Economy Slumps

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Gov. Laura Kelly is expressing little concern over a smaller-than-expected second shipment of a coronavirus vaccine for Kansas. The governor added Friday that she expects the state’s plan for distributing shots in coming months to boost an economy that has slowed recently. Kelly said the reduction in the state’s second shipment of a vaccine made by Pfizer is “more of a smoothing process” by the federal government to make sure health care workers who received the first of two doses this week can get the second in January. Optimism about the vaccine comes amid bad economic news for the state. Claims for unemployment benefits have jumped in recent weeks.

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Investigators: Emails to Dodge City Mayor Weren't Threats

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Investigators have concluded that angry emails about mask requirements that prompted a Kansas mayor to resign did not directly threaten her safety. Dodge City Mayor Joyce Warshaw resigned Tuesday. City police, the city attorney and the Ford County prosecutor reviewed three emails sent to Warshaw. The Dodge City Daily Globe says the emails were written by a man in Kentucky who was upset the city didn't implement a mask requirement sooner. The mandate was imposed November 16. Warshaw said Thursday that she is relieved with the finding, but that she has received verbal and other communications that she finds concerning.

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Manhattan Man Arrested in Death of 2-Year-Old Child

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A 21-year-old Manhattan man has been arrested in the death of a 2-year-old child. The Riley County police say Gage Anderson was arrested Thursday. Officers went to Via Christi Hospital in Manhattan Thursday after receiving a report of a severely injured child. The child died later that day. The police department says Anderson and the child lived together. Anderson is being held at the Riley County Jail on a $500,000 bond. No further details were released.

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State Unemployment Rate Grew in November 

WICHITA, Kan. (Kansas News Service) - After falling for five consecutive months, the state’s unemployment rate grew in November. Kansas labor officials say the unemployment rate last month was 5.6 percent, which was up slightly from October. The state says about 86,000 Kansans are looking for work. The increase comes the same month in which two federal programs that provide more benefits to unemployed workers expire. The state’s unemployment rate jumped to 11.9 percent in April, but had fallen every month since. The unemployment rate in the Kansas City metro area was 5.0 percent; in the Topeka area 5.4 percent, and in Wichita 7.2 percent.

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UPDATE: Report Shows Kansas Officer Denied Black Man Was Run Over

UNDATED (AP) — An attorney representing a Black man who was run over by a sheriff’s patrol truck as he ran across a field says law enforcement authorities have engaged in a cover-up that began as soon as emergency medical personnel arrived. Lionel Womack alleges in a lawsuit filed Thursday that Kiowa County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremy Rodriguez intentionally drove over him during the Aug. 15 incident that was captured on dashcam video. His attorney Friday released a copy of the report from emergency medical responders which show the undersheriff at the time denied to a paramedic that Womack had been run over.

(–Earlier Reporting–)

Deputy Runs over Fleeing Black Man in Kansas Field

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas sheriff's deputy is the subject of a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging excessive force. Dashcam video shows Kiowa County Sheriff's Deputy Jeremy Rodriguez mowing down Lionel Womack as he runs, shirtless, across a dark field in August. The lawsuit, filed Thursday, says the deputy intentionally ran Womack down in pursuit of "an alleged traffic violation.'' The lawsuit says Womack sustained serious injuries to his back, pelvis and thigh as well as to his right knee, ankle and foot. Rodriguez remains on patrol and Kiowa County Sheriff Chris Tedder has not responded to Associated Press requests for comment. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation said it didn’t learn of the incident until September, at which point it offered to help the Kiowa County Attorney’s Office in an investigation. The office declined that offer. The KBI viewed the dashcam video for the first time on Thursday and again reached out to prosecutors. They will now be providing investigative support to the Kansas Attorney General’s Office in a review of the incident, according to KBI spokeswoman Melissa Underwood. 

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Child Welfare Contractor Spent $80,000 on Cubs Tickets

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A whistleblower says a cash-strapped Kansas foster care contractor spent $80,000 on tickets to see the Chicago Cubs, a club owned by the Nebraska governor's family, as it sought new business in that state. St. Francis Ministries of Wichita bought the tickets in 2019. That same year, the agency was awarded a $197 million, five-year contract from the state of Nebraska to oversee the care of abused and neglected children in the Omaha area. The Omaha World-Herald reports that Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services says St. Francis won the contract because it presented the best bid.

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Kansas ACLU Sues Secretary of State Over Provisional Ballot Information

LAWRENCE, Kan. (Kansas News Service) – The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the top elections official in Kansas for not releasing information on provisional ballots.  The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of Loud Light, a Topeka nonprofit. The group tried to obtain information on provisional ballots, given to people who don’t have an ID, change their name or have other issues at the polls. But Secretary of State Scott Schwab’s office has declined to provide the records, saying it’s not able to access them. The ACLU argues the information on the ballots is of high public interest and should be released. Schwab’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Topeka City Council Bans Discrimination Against LGBTQ Persons

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Topeka City Council has voted to ban discrimination based on gender identity, sexual orientation and veteran status. The council on Tuesday unanimously approved banning discrimination for LGBTQ and veterans in work, housing and public accommodations. A first offense carries a possible $1,000 fine and six months in jail. A second offense carries a possible $2,500 fine and a year in jail.  The ordinance also was updated to prevent discrimination through telecommunication devices, which includes harassment over social media.

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Kansas City Approves LGBTQ Commission to Advise City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City officials have created a commission to advise them on policies affecting the city's LGBTQ citizens. The City Council voted Thursday to create the commission, which will include community members appointed by the mayor and council. Supporters said the commission will advise on issues such as economic opportunities, health, safety and quality of life. The legislation creating the commission had stalled for weeks as officials disagreed on whether it should work with the council or to the Human Rights Commission. Supporters said the new commission was meant to advise the council, while the Human Rights Commission investigates specific instances of discrimination.

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Housing and Dining Fees at State Universities Won't Rise Next Year

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The six state universities in Kansas will not raise on-campus housing and dining fees next year. The Kansas Board of Regents voted on Wednesday to keep those fees flat, despite higher costs and fewer students because of the coronavirus pandemic. University officials told the regents the schools need to keep costs affordable for students. The regents also appointed a committee to begin the search for a new Wichita State University president. Former president Jay Golden resigned abruptly in September, after he was criticized for retracting an invitation to Ivanka Trump to speak at the school. 

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Missouri High School Coach Charged with Sex Crimes 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Prosecutors in Jackson County, Missouri, have charged a high school football coach with sex crimes involving a minor teenager that allegedly occurred more than a decade ago. Forty-three-year-old Joshua Hood was charged Wednesday with eight counts including statutory sodomy and second-degree statutory rape. Hood is currently football coach at Park Hill High School. He was a teacher and coach at Holden High School when the alleged crimes occurred in 2003 and 2004. Prosecutors say a woman reported in April that she had sexual encounters with Hood while she was a student at Holden and younger than 17. Hood's attorney says his client denies the allegations. 

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NBAF Delayed - National Bio-Defense Lab Completion Date Moved to October 2021

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Federal officials say it will likely be October 2021 before a national biosecurity lab in Manhattan is substantially completed. National officials announced in April that The National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) would not be completed as expected by December because of disruptions in supply chains and construction employee availability caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The federal Department of Agriculture and Department of Homeland Security announced Tuesday the new “substantial completion” date is now October. That is when the USDA will have full access to the plant and be responsible for its operation. The new date will also allow time to address necessary technology upgrades and installation of USDA-funded equipment.

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Wichita on Pace in 2020 to Set Record for Homicides

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita recorded this year's 56th homicide on Monday, one short of the record set in 1993. Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay says the city is like many others across the country that have seen a sharp rise in violent crime this year. Ramsay attributes the increase to a variety of sources, including stress caused by the coronavirus pandemic, record levels of unemployment, COVID-19-related delays in court proceedings and a surge in gun violence. Ramsay said 42 of the deaths have been attributed to guns. Another 11 involved drugs and 12 were related to domestic violence. Wichita had 44 homicides in 2018 and 2019, which was the highest number since 1995.

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Dozens of States, Including Kansas, File Anti-Trust Lawsuit Against Google

DENVER (AP) — Dozens of states filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Google on Thursday, alleging that the search giant has an illegal monopoly over the online search market that hurts consumers and advertisers. The lawsuit was announced by Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and was filed in federal court in Washington, D.C. by states represented by bipartisan attorneys general. The lawsuit was joined by the attorneys general of 34 other states including Kansas, as well as the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico. The case is the third antitrust salvo to slam Google during the past two months as the Department of Justice and attorneys general from across the U.S. weigh in with their different variations on how they believe the company is abusing its immense power

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Government Ordered to Pay Landowners on Lower Missouri River

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A judge has ruled that the federal government must pay landowners on the lower Missouri River for flooding damage caused by the Army Corps of Engineers' efforts to protect endangered species. Judge Nancy Firestone, with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, ruled this week that the Corps caused increased flooding by changing habitat on the river to comply with the Endangered Species Act. She says that violated constitutional protections against taking property without compensation. The ruling affects property owners from Sioux City, Iowa, to St. Louis, although not all landowners will qualify for payments. The ruling doesn't cover all flood-related damages.

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Cyberattack on Independence Systems Causes Bill-Paying Delay

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — A ransomware attack on the city of Independence, Missouri's computer systems has left some residents unable to pay their utility bills. Officials in the Kansas City suburb say the cyberattack occurred last week. City Manager Zach Walker tells KSHB that 90% of the billing issues plaguing the city trace back to the cyberattack, which has left customers unable to pay their utility bills online and has caused a delay in bills being delivered by mail. Walker says staff is working to restore all city systems. He could not say whether any customer's personal information was compromised in the attack, but says the city is working to find out.

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Mail Carrier Indicted for Stealing Mail, Checks

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A U.S. Post Service worker has been indicted on charges alleging that he stole mail from customers along his Kansas City, Missouri, route and deposited the checks he found into his own bank account. The U.S. attorney’s office said in a news release that 21-year-old Lane Snider, of Kansas City, Kansas, was charged with one count of stealing mail while he worked for the postal service from June through August. He also is charged with 12 counts of bank fraud related to the deposit of a stolen check, in amounts ranging from $25 to $500.

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Bankers Say Economy Improving in Rural Parts of 10 States

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new monthly survey of bankers suggests the economy is improving in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states. But Creighton University economist Ernie Goss said the region still has about 95,000 fewer jobs than it did before the pandemic began, and it will take many months of growth to erase all the job losses. The overall index for the region improved to 51.6 in December from November’s 46.8. Any score above 50 suggests a growing economy while a score below 50 suggests a shrinking economy. Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.

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No. 5 Kansas Jayhawks Win 30th Straight League Opener at Texas Tech

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Ochai Agbaji made the go-ahead layup with 13 seconds left and finished with 23 points as No. 5 Kansas beat No. 14 Texas Tech 58-57. The win was the 30th in a row for the Jayhawks in a conference opener. Agbaji made four 3-pointers but got the game-winning points for the 7-1 Jayhawks when he worked inside and took an inbound pass from Marcus Garrett. Texas Tech had one more chance, but Terrence Shannon's mid-range jumper was blocked by Jalen Wilson to end the game. Shannon had 20 points with four 3s for the 6-2 Red Raiders, while Mac McClung had 21 points.

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Kansas State Latest to Skip Bowl Game Due to COVID-19

UNDATED (AP) - At least five Power Five teams have now withdrawn from consideration for a bowl game. Kansas State is the latest. The school has paused all football activities indefinitely amid an outbreak of positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing. The First Responders Bowl in Texas was the likely destination for Kansas State. The Wildcats are the first Big 12 team to withdraw. They join three ACC teams — Boston College, Virginia and Pittsburgh — and Stanford out of the Pac-12.

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KU Athletic Director Gives Miles Vote of Support After Winless Season

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas football coach Les Miles has received a vote of confidence from athletic director Jeff Long. The Jayhawks just finished their second winless season since the 1950s. Long says it was disappointing, but building a program takes time. He says some of the problems were related to the pandemic. Miles went 3-9 his first season before the step back this year. Miles will be heading into the third year of a five-year deal that pays him $2,775,000 annually.

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Chiefs Visit Saints for Potential Super Bowl Preview

UNDATED (AP) — The defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs are trying to remain the top team in the AFC when NFL-leading passer Patrick Mahomes takes Kansas City into New Orleans on Sunday. The Chiefs already have wrapped up the AFC West title for a franchise-record fifth straight time. But this season only the top seed in each conference gets a first-round playoff bye. The Saints could clinch the NFC South for a fourth straight time this weekend with a win or Tampa Bay loss. But New Orleans hurt its chances of securing the top seed in the NFC by losing in Philadelphia last week.

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Kansas City Chiefs' Tight End Kelce Rewriting Record Book During Special Season

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — With six 100-yard receiving games already, the Chiefs' Travis Kelce is poised to become the first tight end in NFL history to lead the league in receiving. He has 1,250 yards with three games still to play, giving him a 70-yard lead over Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf and another 13 yards over the Buffalo Bills’ Stefon Diggs — oh, and teammate Tyreek Hill is at 1,158 yards. Kelce is having just as special a year off the field, too. He was recently made the Chiefs nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for his work with children from impoverished backgrounds.

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