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Headlines for Friday, May 21, 2021

FBI Employee in KC Accused of Storing Classified Documents at Home

WASHINGTON (AP) - An FBI employee in Kansas City has been indicted on charges that she stored classified documents and other national security information at home over the course of more than a decade. The Justice Department says 48-year-old Kendra Kingsbury, of Dodge City, had unauthorized possession of a broad swath of sensitive government documents, including materials that describe FBI sources and methods and that contain information about operatives such as a suspected associate of Osama bin Laden. Kingsbury worked as an intelligence analyst in the FBI's Kansas City office for 12 years until her suspension in 2017.

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Kansas Governor Signs Welfare Measure Named for Murdered Boy
 
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The child welfare department in Kansas and law enforcement officers soon will be required to visually observe a child when they're investigating allegations of abuse or neglect. Governor Laura Kelly has signed a measure known as "Adrian's Law" that will take effect by mid-June. The new law is named for a 7-year-old Kansas City, Kansas boy whose body was fed to pigs after he was starved, tortured and murdered. Department for Children and Families records released in 2017 showed that the department did not have physical contact with the boy after February 2012. The new law also creates a joint legislative oversight committee on child welfare.

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Kansas Governor Signs Budget Bills with Extra Money for Education, State Health Department and Court System

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Budget legislation signed by Governor Laura Kelly increases funding for Kansas courts, provides extra dollars for higher education and funds a new state health laboratory. The measure signed today (FRI) contains a piece of a nearly $21 billion spending blueprint for state government for the budget year beginning July 1. The measure includes an additional $53 million for state universities and colleges and $17 million to increase pay for Kansas court employees and the hiring of 70 new court services officers. The budget measure also authorizes $120 million in bonds to renovate an office building near the Statehouse and $65 million in bonds for a new state Department of Health and Environment lab.

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Kansas Governor Vetoes GOP COVID-19 Relief Plan for Businesses

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Democratic Governor Laura Kelly has vetoed a Republican proposal to set aside hundreds of millions of the federal coronavirus relief dollars received by Kansas to compensate small businesses. The plan Kelly rejected Friday was meant to help businesses that faced restrictions earlier in the pandemic. Kelly said she is not opposed to compensating businesses after the state, cities or counties forced them to shut down or limited their operations. But she said the GOP plan's process for paying claims wasn't open enough and the measure might violate federal law. Her action was certain to spark criticism from the Republican-controlled Legislature.

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KBI: Nebraska Man Dies After He is Purposely Hit by a Car

HOLLENBERG, Kan. (AP) - Kansas authorities say a Nebraska man died when he was intentionally hit by a car during an argument with the driver. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says officers were called Thursday to a home in Hollenberg, in northeast Kansas. Deputies found 32-year-old James Hicok, of Steele City, Nebraska, dead in a street. A preliminary investigation indicates Hicok and another man argued with the driver of a car that drove by the home several times. The KBI says investigators believe the driver, 25-year-old Aaron Milldyke of Hollenberg. intentionally hit Hicok. Milldyke is being held in the Washington County jail on a possible charge of second-degree murder.  

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Kansas Governor Vetoes Insurance Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas Democratic Governor Laura Kelly has vetoed a bill that would have let certain types of health insurance plans sidestep regulations. The bill would have expanded short-term insurance plans that would not be governed by the same rules as traditional health insurance. Supporters said it would give people an affordable insurance option. Kelly called them "junk plans." For example, the plans would not have to cover preexisting conditions. Kelly called for Medicaid expansion instead. Lawmakers could consider a veto override next week, but the bill did not pass with enough votes for an override.

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Kansas Senator Pushes Bill to End Embargo with Cuba

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas GOP Senator Jerry Moran is joining a bipartisan effort to lift the trade embargo against Cuba. The U.S. does some trade with Cuba, but it’s a small amount and decades-old restrictions still remain. Moran has joined with two Democratic senators in sponsoring a bill that would fully open commercial trade. Moran says with Cuba being only 90 miles off the U.S. coast, it could be an important market for Kansas products like wheat, beef and manufactured goods. Some estimates say Cuba could buy up to $800 million in farm products over five years. Moran also introduced a bill to open trade in 2017, but this time he’s trying with bipartisan legislation.

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Chase County Man Faces 155 Child Pornography Charges

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) - Prosecutors say a 71-year-old Chase County man is jailed on 155 counts, after child pornography was found in his home. Leland Zachariah Taylor, of Cedar Point, has been charged with sexual exploitation of a child. The Chase County Sheriff's office says deputies were called to Taylor's home on May 8 by Taylor's son and the son's girlfriend. They reported finding the child porn on his laptop and flash drive as they were cleaning his home. Taylor was hospitalized at the time recovering from injuries suffered in a car crash. He is currently jailed in Chase County. His next court appearance is set for Monday.

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Kansas Man Arrested in 38-Year-Old Southeast Texas Slaying

CONROE, Texas (AP) _ Authorities in southeast Texas say a 75-year-old Kansas City, Kansas, man has been arrested on a murder warrant in a nearly four-decade old case. Authorities in Montgomery County, Texas, say Thomas Elvin Darnell was arrested Monday in Kansas. Darnell is now being held in the Montgomery County jail without bond in the 1983 death of Laura Purchase after DNA connected Darnell to the crime.

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Hutchinson Woman Pleads Guilty in Fatal Crash

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - A 31-year-old Hutchinson woman has accepted a plea deal in a crash that killed one person and injured six others. Viola Rhodes pleaded guilty this week to involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence and six counts of aggravated battery. In exchange, prosecutors agreed not to charge her with reckless second-degree murder. Investigators said Rhodes was driving toward Hutchinson on December 5 when her vehicle ran off the road and overturned. One passenger, 44-year-old Brian Bookout, was thrown from the car and later died from his injuries. Two other people were hospitalized and four others were treated at the scene. Sentencing is scheduled for July 9.  

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Missouri Woman Dies After She Was Attacked by a Cow

HARRIS, Mo. (AP) - A rural north-central Missouri woman has died after being attacked by a mother cow. KTVO-TV reports that 76-year-old Jane Heisey died Thursday morning on a farm near the Sullivan County town of Harris. Sullivan County Coroner Bob Wyant says Heisey and her husband, Glenn, were in a lot near their house trying to put an ear tag on a newborn calf. The mother cow knocked Heisey to the ground and stepped on her head. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Harris is about 120 miles northeast of Kansas City, Missouri.

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Southeast Kansas Woman Admits to Fraudulently Taking $87,000 in Benefits

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A woman in southeast Kansas has been sentenced to three years' probation and ordered to repay nearly $87,000 she fraudulently collected in Social Security benefits for children who did not live with her. Federal prosecutors say Teresa Grant, of Arkansas City, was sentenced earlier this month after she pleaded guilty to one count of unauthorized acquisition of Social Security Administration benefits. In exchange for her plea, federal prosecutors dropped two other counts.

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Organizations Ask to Be Removed from Federal Benefits Letter

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Some organizations listed on a letter asking Governor Laura Kelly to end federal unemployment benefits now want to be taken off that letter, with some saying they didn’t know they had signed on in the first place.  A handful of organizations have requested to be removed from the letter, including a library and the Wichita YMCA. Employees at these organizations may have believed they were expressing their own personal opinion but included their groups on the letter.  The original letter featured almost 200 organizations.  Republicans and business groups have urged the governor to opt-out of the additional $300 per week benefit because they say it’s keeping workers at home and making it harder to fill jobs.

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UPDATED: Kansas COVID-19 Case Count Reaches Nearly 313,000; Death Toll Rises to 5,057

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment(KDHE) reports today (FRI) that there have been 312,997 COVID-19 cases in Kansas, including 5,057 virus-related deaths, since the pandemic began. That's an increase of 406 cases and four deaths since Wednesday. Another update on case numbers is expected Monday.

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Fewer Residents Vaccinated in Rural Areas

UNDATED (HPM) - Harvest Public Media reports that fewer rural people are vaccinated than their urban counterparts. The disparity is about seven percentage points, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alan Morgan is the CEO of the National Rural Health Association. He says if this trend continues, it could be a deadly summer in rural America. “This really has the potential of the rest of America moving on from the pandemic, while we see rural America still struggling with this for the next year," he said. Morgan says rural Americans are still facing issues surrounding vaccine access. He also says messaging from the federal government needs to be more targeted to rural communities.

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Drop in Demand Prompts Kansas to Change COVID-19 Vaccine Strategy 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is changing its strategy for reaching herd immunity from COVID-19 from holding mass immunization clinics to doctor's offices and pharmacies give shots. Public health officials say the change will make getting the shots more convenient for some people or tap into their existing trust in their doctors to overcome hesitation about getting vaccinated. Kansas has seen its rate of vaccinations drop. It has ratcheted back on ordering more shots from the federal government. This week, Kansas sought only 2.3% of its allotment. The state health department is now allowing health care providers to order as little as a single vial of the vaccine at a time.

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KHI Report Sheds Light on Vaccine Hesitancy in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - A new survey shows fewer Kansans are uncertain about getting a COVID-19 vaccine, but at the same time there’s more worry about possible side effects. Federal data compiled by the Kansas Health Institute shows 22% of Kansans were uncertain about getting the vaccine in April. That's down from 30% in March. After use of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine was temporarily paused for a safety study, the number of respondents concerned about possible side effects increased by 15 percentage points. Kansas Health Institute analyst Emily Burgen says more needs to be done to convince people that the vaccines are safe. "That Johnson and Johnson pause, even though it is a normal part of clinical trials, really affected how people are viewing all three vaccines - and not just the Johnson and Johnson vaccine,” she said. According to the KHI study, the percentage of people who said they definitely would not get the vaccine has remained steady at about 8%.

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Douglas County Commission Keeps Mask Mandate Intact

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - The Douglas County Commission has decided to keep the county-wide mask mandate in place... for now. The Lawrence Journal World reports that the public health department recommended that the county rescind the mask mandate, but commissioners decided Wednesday night to to let the order remain in place and to discuss it again at their meeting next week. Douglas and Wyandotte are the only two Kansas counties with mask mandates still in place.

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YouTube Bans Kansas School Board's Video over COVID Comments

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas public school district is trying to figure out how to keep school board meetings accessible online without hindering public comments. The discussions in the Shawnee Mission school district in Johnson County are coming after YouTube concluded that video of a recent meeting spread misinformation about COVID-19 and removed it. More than 20 residents of the school district and Republican State Senator Mike Thompson of Shawnee attended the Shawnee Mission school board's meeting Monday. Several district residents have spread misinformation at government meetings during the past year. But Shawnee Mission district spokesperson David Smith said it was the first time a district video was removed. YouTube uses a list of community guidelines to decide which videos to remove. The list includes a ban on falsehoods about COVID-19 including that the virus is not real or that children cannot get infected.

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KC Southern Takes Buyout from Canadian National Railway

NEW YORK (AP) _ Kansas City Southern has abandoned its agreement to be acquired by Canadian Pacific, choosing instead to accept a competing bid from Canadian National Railway. The competing bid comes with a bigger price tag, but also greater regulatory risks. Pending regulatory approval, today's (FRI) decision appears to mean Kansas City Southern will be acquired by Canadian National Railway for $34 billion.  

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Kansas Governor Pressured to Nix Extra Unemployment Funding

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Democratic Governor Laura Kelly is facing increasing pressure from companies, business groups and prominent Republicans to have Kansas stop paying an extra $300 a week in benefits to unemployed workers. The top three Republicans in the Kansas House are calling on Kelly to end the additional benefits. They did so in response to a letter to the governor from the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and 180 organizations arguing that many businesses are having problems hiring workers to "return to full capacity" following coronavirus pandemic restrictions. Some unemployed workers say the extra benefit has allowed them more time to look for work and put pressure on employers to raise wages. Kelly has said she's reviewing the issue.  

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U.S. Jobless Claims Fall Again as Some States End Federal Aid

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid fell last week to 444,000, a new pandemic low and a sign that the job market keeps strengthening as consumers spend freely again, viral infections drop and business restrictions ease. The data release coincides with rapid moves by nearly all the nation's Republican governors to cut off a $300-a-week federal unemployment benefit that they and many business executives blame for discouraging the unemployed from seeking jobs. Most of the same states are also dropping out of federal programs that provided benefits to those who are self-employed and to those who have been unemployed for longer than six months.

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Bankers Survey for Parts of 10 States Hits New Record High

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The index of a newly released monthly survey of bankers in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states has hit a new record high, just two months after hitting its previous record high. The overall index of the Rural Mainstreet Survey for May reached 78.8. That's nearly 7 points higher than the previous record set in March. Any score above 50 suggests a growing economy. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss credits gains in grain prices, record-low interest rates and growing exports, but said labor shortages are holding back the rural economy. Bankers from Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.

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USDA Begins Paying Off Loans of Minority Farmers in June

UNDATED (AP) - Minority farmers who for decades have faced systemic discrimination will begin to receive debt relief beginning in early June under what Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack calls one of the most significant pieces of civil rights legislation in decades. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency has published the first notice of funding availability under the American Rescue Plan Act for borrowers with qualifying direct farm loans. A subsequent notice for farmers with government-guaranteed loans held by private lenders will be published within 120 days. Vilsack has called the debt relief a "major civil rights victory," saying it responds to systemic discrimination perpetrated against farmers and ranchers of color by the Agriculture Department.  

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Kansas City Adopts New Funding Formula for Police Department

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The City Council of Kansas City swiftly approved two ordinances that reallocate a portion of the police department's budget to a new fund. The council's approval came just hours after Mayor Quinton Lucas announced ordinances that will reallocate about $44 million of the police department's budget to focus on new strategies to address violent crime. It sets up potential negotiations between the city council and the Board of Police Commissioners over how to use the new fund. Police Chief Rick Smith said he was disappointed that the mayor did not discuss the proposals with police officials before announcing them.

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New WSU President Will Receive Same Salary as Previous President

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - Wichita State University’s new president will make the same pay as the man he replaced. Rick Muma will make $450,000 a year, according to documents obtained through a records request. That’s the same as previous president Jay Golden, who resigned abruptly last fall. That makes Muma the third highest paid college president in Kansas. KU Chancellor Doug Girod makes about $650,000 a year; Kansas State president Richard Myers’ salary is just over $600,000. Muma will also live in the president’s home on campus and get a vehicle paid for by the WSU foundation. Wichita State is still paying former president Golden through June for “consulting services,” according to the terms of his resignation.

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Man Charged in Killing of Kansas City Personal Trainer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A 29-year-old man is charged with first-degree murder in a shooting death in Kansas City's historic 18th & Vine district. Jerronn Anderson has been charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the killing of 34-year-old Gary Taylor on April 25. Three other people were shot and injured. Prosecutors said surveillance video showed Taylor walking with two friends shortly before the shooting when Anderson approached and shot Taylor. Prosecutors said Taylor's friends began shooting toward Anderson, who fled and then later showed up at a hospital with a gunshot wound. Prosecutors asked that Anderson's bond be set at $250,000.

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Annual Kansas Wheat Harvest Tour Wraps

LENEXA, Kan. (KNS) - The annual Kansas wheat tour finished this week, and experts predict that wheat farmers will see a slightly above average yield this year. Over the course of three days about 45 people traveled across the state to assess this year's wheat crop. The Kansas Wheat Quality Council organized the tour. The council reports that the projected yield from this year is expected to be about 58 bushels per-acre. That's slightly higher than the recent average which has hovered around 50 bushels per-acre. This year's tour was held several weeks later than normal which helped participants get a better idea of crop conditions. Observers found evidence of drought stress in several fields, especially in south central and southwest Kansas. They also noted several cases of stripe rust, a disease that could ultimately impact yields. The group is predicting that a total of 365 million bushels will be harvested in the state, which would be slightly higher than the past few years.

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Wichita Police: 2nd Video Sighting of Mountain Lion Confirmed

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Another mountain lion sighting has been captured on a doorbell camera in the Wichita area. Kansas wildlife officials suspect it's the same big cat that was caught on camera last week sauntering through a Wichita alley. The most recent video was captured Tuesday night, showing the cat walking along a sidewalk in front of a house in Andover. That's about 12 miles away from the site in Wichita's Riverside neighborhood where a doorbell camera captured a cougar trotting through an alley early in the morning on May 10. State wildlife biologist Matt Peek confirmed the cat in the latest video is a mountain lion and likely the same one as spotted last week.

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Kansas Statehouse, History Museum Will Reopen to the Public in June

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Statehouse and the state Museum of History in Topeka will reopen to visitors next month. The reopening of both buildings was announced Wednesday by the State Historical Society. The society provides tours in the Statehouse near downtown Topeka and operates the museum in west Topeka. Both had been closed to the public because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Statehouse visitor center will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday starting June 1. The Museum of History will reopen June 2, with visitors allowed from 10 am to 4 pm Wednesday through Saturday. 

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New Missouri License Plate to Honor Negro Leagues Museum

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missourians will soon be able to purchase license plates highlighting the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, after Gov. Mike Parson signed legislation creating the plate. The museum was founded in 1990 and spotlights the league that began play in 1920 and remained popular through the 1940s. Major League Baseball's color barrier was broken when Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. On Saturday, Parson will hold a ceremonial bill signing for the plate at Kauffman Stadium before a Royals game. 

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