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Headlines for Friday, October 16, 2020

 

Kansas Tops 70,000 COVID-19 Cases, Including 859 Virus-Related Deaths

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - State health officials say Kansas has recorded more than 70,000 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. The Department of Health and Environment reported today (FRI) that the state had 70,855 cases, including 859 deaths. That's an increase of 1,700 cases and 21 deaths since Wednesday. The next update will be released Monday afternoon. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment releases new numbers on the spread of the virus on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 

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Hospital Puts Brakes on Some Procedures as Virus Cases Climb

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A hospital in southeast Kansas is putting the brakes on some procedures as coronavirus cases continue to climb steadily statewide and the positivity rate tops 17%. Randy Cason, President of Ascension Via Christi Hospital in Pittsburg, said this week in a statement that the plan to pause elective and non-emergency procedures will allow leaders to reallocate staff to help care for an influx of patients. The state Department of Health and Environment said Kansas had 1,700 new confirmed or probable cases since Wednesday, a 2.5% increase that brought the total for the pandemic to 70,855. The state also said the number of deaths increased by 21 to 859.

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Federal Government Sends New "Paper Strip" Coronavirus Tests to Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) —Kansas has received 100 thousand paper-strip COVID tests from the federal government, but is still figuring out how to distribute them.  The paper-strip tests are useful because a machine is not needed to get results. Health experts say the tests won’t catch as many cases as lab tests can, but are very effective in large numbers. A school, for example, might want to test half the students once or twice a week. That would take millions of tests across the state so experts recommend focusing on hotspots first and the state is figuring out which K-12 schools to prioritize. The federal government has begun sending the machine-free tests to Kansas nursing homes, too.

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Department of Labor Reports Progress in Processing Unemployment Claims

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The Kansas Department of Labor says the massive backlog of unemployment claims that piled up at the beginning of the pandemic has been cut in half.  There were about 25,000 unemployment claims in the backlog in August, delaying payments for some Kansans. That’s now down to about 14,000 and acting Labor Secretary Ryan Wright says he hopes to have cleared those in the next six weeks. The agency has brought in about 200 temporary workers at a cost of $20 million, but federal funding is paying for most of the cost. Wright also says the agency found 100,000 cases of unemployment fraud during the coronavirus pandemic. One of the new federal unemployment programs created in response to the pandemic is open to more workers than traditional unemployment, which created an opening for scammers to file fake claims using stolen personal information. Wright says Kansans should watch for letters about unemployment payments they weren’t expecting. Anyone who may have been the victim of unemployment fraud should report it to the agency at reportfraud.ks.gov. 

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Amazon Plans Large Fulfillment Centers in KCK, Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Amazon is planning to build two fulfillment centers in Kansas and says the centers will create a combined 1,000 jobs — 500 in each location. The online retailer announced the expansion Friday, with new one-million-square-foot centers in Kansas City, Kansas, and in Park City, near Wichita. Both are expected to open next year. Amazon already operates more than 110 fulfillment centers across North America, and already has one in Kansas City, Kansas, as well as in the Kansas towns of Lenexa and Edgerton. Amazon also recently selected a Wichita site for another distribution center. That 140,000-square-foot delivery station opens later this year.

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Amazon Plans Large Warehouse in Wichita Area

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The online retailer Amazon plans a one million-square-foot fulfillment center in the Wichita area. The Wichita Eagle reported Friday that the center will be in Park City and will be similar to one in Kansas City, Kansas. Alicia Boler Davis, Amazon’s vice president of global customer fulfillment, said the company is “excited to continue our growth and investment across Kansas so we can better serve our customers throughout the state.” Amazon also recently selected a Wichita site for another distribution center. That 140,000-square-foot delivery station opens later this year. The Park City center will open in 2021.

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Democratic Kansas Senate Candidate Outraises GOP Pick

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Democratic Senate candidate in Kansas is massively out-fundraising the Republican hopeful in an unexpectedly tough race in the conservative state. Campaign finance reports filed Thursday show Republican Roger Marshall raised close to $2.7 million from mid-July through September. Democrat Barbara Bollier brought in roughly five times that amount in the same time frame. Her recent haul was nearly $12.5 million. Bollier is a Kansas City-area state senator who was a lifelong Republican before she switched parties at the end of 2018. Marshall is a two-term congressman for central and western Kansas.

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Kansas Congressional Candidates Scuffle over Police Reform

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Republican state treasurer and Democratic Topeka mayor who are running for the open seat in Kansas’s 2nd Congressional District clashed over police reform and racial justice in a debate. Jake LaTurner, the state’s treasurer, was on the attack for much of the 30-minute debate, televised by KSNT in Topeka. The Kansas City Star reports that he accused Michelle De La Isla, Topeka’s first Latina mayor, of holding “radical” beliefs such as defunding police. De La Isla said she does “not support defunding the police” and called a LaTurner ad that suggested she was actively doing so in Topeka “distasteful and full of lies."

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Racist Comments Flood Online Kansas State Diversity Event

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A virtual diversity event at Kansas State University was flooded with racist comments after a white student who caused an uproar earlier this year with a racist tweet about George Floyd shared a link to the Zoom call with his followers. The Manhattan Mercury reports that the executive board of the KSU Young Democrats blamed followers of Jaden McNeil for disrupting Tuesday’s KSUnite event in a tweet and demanded that he be expelled. A university spokesman told The Associated Press on Thursday that the disruption was so severe that the moderators had to disable the chat function for participants.

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Kansas Liquor Sales Rise During Pandemic

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Business is booming for one segment of the economy in Kansas during the coronavirus pandemic: liquor stores. The Wichita Eagle reports that tax collections on liquor sales at stores are up 17.9% from July to September compared to last year, according to data from the Kansas Department of Revenue. It's not just Kansas. The data organization Nielsen says liquor sales at stores are up 22.7% nationwide from March 1 through mid-September compared to the same time last year. The surge in alcohol sales comes as bars and restaurants have taken a severe hit due to the pandemic. 

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Feds to Execute Kansas Woman Who Killed Victim, Cut Baby from Womb

WASHINGTON (AP) — A woman convicted of fatally strangling a pregnant woman, cutting her body open and kidnapping her baby is scheduled to be the first female inmate put to death by the U.S. government in more than six decades. The Justice Department says Lisa Montgomery, from Osage County, Kansas, is scheduled to be executed December 8 in Terre Haute, Indiana. She'd be the ninth inmate to put to death since the federal government resumed executions in July after a nearly 20-year hiatus. Montgomery was convicted in 2007 of kidnapping resulting in death for killing Bobbie Jo Stinnett of Skidmore, Missouri, and was sentenced to death. Officials also scheduled the execution of Brandon Bernard for Dec. 10. He was convicted in the 1999 killing of two youth ministers in Texas, and a co-defendant in his case was executed last month.

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'Black Lives Matter' Painting to Be Removed from Parking Lot

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Officials plan to wash away the words “Black Lives Matter” from a Topeka parking lot because the yellow block letters were painted without permission in a decision that has angered activists. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the phrase appeared in June on the main lot in the North Topeka Arts District. Shawnee County commissioner Bill Riphahn says the Parks and Recreation department is removing it next week, but organizers can ask to get a new, county-approved mural. Topeka resident Ariane Davis says she cried after hearing the painting was being removed and is focusing on creating a new one.

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Former Kansas Teacher Charged in Second Child Sex Crime Case

MCLOUTH, Kan. (AP) — A former northeast Kansas high school science teacher has been charged in a second child sex crime case. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that after the initial case was filed in May, Anthony Kuckelman was charged in a second case involving a different student with electronic solicitation of a minor, attempted unlawful sexual relations and promoting obscenity to minors. The student from the first case also has filed a civil case that was moved this week from state to federal court. The suit alleges that Kuckelman began sexually assaulting her when she was in his science class at McLouth High School.

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Protesters Disrupt Kansas City Eviction Hearings

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Protesters in Kansas City, Missouri, chained themselves to the doors of a downtown courthouse and shut down virtual eviction proceedings with online disruptions Thursday. The Kansas City Star reports the protest drew about 100 people and was organized by the nonprofit group KC Tenants. Protesters holding signs saying "eviction kills" and "court's closed today" called on a Jackson County judge to halt eviction hearings and keep residents in their homes during the coronavirus pandemic and related economic crisis. Protesters remained at the courthouse more than an hour. 

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Senator Josh Hawley Writing Book: 'The Tyranny of Big Tech'

NEW YORK (AP) _ Missouri Republican U.S.Senator Josh Hawley is working on a book about one of his ongoing targets. Simon & Schuster announced Friday that Hawley's ``The Tyranny of Big Tech'' will be released June 21. Hawley has frequently criticized Facebook, Twitter and other social media giants for everything from alleged anti-conservative bias to monopolistic control of the online market. Earlier this week, Hawley attacked Facebook and Twitter for limiting the spread of an unverified political story about Hunter Biden, son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, that was published by the conservative New York Post. 

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In-Person Voting Begins in Kansas with Short Wait Times

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) - Early in-person voting has begun in several Kansas counties, with election officials reporting heavier-than-usual turnout but relatively short wait times to cast a ballot. Election offices across the state also began on Wednesday sending out the first batches of mail-in ballots to voters who requested them in what election officials anticipate will be record numbers amid the pandemic. The state's most populous counties won't start advance in-person voting for several more days, but a smattering of smaller counties that have begun are providing an early glimpse of what so far has been a smooth start to the general election in Kansas. 

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Lawsuit Alleges Police Order Banished Missouri Protester

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Civil rights groups have filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a protester who was arrested and allegedly banned by police in Kansas City, Missouri, from participating in future protests or returning to the popular shopping and dining district where the protests were held. On Thursday, the ACLU of Missouri and the MacArthur Justice Center sued the Kansas City, Missouri, police commissioners challenging what they call an unconstitutional verbal banishment order. The lawsuit stems from a June 1 protest against police brutality and racial injustice at the Country Club Plaza. Theresa Taylor and about 100 others were arrested. Police spokesman Jake Becchina declined comment.

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KBI, Local Police Investigate After Two Killed in Independence

INDEPENDENCE, Kan. (AP) — Independence police and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation are investigating the deaths of two men after a vehicle crashed into an apartment. Independence police received a 911 call at 3:45 a.m. Friday from someone who said they heard gunfire and then saw the vehicle hit the apartment. The KBI said in a news release that arriving officers found 27-year-old Tyler D. Cook and 24-year-old Rodricus A. Dawson dead inside the crashed vehicle, and an injured female. The female was flown to a hospital in Joplin, Missouri. No injuries were reported among apartment residents. Authorities urged anyone with information to contact the KBI or Independence police.

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Kansas City Tops Record for Killings with 2 and a Half Months Left in 2020

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Missouri's largest city has reached an unwanted milestone _ a new record for homicides in a year. Two people died in separate shootings Thursday in Kansas City, the 155th and 156th killings in 2020. The Kansas City Star reports that breaks the record set in 2017. The first shooting happened just before 8 p.m. Thursday. Officers sent to an apartment complex found a man in the hallway suffering from gunshot wounds. He died at the scene. Officers responded about 10:45 p.m. to a home where another man was fatally shot and a woman was injured. 

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Bankers Survey Sees Surge in Rural Parts of 10 States

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A majority of bankers surveyed in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states are showing more enthusiasm for the state of their local economies than they have since the coronavirus pandemic began. The Rural Mainstreet Survey’s overall index surged to 53.2 in October, up from 46.9. in September and well ahead of the 35.5 reading in March, when the index bottomed out as the outbreak began. 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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KU Forward de Sousa Opting out of Upcoming Season

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas forward Silvio de Sousa is opting out of the upcoming college basketball season, potentially ending what has been one of the most controversial tenures of anybody to have joined coach Bill Self’s blue chip program. Self said in a statement that de Sousa was opting out to “focus on matters in his personal life.” Self added that it became clear in recent workouts that de Sousa was distracted, and after the two of them talked recently, “it was clear this was the best decision for him and Kansas basketball to leave the program.”

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KU Football Coach Cleared of Virus but Skips West Virginia Game

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas head football coach Les Miles has been cleared to return to the Jayhawks after his positive test for COVID-19. But out of caution the 66-year-old coach has decided to skip the team's trip to West Virginia for Saturday's game. Miles announced last week that routine testing had returned a positive test. He experienced only mild symptoms while he was quarantining, and he was able to work remotely with the Jayhawks during their bye week. Tight ends coach Joshua Eargle will handle head-coaching duties against the Mountaineers, freeing offensive coordinator Brent Dearmon and defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot to focus on their sides of the ball.

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Bowyer Chooses Long Role in NASCAR over Proper Farewell Tour

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Clint Bowyer would not have picked 2020 to be his final season as a NASCAR driver. But he's chosen to make 2020 his final year and will move to the Fox Sports booth next season. Bowyer would have preferred a proper send-off with fans at races and his family and friends along for the final ride. He would have tried for another season if the television job was not offered. In moving to the booth, Bowyer will have a long second career in the sport. His farewell begins Sunday at home track Kansas Speedway.

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KPR's daily headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays and updated throughout the day. KPR's weekend summary is usually published by 1 pm Saturdays and Sundays. 
 

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