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Headlines for Monday, December 7, 2020

 

Kansas Governor Faces Conservatives as Legislative Leaders

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Governor Laura Kelly could have a tough time with the Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature during the last two years of her four-year term. The selection of legislative leaders on Monday left no doubt that conservative Republicans are firmly in control. GOP senators and senators-elect unanimously picked Andover Republican Ty Masterson as the Senate’s next president. Masterson last year called Kelly’s election as governor in 2018 “a tragic collision of timing." The new Senate majority leader will be conservative Wichita Republican Gene Suellentrop. Masterson and Suellentrop are replacing retiring Senate President Susan Wagle and Majority Leader Jim Denning. The House's top leaders will remain Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr. and Majority Leader Dan Hawkins.

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As Virus Spreads, Kansas Hospital Runs Out of Staff

UNDATED (AP) — A small-town hospital in Kansas has been running out of staff because of the coronavirus. The situation at Rush County Memorial Hospital in La Crosse Kansas illustrates the depths of the COVID-19 crisis in rural America. The radiological technologist had been sleeping in an RV in the parking lot because his co-workers were out sick with COVID-19 and no one else was available to take X-rays. A doctor and physician assistant tested positive on the same day, briefly leaving the hospital without anyone who could write prescriptions. The virus is sidelining nurses, doctors and medical staff nationwide, but the problem is particularly dire in rural communities because they don’t have a deep bench - or many places to send patients because regional hospitals are full or nearing capacity.

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Woman Arrested After Car with 7 Passengers Rolls, Killing 1

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A judge rejected a request for lower bond from a 31-year-old Hutchinson woman who was driving when her car rolled, killing one of seven passengers. Viola Rhodes was arrested after the vehicle crashed Saturday night near Hutchinson. One of the passengers, 44-year-old Brian Bookout, was thrown from the vehicle and died of his injuries. During a bond hearing Monday, Rhodes asked for a lower bond, but Reno County Magistrate Judge Daniel Gilligan rejected that request and set bond at $200,000. Rhodes was arrested on several possible charges, including involuntary manslaughter and drunken driving. She will be formally charged during a hearing next Monday.

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Kansas Prosecutor Faces Hearing for Alleged Misconduct

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former Shawnee County prosecutor faces a disciplinary hearing this week over allegations that she lied in court and crossed other ethical boundaries to obtain convictions. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that a three-member panel of the Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys is presiding over the weeklong hearing that started Monday to determine if Jacqie Spradling’s conduct merits formal discipline. Spradling is now the Bourbon County attorney and an assistant county attorney in Allen County. Neither she nor her lawyer immediately replied to messages seeking comment. Spradling is accused of showing a lack of competence, candor and fairness in two cases she prosecuted.

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Former Kansas Highway Patrol Officers Sue over Firing

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Former Kansas Highway Patrol officers are suing after taking a stand against alleged sexual harassment and then being pushed out of the agency. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports former majors Scott Harrington and Josh Kellerman sued in federal court. They allege they faced retaliation for helping female staffers file sexual harassment complaints against top Highway Patrol officers. Harrington resigned under pressure this year. Kellerman was fired. A Kansas Highway Patrol spokesperson declined to comment, citing the pending lawsuit. A spokesperson for Governor Laura Kelly says the sexual harassment allegations are unsubstantiated and that the governor stands by Highway Patrol leaders.

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Kansas Puts Vaccine Priority on Grocery, Meatpacking Workers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Laura Kelly says Kansas considers meatpacking plant workers and grocery store employees essential workers, putting them just behind health care workers and nursing home residents for coronavirus vaccines. The Democratic governor also says members of the Republican-controlled Legislature won't get any special treatment. Kelly says the state's vaccine plan calls for the first shots to go to front-line health care workers with a high risk of coronavirus exposure, including workers in nursing homes, as well as nursing home residents. She said the second phase will focus on vaccinating essential workers, including first responders but also grocery store and meatpacking plant workers.  

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Kansas Man's Obit Criticizes Those Who Won't Wear Masks

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — An obituary for an 81-year-old Kansas man who died of COVID-19 is garnering attention. Dr. Marvin James Farr of Scott City died Tuesday in isolation at a nursing home. His son, Courtney Farr, wrote an obituary lamenting how his father died in a world where many of his fellow citizens refuse to wear a mask to protect one another. His father was a farmer and a veterinarian. The obituary says the science that guided his life has been disparaged and abandoned by many of the same people who depended on his knowledge to care for their animals and to raise their food.

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COVID-19 Case Total in Kansas Approaches 175,000

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS/KPR) - Kansas has recorded more than 174,000 COVID-19 cases.  Health officials reported Monday that Kansas had identified 174,025 coronavirus cases and 1,856 virus-related deaths since the pandemic began.  Another update of Kansas COVID-19 cases is expected Wednesday.

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Missouri Reporting Higher Average Number of Virus Cases

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The average number of virus cases Missouri reports each day is on the rise again after declining for more than two weeks. The seven-day rolling average of new cases in the state had been declining since late November before starting to move back up late last week. That rolling average fell from a high of 4,723 on November 20 to 3,158 on Thursday, but it increased to 3,269 on Friday and hit 3,669 on Saturday. That increase in the rolling average reflects the large number of cases reported this weekend. The state reported 5,001 virus cases on Saturday and another 3,876 cases on Sunday.

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Public Health Workers in Kansas Leaving Jobs Amid Pandemic, Politics

FREDONIA, Kan. (AP) — Public health workers across Kansas are leaving their jobs amid the pressures of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and the politics surrounding it. The Kansas News Service reports that 27 county health officials have left their jobs in the nine months since the state had its first documented COVID-19 case. Some retired, but others resigned or were fired. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says that number includes 15 county health department administrators and 18 health officers. Six of those leaving held both positions.

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Advocates Question Evergy's Plan for Boosting Clean Energy

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Advocates are pressing Kansas' largest electric utility on whether its plan to generate more renewable energy and cut greenhouse gas emissions is aggressive enough. The Wichita Eagle reports that Evergy faced more than six hours of questions about its plan during a Kansas Corporation Commission hearing last week. The company plans to collect feedback from the utility-regulating commission and others and submit a revised renewable energy plan in May. Evergy's plan calls for a total of $8.9 billion in investments in Kansas and Missouri. But the company is getting some pushback from clean energy advocates because President-elect Joe Biden is promising 100% clean energy by 2035.

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Ex-Teacher Sentenced for Kicking Kansas Kindergarten Student

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — A former Kansas teacher who was caught on camera kicking a kindergarten student in the school library has been sentenced to 30 days in jail and a year of probation. Online court records show that 55-year-old Crystal Smith was also ordered to attend anger management classes. She pleaded guilty Thursday in Johnson County District Court to battery. A security camera at the Bluejacket-Flint Elementary School in Shawnee captured footage of the February 2019 incident, which unfolded after the rest of the class had left the library. The girl had crawled into a bookshelf opening. Smith yanked her out, then kicked the girl as she lay huddled on the floor.

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Kansas City Police: Body in Burned Car Ruled a Homicide

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police in Kansas City say the death of a person whose body was found inside a burned car last week has been ruled a homicide. Kansas City police said Monday in a news release that officials are still working to identify the person whose body was found Friday afternoon at East 10th Street and Winner Road. Firefighters who responded to the fire around 6 a.m. Friday called police hours later after the body was found. The death was initially characterized as suspicious. Investigators believe the body was in the car during the fire. Police have not announced any suspects or arrests in the case.

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Former Garden City Football Coach Where Player Died Has Been Fired in Missouri

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Southern State has dismissed football coach Jeff Sims. He was the coach at Garden City Community College in Kansas when a player died of heat stroke in 2018. Missouri Southern athletic director Jared Bruggeman did not provide a reason for Sims being fired. He was in his second season at the school, which did not play this fall because of the pandemic. Two years ago, Braeden Bradforth of Neptune, New Jersey, died of exertional heatstroke after a football workout at Garden City. An investigation blamed Bradford's death on a lack of of leadership by college officials, including Sims.

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Officials Offer Free Testing on Deers Killed by Kansas Hunters

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials are offering deer hunters in the state free testing for chronic wasting disease on the carcasses of deer they kill during the 2020-2021 deer hunting seasons. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism is offering the testing in conjunction with the University of Missouri as part of a research project to better understand where the disease is present in Kansas and how it is spread. The project will offer the free testing on a maximum of 450 samples over the next three years. Hunters will need to be able to provide the location of where they killed the deer, using GPS coordinates, range-township-section numbers or the nearest intersection to receive the free testing.

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Gonzaga, Baylor Remain Atop AP Top 25; KU Jumps to No. 5

UNDATED (AP) — Gonzaga and Baylor remain atop the AP Top 25 men’s college basketball poll after their hotly anticipated game in Indianapolis was called off about 90 minutes before tipoff last week because of positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing within the Bulldogs program. Gonzaga received 54 of 61 first-place votes from a national media panel while the Bears had the other seven. Iowa remained third after Luka Garza’s monster week powered the Hawkeyes to a pair of easy victories, Michigan State climbed four spots to No. 4 and Kansas jumped two spots to round out the top 5.

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Chiefs Rally to Beat Broncos 22-16 to Clinch Playoff Berth

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes threw for 318 yards and a touchdown, Harrison Butker was perfect on five field goals, and the Kansas City Chiefs overcame some red-zone woes and major mistakes that cost them two more scores to hold off the Denver Broncos 22-16. Travis Kelce had eight receptions for 136 yards and the go-ahead TD grab late in the third quarter, and Tyrann Mathieu twice picked off Broncos quarterback Drew Lock — the second with 24 seconds left to seal the win — as the Chiefs clinched a playoff berth by improving to 11-1 for the second time in franchise history.

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Denver Shows Plenty of Moxie in Close Loss to Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Denver Broncos just about followed the blueprint for beating the Kansas City Chiefs to perfection. They pounded away with Melvin Gordon, who piled up 131 yards rushing on just 15 carries while turning a 60-minute game into one that felt like it was 30. They picked up enough first downs to keep Patrick Mahomes and Company off the field for long stretches of time.  The Broncos also held the Chiefs without touchdowns on KansasCity's first four forays into the red zone. They were aggressive. They were opportunistic. They were smart. They still weren't quite good enough in a 22-16 defeat.

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Mahomes' Fiancé Becomes Part of National Women's Soccer League Expansion Team Ownership

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The National Women's Soccer League is returning to Kansas City. An expansion franchise has been awarded to an ownership group led by local businesspeople that includes the fiancé of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The group is led by the husband-wife team of Angie and Chris Long. It will assume all player rights, draft picks and other assets from Utah Royals FC as that club winds down operations. Included in the ownership group is Mahomes' future wife, Brittany Matthews, a former professional soccer player and fitness entrepreneur.

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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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