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Headlines for Thursday, December 10, 2020

 

Kansas Lieutenant Governor to Become Next State Treasurer

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Gov. Laura Kelly has named Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers as Kansas’s next state treasurer. Rogers said Thursday that he hopes to expand state programs designed to help farmers and prospective homeowners obtain low-interest loans. The Democratic governor cited her 2018 running mate’s nearly 40-year career in banking as a key reason to appoint him treasurer. The office will become vacant January 2, when Republican State Treasurer Jake LaTurner steps down to take the Kansas 2nd District Congressional seat in the U.S. House. Rogers said he will seek a full, four-year term in 2022. Rogers left banking after winning a Kansas Senate seat in 2016.

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State Has Millions to Help Kansans Facing Eviction but Deadline for Application Looms

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) — Thousands of Kansans have lost their jobs since the pandemic began and many are now facing eviction.  A state agency may be able to help, but a deadline to apply for assistance is fast-approaching.  Ryan Vincent, the executive director of the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation, says those facing eviction could be eligible for up to $5,000 in assistance.  One caveat is that the eviction must be related to the coronavirus pandemic. That could include the loss of a job, the loss of work hours, a medical expense related to COVID-19, or even the need to stay home to take care of children who are attending school remotely.   

Kansas has millions of dollars in funding available but the deadline to apply for eviction assistance is next Tuesday (December 15th).  Applications and more information can be found online at kshousingcorp.org

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Kansas Governor Makes Racial Justice Recommendations

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly has released a report outlining more than 60 recommendations to the state Legislature and local government officials on how to tackle racial justice issues. The recommendations released Thursday were crafted by a commission Kelly appointed in response to the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The panel recommends against driver’s license suspensions for people who fail to pay fines or fees and against no-knock warrants in drug cases. Kelly had asked the panel to focus on relationships between law enforcement agencies and the communities they police.

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Wichita Area Hit with 7 Small Earthquakes Since Thanksgiving

WICHITA, Kan. (AP/KPR) — At least seven small earthquakes have rattled the Wichita area since Thanksgiving, the lastes two happened this (THUR) morning.  But an earthquake expert says residents of the state's largest city shouldn't be overly alarmed. Rick Miller is a senior scientist with the Kansas Geological Survey. He says the area has a long history of minor earthquakes. So far this month, there have been no reports of damage or injuries.  The highest magnitude quake registered 3.3 and was recorded on Tuesday.  Miller says it's always possible a more damaging earthquake could occur but that it's unlikely.

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Kansas Officials ID Driver Killed in Fiery FedEx Truck Crash

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have identified the driver of a FedEx semitrailer killed when the truck sailed over the side of a suburban Kansas City, Kansas, highway bridge, crashed onto the road below and erupted in flames. The Kansas Highway Patrol says 24-year-old Christian Harris, of Liberty, Missouri, died in the early Wednesday morning crash. Investigators say the crash happened when the truck launched off the side of the Kansas Highway 7 bridge and landed on Kansas Highway 10 below near Olathe. The crash led to a large fire that consumed the truck and shut down all lanes of K-10 in the area as fire crews battled the flames and police investigated.

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Watchdog Raises Possible Kushner Link to $700 Million Rescue Loan to Overland Park-Based Trucking Company

WASHINGTON (AP) — A congressional monitor of federal pandemic aid is raising the possibility of a link between President Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and a $700 million relief loan to a struggling trucking company. A Democratic member of the Congressional Oversight Commission raised the possible Kushner connection at a hearing on the controversial government rescue loan. Kushner is also a Trump adviser. Four members of the panel from both parties have challenged the Treasury Department’s decision to award the loan to Overland Park, Kansas-based trucking company YRC Worldwide. The taxpayer-funded loan was made on the grounds that its operations are critical for maintaining national security.

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Wichita Police: 14-Year-Old Injured in Shooting at Home

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a 14-year-old boy has been injured in a shooting, and investigators have taken another teen suspected of pulling the trigger into custody. Police say the shooting happened around 7 p.m. Wednesday in a home in northeast Wichita. Arriving first responders found the 14-year-old with a gunshot wound to his chest. Police say in a news release Thursday that the boy, whose name has not been released, was taken to a hospital with a serious injury that was not believed to be life-threatening. Police say they believe the shooting was accidental, but note that a lack of cooperation with police has hampered the investigation.

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COVID-19 Case Total in Kansas Approaches 180,000

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS/KPR) - Kansas has recorded nearly 180,000 COVID-19 cases.  Health officials reported Wednesday that Kansas had identified 179,803 coronavirus cases and 1,941 virus-related deaths since the pandemic began.  Another update of Kansas COVID-19 cases is expected Friday. 

(— Related —)

Kansas Sets Tougher COVID-19 Testing Rules for Nursing Homes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly has imposed stronger coronavirus testing rules for several hundred state-licensed nursing homes that will have most of them testing their employees twice a week. Kelly issued an executive order Wednesday on testing as Kansas waits to receive its first shipments of a vaccine made by Pfizer, possibly by the end of next week. The order on nursing homes applies to more than 470 facilities and imposes the same testing requirements already faced by about 360 homes in Kansas licensed by the federal government. The rules require greater testing of employees if a county's rate of positive tests grows.

Kansas Won't Provide Personal Data About Vaccine Recipients

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas does not plan to send personal information to the federal government about residents who receive coronavirus vaccines, though it has signed a data-use agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Lee Norman, the top administrator at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said this week that the state was “very reluctant” to share personal information. A department spokeswoman said Thursday that the department signed a data-use agreement with the CDC “a while ago” but “won’t be providing any identifying information.” The CDC’s standard agreement calls collection of data about vaccine recipients “critical ” to the pandemic response.

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Kansas Board of Education: Continue In-Person Elementary Classes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state school board is recommending that Kansas elementary schools continue in-person classes even if the spread of the coronavirus in their communities is so great that schools otherwise would close. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the State Board of Education on Tuesday updated its pandemic guidance. The change comes after a surge in coronavirus cases across the state over the past month prompted some districts to return to online classes for many or all of their students. The state health department reported that as of Monday, only 3.3% of the state's 174,000 cases and none of its more than 1,800 deaths were in children 9 years old or younger.

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Missouri Cites 161 Additional COVID-19 Deaths

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — Missouri’s death toll from the coronavirus is rising sharply. On Tuesday, the state announced 161 new fatalities. One county alone reported 27 deaths over the past two days. The Springfield-Greene County Health Department cited 19 deaths Monday and eight more Tuesday. All but four of the victims were 70 or older, 17 lived in long-term care facilities and all had underlying health conditions. Greene County officials say 51 of the county’s 247 COVID-19 deaths have happened since December 1.

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Jobless Kansans Go Weeks Without Benefits as Problems Linger

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansans who have lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic say they are going weeks or months without unemployment benefits. Some lawmakers say they can’t get answers from the state Department of Labor about the problems its having with aging technology. Problems persist nearly six months after the department’s former leader resigned amid unemployment missteps.  Unemployed Kansans have taken to social media, saying they have gone weeks without receiving benefits they’re due. Republican legislators suggested this week that the department is being evasive. The department blames an aging computer system and says it's working to eliminate backlogs.

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Kansas Joins GOP Effort to Overturn Results of Presidential Election

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP/KPR) — The Republican attorney general of Kansas has brought the state into an effort by GOP officials across the nation to reverse President Donald Trump’s election loss. Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced Wednesday that Kansas is among 17 states asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case filed by the Republican attorney general of Texas, attacking election procedures in four battleground states where Democrat Joe Biden prevailed. The Texas lawsuit alleges voter fraud and makes claims about illegal mail-in balloting. Schmidt said the case presents “important and potentially recurring constitutional questions” but some legal experts see it as a long-shot bid to overturn the election.

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Domestic Battery Charge Against City Councilman Dismissed

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A Johnson County judge has dismissed a misdemeanor domestic battery charge against an Overland Park city councilman but said prosecutors could refile the case later. Councilman Scott Hamblin was charged after police were called to his home on July 21. No injuries were reported. Johnson County Judge James Phelan dismissed the case Thursday after denying the prosecutor's request for a continuance. Prosecutors said a police officer who was an essential witness couldn't testify because he is quarantined after exposure to COVID-19. They also said police had not been able to serve the victim a subpoena to testify.

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Theft Charge Dismissed Against Former KU Researcher

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Attorney General's office is moving to dismiss a felony theft case against former University of Kansas researcher Liuqi Gu. However, Assistant Attorney General Paul Brothers said in the motion that the case could be refiled. The motion filed Tuesday says the state needs more time to investigate because of “recent developments” in the case. Prosecutors have alleged Gu used his university discount to get steep cost reductions on scientific equipment, which he then sent to China. Gu was charged in December 2019 with four felonies and two misdemeanors. An evidentiary hearing in the case had been scheduled for Thursday.

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Governor Announces New Pretzel Production Facility in Lawrence 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - Governor Laura Kelly has announced that a snack food production facility will soon be built in Lawrence.  The company, Pretzels, LLC, will construct a 146,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Venture Park.  The 42-year-old Indiana-based snack company sells pretzels under the Harvest Road brand. Its product lineup also includes corn snacks made with real cheese, corn puffs, crunchy cheese curls, and other snack items.  “Food manufacturing has been growing at an incredible rate in Kansas, and we’re proud to add Pretzels, LLC to our roster,” Kelly said. “This project will create good-paying jobs and generate a significant investment for Kansas."

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Kansas Mayor's Perjury Charge Stems from Open Records Filing

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — A court document shows the perjury charge filed against Shawnee Mayor Michelle Distler stems from an open meetings complaint she allegedly filed using the name of another person without his permission. The probable cause affidavit released Tuesday shows the investigation was opened on March 10 after a local government “watchdog” informed police in Shawnee, Kansas, that he had received an email from the state attorney general’s office confirming receipt of an online open records complaint that he had not filed. An investigator with the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office subsequently obtained the IP address associated with the open records complaint and traced it to Distler.

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Wichita Hoax Call Case Notes History of Police Shootings

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Civil rights attorneys representing the family of a Kansas man killed by police responding to a hoax emergency call are using the case to try to hold the city of Wichita accountable for what they call a troubled history of police shootings. A brief filed at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals says that in the six years leading up to the 2017 fatal shooting of 28-year-old Andrew Finch, Wichita police shot at citizens 21 times. That resulted in a dozen deaths. The brief comes amid calls around the U.S. for changes in policing.

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Kansas City, Kansas Police Warn About Fentanyl Overdoses

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas City, Kansas, police are warning residents a surge in drug overdoses and deaths is likely being caused by drugs being laced with fentanyl. The department said there have been 41 suspected overdoses and nine deaths this year, compared with 23 overdoses in all of last year. Captain Richard Harris said there have been 16 overdoes and two deaths in the last 30 days. The department is warning people not to purchase any opioid, including OxyContin, Vicodin and morphine. Harris said it is possible those drugs are being cut with fentanyl to increase their potency.

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Water Quality, Flooding Mean Low Grade for Major Watershed

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — A new report card gives a low grade to the Mississippi River Watershed and cites a need for billions of dollars in new spending to address concerns like flooding and water quality involving the nation’s largest rivers. America’s Watershed Initiative on Tuesday released its first report since it gave the watershed a D+ grade in 2015. The 2020 report is only a slight improvement, to a C-. At issue is the watershed that includes the Mississippi River and its tributaries — the Missouri, Tennessee and Ohio rivers and others. All told, the system covers two-fifths of the continental U.S. and 31 states.

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Amount of Water Released into Missouri River Reduced

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Federal officials say the amount of water being released into the Missouri River from a key dam on the Nebraska-South Dakota border has been reduced to winter levels. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said in a news release Tuesday that the amount of water flowing out of Gavins Point Dam has been reduced to a rate of about 17,000 cubic feet per second. That's down significantly from the reduction seen a year earlier, after heavy rain and snow melt in the spring of 2019 sent the river to record levels and flooded parts of Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri.

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Blitz-Happy Dolphins Will Try to Slow Mahomes and Chiefs

MIAMI (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs have the better quarterback, but the Miami Dolphins might have the superior defense, which lends intrigue to Sunday’s game against the reigning Super Bowl champions. The Dolphins have allowed the second-fewest points in the NFL, and wins in seven of the past eight games have vaulted them into contention for their first playoff berth in four years. But they’re stepping up in class against Patrick Mahomes and the high-scoring Chiefs, who have already clinched a postseason spot by winning their past seven games.

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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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