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Headlines for Thursday, November 5, 2020


KCC Holds Virtual Public Hearing Tonight on Solar Rate Design

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR/AP) - The Kansas Corporation Commission is holding a virtual public hearing tonight (THUR) to allow members of the public to comment on two new rate proposals for solar customers proposed by Evergy.  The Evergy power company is proposing charging customers with solar panels about $25 a month, even if their homes use almost no electricity from the power grid. And if that plan is rejected, Evergy wants to charge all customers a minimum of $35 a month, even if they don't use solar power. For most customers, the charge would simply count against their energy consumption. But poorer households that don't use much electricity would pay more. Evergy says it needs to recover the cost of having electricity on demand for solar-equipped homes. Tonight's virtual (Zoom) meeting begins at 6pm.  A live stream will be available on the KCC’s YouTube channel.  Public comments submitted online via the Commission’s website or emailed to will be accepted through 5 pm on December 21, 2020.  The KCC will issue an order in the matter on or before February 25, 2021.


'Hit' Tweet Against Kansas Governor Has Democrats Seeking Newly-Elected State Rep's Ouster

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Democratic candidate who admitted to circulating revenge porn and who was charged at the age of 14 with threatening to shoot a high school student has won a state House seat in Kansas. Democratic leaders said Thursday that they will try to oust 20-year-old Aaron Coleman after a tweet from Coleman against Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly. Coleman was the only candidate on the ballot in his Kansas City, Kansas, district in Tuesday’s election, and he had nearly 1,500 more votes than two write-in candidates combined. A Democratic leader said a now-deleted Coleman tweet Wednesday was “threatening the governor,” but Coleman said he was talking about opposing her politically.


Wichita Mayor Urges Caution; Small Hospitals Under Strain

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The mayor of Kansas’s largest city is warning the public to take the coronavirus “seriously” as case numbers soar and rural hospitals struggle to find larger facilities with room for their patients. Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple blamed a rise in cases on a “perfect storm” of people becoming fatigued over prevention measures, longing to see their families, and moving events indoors as the weather grows colder. In Sedgwick County, where Wichita is located, the number of confirmed and probable cases increased by 54% over the past month, jumping from 9,509 on Oct. 5 to 14,694 on Wednesday.


Hospitals Serving Kansas Stressed as Coronavirus Cases Rise

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Several dozen Kansas hospitals that serve Kansas patients are reporting that they expect to deal with staffing shortages over the next week as the state continues to report an average of well over 1,000 new coronavirus cases a day. The Wichita area’s two major health systems said Wednesday that almost 150 coronavirus patients were hospitalized, their highest numbers since the pandemic began. The state Department of Health and Environment on Wednesday added 2,988 confirmed and probable cases to the state’s count since Monday to bring the pandemic total to 92,215. Forty-three hospitals told the Kansas Hospital Association that they expect to deal with staffing shortages within the next week.


Kansas COVID-19 Cases Top 92,000; Virus-Related Deaths Hit 1,087

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says the state has recorded more than 92,000 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.  That figure includes 1,087 deaths.  KDHE released the latest numbers Wednesday, reporting 92,215 coronavirus cases.  This marks an increase of 2,988 cases and 41 deaths in Kansas since Monday.  The next online update of COVID-19 cases will be released Friday afternoon.


Counties with Worst Virus Surges Overwhelmingly Voted for Trump

UNDATED (AP) — U.S. voters went to the polls starkly divided on how they see President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, with a surprising twist: In places where the virus is most rampant now, Trump enjoyed enormous support. An Associated Press analysis reveals that in 376 counties with the highest number of new cases per capita, the overwhelming majority — 93% of those counties — went for Trump, a rate above other less severely hit areas. Most were rural areas in Montana, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Wisconsin. Taking note of the contrast, state health officials are pausing for a moment of introspection. Even as they worry about rising numbers of hospitalizations and deaths, they hope to reframe their messages and aim for a reset on public sentiment now that the election is over.

“Public health officials need to step back, listen to and understand the people who aren’t taking the same stance” on mask-wearing and other control measures, said Dr. Marcus Plescia of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

“I think there’s the potential for things to get less charged and divisive,” he said, adding that there’s a chance a retooled public health message might unify Americans around lowering case counts so hospitals won’t get swamped during the winter months.

The AP’s analysis was limited to counties in which at least 95% of precincts had reported results, and grouped counties into six categories based on the rates of COVID-19 cases they’d experienced per 100,000 residents. Polling, too, shows voters who split on Republican Trump vs. Democrat Joe Biden differed on whether the pandemic is under control. Thirty-six percent of Trump voters described the pandemic as completely or mostly under control, and another 47% said it was somewhat under control, according to AP VoteCast, a nationwide survey of more than 110,000 voters conducted for the AP by NORC at the University of Chicago. Meanwhile, 82% of Biden voters said the pandemic is not at all under control. The pandemic was considered at least somewhat under control by slim majorities of voters in many red states, including Alabama (60%), Missouri ( 54%), Mississippi (58%), Kentucky (55%), Texas (55%), Tennessee (56%) and South Carolina (56%). In Wisconsin, where the virus surged just before the election, 57% said the pandemic was not under control. In Washington state, where the virus is more in control now compared to earlier in the year, 55% said the same. Voters in New York and New Hampshire, where the virus is more controlled now after early surges, were roughly divided in their assessments, similar to voters nationwide.

Trump voters interviewed by AP reporters said they value individual freedom and believed the president was doing as well as anyone could in response to the coronavirus. Michaela Lane, a 25-year-old Republican, dropped her ballot off last week at a polling site at an outdoor mall in Phoenix. She cast her vote for Trump.

“I feel like the most important issue facing the country as a whole is liberty at large,” Lane said. “Infringing on people’s freedom, government overrule, government overreach, chaos in a lot of issues currently going on and just giving people back their rights.”

About half of Trump voters called the economy and jobs the top issue facing the nation, roughly twice the percentage who named the pandemic, according to VoteCast. By contrast, a majority of Biden voters — about 6 in 10 — said the pandemic was the most important issue. In Madison, Wisconsin, Eric Engstrom, a 31-year-old investment analyst and his wife, Gwen, voted absentee by mail in early October. Trump’s failure to control the pandemic sealed his vote for Biden, Engstrom said, calling the coronavirus the most immediate threat the nation faces. He and his wife are expecting their first child, a girl, in January and fear “the potential of one of us or both of us being sick when the baby is born,” he said. Engstrom called Trump’s response to the virus abysmal. “If there was any chance that I was going to vote for Trump, it was eliminated because of the pandemic,” he said.

The political temperature has added to the stress of public health officials, Plescia said. “Our biggest concern is how long can they sustain this pace?” he said. Since the start of the pandemic, 74 state and local public health officials in 31 states have resigned, retired or been fired, according to an ongoing analysis by AP and Kaiser Health News. As the election mood dissipates, rising hospitalizations amid colder weather create “a really pivotal moment” in the pandemic, said Sema Sgaier, executive director of the Surgo Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that worked with Harvard University-affiliated Ariadne Labs to develop a tool for estimating vaccine needs in states.

“We really need to get our act together. When I say ‘we’ I mean collectively,” Sgaier said. Finding common ground may become easier if one of more of the vaccine candidates proves safe and effective and gains government approval, she said.

“The vaccine provides the reset button,” Sgaier said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci may be another unifying force. According to VoteCast, 73% of voters nationwide approve of the way Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been handling the pandemic. Even among Trump voters, 53% approve of Fauci’s performance. About 9 in 10 Biden voters approve.

Carla K. Johnson reported from Washington state. Pia Deshpande reported from Chicago and Hannah Fingerhut reported from Washington, D.C. AP reporters Todd Richmond in Madison, Wisconsin, and Terry Tang in Phoenix contributed.


Kansas Candidate Behind Revenge Porn Wins State House Seat

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Democratic candidate who admitted to circulating revenge porn and who was charged at the age of 14 with threatening to shoot a high school student has won a state House seat in Kansas. Aaron Coleman was the only candidate on the ballot in his district in Kansas City, Kansas, in Tuesday’s election, but he faced the veteran state lawmaker whom he defeated in the Democratic primary and a Republican candidate who ran as write-ins. Unofficial results on Thursday show 3,496 votes for Coleman and 2,013 total write-in votes. Coleman was charged in May 2015 with making a criminal threat but he pleaded guilty to a lesser harassment charge.


1 Found Dead, Another Person Arrested in Kansas City, Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police in Kansas City, Kansas, are investigating that city's latest homicide. Police say officers were called around 12:30 am Thursday to a home near Terrace Street and Leavenworth Road for a report of a disturbance. Arriving officers found a man inside dead from a a gunshot wound. Police have not released the man's name or given details about what may have led up to the shooting. Police say a suspect in the shooting was also inside the home and was arrested. The death marked the city's 50th homicide this year.


Man Suspected of Showing Up at Mosque with Handgun Arrested

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have arrested a man who is suspected of showing up at a Wichita mosque with a handgun and yelling Islamophobic comments at a Muslim man. The 26-year-old Wichita man is jailed on suspicion of aggravated assault and disorderly conduct. Police said in a news release the man also is suspected of putting up “concerning posters around the Islamic Society of Wichita." The Wichita Eagle reports that police arrested him Friday at a home in nearby Derby after responding to a disturbance with a weapon call at the Masjid An Noor Mosque, about a block southwest of Wichita State University. A police report states that the man was “making racial comments and discriminating against (the victim’s) religion.”


Wichita Police Say 80-Year-Old Man Killed in Hit-and-Run

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say an 80-year-old man died after being hit by a vehicle that fled the scene. Police say James Kaminsky died Tuesday evening. They say Kaminsky was crossing a road to his house when he was hit. He died later at a hospital. The driver of a white pickup truck fled. Police say a person of interest has been identified. Alcohol is believed to be a factor in the death.


Kansas Athletics Expecting $10 Million Budget Shortfall; No Plans to Ask University for Help

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - Kansas Athletics Inc. could have financial losses of about $10.4 million for the current fiscal year.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the department will use a portion of a $20 million line of credit to cover the unexpected losses that have resulted from disruptions related to the pandemic.  “We know we will be able to pay our bills this year,” Pat Kaufman, chief financial officer of Kansas Athletics, said.  It also was clear that the athletic department wouldn’t be asking for any new money from the general university to help cover athletic department expenses, Athletic Director Jeff Long said.  “We don’t count on that, and we know that is not an avenue for us,” Long said of additional university funding. “We are very comfortable with that, and it is why we have secured that line of credit.”  The athletic department receives about $1.2 million in direct institutional support from the university, and KU Chancellor Douglas Girod said there were no plans to provide additional such support to the athletic department, which operates as its own separate, KU-owned corporation.  “As much as I love you guys, I also appreciate that you aren’t expecting us to bail you out,” Girod said.

Significant reductions in both the number of football games and the size of crowds allowed at games have led to revenue reductions in the Kansas Athletics budget.  Anticipated reduction in games and crowd size for basketball also have been factored into the projections.  Overall ticket revenue is expected to fall from a budgeted figure of $17.9 million to $3 million.  Another major reduction is expected to come from the amount of money the athletic department will receive from the Big 12 Conference and the NCAA. Much of that money is determined by how many league games can be shown on television during the course of a season.  If KU begins to see losses that threaten to deplete the entire $20 million line of credit, Long said the department would start to look at staff layoffs, among other cuts. The department already has made several temporary salary cuts and furloughs.


Kansas City Club with Violent Record Loses Liquor License

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City nightclub with a history of violence has lost its liquor license. The Kansas City Liquor Control Board voted Wednesday to revoke the liquor license for 9ine Ultra Lounge, where two people died and 15 were injured in a shooting in January. The lounge closed for several months after that shooting but the violence continued when it reopened. On Aug. 30, four people were shot after an argument that started inside the club and involved several shooters.  Jim Ready, manager of the city’s regulated industries, said the club never provided proper security. The owner of the club did not attend Wednesday's hearing.


Voters in Jackson County Missouri Vote to Keep Andrew Jackson Statues

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Jackson County voters have rejected a proposal to remove statues of President Andrew Jackson that stand in front of the county's two courthouses. Activists had pushed to have the statues removed because Jackson was a slave owner who also signed a law in 1830 that forced Native American tribes from their land, causing thousands to die. Jackson County, Missouri, was named after Jackson in 1826. The push to remove the statues from in front of courthouses in Independence and Kansas City coincided with similar efforts around the county this year after racial injustice demonstrations. The proposal was rejected with about 59% opposed and 41% in favor.


Missouri Voter Turnout Tops 3 Million, with 70% Turnout

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — More than 3 million Missourians cast ballots in Tuesday's presidential election. The turnout exceeded the previous high mark of 2.9 million voters in the 2008 presidential election. But the 70% turnout rate fell a little short of the 75% threshold that had been forecast by local election officials. The state's turnout percentage peaked at 78% in the 1992 elections, when there were at least a million fewer registered voters than there are today.


Kansas GOP Congressman Roger Marshall Wins Unusually Tough Senate Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Congressman Roger Marshall captured an open U.S. Senate seat in Kansas in a tougher-than-expected race that saw his Democratic opponent raise far more campaign cash than he did.  Marshall prevailed in Tuesday’s election over Democratic state Senator Barbara Bollier. Marshall entered the fall campaign with the GOP’s traditional advantages in a state that tends to back conservatives. But Bollier excited fellow Democrats because her campaign was able to raise more than $25 million and set a Kansas record, while Marshall raised $6.5 million. Republicans haven’t lost a Senate race in Kansas since 1932.  Marshall has served two House terms representing the big 1st Congressional District of central and western Kansas, as well as Manhattan and Emporia.


Ex-Teacher Becomes Kansas' First Transgender State Lawmaker

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former Wichita band teacher will serve as the first transgender state lawmaker in Kansas. Unofficial results from Tuesday's election show 57-year-old Democrat Stephanie Byers of Wichita defeated Republican Cyndi Howerton and will represent a legislative district that includes parts of Wichita. Byers said throughout the campaign that being transgender is only part of her identity, and she plans to focus on issues such as health care. But she acknowledged her election gives hope to the transgender community, particularly in deeply conservative Kansas. Before Tuesday's election, there were four other transgender people serving in state legislatures in the U.S.


In Blue and Red States, Milestone Wins for LGBTQ Candidates

NEW YORK (AP) — Across the nation, LGBTQ candidates achieved milestone victories in Tuesday’s election. Winners include a Delaware woman who will become the first transgender person in a state Senate when she takes office in January, and the first openly gay Black men to win seats in Congress, both Democrats from New York. The landmark victories came not only in blue but also red states such as Tennessee, where a Republican gay man and a Democratic bisexual man will become the first openly LGBTQ members of the state House. In Kansas and Vermont, two Democrats are the first openly transgender people to win House seats in their respective state legislatures.


Wichita Police: Suicides Increase More than 70%

WICHITA (AP) — Wichita police say suicides in the city are up 70% this year, and stress from the coronavirus outbreak is likely a major factor. Police said Monday the city had 76 suicides as of Friday, an increase from 44 at the same time last year and and 59 in all of 2019. There have been 367 suicide attempts so far this year. Detective James Hook, the department’s mental health liaison, speculated that stresses related to the coronavirus - such as job loss, social events being canceled and stay-at-home orders - are primary factors in the increase. 

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 (En Español: 888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting 741741.


Judge Throws out Murder Conviction of Kansas Man Who Says He Was Framed

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A judge has thrown out the murder conviction of a Kansas man who spent more than 12 years in prison for a shooting he says that was actually a murder-suicide for which he was framed. Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree told the court he would not seek to retry Olin “Pete” Coones after the judge found he received an unfair trial in the 2008 shooting deaths of Kathleen and Carl Schroll in Kansas City, Kansas. Dupree credited his office’s conviction integrity unit for uncovering exculpatory evidence that prosecutors had not disclosed to Coones or his defense attorney.


Court Orders Release of Russian Mom Convicted of Taking Kids

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — A federal appeals court has ordered the immediate release of a Russian mother whose case garnered international attention after she was convicted of kidnapping for moving her children from the U.S. to Russia amid a divorce. Bogdana Alexandrovna Osipova was convicted in Kansas last year of one count of international parental kidnapping and two counts of attempting to extort money. A three-judge panel of the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in August overturned the two extortion convictions and upheld the conviction for parental kidnapping. The appeals court on Wednesday ordered her release pending resentencing. She has already served the maximum three-year prison sentence allowed on the remaining count.


Amount of Water Released into Missouri River to Be Reduced

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The amount of water being released into the Missouri River from a key dam on the Nebraska-South Dakota border will be reduced later this month. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says that the amount of water flowing out of Gavins Point Dam will be reduced starting on Nov. 22 by about 3,000 cubic feet per second each day until reaching a winter release 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.


No. 14 Oklahoma State Visits Kansas State in Big 12 Showdown

UNDATED (AP) — Oklahoma State and Kansas State appeared to be on a collision course between Big 12 unbeatens last Saturday, each team taking on an unranked opponent the week before they faced each other in a big-time showdown in Manhattan. So much for that. Now, the No. 14 Cowboys will be trying to bounce back from an overtime loss to Texas while the Wildcats will be trying to atone for a 37-10 blowout loss at West Virginia.


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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