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Headlines for Wednesday, April 7, 2021

 

After Complaint, Valley Center Might Drop COVID Restrictions

VALLEY CENTER, Kan. (AP) — The Valley Center school district is planning to vote Thursday on whether to drop its mask and social distancing requirements. The discussion comes after the board received a complaint from former Sedgwick County Commissioner Richard Ranzau, who opposes all COVID-19 restrictions. The board held a special hearing Monday to discuss the complaint from Ranzau, whose son attends Valley Center High School. He invoked a new state law that requires a speedy hearing for anyone objecting to COVID-19 restrictions. On Tuesday, the Blue Valley school district canceled a meeting called in response to the new law after a parent who attended refused to wear a mask or leave.

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As States Expand Vaccines, Many Prisoners Still Lack Access

UNDATED (AP) — Vaccinating most Americans is plenty tough — and it's worse if you're in prison. Roughly half the country has opened up coronavirus vaccine eligibility beyond initial restrictions, vastly expanding the ability for most people to get a shot in the arm.  But inside many prisons, it's a different story. Prisoners are not free to seek out vaccines and still, on the whole, lack access.  Data collected by The Marshall Project and The Associated Press show fewer than 20% of state and federal prisoners have been vaccinated.  In some states, prisoners and advocates have resorted to filing lawsuits to get access.  In Kansas, prison inmates and staffers have been receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.  By mid-March, nearly 5,000 inmates statewide had already been vaccinated.  The Kansas Department of Corrections also reported last month that the majority of both staff and inmates who were offered the vaccine accepted the shot.

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Kansas Governor Has "No Interest" in Vaccine Passports

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Laura Kelly says she has no plans to have Kansas issue vaccine passports, which are designed to help inoculated residents travel, shop and dine out more freely. Vaccine passports, which verify people’s immunization status, have become a political flashpoint in the U.S. as they’ve come into use in Israel and under development in Europe. Some Republicans in the U.S. see them as heavy-handed government intrusion. Kelly said Monday that she’s concentrating on making sure people get tested for and vaccinated against COVID-19. The Democratic governor also signed into law a largely symbolic Republican bill requiring public schools to offer full-time, in-person classes to all students for the rest of the current semester.

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Kansas Expects Thousands Fewer Johnson & Johnson Vaccines

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas health officials say the state is expecting to receive significantly fewer Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines in the coming weeks. The Department of Health and Environment said Wednesday Kansas expects to receive 5,000 doses next week and 1,700 each of the last two weeks of April. Kansas previously expected to receive 15,800 doses during those weeks. The health department didn't give a reason for the reduction, but Johnson & Johnson had to discard 15 million doses because a batch made at a Baltimore plant didn't meet quality standards. Vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are expected to remain consistent in coming weeks.

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Oklahoma Opens COVID-19 Vaccinations to All States

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma will begin providing COVID-19 vaccinations to residents of any state because both the vaccine supply and the number of vaccinated Oklahomans have increased. Deputy Health Commissioner Keith Reed said Wednesday that the state had reached a point where other states’ residents may be vaccinated starting Thursday. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that Oklahoma has received more than 2.9 million vaccine doses and has administered more than 2.1 million vaccinations. The state has about 4 million residents.

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COVID-19 Case Total Closes in on 304,000; Over 4,900 Deaths Recorded in Kansas Since Pandemic Began

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR/AP) - The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reports that there have been 303,767 cases of COVID-19 in the state, including 4,932 deaths, since the start of the pandemic. That's an increase of 540 cases and five deaths since Monday. Another update will be released Friday.

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Missouri Health Department IDs State's First Case of Virus Variant

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri's health department has confirmed the first case of a new virus variant in the state. On Tuesday, health officials announced a Jackson County resident tested positive for a variant first identified in South Africa. Health officials say there are also 35 active Missouri cases of a variant first identified in the U.K. Meanwhile, the University of Missouri is planning to have full-capacity, in-person classes and activities on the Columbia campus for the fall semester beginning in August. University President Mun Choi said the university had 13 active student cases as of Tuesday.

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Judge: 2019 Ruling Nullifies Kansas Abortion Procedure Ban

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has ruled that a Kansas law banning a common second-trimester abortion procedure is “unconstitutional and unenforceable” under a 2019 state Supreme Court ruling protecting abortion rights. Shawnee County District Judge Teresa Watson’s decision Wednesday was the first on abortion from a lower court since the decision from the state’s highest court. But Kansas has been unable to enforce the law since it was enacted in 2015 because of a lawsuit from two abortion providers. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled that access to abortion is a “fundamental” right under the state constitution but returned the case to district court for further review of the law.

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Kansas Education Funding Delayed by School 'Choice' Proposal

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Conservative Republican lawmakers have tied funding for Kansas’s public schools to a proposal that would allow parents of academically struggling students to use state dollars to pay for private schooling. Republican negotiators for the state House and Senate on Wednesday drafted the final version of legislation that would set up education savings accounts for students who are at-risk of failing in public schools. The measure is part of an education bill that also includes Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s proposal to provide $5.2 billion in state aid to public school districts for the 2021-22 school year. Supporters say they're trying to help struggling students but critics say schools will suffer.

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Lawrence City Commission Defers Vote on Banning Conversion Therapy

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence City Commission members decided to delay a vote on banning conversion therapy for minors after questions arose about how it would affect counseling provided by religious organizations. The commission was scheduled to vote Tuesday on an ordinance that would ban therapy aimed at changing a minor's sexual orientation or gender identity. The ordinance currently contains a clause providing an exception for clergy. City legal staff said the exception was added to avoid legal challenges based on religious freedom. However, the city heard from two religious leaders who said the ordinance could stop religious schools from offering counseling on the subject, and that it was overly broad.

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Federal Official Rescinds Haskell Orders on Employee Speech

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ The leader of the Bureau of Indian Education has rescinded directives regulating employee communication at Haskell Indian Nations University. One directive from Haskell President Ronald Graham forbid employees from publicly discussing complaints about the administration and others. A second directive from a Haskell vice president forbid employees from talking to the media or discussing their employment without permission. Tony Dearman, director of the BIE, told Haskell employees in a letter Tuesday that the federal agency is committed to free speech for students, faculty and staff. Earlier this month, the Haskell faculty approved a vote of no-confidence in Graham. 

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Wichita Aerospace Supply Company Files for Bankruptcy

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita aerospace supply company has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection following losses it blamed on the COVID-19 pandemic and suspension of Boeing's 737 Max plane. The Wichita Eagle reports that TECT Aerospace filed for the protection on Tuesday, which also covers the company's facilities in Park City, Wellington and Everett, Washington. It does not cover a facility in Nashville, Tennessee. The company said in its filings that it will continue its work during the bankruptcy reorganization and plans to separately sell its Kansas and Washington state operations. Court documents say among its creditors, TECT owes about $18.3 million to Boeing and $4.2 million to Spirit AeroSystems.

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Stray Bullet Hits Kansas Tourist Near NYC's Times Square

NEW YORK (AP) — Police say a tourist from Kansas has been hit in the shoulder by a stray bullet near New York's Times Square. Police say the 44-year-old man was shot shortly after 2 am Wednesday near West 38th Street and Eighth Avenue. Police do not believe he was the intended target. The man was taken to Bellevue Hospital and is stable. The Daily News reports that the victim told police he attended Tuesday's Mets-Phillies game in Philadelphia and then took a train or bus back to New York. Police say he was headed to his hotel when he was shot. No arrests have been made.

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Remains Discovered in Missouri Identified as Missing Chinese Woman

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri authorities say remains found at a park are those of a Chinese woman who had been missing since October 2019. Columbia Mayor Brian Treece and police officials announced Tuesday that forensic experts determined the decomposed remains found on March 25 were those of Mengqi Ji. Authorities used dental records to make the identification. Experts are still working to determine how Ji died, or how long her body had been at the park. Her husband, Joseph Elledge, is charged with first-degree murder in her disappearance. He has pleaded not guilty and is jailed without bond.

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Wichita Police Seek Suspect in Shooting Death of Man

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police are seeking a suspect in the fatal shooting of a man after a dispute in the drive-through lane of a fast-food restaurant. Police say 19-year-old Quantin McIntosh Jr. died after the shooting late Monday. Police Captain Jason Stephens said McIntosh and his girlfriend got into an argument with people in another car at a Burger King. McIntosh followed the other vehicle and eventually both cars stopped. Stephens said someone in the second car fired several shots at McIntosh's car. His girlfriend alerted officers who were working a traffic stop nearby. McIntosh died at a hospital. Police continue to look for the suspect.

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Kansas City Police Identify Man Fatally Shot over Weekend

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Police in Kansas City have identified a man shot and killed in the city's Citadel neighborhood over the weekend. Police say officers called to the area Saturday night found 25-year-old Darryl King critically injured from gunshot wounds. King was taken to a hospital, where he later died from his injuries. Police have not released details on what may have led to the shooting.  Police are asking anyone with information about the shooting to contact detectives or call the Tips Hotline. 

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New Autopsy Reveals Kansas Black Man's Death Was Homicide

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The case of a Black man who died following a party in rural Kansas more than 16 years ago has been ruled a homicide after his body was exhumed as federal authorities investigate his death as a possible hate crime. The Federal Bureau of Investigation said Monday that a new autopsy on the body of Alonzo Brooks concluded the cause of death was homicide. His body was exhumed last year from a Topeka cemetery and transported to Dover Air Force Base for an examination. Brooks was 23 when he disappeared after attending a party near La Cygne, in eastern Kansas, in May 2004. His family later found his body in a creek near where the party was held. The FBI reopened the investigation in 2019.

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Missouri Attorney General Files Suit to Shut Down Four Massage Businesses

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has sued four massages businesses in the state, alleging they advertise on websites that solicit prostitution. Schmitt announced Tuesday that he sued A Little Massage in Laclede County, Blue Lotus Asian Massage in Cole County, Shangri-La Massage in Jackson County and Ella’s Asian Massage in Clay County. He said during a news conference that he is seeking injunctions to close the businesses. He said landlords at the four businesses either did not respond to contacts from his office or were uncooperative. The lawsuits are part of Schmitt's Hope Initiative, which he started in October to crack down on illegal massage businesses in the state.

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Biofuels Producers, Farmers Not Sold on Switch to Electric

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The president and the auto industry maintain the nation is on the cusp of a gigantic shift to electric vehicles and away from liquid-fueled cars, but biofuels producers and some of their supporters in Congress aren't buying it. They argue the U.S. should increase sales of ethanol and biodiesel, not abandon them. President Joe Biden has proposed an infrastructure plan that includes increased funding to promote a shift to electric vehicles. Producers of corn-based ethanol and soy-based biodiesel say that even if the U.S. dramatically increases sales of electric vehicles, liquid-fueled cars and trucks will make up a majority of vehicles on the road for many years.

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Russell Man Sentenced for Death of 14-Month-Old Child

RUSSELL, Kan. (AP) — A 29-year-old Russell man was sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison for the death of a toddler in 2017.  Jody Steven Fox was sentenced Monday for second-degree murder and child abuse. He pleaded no contest after 14-month-old Gabriel Usoro's death in April 2017. The child died at a Wichita hospital. Fox will also have to register as a violent offender for 15 years after he completes his sentence. Fox was in a relationship with Gabriel's mother when the boy was killed. His mother, Brandi Niehoff, pleaded no contest in December 2020 to aggravated child endangerment. She is scheduled to be sentenced April 13.

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KU Taps Northwestern University Administrator Goff as Athletic Director

UNDATED (AP) — The University of Kansas has hired Northwestern University administrator Travis Goff to be its athletic director. Goff is a KU alumnus and a native of Dodge City. He has been at Northwestern since 2012, most recently as deputy athletic director and assistant vice president for development. He played a role in fundraising that led to massive facilities upgrades at Northwestern. KU has been searching for an athletic director since Jeff Long resigned almost a month ago. He was criticized for his hiring of longtime friend Les Miles, who parted ways with the University of Kansas amid allegations of sexual misconduct dating to the football coach's days at LSU.  (Read more.)

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