Headlines for Friday, June 17, 2022

COVID Vaccines for Babies, Children May Soon Be Headed to Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) – Thousands of doses of vaccines to protect babies and young children from COVID-19 may soon be on their way to Kansas. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says it has pre-ordered vaccines from the federal government to vaccinate kids under 5 years old.  The Kansas News Service reports that the COVID-19 vaccines made for children as young as six months old are set to receive final approval in the coming days after a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory group signed off on them. In preparation, Kansas officials pre-ordered about 65,000 total doses for those ages. The Moderna vaccine requires two-doses, while the Pfizer vaccine requires three. Dr. Michael Nelson, who serves on the national advisory group, called approval critical for fighting the spread of COVID-19. “Having options at every age group is important.” he said. The final steps are federal agencies endorsing the vaccine’s use. If that happens this week, the state could distribute doses sometime next week.

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Kansas Governor Announces Assistance for Cattle Ranchers Affected by Heat Wave, Loss of Cattle

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR)  – Governor Laura Kelly says her administration is working to help cattle feeders in southwestern Kansas whose cattle died in recent days due to heat stress. A combination of temperatures spiking in a short amount of time, high humidity, and little-to-no wind caused cattle losses last weekend – a rare event in an area that is usually ideal for cattle feeding. Kelly says she’s directed state agencies to do everything in their power to help. “From expediting burial permits to reaching out to cattle producers across the state, my Administration is working to ease the impact of (these) losses,” she said. “We’re working as quickly as possible to assist facilities in safely disposing of the carcasses and to respond to the needs of impacted ranchers,” said Janet Stanek, Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and the Environment.

Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Mike Beam assured residents that the losses will not create a beef supply glitch. “Last weekend’s losses reflect a very small percentage of the total fed cattle numbers in the state, so it will not impact meat prices for consumers,” he said.  Federal resources are also available. Affected cattle feeders are eligible for USDA indemnity payments, which are made to compensate for the loss or destruction of certain animals and crops. Governor Kelly recently proclaimed May 2022 “Kansas Beef Month.”  Beef cattle contribute nearly $13 billion annually to the state’s economy.

 (Earlier reporting…)

Thousands of Cattle Die in Extreme Kansas Heat

WESTERN KANSAS, (KNS) – Extreme heat in southwest Kansas has killed thousands of cattle worth millions of dollars. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment confirmed at least 2,000 cattle died from the heat.  The Kansas News Service reports that heat stress on livestock is always a concern for ranchers during the summer months. But Scarlett Hagins, with the Kansas Livestock Association, says the situation now is unusual. That’s because the high temperatures – combined with high humidity and virtually no wind – make it hard for cattle to keep cool. Hagins says each of the dead cattle likely would have sold for about $2,000. “It’s a significant loss for sure, no matter how many were lost,” she said. A Kansas State University vet has urged ranchers to protect their cattle from heat stress by decreasing feeding and only moving them during cooler periods of the day.

(AP version)

Heat Stress Blamed for Thousands of Cattle Deaths in Western Kansas

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — Industry officials say thousands of cattle in feedlots in southwestern Kansas have died of heat stress due to soaring temperatures, high humidity and little wind in recent days. The final toll remains unclear, but as of Thursday at least 2,000 heat-related deaths had been reported to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, the state agency that assists in disposing of carcasses. That number could rise as more losses from this week’s heat wave are reported. The cattle deaths have sparked unsubstantiated rumors on social media that something besides the weather was at play, but Kansas agriculture officials have said no other cause is evident.

(Earlier / additional reporting…)

Thousands of Cattle Dead in Kansas Heat, Adding Pain to Beleaguered Industry

UNDATED (NBC/Reuters) – At least 2,000 Kansas cattle – and maybe more – have died in recent days amid soaring temperatures and high humidity, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. NBC News and Reuters report that Kansas is the third largest U.S. cattle state behind Texas and Nebraska, with more than 2.4 million cattle in feedlots. The deaths add pain to the U.S. cattle industry as producers have reduced herds due to drought and grappled with feed costs that climbed as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine tightened global grain supplies. Ukraine is one of the leading exporters of corn in the world. Matthew Lara, a spokesperson for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said the cattle deaths were tallied based on the number of carcasses the agency was called to dispose of, Reuters reported.  Cattle began suffering heat stress as temperatures and humidity spiked over the weekend in western Kansas and cooling winds disappeared, said Scarlett Hagins, spokesperson for the Kansas Livestock Association. Meanwhile, eight northwest Kansas counties were placed under extreme drought warnings earlier this month. Temperatures reached 108 degrees in northwest Kansas Monday, said Drew Lerner, president of World Weather Inc. This weekend, parts of western Kansas and the Texas panhandle will near 110 degrees, though stronger winds and lower humidity levels will help minimize cattle deaths, he said.

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Mass Shooting Threat Suspect Behind KC Metro-Area School Cancellations in Custody 

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) – The suspect in the threat made to the Blue Springs, Missouri, School District is in custody, according to the Blue Springs Police Department. KWCH TV reports that the department said they received a call Tuesday morning about a mass shooting threat made on Snapchat. At least seven Kansas City-area school districts canceled summer school classes Wednesday over the mass shooting threat against the Blue Springs district.

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Man Facing Charge for Issuing Threat Against Worlds of Fun Patrons and Staff

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Kansas City Star) – A man is accused of threatening to use explosives and kill children at the Kansas City-area Worlds of Fun amusement park. The Kansas City Star reports that officials say Johnathan G. Smith on Sunday allegedly made a phone call to a person and said he wanted to “kill kids” and staff at the park. He also allegedly threatened to blow up a hotel where he was apparently staying, and allegedly telephoned the North Kansas City Police Department saying that he wanted to have “a Texas style shooting,” which may have been a reference to the school massacre in Uvalde, Texas last month. Kansas City police located Smith Sunday at a truck stop a few miles from Worlds of Fun. Court records indicate that he was taken to Liberty Hospital for a mental evaluation.  The 59-year-old Smith was charged Tuesday with one count of making a terrorist threat. He’s also accused of attempting to purchase a firearm from a person who was a sheriff’s office informant. (Read more.)

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Kansas City Lands World Cup Games

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCUR/KNS) – Cheers erupted in the Power and Light District Thursday as FIFA announced that Kansas City will be one of the North American cities hosting the men’s World Cup tournament in 2026. Kansas City will be one of 16 cities across North America to host the biggest sporting event in the world. The announcement comes after years of planning from elected officials and local sports leaders. In a recorded message, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said he was excited by the idea of watching World Cup games at Arrowhead Stadium. “We can’t wait to welcome fans from across the globe to the heart of America and to the world’s loudest stadium,” he said. The 2026 World Cup will be the single biggest sporting event ever to be held in Kansas City.

(AP version)

FIFA Picks 2026 World Cup Host Cities, Predicts Soccer Will Be `No. 1 Sport’

NEW YORK (AP) — Atlanta, Houston, Miami, Philadelphia and Seattle and Kansas City, Missouri, were the newcomers among the 11 U.S. sites picked to host games at the 2026 World Cup, while Baltimore, Cincinnati, Denver, Nashville, Tennessee, and Orlando, Florida, were left out. Arlington, Texas; East Rutherford, New Jersey; Foxborough, Massachusetts, and Inglewood and Santa Clara, California, were the holdovers. Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca, which hosted the 1970 and ’86 finals and will become the first stadium to host three World Cups, was selected along with Guadalajara’s Estadio Akron and Monterrey’s Estadio BBVA. Toronto’s BMO Field and Vancouver, British Columbia’s B.C. Place were picked while Edmonton, Alberta’s Commonwealth Stadium was dropped.

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Governor Signs Proclamation Recognizing Juneteenth as State Holiday in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) – Kansas Governor Laura Kelly stopped in Wichita Wednesday in part to sign a proclamation recognizing Juneteenth in Kansas. KWCH TV reports that the signing, at the Kansas African American Museum, recognizes the nation’s newest federal holiday coming up Sunday, June 19. Juneteenth marks the complete emancipation of enslaved people in the U.S.  While President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, it wasn’t until June 19, 1865, that news of their freedom reached enslaved people in Galveston, Texas.  “That’s a real independence day,” said Wichita City Council member Brandon Johnson. “On July 4, you know, many Americans were free, but it wasn’t until then (Juneteenth) that all Americans were free. That’s something we need to continue to think about,” Johnson said.

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Substitute Teacher Eligibility Expanded to Address Kansas Teacher Shortage

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) – The standards for substitute teaching in Kansas will continue to be lowered for a second consecutive semester in the wake of a growing shortage of educators in the state. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Kansas Board of Education voted 7-3 Wednesday to temporarily expand eligibility for the state’s emergency substitute teacher license. Board members Ben Jones, Melanie Haas and Janet Waugh voted against the measure.  Ordinarily, emergency substitute teacher license holders must have a bachelor’s degree or proof of having completed at least 60 college credit hours. The board’s action on Wednesday expands that eligibility to high school graduates, subject to them clearing background and fingerprint checks. However, those high school graduates will need to be sponsored by a local school district, and they will also have to complete an online training program educating them about various strategies and approaches to teaching and classroom management.  (Read more.)

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Kansas Board of Regents Approve Flat Tuition at All Public Universities

TOPEKA, Kan. (KAKE) – The Kansas Board of Regents (KBOR) has approved flat tuition at the six state universities today. “The Regents are excited that students at state universities in Kansas will see no tuition increases next academic year,” said Kansas Board of Regents Chair Cheryl Harrison-Lee. “I’m thankful that Governor Kelly and the Legislature provided funding for flat tuition.”  KAKE TV reports that this is the fourth year in a row that the Board has approved flat tuition for undergraduate resident students at the University of Kansas. Kansas State, Emporia State, Fort Hays State, Pittsburg State and Wichita State have had no undergraduate resident tuition increases in three of the past four years.  One of the responsibilities of KBOR is to set tuition and fees at state universities. The tuition and fee proposals that were approved by the Board this week are available on KBOR’s website

(-Related-)

Kansas Regents Schools Consider Ways to Spend Federal Funds from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA)

TOPEKA, Kan. (LJW) – The Kansas Board of Regents (KBOR) acknowledged Wednesday that KU has qualified for at least $35 million in one-time money, and perhaps tens of millions more, in federal stimulus dollars related to the pandemic recovery. According to the Lawrence Journal-World, all of the state’s Regents universities are set to receive varying amounts of ARPA (American Rescure Plan Act) money. KBOR received preliminary proposals on how the money would be spent from every university — except KU. Leaders at KU asked the board for additional time to think about how KU would spend the money. “You want to be prudent about this because this is once-in-a-very-long-time type of money,” Jeff DeWitt, KU’s chief financial officer, said in a brief interview. “We may never see this money again.” DeWitt said he would like to have the summer to study several possibilities for how KU could spend the money.  When asked whether KU might use the ARPA money for athletic facilities — there continues to be talk about KU’s need to improve its football stadium, for instance — DeWitt simply said KU would consider any project that provided good economic value to KU and the state.  At least one Regents school, Fort Hays State, is proposing to use its ARPA money for athletic facility improvements.

Other University Plans:

• Wichita State hopes to use $35 million to help fund a joint project with KU to build a new health education center in Wichita that will put KU’s Wichita medical school and WSU’s nursing and other medical programs under one roof.

• Kansas State hopes to use $25 million to partially fund new innovation centers related to grain, food, animal and agronomy research. K-State President Richard Linton told the Regents the project would involve the construction of three new buildings and the renovation of two others.

• Emporia State hopes to use $5 million to move its nursing school from an off-campus location in Emporia into a remodeled dormitory building on ESU’s main campus. The move would allow the program to expand the number of nursing students ESU can serve.

• Pittsburg State hopes to use $5 million to further invest in a downtown Pittsburg mixed-used development that it helped construct in 2018. The project, in addition to housing and retail, includes business incubator space, which has a wait list. Separately, Pitt State hopes to access a second pot of ARPA money that would allow it to build a $7.5 million “prove-out facility” for its National Institute for Materials Research. The 20,000-square-foot center would be able to do small-scale manufacturing of new products that use research from the Pitt State materials laboratory.

While $35 million worth of ARPA money has been set aside for use specifically by KU, there is also another $75 million in ARPA funds potentially available to any Regents institution that comes up with a qualified project. However, those funds come with a major stipulation — the university must match every dollar of ARPA money with $3 of private funds.

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Western Kansas Mom, 4-Year-Old Daughter Found Dead

SPEARVILLE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says a western Kansas mother and her 4-year-old daughter have been found dead, and the woman’s boyfriend is in custody. The man reported 31-year-old Kayla Vasquez and 4-year-old Aalilyah Vasquez, of Spearville, missing on Wednesday. The KBI says Ford County Sheriff’s deputies and Spearville police saw evidence that a crime had been committed and detained the man for questioning. Kayla Vasquez’s body was found early Thursday in rural Ford County. About 90 minutes later, her daughter’s body was found in Kinsley, about 20 miles northeast of Spearville in Edwards County. Autopsies are scheduled. The boyfriend was arrested on suspicion of capital murder.

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KBI Executes Search Warrants Against a Kansas Police Department

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (KSNT) – The Kansas Bureau of Investigation has executed search warrants against a local law enforcement agency. KSNT reports that several search warrants were executed Wednesday against the Junction City Police Department (JCPD) and other police facilities in Geary County. The KBI said that the case was initiated on June 7, and several JCPD personnel were put on administrative leave pending the case’s outcome. The KBI says the JCPD is fully cooperating with the investigation. No arrests have been made.

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Kansas City Church and School Evacuated After Bomb Threat

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KSHB) — Calvary Lutheran Church and School in Kansas City was evacuated Wednesday morning after a bomb threat was made against the school. KSHB TV reports that children were inside the school for summer activities at the time of evacuation. Kansas City police say the threat was reported around 9:30 am Wednesday.  KCPD bomb and arson detectives cleared the school with assistance from the K9 unit. The investigation will now be led by KCPD assault squad detectives. Police say details of the threat or how it was made are not available at this time. “We obviously take these threats very seriously and our investigators will continue to work with the school administration in regard,” KCPD Public Information Officer Donna Drake said.

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Missouri Man Gets Prison Term for Killing Friend in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Missouri man has been sentenced to more than six years in prison for the shooting death of his friend in Wichita three years ago. Television station KSN reports that 25-year-old Brandon Craig, of Independence, Missouri, was sentenced Wednesday in Sedgwick County District Court to 74 months in prison. Craig pleaded guilty in April to voluntary manslaughter and aggravated battery in the shooting death of 21-year-old Justin Lane, of Grain Valley, Missouri. Police called to a Wichita home the night of April 12, 2019, found Lane dead with a single gunshot wound to the head. Investigators said Lane and Craig were visiting another friend at the home when they began fighting, and Craig shot Lane. Craig said the shooting was accidental.

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Missouri Man Pleads Guilty in Catalytic Converter Thefts

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A 24-year-old Missouri man has pleaded guilty to participating in a scheme to transport tens of thousands of stolen catalytic converters across state lines into Arkansas. Evan Marshall, of Rogersville, pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to transporting stolen property as part of a multi-million dollar business. He is the sixth of seven people indicted in the case to plead guilty. Marshall admitted that he bought and transported stolen catalytic converters valued at $1 million or more to a business in Mountain Home, Arkansas. Theft of the emission control devices has skyrocketed across the country because they contain valuable precious metals.

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Kansas AG’s Race: Kobach Backs Lowering Drinking Age to 18

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) – Republican attorney general candidate Kris Kobach has endorsed lowering Kansas’s legal drinking age to 18. He promised Wednesday that if he’s elected this year, he will challenge the federal policy preventing the move. Kobach criticized a 1980s federal law that threatens states with the loss of highway dollars if their drinking ages are below 21. He said he believes the U.S. Supreme Court would now overturn that law. The issue arose during a debate for GOP attorney general candidates in Overland Park with Kobach, state Senator Kellie Warren and ex-federal prosecutor Tony Mattivi. Kobach said if 18-year-olds can go to war, they should have all the rights other citizens enjoy. 

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KU Gets Federal Grant to Search for Rare Earth Minerals

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KNS) – A federal grant will help pay for University of Kansas staff to search for rare earth materials critical for high-tech manufacturing. The $1.5 million grant comes from the Department of Energy. The Kansas News Service reports that the ground in Kansas and nearby states will become part of the search area because material leftover in mines from Iowa to Arkansas could still hold rare earth elements. Franek Hasiuk, one of the scientists involved with the project, says researchers will sample old mines and leftover mine waste for the minerals critical for making electronics and high-tech products. Researchers will use stratigraphy, the process of studying layers of earth to look for the elements. “When I lived up in Iowa, they like to say, in the hog industry they use everything but the squeal,” he said.  “And what we’re trying to do here with our stratigraphy is use it all.” Hasiuk works for the Kansas Geological Survey, based at the University of Kansas.  The rare earth industry is dominated by China, and U.S. officials want to boost domestic production to reduce supply chain disruptions.

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Report: Kansas Could Do More to Protect Patients from High Medical Bills

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) – A report from the University of Arizona and Pew Charitable Trusts says Kansas could do more to protect people facing large medical bills. The Kansas News Service reports that according to researchers, Kansas should require hospitals to tell patients about free charity care – and make clear that health care providers can’t send bills to collections while patients are still negotiating the amount owed. Gabriela Elizondo-Craig is a postgraduate fellow at the University of Arizona College of Law. She says states don’t need to wait for Congress to act. “There are so many important protections that can be put in place by the state legislatures,” she said. Most debt lawsuits in the U.S. are about medical bills.  The new report also found Missouri has weak consumer protections. (Read more.)

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KANSAS! Magazine Wins Gold at International Awards

TOPEKA, Kan. (Atchison Globe) – KANSAS! Magazine has received a Gold Award for its history feature titled “200 Years of the Santa Fe Trail,” at the 42nd annual International Regional Magazine Association awards presentation.  The Atchison Globe reports that the award-winning feature, published in fall 2021 by writer Beccy Tanner, illustrates the importance the Santa Fe Trail had on shaping not only Kansas, but the west as we know it. In addition to Gold, KANSAS! won a Silver Award, two Bronze Awards, and was a Finalist for Magazine of the Year. Andrea Etzel, Editor of KANSAS! and publication manager for Kansas Tourism, accepted the awards on behalf of the magazine. Published by Kansas Tourism, a division of the Kansas Department of Commerce, KANSAS! is the premier subscription lifestyle magazine for the Sunflower State.

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Missouri Man Accused of Illegal Dig at Native American Site

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal indictment accuses a Missouri man and others of breaking into a prehistoric Native American archeological site and using shovels, rakes and other tools to dig up artifacts, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. Seventy-year-old Johnny Lee Brown of Clinton was charged in an 11-count indictment filed April 26 but unsealed and made public Tuesday. The indictment alleges that Brown, two known co-conspirators and others, excavated archeological items from federal land at Truman Lake near the town of Tightwad, Missouri, at least 10 times from June 2016 through September. It’s unclear what was done with the items allegedly taken from the site.

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Wichita State Hires Murray State Athletic Director Saal

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State has hired Murray State athletic director Kevin Saal as its athletic director. Wichita State President Rick Muma announced Wednesday that Saal, a 44-year-old Kansas native, will take over the job in mid-July. Saal replaces Darron Boatright, who was fired in May in part over the university’s lack of preparation to compete in the new market of name, image and likeness payments to athletes. Before going to Murray State, Saal spent 12 years at Kentucky, where he held various roles before becoming executive associate director of athletics. He was event coordinator and had administrative responsibilities for golf and rowing at Kansas State from 2000 to 2005, and director of operations at Missouri-Kansas City from 2005 to 2007.

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SEC/Big 12 Challenge Matchups Set for January 2023

UNDATED (AP) – Kansas will visit Kentucky and Baylor is set to host Arkansas in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge next season. The leagues announced the 10 matchups set for next January 28, a Saturday. All 10 Big 12 members and all but four of the Southeastern Conference teams will participate. The other games include: Alabama at Oklahoma, Auburn at West Virginia, Florida at Kansas State, Texas Tech at LSU, Mississippi at Oklahoma State, TCU at Mississippi State, Iowa State at Missouri, and Texas at Tennessee. The SEC has held the edge in five of the last six years.

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These area headlines are curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Kaye McIntyre, and Tom Parkinson. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays, 11 am weekends. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today

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