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Noonletter: What's Happening In Kansas Today

Crysta Henthorne
Kansas News Service

(This is a digest of news from across the state.)

Sedgwick Deputy Killed

A call to the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Department early Sunday afternoon about a “suspicious character” in a small town 10 miles west of Wichita ended with Deputy Robert Kunze and a 29-year-old man both shot dead.

Witnesses, reports the Kansas News Service’s Stephan Bisaha, say the two men fought after Kunze confiscated a possibly stolen handgun and tried to handcuff the other man, later identified as Robert Greeson.

By the time a second deputy showed up in Garden Plain, both Kunze and Greeson lay dead of gunshot wounds.

Authorities think Greeson was involved in the theft of both a vehicle and a gun. They also said that he and Kunze scuffled over a firearm. The deputy’s gun, at least, fired off a shot or shots in the incident.

Kunze was 41. He’d been working for the Sedgwick County Sheriff since 2006 and had been a sheriff’s deputy in Shawnee County before that. The deputy leaves behind a wife and child.

Nursing home sepsis

Sepsis is a potentially lethal complication that can swoop in behind infection. Chemicals released into the bloodstream to fight infection create a biological overreaction of inflammation and sometimes trigger organ failure.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen broke down a report from Kaiser Health News and found that scores of nursing homes in Kansas have been cited since 2015 for doing too little to keep sepsis at bay.

Her story includes interactive maps that show which nursing homes had what kind of citations, and that show staffing levels at different facilities.

Sepsis can pose a particular danger in nursing homes. Infections can be common. Bedsores are common. And the elderly often don’t show physical symptoms, such as fever, that would set off alarms. Or they can have trouble describing the forms of discomfort that might also alert their caregivers.

Kansas women make less than men, and women elsewhere

Women in Kansas earn, on average, 77 percent of the wages as men in the state. That gap lands Kansas 42nd in the country in a study released recently by the American Association of University Women. You can find a breakdown by congressional districts here.

Another Obamacare fight

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt knows that as controversial as Obamacare has become, and as much as Republicans have fought it at nearly every turn, its guarantee of coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions remains highly popular.

By joining with 19 other attorneys in a lawsuit now pending before a federal judge in Texas, Schmidt is playing a role in a case that threatens that protection for people with pre-existing conditions.

But, he told Jim McLean, as attorney general he’s obliged to challenge the requirement that everybody buy health insurance because he believes it’s unconstitutional.

Next, he said, Congress will have to look for another way to demand insurance companies cover everyone regardless of their current health.

“If we’re successful,” Schmidt said, “it may serve to accelerate that essential need for Congress to revisit the law.”

Killer pond scum takes a vacation

For the first time since 2010, Milford Lake did not experience a toxic blue-green algae bloom this year. The blooms are problematic because they’ve been known to kill some animals and leave humans who come in contact with contaminated water with diarrhea and other intestinal sicknesses.

Brian Grimmett has reported recently about efforts to better understand what causes the pond scum to take over Kansas lakes, and possible ways to prevent it.

But this year, the putrid-smelling algae has stayed away from Milford Lake.

“We didn’t see any at all,” said Mike Carney, the manager of a campground near the lake in Wakefield, Kansas. “And this is by far the fullest I’ve ever had the park.”

For the past two years, state officials have been lowering the water level of the lake during the winter and spring to allow plants to grow around the water’s edge. When the water rises again in the summer, the new plants use up some of the excess nitrogen and phosphorus in the lake that fuel harmful algae blooms.

Worth your time

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Scott Canon is digital editor of the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. You can reach him on Twitter @ScottCanon.

 Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post. 

As the editor of a statewide news outlet, I aspire to work with our reporters to give Kansans a clear-eyed view of the place they call home. That means delivering hard-hitting stories that expose those things that keep Kansas from being the most vibrant, healthy place it can be. You can reach me at scott@kcur.org or 816-235-8023.
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