Headlines for Friday, March 3, 2023
Lawrence, Olathe Men Arrested on Charges of Selling Tech to Russia
WASHINGTON (AP/LJW) — The Justice Department has arrested two Kansas men on allegations that they illegally exported aviation-related technology to Russia and provided repair services for the equipment. Cyril Gregory Buyanovsky, of Lawrence, and Douglas Robertson, of Olathe, are charged with conspiracy, exporting controlled goods without a license, falsifying and failing to file electronic export information, and smuggling goods in violation of U.S. law. The charges come as the U.S. has drastically ramped up sanctions and financial penalties on Russia since its invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, 2022. Export controls on the Kremlin are meant to limit access to computer chips and other products needed to equip a modern military.
The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Buyanovsky and Robertson owned and operated KanRus Trading Company, which allegedly supplied aircraft electronics to Russian companies and provided repair services for equipment used in Russian-manufactured aircraft. The indictment says that since 2020, they conspired to evade U.S. export laws by concealing and misstating the true end users and destinations of their exports and by shipping equipment through third-party countries.
They face up to 35 years in prison if convicted.
Since the anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, U.S. officials have said they would increase enforcement and sanctions on people and entities that assist Russia in the procurement of weaponry and technology that would bolster its military.
Man on Parole Convicted in Triple Killing in Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 47-year-old man has been convicted in the deaths of three people in Kansas City while he was on parole for another murder. The Jackson County Prosecutor's office said Thursday that Victor Skyes was found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder. Prosecutors said he and a woman with him killed Larona Jones, Larry Barnes and Brandy Jones in October 2019. A probable cause statement says Barnes and Sykes got into an argument outside of the house before the victims were shot. His co-defendant, Lynnsey Jones, is currently serving three life sentences after admitting that she shot all three victims. Court documents say Skyes was on parole for a previous murder when the shootings occurred.
Ford to Raise Production, Kansas City Plan to Hire More Workers, as U.S. Auto Sales Start to Recover
DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — Ford says it will increase production of six models through the year as the company and the auto industry start to rebound from sluggish U.S. sales in 2022. The automaker announced Friday that it plans to build more of the Mustang Mach-E, the Bronco Sport SUV and Maverick small pickup. Also slated for production increases are the F-150 Lightning electric pickup and the Transit and E-Transit gas and electric full-size vans. For roughly the past two years, U.S. auto sales have been depressed largely due to a shortage of computer chips that started during the coronavirus pandemic. But the chip shortage is starting to ease and automakers like Ford are starting to increase production and build supplies on dealer lots.
To help increase production, the company last year said it would add a third shift and 1,100 jobs at its full-size van plant in Claycomo, Missouri, near Kansas City, and another 3,200 jobs related to building the F-150 Lightning which is made in Dearborn, Michigan. Ford will also hire an unspecified number of new workers this year at plants in Cuautitlan and Hermosillo, Mexico, where the Mach-E, Maverick and Bronco Sport are made, according to spokesman Said Deep. Production line speeds will increase shortly to raise production, with more workers coming later, he said.
For more than two years, U.S. auto sales have been depressed largely due to a shortage of computer chips during the coronavirus pandemic. But the chip shortage is easing and automakers like Ford are starting to increase production and build supplies on dealer lots.
The production jumps are good news for consumers, who have had long wait times for some more popular models and have been forced to pay high prices due to strong demand and short supplies. J.D. Power reported that the average U.S. new vehicle sold for $46,229 last month, a record for the month of February.
Advocates for Homeless Decry Kansas Bill Aimed At Addressing the Problem
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - A bill creating new penalties for sleeping or camping on government-owned property has been met with fierce resistance at the Kansas Statehouse. The Kansas News Service reports that under the bill, it would be a misdemeanor to sleep in a park or on other government property without permission. Someone could also be fined $1. The proposal could also cut state funding to cities with higher than average homeless rates. But that would only happen if the state determined a city wasn’t complying with the bill’s ban on camping in public places. The measure was blasted as an attack against homeless Kansans that criminalizes rather than helps people in crisis. Judge Glock is from the Austin, Texas-based Cicero Institute. He was the only person to support the idea. “The bill is a modest but necessary reform that ensure cities and counties enforce these laws.” More than 50 people testified against the legislation.
Critics say the legislation could make the homeless problem worse by cutting off funding to cities that don’t comply with the proposed law. Rob Santel is with Crosslines Community Outreach, a non profit helping homeless Kansans. He told lawmakers the bill won’t help anyone. “We all agree and believe that we need solutions to homelessness. This is not a real solution," he said. "In the words of researcher Iain De Jong, let experts do their job and beware of snake oil salesmen.” (Read more.)
New Tick-Borne Disease, Fatal to Cows, Detected in Kansas
UNDATED (HPM) - The Asian long-horned tick is an invasive species spreading a new fatal disease among cattle in the U.S. The disease, carried by a newly discovered invasive species of tick, is moving west across the U.S. and killing cattle. The Asian long-horned tick carries theileria, which causes fatal anemia in affected cows. It’s recently been discovered in Kansas. Cassandra Old, microbiologist at Kansas State University, says the disease is so devastating because it’s new and cows haven’t yet developed an immune response. “So, your outbreaks are always going to be the most severe when something is introduced into a new environment," she said. Olds says it’s likely that cows will eventually adapt to the new pathogen. But for now, agricultural experts say the disease could have devastating effects on cattle herds. That could lead to a decrease in beef supply and increase beef prices for consumers. Theileria has so far been detected in seven states, including Kansas.
Kansas Lawmakers Look to Boost Adoption and Increase Number of Child Care Workers
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas lawmakers want to use tax dollars to encourage people to work in child care and to add larger incentives for adoption. One of the bills pending in a state Senate committee would provide a $2,000 income tax credit to workers at licensed child care facilities. The other bill would increase the one-time tax credit for individuals who adopt children. The tax credit would max out at roughly $15,000. Republican Senator Chase Blasi, who has adopted two children, says the bill would help offset the cost. He says some people are scared away from adoption by the cost of taking in another child. The state estimates the two bills would cost less than $20 million a year.
Kansas House Passes Bill to Raise Tobacco Age to 21
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The Kansas House has passed a bill raising the minimum age to 21 to purchase and use tobacco products. The bill would bring the state into compliance with federal law. So far, 46 other states have already raised the age. Republican Representative John Eplee is a doctor who has pushed for the law in the past. He says most tobacco sellers in Kansas are in compliance with the federal law, but they are not required to follow it. “It provides new compliance that will help reduce the number of people that end up picking up tobacco and tobacco related products," he said. The federal government raised the age to 21 in 2019. Kansas risks losing $1.2 million of federal funding if it does not comply with the federal law.
The Implications of Walgreens' Decision on Abortion Pills
UNDATED (AP) – Walgreens says it will not start selling an abortion pill in 20 states that had warned of legal consequences if it did so.
The drugstore chain’s announcement Thursday signals that access to mifepristone may not expand as broadly as federal regulators intended in January, when they finalized a rule change allowing more pharmacies to provide the pill.
Here’s a closer look at the issue.
ABOUT THE ABORTION PILL
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone in 2000 to end pregnancy, when used in combination with a second drug, misoprostol. The combination is approved for use up to the 10th week of pregnancy.
Mifepristone is taken first to dilate the cervix and block a hormone needed to sustain a pregnancy. Misoprostol is taken a day or two later, causing contractions to empty the uterus.
More than half of U.S. abortions are now done with pills rather than with a procedure, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights. In rare cases, the drug combination can cause excess bleeding, requiring emergency care.
For more than 20 years, the FDA limited dispensing of mifepristone to a subset of specialty offices and clinics due to safety concerns.
The agency has repeatedly eased restrictions and expanded access, increasing demand even as state laws make the pills harder to get for many women.
In late 2021, the agency eliminated an in-person requirement for getting the pill, saying a new scientific review showed no increase in safety complications if the drug is taken at home. That change also permitted the pill to be prescribed via telehealth and shipped by mail-order pharmacies.
Earlier this year, the FDA further loosened restrictions by allowing pharmacies like Walgreens to start dispensing the drug after they undergo certification. That includes meeting standards for shipping, tracking and confidentially storing prescribing information.
STATES STEP IN
Typically, the FDA’s authority to regulate prescription drug access has gone unchallenged. But more than a dozen states now have laws restricting abortion broadly — and the pills specifically — following last year’s Supreme Court decision overturning the federal right to abortion.
Last month, attorneys general in 20 conservative-led states...including Kansas...warned CVS and Walgreens in a letter that they could face legal consequences if they sell abortion pills by mail in their states.
In addition to state laws, attorneys general from conservative states have argued that shipments of mifepristone run afoul of a 19th century law that prohibited sending items used in abortion through the mail.
A spokesman says the company told the attorneys general that it will not dispense mifepristone in their states and it does plan to ship the drug to them as well.
But Walgreens is working to become eligible through the FDA’s certification process. It plans to dispense the pills where it can legally do so.
The company is not currently dispensing the pills anywhere.
Representatives of CVS Health Corp. and Rite Aid Corp. did not respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press.
Neither did representatives of the retail giant Walmart and the grocery chain Kroger, which have in-store pharmacies.
Some independent pharmacists would like to become certified to dispense the pills, said Andrea Pivarunas, a spokeswoman for the National Community Pharmacists Association. She added that this would be a “personal business decision," based partly on state laws. The association has no specifics on how many will do it.
OTHER LEGAL ISSUES
In November, an anti-abortion group filed a federal lawsuit in Texas seeking to revoke mifepristone's approval, claiming the FDA approved the drug 23 years ago without adequate evidence of safety.
A federal judge could rule soon. If he sides with abortion opponents, mifepristone could potentially be removed from the U.S. market.
In January, abortion rights supporters filed separate lawsuits challenging abortion pill restrictions imposed in North Carolina and West Virginia.
Legal experts foresee years of court battles over access to the pills.
AP Health Writer Matthew Perrone contributed to this story.
UPDATE: Authorities Release Name of Man Killed in KC SWAT Stand-Off
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KSHB) - Authorities have released the name of the man who died during a stand-off with Kansas City police that started Tuesday night and continued into Wednesday. The Missouri State Highway Patrol, which is handling the investigation, identified the man as 62-year-old Matthew Carrell. Investigators are calling the death a suicide. After an 18-hour standoff at a home in Kansas City, officers finally entered the residence, where they found Carrell dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot. KSHB TV reports that authorities also found a cache of weapons and ammunition. Another man, 50-year-old Jimmie R. Lewis was arrested and charged with interstate methamphetamine trafficking and weapons charges.
Standoff Ends in Kansas City; Body Found in Home Where 3 Police Officers Were Shot
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say three Kansas City police officers were shot and wounded while searching a suspected drug house, prompting a standoff that ended about 18 hours later with the discovery of a body. Missouri Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. Bill Lowe said the SWAT team entered around 3:30 Wednesday afternoon, finding the body and an uninjured woman. She has been taken into custody, along with two others who surrendered from the home hours earlier. One of those who surrendered, 50-year-old Jimmie Lewis Jr., was charged Wednesday with federal charges stemming from a November 2021 police pursuit. No charges were immediately filed in the shooting. The names of the other two suspects weren't immediately released, Lowe said. Identification of the slain man and his cause of death also wasn't released, pending an autopsy and notification of his relatives.
It all started around 9:30 pm Tuesday when tactical response team officers forced entry into the house and were fired upon. The officers returned fire. The wounded officers were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The case began as a federal drug investigation.
Hoax Call of an Active School Shooter in Lawrence Just One of Many Made Across the Nation
LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - Lawrence police continue to investigate a hoax call about an active shooter at Free State High School. The that the prank call was just one of several made across the state and nation on Wednesday. A School Resource Officer at Free State High recognized the call as a "swatting" incident. Swatting refers to the act of making a prank call to emergency services in an attempt to attract police officers to a specific address. About 2 dozen Lawrence police officers responded after the call came in just before 8:30 am. Police believe the hoax call came from a phone number outside the area. A high school in Topeka was also referenced in a similar hoax call made to the Topeka Police Department.
In addition, other police departments from across the state, including Wichita, Manhattan, Garden City, Junction City and El Dorado reported similar hoax calls of active shooters. As many as 17 Kansas schools were affected by such hoax calls on Wednesday. Other locales across the nation, including in Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio, reported hoax calls at schools on Wednesday. Last week, more than a dozen Colorado schools entered lockdowns over swatting incidents. Over the last two days, at least eight schools in Minnesota have received hoax calls. Making such calls is a crime.
Extended Food Benefits Coming to an End in Kansas
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - More than 63,000 Kansas households could see their government food assistance trimmed back. The Kansas News Service reports that advocates for the poor are worried how this will hit families already struggling with inflation. The emergency allotments went into effect during the pandemic. SNAP recipients in Kansas will get one more enhanced payment of food stamps in March. Martha Terhaar is the southwest Kansas anti-hunger advocate for the group Kansas Appleseed. She says community food banks and soup kitchens have already been strained by high food prices. “They're already feeling overwhelmed and really nervous about this upcoming change," she said. "Because it'll put a lot more stress on their programs.” Kansas Appleseed estimates an average reduction in benefits of $82 per person starting in April.
Total Kansas Tax Collections in February Exceed Estimates by Nearly $37 Million
TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) – Total Kansas tax collections for February were $549.8 million, almost $37 million more than had been estimated. Collections were also $47 million more than in February 2022. Governor Laura Kelly touted the economic news Wednesday, saying revenues had exceeded estimates for 30 of the last 31 months. Individual income tax collections were $211 million in February, about $6 million more than expected.
Complaint: Kansas Agency Probing GOP Broke Open Meetings Law
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two defense attorneys who've questioned the fairness of a yearlong investigation in Kansas into Republican campaign activities accused the state ethics commission Thursday of violating Kansas' open meetings law.
The two attorneys represent people investigated by the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission, and they filed their complaint with state Attorney General Kris Kobach. The complaint said internal documents show that commission members had illegal, secret “serial communications” by email in April 2022 and took official action without a public meeting.
Records obtained by them and The Associated Press show commission members and staff decided by email how to counter a short-lived effort by Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature to oust the commission's executive director.
That ouster effort came less than six weeks after the commission subpoenaed at least seven Kansas Republican Party officials in February 2022, demanding that they turn over seven months' worth of communications in 2020 with more than 20 other people.
A commission report justifying those subpoenas suggested that it is investigating whether Republicans funneled national GOP funds through various committees to the state party and legislative candidates in 2020 to avoid contribution limits.
The attorneys filing the opening meetings complaint, Kansas City-area law partners Ryan Kriegshauser and Joshua Ney, also argue that the commission has a history of enforcing ethics rules inconsistently and violating people's constitutionally protected rights to free speech and fair treatment under the law.
Some Republican lawmakers believe the commission is on a fishing expedition, and the Kansas House is considering a bill to overhaul campaign laws and reduce the commission's power over issues raised by Krieghauser, Ney and others.
“Ninety-five percent of the punishment is just the cloud of having an ethics investigation, and so ultimately, the process is the punishment,” Ney said in an interview Thursday. “There is something seriously broken and dysfunctional with this agency.”
The ethics commission's executive director, Mark Skoglund, dismissed the complaint as an effort “to rally support for an absurd bill” that he said would “unleash an endless stream of dark money into Kansas."
Both Kobach and local District Attorney Mike Kagay, who also could wade in, are elected Republicans.
Several people who received the commission's subpoenas are asking a state district court judge to quash them. The commission report justifying the subpoenas listed transactions in 2020 involving Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson and House Speaker Dan Hawkins, both Wichita-area Republicans, before they had those offices.
The report didn't accuse Masterson or Hawkins of wrongdoing, and no complaints have been filed with the commission over such transactions. Masterson said the commission dropped a demand for records from him, while Hawkins said last week that he was never subpoenaed.
Kriegshauser is the attorney for a GOP consultant under investigation and Ney has long represented people facing commission investigations and complaints. They filed an open records request with the commission in late January to obtain more than 100 pages of emails and other communications.
Skoglund released the same documents Wednesday to The Associated Press and said in emails to the AP that the commission already had reported the email chain questioned by the two attorneys to Kagay, the local district attorney. Skoglund said the commission has "a persistent interest in transparency.”
“There has been no determination of a violation and it is entirely possible that no violation occurred in this instance,” Skoglund said in email Thursday.
Kobach’s office confirmed that it received the attorneys’ complaint electronically but said it could not comment further. Kagay did not immediately return telephone and email messages seeking comment.
Internal documents show that on April 4, 2022, three days after legislators tried to oust Skoglund, the commission's general counsel, Brett Barry, emailed commission members a “reminder” that the Kansas Open Meetings Act greatly restricts discussing public business by email. Skoglund told The AP on Wednesday that the commission also had an open-meetings training session in October.
The documents also show that after Skoglund notified commission members about the legislative effort to oust him, one of them, Wichita banker Jane Deterding, emailed back, “Well, that sucks!!”
“I'm all in to help,” she added.
Hours later, after the ouster attempt fizzled, another commission member, Kansas City-area attorney Kyle Krull, suggested an “unofficial” commission-and-staff meeting “at an offsite venue” to host lawmakers and discuss the matter “socially.” His email also said “we can even dip into” commission funds to cover such an event.
That message prompted Skoglund to ask Berry to “gently remind” commissioners of the Open Meetings Act's restrictions, though he said of Krull, "I think he is likely joking.”
But Kriegshauser said such an email shows a troubling “cavalier attitude” from commission members about the power they wield.
Four-Day Lawrence Busker Fest Set for May 26
LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - The Lawrence Busker Festival is set to return to downtown Lawrence in May. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the annual event, now in its 15th year, features a variety of street performers. The festival will take place over four days, starting on Friday, May 26. The Busker Fest features musicians, acrobats, magicians and other performers, along with food vendors and a beer garden. Organizer Richard Renner says the event brings street performers from around the world to showcase their talents.
Pompeo, Haley Take Veiled Jabs at Trump in CPAC Remarks
OXON HILL, Md. (AP) — Leading Republicans took veiled jabs at Donald Trump at an annual gathering of conservatives as they urged a party course correction ahead of the 2024 presidential contest. But their refusal to call him out by name underscored the risks faced by potential and declared challengers worried about alienating Trump’s loyal base. The remarks by former Kansas U.S. Representative and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley offered a snapshot of how the former president’s fellow Republicans are trying to delicately navigate his dominant role in the party while looking for ways to differentiate themselves in what could be a nasty and crowded primary contest.
Topeka Marketing Firm Celebrates 25 Years in Business by Fighting "Period Poverty" in Public Schools
TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) - A Topeka marketing and public relations firm is celebrating its 25th year in business by launching a campaign to address community health issues. MB Piland Advertising and Marketing will launch "Punctuating the Period" - a campaign designed to fight period poverty in Topeka Public Schools. "Our purpose is to improve the health and well-being of people and communities," said Martha Bartlett Piland, the firm’s president and CEO. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that for some students, a lack of access to menstrual products can mean forgoing classes and activities, with low-income families having a more difficult time being able to afford such products.
According to the advocacy nonprofit group Alliance for Period Supplies, one in seven Kansas women and girls, between the ages of 12 and 44, live below the federal poverty line. The group says one in four teens had missed class due to lack of access to period supplies. Alexandra Reilly, MB Piland's vice president and agent principal, said Punctuating the Period will focus on those still in school to help have positive impact on their growth.
In one phase of the campaign, online donations will be collected through RightGift.com, an online donation platform. Supporters can purchase a quantity of menstrual products, with prices ranging from $2.17 to $64.98, through March 17. At that time, the products will be shipped to MB Piland, where they will be assembled into kits and distributed among all Topeka Public Schools in late March. Piland and her team are hoping for about 490 people to donate to the cause.
This summary of area news is curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Tom Parkinson and Kaye McIntyre. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays. These ad-free headlines are made possible by KPR members. Become one today. And follow KPR News on Twitter.