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Headlines for Monday, October 31, 2022

Kansas Election Official: Text Messages to Kansas Voters Rile Democrats

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The top elections official in Kansas is warning voters that text messages could provide incorrect information about where to vote. But the national groups Voto Latino and Black Voters Matter said they aren't trying to confuse or mislead people. Democrats began reporting getting the text messages on Sunday. Some text messages sent people to places where they couldn't vote in advance while other text messages sent them to places where they could vote in advance but not on Election Day. Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab said voters should be on high alert for misinformation. Voto Latino and Black Voters Matter said the incorrect information came from a vendor handling the text messages.

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Widespread Drought Affecting Birds as Well as Kansas Wetlands Dry Up

HAYS, Kan. (KNS) - The drought in Kansas isn’t just affecting farmers and communities. It’s now hurting birds. The Kansas News Service reports that the wetlands used as a stopover for birds during migration are drying up. Each fall, millions of birds migrate across Kansas, some traveling thousands of miles from the Arctic Circle to South America. Typically, they rely on stopping at places such as the Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in central Kansas to get the food, water and rest they need to finish the journey. But the drought has dried up those wetlands, forcing the birds to turn elsewhere. Alice Boyle, ecologist with Kansas State University, says that means more birds will die on the journey. She compares it to a marathon runner who’s arriving at a rest station to get a cup of water, but nobody’s there. “They're going to try to keep running and go to the next one. But not all of them are going to make it to that next one," she said. Some shorebird species that typically depend on these wetlands have already seen their population drop by more than 50% since 1980. Jason Wagner is the wildlife manager at Cheyenne Bottoms. Historically, he says, these wetlands are a critical stopover point for birds to rest during their long journey south for the winter. But not this year. “Right now, we are 100% dry. There's no water on the property. Our bird numbers are nothing. We're still seeing that the birds fly over and they'll make a loop or two through the bottoms and they continue on their way," he said. Wagner says it would likely take several inches of rain just to saturate the dry ground before the wetlands can begin refilling again.

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Topeka Therapist Acquitted in Child Sex Assault Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - A jury in Topeka has found a therapist accused of sexually assaulting a child in state custody NOT guilty of the crime. It took the jury less than 30 minutes to find Julie Herron not guilty. She was accused of having intercourse with a girl in 2015. Herron was a contract employee for the Department for Children and Families at the time of the allegations. She worked at mental health services provider Florence Crittenton. The attorney for Herron told the Kansas Reflector that the quick decision shows the prosecution had a weak case.

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Ground Search of Native American Site in Kansas Delayed

FAIRWAY, Kan. (AP) - A plan to search for unmarked graves at a former Native American boarding school in northeast Kansas is on hold. Kansas officials announced in October of last year that they planned to conduct ground-penetrating radar research at the Shawnee Indian Mission in Fairway to determine if any Indigenous children were buried there. However, Fairway officials announced last week the plans were on hold indefinitely because of objections from leaders of the Shawnee Tribe. Chief Ben Barnes, of the Shawnee Tribe, says the Kansas Historical Society and Fairview officials are not being honest about efforts to consult with the tribe and their future plans for the site.

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Construction Set to Begin at Panasonic Battery Plant in De Soto

DE SOTO, Kan. (KNS) - Construction will soon begin on Panasonic's new $4 billion, electric battery-making plant in northeast Kansas. Panasonic says construction for its battery plant in De Soto will begin in November. The company expects mass production at the Johnson County site by the spring of 2025. Kansas lured the company to the state through $830 million in incentives. The plant could create up to 4,000 new jobs.

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$28 Million Laboratory Opens in Olathe, Adding 175 New Jobs

OLATHE, Kan. - KCAS Bioanalytical and Biomarker Services has opened a $28 million laboratory in Olathe that officials say will create 175 new jobs for Kansans. Kansas Governor Laura Kelly made the announcement. “Thanks to Kansas’ innovative and pro-business economy, our state’s bioscience sector is rapidly growing,” Kelly said. KCAS, an Integris BioServices company, is a contract research organization supporting biotech, pharmaceutical, and animal health drug development programs. The new laboratory will provide advanced technology and expertise across the complete R&D range of discovery, preclinical, and clinical studies. KCAS has been in business for over 40 years and its new facility is one of the largest bioanalytical facilities in the country.   

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KCK Police Investigating Body Found in Kansas River

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (WDAF) - Police officers from Kansas City, Kansas, were called to the eastern banks of the Kansas River Saturday afternoon, south of I-670 and north of Kansas Avenue. That's where KCK police found the body of what appeared to be an adult male. WDAF TV reports that initial investigations indicated the individual had not been in the water for an extended period of time. The incident remains under investigation. Anyone with information is asked to contact the TIPS Hotline at (816) 474-TIPS (8477).

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Wichita Community Group Wants to Relaunch Search for New Police Chief

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS/KMUW) - A community group focused on improving the relationship between Wichita law enforcement and residents is calling for the city to start over in its search for a new police chief. Joe Sullivan was recently selected by the city to lead the police department. But the Racial Profiling Advisory Board of Wichita is now calling on the city to rescind that offer after a lawsuit involving Sullivan was made public. The lawsuit claims that Sullivan discriminated against a Hispanic employee based on race in 2018 when he was at the Philadelphia Police Department. A city attorney from Philadelphia told Wichita officials that its investigation has not revealed any wrongdoing by Sullivan. LaWanda Deshazer is with the advisory board. She says there’s still cause for concern. "The fact that we didn’t have all of the information just paints a cloud of doubt," she said. The city says in a statement it has full faith in Sullivan’s ability to lead the department.

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Fort Hays State Survey Find Broad Support for Abortion Rights in Kansas

HAYS, Kan. (KNS) - A public opinion poll by Fort Hays State University finds broad support for abortion rights in Kansas. The Kansas Speaks survey found nearly 60% of Kansans think state government should not restrict abortions. A similar percent of voters recently rejected a state constitutional amendment that could have lead to an abortion ban. Kansas already regulates abortions, including a ban after 22-weeks and a parental consent rules for minors. About 70% of survey respondents said women are better positioned to make abortion decisions than politicians. And 60% said that if Kansas did ban abortion, the government should not make it illegal to seek an abortion in another state.

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Governor Laura Kelly's Campaign Deletes Tweets on Military Endorsements

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) - Kansas Governor Laura Kelly's re-election campaign deleted tweets on veteran endorsements that may have violated military requirements the same week state ethics officials reprimanded the Democrat over political texts. "Breaking News!" Kelly said in a tweet last week. "A bipartisan group of over 60 veterans from across Kansas have endorsed us for re-election." The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the tweet was accompanied by three photos. One appeared to be former Adjutant General Lee Tafanelli in an aircraft with Kelly, a second with Kelly talking to a uniformed service member and a third of Kelly posing with a veterans group. The tweet later disappeared and was replaced by a new tweet with the same language. The Tafanelli photo was swapped out for one of what appeared to be Kelly posing with service members in the U.S. Congress at the unveiling of the Amelia Earhart statue. Now, both tweets are gone. On Facebook, a similar post was edited to remove one photo. After a reporter sent a request for comment, the post was edited again to remove a second photo of Kelly with a uniformed service member. A campaign spokesperson didn't respond to the request for comment.

Department of Defense directive 1344.10, issued in February 2008, restricts the political activities of current and former members of the armed forces, including the National Guard. Among the provisions are required disclaimers for political materials clarifying the military is not making an endorsement. The Kelly campaign social media posts had no such disclaimer.

Patrick Schmidt, the Democratic candidate for the 2nd Congressional District, has an ad showing how a disclaimer is used. Schmidt served in the Navy aboard the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, which appears in the ad, along with photos of Schmidt in uniform. "The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense visual information does not imply or constitute DOD endorsement," the Schmidt ad notes at the bottom of the screen.

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3 Kansas Women Dead After 3-Vehicle Construction Zone Crash

SUMNER COUNTY, Kan. (Hays Post) — Three people died in an accident Saturday afternoon in Sumner County. The Hays Post reports that a 2017 Honda Accord driven by 37-year-old Sheena Nicole Harroald, of Wichita, was northbound on Interstate 35 near Belle Plaine. The Honda traveled left of center in a construction zone. The Honda clipped a 2017 Chevy Cruz driven by 46-year-old Eric Wayne Stevenson, of Bowman, North Dakota, and struck a 2020 Chevy Traverse driven by 64-year-old Larry D. Triplett, of Wichita, head-on. The Kansas Highway Patrol says Sheena Nicole Harroald and passengers in the Honda, 62-year-old Nathelia F. Mcintosh, of Wichita, and 86-year-old Wanda F. Tidwell, of Park City, were pronounced dead at the scene and transported to Cornejo Funeral Home. A third passenger in the Honda, 42-year-old Shala Dee Harroald, of Wichita, Stevenson, Triplett and a passenger in the Chevy, identified as 64-year-old Vicky Y. Triplett, of Wichita, were taken to St. Francis Hospital.  

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Fatal Weekend Rollover Crash in Western Kansas Leaves One Man Dead

GOVE COUNTY, Kan. (KAKE) - A single-vehicle rollover crash left one man dead late Saturday night in Gove County. KAKE TV reports that shortly before 11 pm, 66-year-old Leon Zerr of Oakley, was driving south on County Road 30 when he was thrown from his Dodge Ram truck after it left the road and overturned. It is unknown why his truck left the road. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The Kansas Highway Patrol says he was not wearing his seat belt.

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Dog Digs Up Skeletal Remains in Kansas City Backyard

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A dog dug up skeletal remains in the backyard of a Kansas City, Missouri, home Sunday morning. Kansas City Police spokesman Sgt. Jake Becchina said a new resident of the home called police shortly before 10 am Sunday after his dog uncovered the remains. Becchina said investigators won't know the age or gender of the victim until the evidence is reviewed. It wasn't immediately clear how long the remains had been in the yard. The medical examiner will determine the cause of death.

(-Related-)

2 People Found Dead Under Suspicious Circumstances in Separate Kansas City Locations

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KSHB) — Police are investigating after two people were found dead under suspicious circumstances in two different Kansas City locations on Sunday. KSHB TV reports that a person walking in Blue Valley Park found a dead body near a pond. Around 9 am, police were notified of the body, and detectives and crime scene investigators were called to the scene due to the location of the body and the possibility of the death being suspicious. The cause of death will be determined by the medical examiner.

The second suspicious death identified Sunday occurred nearly an hour later in the 5600 block of Paloma Avenue in east Kansas City. Around 10 am, officers arrived at a residence on a call concerning human remains located in a backyard. A resident noticed their dog digging outside, and when they went to investigate, they noticed what they thought to be human skeletal remains. After the resident notified police, detectives began a suspicious death investigation. Police say the medical examiner is working to determine how long the body was buried along with the age and gender of the deceased.

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Johnson County Man Convicted of Teen’s Murder over $8 Xanax Deal

OLATHE, Kan. (WDAF) — A Johnson County jury has convicted a man of killing a 17-year-old over an $8 Xanax deal. WDAF TV reports that the jury found 22-year-old Matthew Lee Bibee guilty of first-degree murder, attempted capital murder, first-degree attempted premeditated, aggravated robbery, battery on a law enforcement officer, and other related crimes in the murder of 17-year-old Rowan Padgett. Court documents show Bibee arranged to buy Xanax in March 2019. The affidavit says Padgett was killed after the deal fell through. Bibee, who was 18 years old at the time, was wounded two days later in shootout with police. Two other then-teenagers have also been sentenced in connection with Padgett’s murder. In 2020, Jordan Denny was sentenced to nine months of probation for her roll in the failed drug deal. Rolland Kobelo was sentenced to more than four years in a juvenile corrections facility for helping set up the deal. Bibee will be sentenced on February 7, 2023.

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$1 Billion Powerball Jackpot Up for Grabs Monday Night

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — People are showing up at convenience stores, groceries and gas stations around the country to snatch up lottery tickets for a chance at a massive $1 billion Powerball jackpot. The jackpot for Monday night's drawing soared after no one matched all six numbers in Saturday night's drawing. It's the fifth-largest lottery jackpot in U.S. history. The biggest prize was a $1.586 billion Powerball jackpot won by three ticket-holders in 2016. No one has hit all six numbers since August 3, a testament to how slim the odds are of winning the jackpot: one in 292.2 million. Nearly all big winners opt for a cash payment, which for Monday night's drawing would be an estimated $497.3 million.

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Kansas Hospitals See Surge of Children with RSV

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS/KMUW) - Kansas hospitals are seeing a surge of children hospitalized with RSV, a respiratory illness that can be serious for babies and young kids. The virus typically peaks in the winter, but experts say the COVID-19 pandemic changed its seasonality. Dr. Fouad Medlej (foh-AHD MED-lej) is a pediatrician at Stormont Vail in Topeka. “It can be something as simple as a runny nose and a cough and a fever," HE SAID. "But the other end of the spectrum could be severe airway or lung disease that may require an ICU stay, and even potentially mechanical ventilation and a breathing tube.” Officials say hospitalizations have been rising for weeks. While there’s no RSV vaccine, doctors say people should get their flu shot to reduce their chance of getting sick this year. Parents should also keep sick kids home and encourage precautions like hand-washing.

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Abortion Foes Seek Ouster of 5 Kansas Supreme Court Justices

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP/KPR) — The most influential anti-abortion group in Kansas politics is urging voters in mailers to remove five of the seven justices on the state Supreme Court. Kansans for Life has criticized the court for a 2019 decision declaring that access to abortion is a fundamental right under the state constitution, and the group campaigned for a proposed amendment declaring that the state constitution doesn't grant a right to abortion. Kansas voters decisively rejected that amendment in August, and abortion rights supporters have been expecting an ouster campaign. Two of the targeted justices voted to affirm abortion rights in the 2019 decision, and three are appointees of Democratic Governor Laura Kelly. Kansans for Life has recommended rejecting all the Kansas justices up for retention except Caleb Stegall, who was appointed by former Republican Governor Sam Brownback.

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Missouri Investigates Hospital Denial of Emergency Abortion

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Missouri's health department is investigating whether a hospital violated federal rules in denying a woman an emergency abortion. An agency spokeswoman confirmed the investigation of southern Missouri's Freeman Health System Monday. Joplin resident Mylissa Farmer says she went to the hospital in August when her water broke months early. Doctors told her they couldn't give her an abortion because her condition wasn't considered life-threatening at that moment. But records show doctors also warned that waiting could risk her life. She later received an abortion in Illinois. The hospital didn't immediately return an Associated Press request for comment Monday.

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Housing Assistance Still Available in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas has given out almost $25 million in federal homeowner assistance to help people catch up on their bills. And the Kansas News Service reports that funds are still available. The program has helped more than 2,000 Kansas homeowners in the last six months and homeowners can apply for the money if they own a home in Kansas, are at least 30 days behind on their mortgage and meet certain income requirements. The cash helps with mortgages, property taxes or utility fees. The program aims to keep people in their homes. Applications for the program are open until the remaining $30 million in funding runs out.

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Pumpkins Can Be Composted, Donated to Farms, Fed to Wildlife

UNDATED (AP) - Halloween pumpkins don't have to end up in the landfill. Before throwing that jack-o'-lantern into the trash, consider ways to make them even more useful. Adding pumpkins to a compost pile can be beneficial to next year's garden. First, any remaining seeds have to be removed, and decorative material such as glitter, paint, stickers and candle wax must be cut off. Pumpkins also can be donated to community gardens' compost piles. Farms, animal sanctuaries and even zoos also accept pumpkins to feed their animals. Backyard wildlife enjoy pumpkins as well. Leftover pumpkin seeds also are a tasty treat for a host of birds.

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KC Current Falls One Victory Short of Taking Championship

WASHINGTON, D.C. (KPR) - The Kansas City Current fell one victory short of winning the 2022 National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) title. The Portland Thorns defeated the Kansas City Current 2-0 Saturday night at a neutral site, Audi Field in Washington. One player on the title-winning Portland Thorns gave praise to the KC Current goalkeeper. That player is Portland goalkeeper Bella Bixby who had the clean sheet in the Thorns’ victory. She was an understudy to Salina native AD Franch before Franch was traded from Portland to Kansas City last year. "She pushed me and was an excellent teammate to me. I can’t go without giving her credit to where I am now. She’s had a great season. She made second-team. She was really big for Kansas City this year," Bixby said. The victory makes it an NWSL record third title for the Thorns, who won the league's inaugural championship game in 2013 and lifted the trophy again in 2017. The Current will play one more season at Children’s Mercy Park in 2023 before their own new stadium is completed on the riverfront in Kansas City for the 2024 season.

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Royals Hire Rays Bench Coach Matt Quatraro as Manager

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals hired Tampa Bay Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro as manager Sunday night, turning over the young core of a rebuilding franchise to a forward-thinking manager with experience winning in a small market. Quatraro replaces Mike Matheny, who was fired as part of a wide-spread shakeup within the Royals after a 65-97 finish for their sixth straight losing season. Quatraro was chosen by Royals general manager J.J. Picollo, who took over as head of the club's baseball operations after the firing of longtime front-office executive Dayton Moore.

"We are extremely excited to have Matt leading our club and core of talent," Picollo said in a statement. "Matt has great experiences throughout his career that have prepared him for this. He thoroughly impressed us all during our interview process and is clearly respected across the industry."

The Royals interviewed their own bench coach, Pedro Grifol, along with third base coach Vance Wilson and Triple-A Omaha manager Scott Thorman. They also expressed interest in Los Angeles Dodgers first base coach Clayton McCullough and Boston Red Sox bench coach Will Venable, who have been linked to manager openings elsewhere. One of the priorities that owner John Sherman had in overhauling the front office was that it lean more heavily on advanced analytics. And the 48-year-old Quatraro reflects that same emphasis in the manager; the Rays have excelled in using analytics to guide their decision-making, allowing them to consistently compete despite modest payrolls.

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AP Sources: Big 12 Agrees to 6-Year Extension with ESPN, Fox

UNDATED (AP) - The Big 12 has reached an agreement on a six-year contract extension with ESPN and Fox worth more than $2 billion that will keep the conference's media rights with those networks through the 2030-31 college sports seasons. That's according to two people familiar with the deal who confirmed details to The Associated Press on Sunday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because contracts had yet to be finalized and no official announcement was expected soon. Sports Business Journal was first to report the deal would be worth $380 million annually. The Big 12 still has two years left on its current deals with Fox and ESPN.

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Help Wanted: Kansas Public Radio Seeks New Statehouse Bureau Chief

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Kansas Public Radio is seeking a new Statehouse Bureau Chief. This position works primarily at the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka. Duties include managing all aspects of KPR’s capital news bureau, which provides broadcast and digital news reports to a number of radio stations in Kansas and Missouri. This position is primarily responsible for reporting on all aspects of state government. The KPR Statehouse Bureau Chief researches, writes, reports and produces spot news, digital stories and long-form audio features for KPR and its reporting partners. Learn more about this position.

The University of Kansas prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, national origin, age, ancestry, disability status as a veteran, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, gender identity, gender expression, and genetic information in the university's programs and activities. Retaliation is also prohibited by university policy.

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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. And follow KPR News on Twitter.

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