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Headlines for Thursday, October 13, 2022

 

Conditions Ripe for Outbreak of Wildfires in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Conditions across the eastern half of Kansas are favorable today (THUR) for extreme wildfires.  The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning, in effect from noon through 7 pm.  Gusty winds, low humidity and warm temperatures could lead to extreme fire behavior if wildfires break out. The same dangerous fire conditions will also be present Friday across much of Kansas.

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KU Physicist Wins Coveted MacArthur "Genius" Award, an $800,000 Grant

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - A University of Kansas researcher has won a coveted MacArthur Fellowship, often referred to as a “genius grant.” The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 35-year-old Steven Prohira, an assistant professor in KU’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, is one of 25 winners of an $800,000 fellowship grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.  The organization announced the award winners Wednesday. Professor Prohira was recognized for his work to invent a device called a “Radar Echo Telescope.” The foundation calls it a “game-changing” technique to detect hard-to-find cosmic neutrinos that researchers believe carry important data from outside our solar system.

A MacArthur Fellowship is considered a top-tier award in the world of academia, in part because it provides its $800,000 stipend — paid over five years — with “no strings attached.” The fellowship grant is rare, in part because individuals can’t apply for it. They are nominated by a group of individuals — chosen by the foundation but never revealed to the public — who are tasked with finding extremely creative people worthy of the fellowship. “The purpose of the MacArthur Fellows Program is to enable recipients to exercise their own creative instincts for the benefit of human society,” the foundation says on its webpage. (Read more.)

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Woman Free on Bond While Awaiting Retrial in 2002 Killings

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A woman who always maintained she was hiking and driving in Colorado when her ex-husband and his girlfriend were slain is free on bail for the first time in a decade as prosecutors prepare to try her for a third time in the 2002 Kansas killings. Dana Chandler, now 62, was released Wednesday from the Shawnee County Jail after a judge last month lowered her bond to $350,000 from $1 million. She is set to face her third trial in February in the shooting deaths of 47-year-old Mike Sisco and 53-year-old Karen Harkness in Topeka.

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One Person Killed, 3 Others Injured in Head-On Crash in Lawrence

LAWRENCE, Kan. (The Lawrence Times) - One person has been killed and three others have been injured in a fiery, head-on crash in Lawrence.  The Lawrence Times reports that a 48-year-old Lawrence man was killed in the crash late Wednesday night but his identity has not yet been released. A Lawrence Times reporter observed what appeared to be two vehicles involved in a crash (in the 600 block of East 31st Street, which is between Haskell Avenue and Louisiana Street). Douglas County Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to the crash shortly after 10:30 pm Wednesday. Authorities say a Dodge Ram pickup truck was fully engulfed in flames and all three occupants of the truck had been removed from the crash prior to the fire. The other vehicle, a Chevy Malibu, had one occupant, the driver, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

A preliminary investigation indicates that the driver of the Chevy Malibu crossed the center line and struck the Dodge pickup truck head on. The three occupants of the Dodge truck were all 19-year-old men. One was taken to LMH Health with injuries that were not believed to be life-threatening. Two others sustained serious injuries. One was transported to Overland Park Regional Medical Center and one was taken by helicopter ambulance to the University of Kansas Hospital. (Read more.)

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Police Fatally Shot Man Armed with Knife in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say Topeka police officers shot and killed a man early Thursday after he walked toward them with a knife as they tried to intervene in a carjacking. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation said in a news release that a woman called 911 around 12:30 a.m. to report that a 33-year-old family member, Taylor Lowery, was inside the home, armed with a knife and behaving erratically. She was able to escape, and Lowery drove away from the home in a sport utility vehicle. Officers spotted him a short time later at a gas station convenience store, where they saw him attempting to steal a parked car with a woman and infant inside.

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Kansas Parental Permission Law Sparks Concerns

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - A new law requires Kansas schools to get parental permission before administering any non-academic survey or questionnaire. The Kansas News Service reports that's causing confusion among teachers and putting some lessons on hold. The provision is part of a school funding law passed by Kansas lawmakers last spring. It was aimed primarily at surveys that gauge student attitudes on everything from drug use to mental health. But Leah Fliter, with the Kansas Association of School Boards, says teachers are worried that even routine worksheets could run afoul of the law. “If it says, ‘What did you do on your summer vacation?’ they’re concerned that somebody’s going to say, ‘Well, you can’t ask my kids that, because that says too much about our family structure,’” she said. Supporters of the law raised concerns about probing questions related to students’ religious or political beliefs. Education officials say schools need parental permission if they plan to collect and retain any personal data. State Representative Kristey Williams, a Republican lawmaker who pushed for the new law, says it doesn’t prohibit teachers from talking to kids. She says it’s aimed at data such as religious beliefs or sexuality being collected by outside agencies. “There is a pretty dramatic increase in the amount of surveying that is going on in our schools. And parents need to know and be informed first," she said. Some Kansas schools have put social and emotional lessons on hold as they await guidance from state officials.

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Kansas Education Leaders: Harassment, Anger Add to Teacher Woes

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - More teachers in Kansas are leaving the profession after only a few years, and education leaders say politics could be a reason. New data presented to the state Board of Education Tuesday show that teacher retention rates are the lowest they’ve been in more than a decade. Only 86% of teachers made it to their third year of teaching this academic year. That’s down from more than 92% the previous year. Jim Porter is chair of the Kansas Board of Education. He says widespread criticism of school lessons and teachers have prompted many to leave. “There are people that I consider to be excellent classroom teachers that just quit because they no longer were allowing themselves to be disrespected," he said. Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson said schools need to expand mentoring programs for teachers.

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Kansas ACT Scores Fall, Mirroring National Trend

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS/KMUW) - Scores on the A-C-T college admissions test nationally have hit their lowest point in more than 30 years. That's according to a report released Wednesday. Scores for Kansas students are falling, too. Nationwide, the class of 20-22’s average composite score on the ACT was 19.8 out of a possible 36. It’s the first time since 1991 that the average score was below 20. Kansas graduates performed only slightly better. Their average composite score was 19.9 - down one full point over the past five years. It’s the seventh consecutive year of declines for Kansas students. College readiness in math and English has been steadily declining. Among the class of ‘22, only about one in five students met all four A-C-T benchmarks for success in college.
 
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EPA Fines Asphalt Company in Olathe for Alleged Clean Water Act Violations

LENEXA, Kan. (KPR) – The EPA has fined an asphalt company in Olathe for alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act. Asphalt Sales Company in Olathe will pay $82,798 in civil penalties and improve pollution controls to resolve the alleged violations. According to the EPA, the company failed to adequately control stormwater runoff from its asphalt production and demolition landfill facility. The EPA says these failures led to illegal discharges of pollutants into Cedar Creek.

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Great Plains Music and Arts Festival Lands in Lawrence Saturday

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - The Great Plains Music and Art Festival is coming to Lawrence this weekend. Saturday's festival features a dozen bands, art booths and food trucks. Organizer Tom Pfeiler says the festival has been in the works for several years but they needed an outdoor venue near Lawrence that could accommodate several thousand people. "We didn't have a park big enough, with enough parking spots close enough that you could have a big event in a pretty place and we finally have the opportunity to do that now," he said. The festival will take place Saturday at Sesquicentennial Point overlooking Clinton Lake. The musical line-up for the festival includes: The Band That Saved the World, SUNU, Cory Phillips and the Band of Light, Maria the Mexican, and others. Ticket information and directions to the site are available at greatplainsfest.com.

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Federal Judge Weighs Effort to Halt Student Loan Forgiveness

ST. LOUIS (AP/KPR) - A federal judge in St. Louis is weighing the fate of the Biden administration’s plan to forgive student loan debt for tens of millions of Americans. A court hearing was held Wednesday, but it's unclear when the federal judge will rule on the lawsuit, which was filed by six states - including Kansas. The lawsuit seeks an injunction to halt the student loan forgiveness plan, which would cost American taxpayers as much as $400 billion. Whatever the judge decides, an appeal is likely. Democratic President Joe Biden announced in August that his administration would cancel up to $20,000 per person in student loan debt for a huge numbers of borrowers.

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Clinics Offer Free Vasectomies, Citing Surge in Demand

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Free vasectomies will be available next month at three Planned Parenthood clinics in Missouri amid a surge in demand for the the procedure after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri performed 42 vasectomies in July alone, compared to 10 in the same month last year. Female sterilizations rose to 18 that month from just three in July 2021. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has been hearing similar reports of increased demand from around the country.

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Emergency Rental Assistance Program Coming to a Close Soon

UNDATED (KNS) - Kansas will shut down its emergency rental assistance program in the coming weeks. The program was initially established in March 2021 with more than $250 million dollars in federal pandemic relief funds. But now, those funds are almost all exhausted. The program entered the hold phase this week, which means it has received enough applications to fully expend all emergency rental assistance funds. People can still submit applications for assistance, but they will not be reviewed or processed by the state unless more funds become available.

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National Competition Reveals Some of the Best Beers in America Are Made in Kansas City, Topeka

DENVER (KC Star) - The Great American Beer Festival honored three Kansas City breweries during its 2022 competition held this month in Denver. The Kansas City Star reports the local winners included BKS Artisan Ales in East Brookside, which won a gold medal in the English Mild or Bitter category. River Bluff Brewing, with locations in the River Market and St. Joseph, won a silver medal in the international dark lager category. And the City Barrel Brewing Company, in the East Crossroads, won a bronze medal in the Juicy/Hazy IPA category.

Other regional breweries honored in the competition included Blind Tiger Brewery & Restaurant in Topeka, which won gold medals for two beers -- Blind Tiger Bock and Smoke Follows Beauty. Blind Tiger also won Brewer of the Year in the 1001 to 2000 barrels brewery category.  The Great American Beer Festival, which is hosted by the Brewers Association, is one of the nation’s largest ticketed beer festivals and the premier craft beer competition in the United States.

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Shakeup in Farm Supply Retail Industry

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - Sioux City-based Bomgaars says its recent acquisition of dozens of stores from a Missouri-based company has made it the nation's second largest farm and ranch retailer, behind Tractor Supply Company. Bomgaars announced in a news release Wednesday that it has acquired 73 stores from Orscheln Farm and Home, of Moberly, Missouri. The acquisition was part of a larger mega-deal approved Tuesday by the Federal Trade Commission for Tennessee-based Tractor Supply Company to take over Orscheln Farm and Home, which has 167 stores in 11 states. The deal brings Bomgaars' total number of locations to 180 in 15 states throughout the central United States, while adding 1,400 new employees. Bomgaars also will acquire Orscheln’s 330,000 square-foot distribution center in Moberly, Missouri.

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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. The position 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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Adoption Numbers Increase in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas adoptions have increased in the last four years thanks to a variety of factors, including the creation of adoption accelerator positions. The Kansas News Service reports that adoptions have complicated court processes and require numerous legal documents. Helping families work through that is just some of what an adoption accelerator does. Governor Laura Kelly’s administration created the positions in 2019 and adoptions spiked. Scott Henricks works for the Department for Children and Families and credits adoption accelerator employees with helping to lower barriers to adoptions, like simplifying complicated court procedures, so families can complete the process faster. “There was an identified need to help expedite the adoption processes. And, you know, improving our adoptions is always something we want to do," he said. In the last few years, around 900 kids are finding new homes annually. Henricks says there are still around 500 children who can still be adopted.

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KU Star Quarterback Likely to Miss Game with Oklahoma

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - Kansas Jayhawks quarterback Jalon (JAY-len) Daniels is expected to miss this Saturday’s road game against Oklahoma. The 19th ranked Jayhawks are trying to bounce back from their first loss of the season. Late in the first half against TCU, the tone of the sellout crowd grew somber when Daniels was hit and being tended to on the sideline. Daniels didn’t play in the second half and had his arm in a sling. Jayhawks coach Lance Leipold updated his status this week: "Probably put in the doubtful area. Looking at it day to day, but hasn’t done anything yet. That’s probably the extent that I’ll comment at this time." Daniels had thrown 11 touchdowns this season before he was sidelined with what was called a shoulder injury. Backup quarterback Jason Bean, who threw four touchdowns in the second half last Saturday, is expected to start Saturday for the Jayhawks.

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Former K-State Basketball Coach Gets Broadcasting Job

UNDATED (Wichita Eagle) - Former K-State Basketball Coach Bruce Weber has a new job.  Weber is back in college basketball, just not as a coach. The Wichita Eagle reports Weber has landed a job as a broadcaster for the Big Ten Network, where he will serve as an analyst through the upcoming basketball season.

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Bros and Foes: Bills' Allen, Chiefs' Mahomes Rivals, Friends

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Bills quarterback Josh Allen and Chiefs counterpart Patrick Mahomes have one of the best young rivalries in the NFL. But they also happen to have a burgeoning friendship away from the field. The two spent time together at The Masters, and earlier this season at the Formula One event in Miami. They also teamed up in a losing effort against Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady for a match-play golf exhibition in June. Allen and Mahomes will be back on opposite sidelines Sunday when Buffalo visits Kansas City for a rematch of their epic divisional playoff game from January.

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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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