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Headlines for Thursday, August 25, 2022



First Case of Monkeypox Reported in Douglas County

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has confirmed the first case of monkeypox in Douglas County. The county health department says the infected person was tested through KDHE’s laboratory. The Lawrence Journal World reports that the infected person and their close contacts have been treated with a vaccine shown to be effective against monkeypox. The health department says the vaccine is limited in supply and it’s important for residents to be aware of monkeypox symptoms and take steps to avoid exposure. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion, followed by the appearance of a rash that can look like pimples or blisters. Monkeypox spreads primarily through direct contact with infectious lesions, scabs and bodily fluids. The virus can also spread through direct contact with materials that have touched bodily fluids or lesions, such as clothing or linens. Douglas County’s case is the third in the state of Kansas. Shawnee and Johnson counties have each reported one case of the disease.


Kansas Activist Sues for a Statewide Abortion Recount

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas anti-abortion activist is suing for a complete hand recount of an election in which voters soundly rejected a proposal to remove abortion rights from the state’s constitution. Mark Gietzen filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Sedgwick County District Court after a nine-county hand recount that his supporters largely funded wrapped up over the weekend. Fewer than 100 votes changed out of more than 500,000 cast in those counties. The measure failed by about 165,000 votes statewide. Secretary of State Scott Schwab said the recount results should put to rest the unfounded claims of election fraud. Gietzen alleges without evidence that votes statewide might have been vulnerable to the same type of programming error that initially switched results in a county commission race.


Kansas Recount Confirms Results in Favor of Abortion Rights

OLATHE, Kan. (AP/KPR) - A decisive statewide vote in favor of abortion rights in traditionally conservative Kansas was confirmed with a partial hand recount, with fewer than 100 votes changing after the last county reported results Sunday. Nine of the state’s 105 counties recounted their votes at the request of Melissa Leavitt, who has pushed for tighter election laws. A longtime anti-abortion activist, Mark Gietzen, is covering most of the costs. Gietzen acknowledged in an interview that it was unlikely to change the outcome.

A No vote in the referendum signaled a desire to keep existing abortion protections and a yes vote was for allowing the Legislature to tighten restrictions or perhaps ban abortion. After the recounts, “No" votes lost 57 votes and the “Yes” side gained six votes.

Eight of the counties reported their results by the state’s Saturday deadline, but Sedgwick County delayed releasing its final count until Sunday because spokeswoman Nicole Gibbs said some of the ballots weren’t separated into the correct precincts during the initial recount and had to be resorted Saturday. She said the number of votes cast overall didn’t change. A larger than expected turnout of voters on August 2 rejected a ballot measure that would have removed protections for abortion rights from the Kansas Constitution and given to the Legislature the right to further restrict or possibly ban abortion. It failed by 18 percentage points, or 165,000 votes statewide.


Kansas Abortion Vote Could Impact November Races

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The forces that led to the overwhelming defeat of a constitutional amendment on abortion restrictions could also affect the outcome of key races this November. University of Kansas political scientist Patrick Miller says the proposed amendment and the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v Wade energized a block of Kansas voters who don’t normally turn out in primaries. If sustained, Miller says, that energy could bolster Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s chances against Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt.  He says it could also give incumbent Democratic Congresswoman Sharice Davids an edge over Republican Amanda Adkins in a Kansas City-area district. Miller says abortion rights could be a winning issue in Davids’ Kansas City-area district even though it’s been redrawn to make it more Republican. Davids is facing Adkins in a rematch of a 2020 race that Davids won by 10 points. (Read more)


Kansas House Democrats Offer Measures to Help Ease Impact of College Costs  

TOPEKA, Kan. (Kansas Reflector) – Democrats in the Kansas House have announced a three-part plan of tax reforms to help manage the costs of higher education. The Kansas Reflector reports that the plan, which will be filed prior to the 2023 legislative session, features a $150 tax rebate for parents of college-aged children to help offset the cost of books, college fees, and supplies. It would also extend the annual deadline for contributing to the state's Learning Quest 529 college savings account, and would create a tax credit for Kansas businesses voluntarily contributing to their employees' student loan payments. Each provision of the plan would be applicable to students attending technical colleges, community colleges, traditional colleges, and universities. The Kansas Department of Revenue estimates that the package would cost $44 million annually, with most of that total connected to the $150 tax rebate. 


K-State Named One of Most LGBTQ+-Friendly Colleges in Nation

MANHATTAN, Kan. (KPR) – Campus Pride, a national educational organization for LGBTQ+ students, has named Kansas State University as one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly colleges in the nation. K-State earned the top rating of five stars in the group’s annual “Best of the Best Colleges and Universities for LGBTQ+ students” list.  In a press release, Kansas State officials said the rankings are determined using a comprehensive national rating system that measures LGBTQ-friendly campus life based on how well schools are doing in creating a safe, welcoming environment for students, faculty and staff. K-State is one of only 40 institutions in the U.S., and the only school in Kansas, to earn a place on the annual list. Officials said the university hosts several LGBTQ+ organizations to support initiatives such as appropriate housing, restroom facilities and gender and sexuality resources.  


KCC Receives Federal Grant to Plug Abandoned Oil & Gas Wells 

TOPEKA, Kan. (KCC release) – The Kansas Corporation Commission has been awarded a $25 million federal grant to help with plugging abandoned oil and gas wells in the state. The grant is part of billions of dollars set aside by the federal government to help states remediate abandoned wells. The KCC says it will use the initial money to pay for eight projects involving more than 2300 abandoned wells over the next two to three years. More than 11,000 abandoned wells have been plugged since 1995. The KCC will remain eligible for more funding to continue addressing the issue in the future.

(–AP Version–) 

Kansas Among 24 States Getting  $560 Million for High-Priority Cleanup of Wells

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Interior Department is giving 24 states a total of $560 million to start cleaning high-priority oil and gas wells abandoned on state and private land. A news release said up to 10,000 wells could be dealt with under grants announced Thursday. It's part of $4.7 billion set for orphan well cleanup under the bipartisan infrastructure plan approved late last year. The department has said $1.15 billion will be given out during this fiscal year. Most of the states, including Kansas, are getting $25 million each. Arkansas and Mississippi are getting $5 million each.


Kansas Announces Millions in Grant Money to Fight Opioid Crisis 

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) – The state of Kansas is making millions of dollars in grant money available to help fight the opioid crisis. Kansas Governor Laura Kelly announced Tuesday that rural first responders can tap into about $3.2 million in grants to fund measures designed to help control opioid abuse and its aftermath. WIBW reports that Kelly said the grants will fund training for carrying and administering approved medications for emergency treatment of opioid overdoses. The grants will be administered by the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, and will be open to applicants from rural first responder agencies and other state, tribal, and local organizations. First responder agencies can find more information and application details at the KDADS website

Mental Health Treatment at a Premium in Central, Southern Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas needs more mental health beds, specifically in Central and Southern Kansas. During a meeting at the state Capitol Tuesday, hospital staff told lawmakers that workers are stretched thin, and overcrowding is making it harder to do their jobs.  Officials from Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph Hospital in Wichita told lawmakers that the hospital is running at about 95% capacity. Once a bed opens, staff have little time to clean the room before the next patient comes in. The wait is so bad some people needing mental health care have to wait in the hallways. The hospital administrators urged lawmakers allocate funding to pay for building additional mental health facilities to expand capacity. They also recommended new tuition discounts and student loan forgiveness to attract students to work in new facilities.


Missouri Woman Charged with Stealing from Dependent Person

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - A woman from the Kansas City, Missouri suburbs has been charged in Douglas County with allegedly taking more than $100,000 from a dependent person in Douglas County. The Lawrence Journal World reports that 58-year-old Marcia Jane Hamm, of Raytown, Missouri, is charged with one count of mistreatment of a dependent adult or elder person. The charge is a level-four felony that could result in a minimum of three years in prison. The document from the court was not clear about the connection between the alleged victim and the defendant, but they share the same last name. Investigators charge that Hamm took property or money that equaled more than $100,000 between February of 2021 and June of 2021. Hamm was booked into the Douglas County Jail on Friday and has been released on a $20,000 bond. She is scheduled to appear in court again on August 30th.


Second Olathe Teenager Arrested in Fatal Shooting

OLATHE, Kan. (KNS) – A second juvenile has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of a 19-year-old Smithville, Missouri, man in Olathe, Kansas. The boy is one of seven teenagers charged in the death of Marco Cardino on May 14 th in Olathe's Black Bob Park. Five of the teens have been charged as adults.  Sentencing for the two teens who have pleaded guilty is set for later. Because they are minors, both are 14, KPR is not naming them.  Court records indicate police believe the teens planned to rob Cardino of a bag of marijuana that he was going to sell them.


Kansas State Study: Teachers Shortage May Not Be as Bad as Expected

MANHATTAN, Kan. (KNS) – Teachers in Kansas say they’re stressed and burned out, but the teacher shortage may not be as serious as predicted. New research by Kansas State University shows many districts are reporting normal staffing and hiring conditions heading into this school year.  Kansas State University researchers were some of the first to look at teacher vacancy rates across the country. They found that teacher shortages in most states are not as serious as predicted. A bigger concern is a dwindling supply of candidates to fill positions when teaching vacancies open up. The researchers say an increase in teacher salaries would increase the supply of job candidates and decrease turnover. Kansas officials said last spring that there were about 1,400 teacher vacancies, or roughly 4% of the education workforce across the state. Teacher shortages are worse at low-income schools and some rural districts. Updated figures are expected in October. (Read More)


Western Kansas Drought is Severe but Not Historical Worst

DODGE CITY, Kan. (KNS) - 2022 is shaping up to be a historically severe year for dry, hot weather in Kansas. But, it still falls far short of the worst droughts in the state’s history. Roughly one-third of Kansas is now in extreme or exceptional drought. In Dodge City, this year ranks as the 4th hottest and 16th driest on record going back to the 1870s. But Jeff Hutton, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Dodge City, says 2022 still won’t come close to becoming the driest, hottest year in recorded history.  Hutton says 2012, 1980 and 1936, still stand up as the driest and hottest years for most parts of Kansas. Hutton expects the state to get enough precipitation this fall to keep 2022 from breaking those records.


Suburban Kansas City Officers Shoot and Kill Suspect

BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri State Highway Patrol says a suburban Kansas City man died after being shot by officers who were trying to arrest him. The man was identified as 28-year-old Michael Saunders, of Blue Springs. He was shot Tuesday afternoon as Blue Springs police and Cass County Sheriff's deputies were trying to arrest him and another person. Blue Springs Police Chief Bob Muenz said Saunders was running from a parking lot when he fired at officers, and two officers returned fire. No officers were injured. Saunders died at the scene. Muenz said Saunders had fired at a Cass County deputy a few days before the shooting.


Former KC Chief Len Dawson Dead at 87

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KNS) — Legendary Kansas City Chiefs quarterback and sports broadcaster Len Dawson has died at the age of 87.  Dawson's death was reported by KMBC-TV Wednesday morning. In 1964, Dawson threw 30 touchdown passes, a Chiefs record until Patrick Mahomes shattered it with 50 in 2018. Dawson was the Most Valuable Player in Super Bowl IV in 1970, when the Chiefs beat the Minnesota Vikings. Dawson's accurate passing and on-field poise earned him the nickname “Lenny the Cool.” Dawson’s 19th and final season as a quarterback was in 1975 when he was 41. He entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987. After his football career, he continued to win awards as a sports broadcaster at KMBC TV in Kansas City, on the radio, and on network television. Though born and raised in Ohio, a statement from his family said that no matter where Dawson’s travels took him he could not wait to return to Kansas City. Dawson had been moved to hospice on August 12. His family said in a statement that they are grateful to the staff at the University of Kansas Medical Center for their support.

(– AP Version–)

Hall of Fame Chiefs Quarterback Len Dawson Dies at 87

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Hall of Fame quarterback Len Dawson, who helped the Kansas City Chiefs to their first Super Bowl title, died Wednesday. The MVP of the Chiefs’ victory over the Vikings in January 1970 had been in declining health for years. He entered hospice care on Aug. 12. “Lenny the Cool” went into the Hall of Fame as a player in 1987. He also was inducted as a broadcaster in 2012. Dawson spent several decades working on local TV and radio broadcasts while also doing color analysis for NBC and hosting HBO's iconic "Inside the NFL.” Len Dawson was 87.


Beekeepers: Honeybee Colonies Continue to Decline

UNDATED (HPM) -Beekeepers across the country are looking at another year of honeybee colony loss, although not as bad as last year. Harvest Public Media reports the loss of honeybees could affect the crop industry. From April 2021 to April of this year, U.S. commercial beekeepers lost nearly 40% of their honeybee colonies. That’s according to an annual survey by the nonprofit Bee Informed Partnership. It comes on the heels of last year’s record-breaking loss of over 50% of hives. B-I-P’s science coordinator and researcher, Dr. Nathalie Steinhauer says the lower loss is still high. “It’s pretty much on par with what we've observed in the last 10 years," he said. "That doesn't mean it's okay. That doesn't mean it’s good.”  Steinhauer says it’s important for beekeepers to replace their bee losses, otherwise crops that rely on pollination could be affected.
Randall Cass is the bee specialist for Iowa State University’s Extension Office. He says prairie land that’s been plowed up for agricultural use poses a threat to bee survival. “Bees feed off of nectar and pollen from flowers," he said. "So poor forage would mean that there's just not enough flowers for them to collect from. And In here in Iowa, that's a major issue. We've definitely got poor forage availability, because so much of our land is put into agricultural production.” Cass adds that parasites, like the varroa mite, and exposure to pesticides used in fields are another two major factors that cause hive loss. According to the USDA, commercial honeybee colonies pollinate at least $15 billion worth of food crops each year.


Clear the Shelter: Pet Adoption Fees Waived August 27 at Lawrence Humane Society

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - The Lawrence Humane Society is preparing for its 8th annual Clear the Shelter Day. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that on August 27th, the shelter will waive adoption fees.  Clear the Shelter Day is part of a nationwide pet adoption campaign aimed at matching every animal in the shelter with a family by the end of the day. Typically, adoption fees at the Lawrence shelter are around $150 for adult dogs, $300 for puppies, $60 for adult cats and $125 for kittens; those fees will all be waived Saturday. In addition to waiving adoption fees, other services and products will also be provided for free.  The Lawrence Humane Society says every animal that is adopted Saturday will go home spayed or neutered, fully vaccinated and dewormed, and microchipped, along with a collar, leash, and starter bag of Hill’s Science Diet pet food. Clear the Shelter Day begins at 10 am and will end at 6 pm or earlier if all animals are adopted. For more information, visit lawrencehumane.org.


K-State Women's Basketball All-American Ayoka Lee to Have Season-Ending Surgery

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — All-American forward Ayoka Lee will undergo knee surgery that will force Kansas State’s star to miss the upcoming season. Wildcats coach Jeff Mittie says Lee she intends to take a medical redshirt and return for one more year. Lee has dealt with lingering knee injuries the past two seasons. She set a Division I record by scoring 61 points in a game against Oklahoma on Jan. 23, and went on to average a school-record 22 points. The Wildcats advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament before losing to North Carolina State.


Chiefs Win Final Pre-Season Match but Face Brutal Schedule Amid Changes on Offense, Defense

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs wrapped up their preseason with a 17-10 win over the Green Bay Packers last (Thursday) night at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. The Chiefs finish the  pre-season with two wins and one loss. The team has a revamped wide receiver group and rebuilt defense but the same expectations of winning the AFC West and reaching the Super Bowl. They fell just short a year ago, when they blew a big halftime lead in the AFC title game against Cincinnati. They'll have to try to get back there without Tyreek Hill, whom they traded to the Dolphins for a package of draft picks. He's been replaced by JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and rookie Skyy Moore as the primary options for Patrick Mahomes in the passing game. The Chiefs have one of the toughest schedule in the NFL this season, with 10 of their 14 opponents coming off winning records a year ago.


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.