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Headlines for Monday, September 12, 2022



Potential Railroad Worker Strike Affects Amtrak's Southwest Chief

KANSAS, MISSOURI (KNS) - A potential nationwide railroad worker strike is already disrupting passenger service through Kansas and Missouri. Amtrak has canceled tomorrow’s (TUE) usual route through the states on the Southwest Chief. Amtrak has canceled its Southwest Chief route that travels between Chicago and Los Angeles. That’s because the company is concerned about a looming strike over freight rail employee pay and working conditions that could begin later this week. Amtrak uses freight companies’ tracks to cross this region and wouldn’t be able to run its trains if those companies’ workers — such as dispatchers — go on strike. So, Amtrak is choosing to cancel this and two other long-distance routes to avoid getting its trains and passengers stranded mid-trip. And this could be a preview of broader disruptions. If a strike happens, it’s unclear how long it might last.


Ex-Chiefs Assistant Coach Britt Reid Pleads Guilty in DUI Accident

KANSAS CITY, MO. (KNS) - Former Kansas City Chiefs assistant coach Britt Reid pleaded guilty today (MON) to a felony charge of driving while intoxicated. In exchange for Reid’s plea deal, the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office recommended a sentence of no more than 4 years. That’s based on a review of similar cases. In February last year, Reid’s Dodge Ram truck sped into two vehicles on an Interstate 435 entrance ramp, near Arrowhead Stadium. In the second car was 5-year-old Ariel Young, who suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result. Young’s mother, Felicia Miller, said the family is “not OK” with the sentencing terms. Reid could still receive a maximum of seven years in prison. Or, he could receive probation. Reid will be sentenced October 28.

(AP version)

Former Chiefs Assistant Coach Britt Reid Pleads Guilty in Crash

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Former Kansas City Chiefs assistant coach Britt Reid has pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated, resulting in serious physical injury after his truck hit two parked cars in 2021 and left a young girl with a traumatic brain injury. Reid entered his plea today (MON). The son of Chiefs coach Andy Reid was scheduled to go on trial on September 26. Prosecutors allege Britt Reid was intoxicated and speeding when he hit two stopped cars on an interstate exit ramp near Arrowhead Stadium in February 2021. Six people were injured, including Reid. Five-year-old Ariel Young suffered a traumatic brain injury. The plea deal means Reid faces a possible sentence of several years in prison, although he could be placed on probation.


Drought Takes Toll on Kansas Corn Crop

HAYS, Kan. (KNS) - The dry, hot summer is devastating corn crops across Kansas. The extreme temperatures and lack of rainfall caused many plants in the western part of the state to shrivel up and die before they even grew a cob. Lucas Haag (HAYG), a Kansas State University agronomist based in Colby, says a tremendous amount of corn acres in this region will end up being abandoned because there’s nothing left to harvest. And that’s going to hurt the state’s agricultural economy this fall. “We're talking, you know, millions and millions of dollars. The (crop) reductions that are going to be due to drought, you know, we're talking huge sums of money," he said. More than half of the state’s corn is listed in poor or very poor condition by the USDA. That’s up from just 19% at this point last year.

(Additional reporting...) 

Kansas Drought Affects Crops, Livestock and Other Wildlife

MANHATTAN, Kan. (KPR) — No one needs to tell Kansas farmers the state is suffering from drought. The agricultural industry is well aware of the negative impacts, from failing crops and erosion runoff to decreased livestock grazing and hay inventory concerns. Joe Gerken, a specialist with K-State Research and Extension, says 90% of the state is in drought and nearly 60% of the state is in severe, extreme, or exceptional drought. Gerken says last year, less than 1% of the state was in that kind of drought.

Gerken said blue-green algae blooms worsen in areas with a moderate drought because of the concentrated nutrients in low water levels and warmer water conditions. “Blue-green algae can be a concern for pets, livestock and humans,” he said. “If you see something that looks like paint on the top of your pond or stream, you definitely want to give the department a call so we can check that out." While blue-green algae are present all the time, the blooms are what cause sickness. Fish have adapted to live with the presence of blue-green algae and usually remain unaffected.  But Gerken said drought does negatively impact fish populations. A decrease in water surface area means less oxygen and more fish kills.

The severe impacts of drought in western Kansas pose a threat to pheasant and quail populations, as well. Nesting habitats are decreased when native grasses thin and food may become scarce with reduced broadleaf vegetation and forb growth. ( Read more.)


Crowds Turn Out in KCK to Bet on Chiefs Season Opener

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KNS/KCUR) - For many in Kansas, legalized sports betting got underway in earnest over the weekend. At the Hollywood Casino in Kansas City, Kansas, dozens came out to bet on the Chiefs’ season-opener. Dozens of people gathered in Hollywood Casino’s Sportsbook room to watch, and bet, on the Chiefs’ first game of the season. It’s the first time it’s been legal to bet on the hometown team in Kansas, and people began placing wagers long before the game even started. Tanner Rome is the manager of the sportsbook. He says he and his team have been busy since sports betting officially began in the state last week. “A lot of people are betting on Mahomes to have over his passing yards, or certain running backs to have under or over their rushing yards. You can do anything," he said. The Chiefs were favored to beat the Arizona Cardinals by six points. With their 44 to 21 on Sunday, many fans at Hollywood Casino also went home winners.


Kansas DCF Produces Child Sex Abuse Reports from Abortion Clinics - 12 Years After Mandate

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) - A dozen years after lawmakers mandated the Kansas Department for Children and Families to produce annual statistics on child sex abuse reports from abortion providers, legislators will finally see what the data reveal. Kansas law since 2011 has required the state child welfare agency to publish a public report on the number of reports of child sex abuse reported by abortion providers. But DCF and the predecessor agency, the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, never produced the legally required annual reports until the Topeka Capital-Journal filed a pair of open records requests this summer.  DCF has since published the required reports online.

The reports show 183 reports of child sexual abuse filed by abortion providers in the past 12 years. But the past three years showed a trend of rising child sex abuse reports, which went unreported to the lawmakers who were supposed to receive the annual report. In the past fiscal year alone, DCF received 56 reports of child sex abuse from abortion providers. A subsequent records request for reports dating back to 2011, when the law was passed, revealed that no reports were ever created under any of the past three governors. ( Read more.)


Democratic Governor and Republican Challenger Debate Issues at Kansas State Fair

HUTCHINSON — The Kansas State Fair debate is traditionally regarded as the start of the general election — but in 2022, it was defined by an issue that has absorbed Kansas for months: abortion. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the weekend debate marked the first time Democratic Governor Laura Kelly and GOP nominee Attorney General Derek Schmidt had a chance to personally challenge each other on a wide range of issues.

Abortion was one of the most significant issues in the debate. Schmidt supported the proposed constitutional amendment on abortion that failed during a statewide vote August 2nd.  "Kansas voters have decided, their decision has to be respected — which does not mean that the discussion has ended," Schmidt said. "It will continue as before." Kelly disagreed, and pointed to the sound defeat of the amendment as evidence. "I have no doubt that I stand with the overwhelming majority of Kansans on the issue of a woman’s right to privacy in making her own medical decisions," Kelly said. "I think 60% of Kansans said they don’t want that government overreach into people’s personal lives."

Notably, the Kansas State Fair debate did not feature either Libertarian Seth Cordell or Dennis Pyle, who will appear on the ballot in November as an independent.  Pyle, a Hiawatha state senator, has skewered Schmidt and Kelly as too liberal and was indignant that he was not included in the debate, saying organizers didn't reach out to his campaign to see if he might meet the qualifications to appear. ( Read more.)

(AP version)

Kansas GOP Candidate for Governor Spars with Democratic Governor over Abortion

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The Republican nominee for Kansas governor is trying to make the Democratic incumbent's support for abortion rights a liability. GOP nominee and Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt pursued that tactic Saturday during a debate at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson despite last month's strong statewide vote affirming abortion rights. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly has been a strong supporter of abortion rights. Voters last month rejected a proposed anti-abortion amendment to the Kansas Constitution that Schmidt supported. But he suggested Kelly is out of step with Kansas voters and supports abortion on demand. She said, "He's making that up."


Kansas Governor Makes "No Apologies" for Closing Schools During COVID-19 Pandemic

OLATHE, Kan. (Fox News) - Kansas Democratic Governor Laura Kelly, who is seeking re-election this November, said she makes "absolutely no apologies" for closing schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. Fox News reports that the governor's comments came last week during an appearance at the Kansas Chamber's 2022 candidate conversations event in Olathe. "We in Kansas had to take a look at what do we know, what do we have, and what we need to do to make sure we keep our people safe," Kelly said, describing the state's closing process as the virus spread throughout the country. "So, when I look at what we did, I know everybody thinks about the sort of dramatic decision to close our schools and to be the first governor to close them for the entire year," Kelly said. "I'll make no apologies for that."

Kelly was the first governor in the nation to order K-12 schools to close for the remainder of the school year in March 2020.  She said the closures were a result of the state not having "knowledge how the virus spreads," "testing" or "tools" to combat the virus effectively.  Jim Denning, a former Republican member of the Kansas Senate, recently penned an opinion piece for the Kansas City Star blasting Kelly for the actions she took. "Kelly calls herself the 'education governor. Truth is, no governor has presided over more damage to Kansas students in our state’s history," Denning wrote.  An April 2022 report from the National Bureau of Economic Research stated that school closures "may ultimately prove to be the most costly policy decision of the pandemic era in both economic and mortality terms."

Kelly, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee in the state, will face GOP challenger and Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, as well as two other challengers, in the November 8 general election. ( Read more.)


KU and WSU Seeking Approval for $300 Million Medical Complex in Downtown Wichita

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - The University of Kansas and Wichita State University are hoping to build a large medical school complex in downtown Wichita for about $302 million. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the two universities will seek approval for the project from the Kansas Board of Regents this week. The new Health Science Education Center would be jointly operated by the KU Medical Center and Wichita State.  KU Chancellor Doug Girod previously said the project would essentially be a replacement for KU’s School of Medicine in Wichita. But rather than building a new standalone facility, KU is looking to partner with Wichita State, which does not have a medical school but does provide a host of health care education. The two universities propose to split the costs for the new facility based upon how much space each university will occupy in the complex. KU has operated a medical school campus in Wichita since the early 1970s. The Wichita campus generally has about 200 students enrolled, compared to more than 3,000 students enrolled at the KU Medical School’s main campus in Kansas City, Kansas. ( Read more.)


Fatal Shooting Becomes Kansas City's 116th Homicide of 2022

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - Kansas City police are investigating the city’s 116th homicide of the year.  KCTV reports one person was shot and killed Sunday evening (in the 7000 block of Jackson Avenue). The fatal shooting was reported around 8:45 pm Sunday. The victim’s identity has not been released and no arrests have been announced.


Kansas Man Dead After UTV Crashes into Bull
KINGMAN COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) — A Kansas man died after his UTV crashed into a bull. KSNW TV reports the collision happened Friday night. According to the Kansas Highway Patrol, just before 10:30 pm, 19-year-old Max Wewe, of Pretty Prairie, was driving a UTV. With him was 21-year-old Cade Fairchild, of Cheney. State troopers say their UTV crashed into a bull that was in the roadway, causing it to tumble. Both men were ejected from the UTV. The UTV then came to a rest in a ditch. Wewe was pronounced dead at the scene. Fairchild was taken to a hospital with suspected serious injuries.


Topeka-Area 13-Year-Old Arrested After Someone Threatened to Bomb Kansas Statehouse

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) - The Shawnee County Sheriff's Office says a 13-year-old Topeka area resident was arrested last week after a social media post was made about "bombing" the Kansas Statehouse. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the building was evacuated Tuesday and bomb detection K9s were utilized to clear the building. No threats were found. The teenage suspect was booked into the Shawnee County Juvenile Detention Center in connection with a felony count of making an aggravated criminal threat.


As Monarch Butterflies Migrate Through Midwest, Tagging Efforts Begin

UNDATED (HPM) - It’s the time of year when Monarch butterflies migrate through the Midwest. And Harvest Public Media reports that September is a big month for Monarch tagging, which keeps track of the butterflies’ migration. Austin Lambert, a naturalist at the Missouri Department of Conservation, says that the data collected from tagging is valuable, but the opportunity to teach about all pollinators is even better. “I see the bigger value around the monarchs is that it's kind of the poster child for a lot of these other critters. It's one that you recognize. People get excited about,” he said. Lambert also says events like these help bring attention to conservation practices that help Monarchs and other pollinators and restore native plants. Monarch tagging can even be done in people’s own backyards. Experts say tagging is important as researchers have noted a drop in Monarch populations in recent years.


Kansas City Chiefs Roll to Victory over Arizona Cardinals

PHOENIX (KPR) - The Kansas City Chiefs offense was rolling Sunday in their 44-21 win at Arizona. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw five touchdown passes for the sixth time in his career. Only Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have had more games with at least 5 TD passes in a game. Mahomes says the Chiefs answered the off-season questions about the new faces on their offense. "You want to set a tempo. You want to set a culture on how we do things," he said. The Chiefs have only three days this week to get ready for their home opener. They’ll play the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday night.


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.