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Headlines for Tuesday, September 13, 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 today'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.


Wichita Decriminalizes Marijuana Possession, Fentanyl Strips

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Wichita City Council has voted to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana and fentanyl test strips. The vote on Tuesday means possession of marijuana cases or fentanyl test strips would no longer be filed in Wichita municipal courts. It would be up to the Sedgwick County District Attorney's office to file charges in those cases. The move would eliminate between 750 and 850 marijuana possession prosecutions in the city's courts. Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett took no position before the vote but said his office does not have the resources to handle that many more cases. Marijuana remains illegal in Kansas and at the federal level.


Bonner Springs Man Guilty of Child Sexual Exploitation

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KPR) – A Kansas man pleaded guilty to engaging in sexual acts with a child and taking nude pictures and videos of the child.  Federal prosecutors say 35-year-old Joshua Courtney, of Bonner Springs,  pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual exploitation of a child and four counts of possession of child pornography. Investigators received cybertips from Google, Snapchat and Dropbox about child sexual abuse material within accounts identified as belonging to Courtney.  Agents found dozens of pornographic images in Courtney’s Google photos, including some of which were later identified to be of a 10-year-old child. Courtney admitted to investigators he took nude photos of the child, filmed himself while engaged in sexual acts with the child and sent these materials to others. He also admitted receiving child pornography of other children on his cell phone. Courtney faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison for each count of child exploitation and up to 20 years in prison for each count of possession of child pornography. His sentencing is scheduled for December 1. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Secret Service have been investigating the case.


Missouri Man Dies After Rollover Crash in Kansas; 9-Year-Old Son and 12-Year-Old Boy Uninjured

MAPLETON, Kan. (KAKE) - A 40-year-old Missouri man was killed when his Jeep overturned in southeastern Kansas and pinned him underneath. KAKE TV reports that the accident happened Saturday afternoon in Bourbon County. The Kansas Highway Patrol says a Jeep Wrangler was going down a drop-off when the driver, Caleb Hopkins, lost control. The Jeep overturned and pinned Hopkins underneath. Hopkins, of Kansas City, Missouri, died at the scene. His 9-year-old son and a 12-year-old boy in the Jeep were not hurt.


KU Moves Up Two Spots in Rankings by U.S. News & World Report

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - The University of Kansas has moved up two spots in the most recent university rankings from U.S. News & World Report. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that KU finished No. 56 among all public schools ranked by the media company. That's up from No. 58 in last year’s report. Among all universities, both public and private, KU moved up one spot.  KU continues to be the top-ranked university in Kansas, according to the magazine's rankings.  However, those rankings are not universally viewed as a good measure of a school’s overall quality.

In a press release this week, KU highlighted some other information from this year’s rankings:

• KU’s School of Nursing ranked No. 22 among public schools and No. 29 among all universities.
• KU’s School of Business ranked No. 42 among public business schools.
• KU’s School of Engineering ranked No. 51 among public engineering schools.
• KU ranked No. 22 among public schools in the “best value” category.
• KU ranked No. 53 among public schools in the category of Best Colleges for Veterans.


NextEra Still Looking into Viability of Wind Farm Project in Southwest Douglas County

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - NextEra Energy, a Florida-based energy company, has confirmed to the Lawrence Journal-World that it is still considering whether to build a wind farm in southwest Douglas County and part of Franklin County. Sara Cassidy, a spokesperson for NextEra, says her company is still assessing existing transmission infrastructure, gauging interest among landowners and county officials and conducting environmental surveys. Some area landowners are opposed to the project while others have already signed on to the idea. ( Read more.)


Group Raises Questions About Donations to Kansas GOP Candidate for Governor

UNDATED (KNS/Kansas Reflector) - A national advocacy group is raising concerns about some of the campaign donations collected by Kansas GOP gubernatorial candidate Derek Schmidt. Schmidt is currently the Kansas attorney general, and he’s received campaign donations from law firms that won contracts from his office. That’s according to a Kansas Reflector report that describes the criticism from End Citizens United, an advocacy group opposed to the influence of money in politics. The group says Schmidt has received more than $46,000 from 20 law firms that his office awarded state contracts to, and that looks like a conflict of interest. A spokesman for Schmidt’s campaign says the office used an open bidding process, and points out that Schmidt’s opponent, Democratic Governor Laura Kelly, also received money from those same law firms. The Reflector reports Kelly got roughly half of the money Schmidt received.


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 Monday 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. ( Read more.)

(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 Monday. 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.)


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.)


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.)


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.


Chiefs' Mahomes Still Thrives on Proving Naysayers Wrong

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — It’s sometimes hard to believe that Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, for all that he’s accomplished during his young but brilliant NFL career, would carry such a considerable chip on his shoulder. But he thrives on proving people wrong, and that was evident again in Arizona. Despite losing game-breaking Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins, Mahomes threw for 360 yards and five touchdowns without an interception in a near-flawless performance. And he'll carry that momentum into Thursday night's showdown against the AFC West-rival Los Angeles Chargers.


Chiefs' Reid Critical of Arizona Turf After 2 Injuries

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid criticized the field inside State Farm Stadium on Tuesday after two Kansas City players slipped on the turf and sustained injuries during their 44-21 win over the Arizona Cardinals last week. Harrison Butker’s plant foot slipped awkwardly during a kickoff early in the game, forcing the Chiefs to use safety Justin Reid for most of their kickoffs and extra points the rest of the way. First-round pick Trent McDuffie hurt his hamstring when the young cornerback’s feet slipped during an otherwise impressive debut. The Chiefs have a short turnaround before facing the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday night at Arrowhead Stadium, meaning it's unlikely that either will be available.


Big 12's Underappreciated Teams Stealing Spotlight Early in Season

UNDATED (AP) – What were supposed to be the Big 12 also-rans took some of the spotlight from favorites such as Oklahoma and Oklahoma State over the weekend. Kansas improved to 2-0 with its overtime victory over West Virginia. Iowa State did the same with a road win over rival Iowa. Kansas State blew out former Big 12 foe Missouri in the first meeting with the Tigers in more than a decade. Texas Tech used double overtime to rally past then-No. 25 Houston. That's some pretty salty stuff from a quartet of schools that were not expected to make much noise this season.


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.


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.