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Headlines for Tuesday, November 1, 2022



Kansas Mom Gets 20 Years for Leading Islamic State Battalion

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A Kansas native who led an all-female Islamic State battalion when she lived in Syria has been sentenced to 20 years in prison. That's the maximum the judge could have imposed. Allison Fluke-Ekren admitted that she led the Khatiba Nusaybah, a battalion in which roughly 100 women and girls — some as young as 10 years old — learned how to use automatic weapons and detonate grenades and suicide belts. One of Fluke-Ekren’s daughters was among those who said she received such training. The daughter and Fluke-Ekren’s oldest son both urged the judge to impose a maximum sentence. They said they were physically and sexually abused by their mother. Fluke-Ekren denied the abuse and rationalized her actions during a weepy speech at Tuesday's hearing.


Ex-Chiefs Assistant Reid Sentenced to 3 Years in Prison

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Former Kansas City Chiefs assistant coach Britt Reid has been sentenced to three years in prison for a drunken driving crash that seriously injured a 5-year-old girl in 2021. Reid's sentencing Tuesday comes after he pleaded guilty in September to driving while intoxicated causing serious bodily injury. Under a plea deal, Reid faced a maximum of four years in prison. His defense lawyer had sought probation. Prosecutors said Reid, the son of Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, had just left Arrowhead Stadium in February 2021, when his speeding pickup truck hit two parked vehicles on a ramp along Interstate 435. A girl in one of the cars, Ariel Young, suffered a traumatic brain injury.


UPDATE: 1 Dead, 6 Wounded After Halloween Party Shooting in Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — One person was killed and six others were wounded after gunfire erupted at a crowded Halloween party in Kansas City, Kansas. Police said Tuesday the shooting happened Monday night at a home. The victims ranged between ages 15 and 18. The person who died was 17. One person was treated and released and the other five injured teens were hospitalized Tuesday in stable condition. Police say the party was meant for younger teens but was promoted on social media. The suspects were asked to leave because they were older. Police say the suspects left but returned later and opened fire. One person of interest was taken into custody Tuesday afternoon.


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.


Kansas Voters Receive Fraudulent Text Messages

UNDATED (KCUR) - Kansas voters are receiving text messages directing them to the wrong polling location to vote on Election Day. KCUR Radio reports the texts appear to be part of a nationwide campaign to spread misinformation. Voters in several Kansas cities have reported receiving texts from the organization, Voting Futures, containing fraudulent information regarding their listed polling location based on their home address. Sharon Brett, Legal Director of the Kansas ACLU, says that simple misinformation campaigns like this can have a drastic impact on voter turnout on Election Day. “Many voters who don’t know their correct polling location may rely on this information, and if they get turned away from that polling location they may be discouraged from voting in the election," she said. Kansas voters can go to the Kansas Secretary of State’s website to check where their correct polling location will be.


Most Candidates for Top Election Posts Say No to Hand Counts

UNDATED (AP) – The majority of candidates running this year for the state posts that oversee elections oppose the idea of hand counting ballots. The laborious and error-prone process has gained favor among Republicans who have been inundated with unfounded conspiracy theories surrounding voting machines. Notable exceptions are a handful of GOP secretary of state candidates running in some of the nation’s most politically competitive states, including Arizona and New Mexico. In an Associated Press survey of the 46 major party candidates for the office in the 24 states where it oversees voting, only one said he wanted it implemented statewide — the Republican candidate in Vermont.


Widespread Drought Affecting Birds as Kansas Wetlands Dry Up

GREAT BEND, Kan. (KNS) - The drought in Kansas isn’t only affecting farmers and communities. It’s also hurting birds. The Kansas News Service reports that the wetlands the birds usually visit during their annual migration are vanishing. 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 wetlands in central Kansas to get the food, water and rest they need to finish the journey. But the drought has dried those wetlands up, 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," she said. "But not all of them are going to make it to that next one.” Some shorebird species that typically depend on these wetlands have already seen their population drop by more than 50% since 1980.

Typically, birds stop at places like Cheyenne Bottoms and the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in central Kansas to get food, water and rest. But the drought has dried up those wetlands, forcing the birds to turn elsewhere. 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. But not this year. “Right now we are 100% dry," he said. "There's no water on the property. Our bird numbers are nothing. Wagner says it would likely take several inches of rain just to saturate the dry ground before the wetlands can begin refilling again.


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.


Powerball Prize Soars to $1.2 Billion After Nobody Wins Jackpot Monday Night

UNDATED (AP) - There were no big treats from the Halloween night Powerball drawing, as none of the tickets sold matched all six numbers to claim the $1 billion jackpot prize. The lack of a winner means the next drawing Wednesday night will be for a massive $1.2 billion jackpot. The winning numbers drawn Monday were: white balls 13, 19, 36, 39, 59 and the red power ball 13. The increased jackpot will be the 4th-largest lottery prize in U.S. history. The biggest prize was a $1.586 billion Powerball jackpot won by three ticketholders in 2016. Massive lottery jackpots have become more common in recent years as lottery officials have adjusted game rules and ticket prices to pump up the top prizes.


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.


Cerner Shutters Two Large Offices in Kansas City Metro

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCUR) - Just months after Oracle purchased the company, Cerner is shuttering two of its largest offices in the Kansas City metro. The company will consolidate workers into its Innovations Campus. Oracle told employees they will close the Cerner headquarters in North Kansas City, as well as a campus at the former Bannister Mall site. KCUR Radio reports that it's the latest move by Cerner to downsize its once-sprawling office footprint in the metro. North Kansas City Mayor Bryant DeLong was surprised to find out about the decision on social media. “Now of course, we don’t have any information from them yet. I don’t know what their timeline is. If they plan on selling it, holding it and leasing it. We don’t know," he said. "But I’m optimistic they can do something with it.” Oracle said the move will give workers more flexibility, and better utilize their 2 million square foot campus in south Kansas City.


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.


$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.   


UPDATE: Body Pulled from Kansas River Identified as Missing Missouri Man

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KSHB) — Kansas City, Kansas, police have identified the body pulled from the Kansas River over the weekend as a 19-year-old Independence, Missouri, man. Detectives investigating the body, which was discovered around noon Saturday by a kayaker, identified the deceased person as Johnathan Devol. According to KSHB TV, Devol was last seen October 16 below the 12th Street Bridge near the Kansas River. Police say initial autopsy results indicate the death was accidental. The incident remains under investigation. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers Tips Hotline at 816-474-TIPS (8477).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Gethro Muscadin, Former KU Basketball Player, Dies

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Former University of Kansas and New Mexico forward Gethro Muscadin, who was involved in a rollover crash last December, died late Monday from the injuries he sustained in the crash. Jayhawks coach Bill Self announced the news in a statement Tuesday. The 6-foot-10 center appeared in 11 games for Kansas during the 2020-21 season, including a loss to Southern California in the NCAA Tournament. Muscadin transferred to New Mexico, where he started nine of 12 games for the Lobos last season before leaving the program in December. He was involved in a single-vehicle crash on the Kansas Turnpike in the early hours of December 30, 2021, and never recovered.


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.

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Happy Día de los Muertos! 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.