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Headlines for Wednesday, November 23, 2022



Communicating with Loved Ones in Kansas Prisons Can Be Pricey

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS)- Some parents spend $50 a week talking to their children in the Kansas prison system. And the desire to talk to them grows stronger as the holidays approach, even if some families can’t afford to call. The Kansas News Service reports that a phone call costs 14 cents per minute. One email costs 25 cents. A video call runs about $10. Inmates and their families on tight budgets say those costs are keeping families apart. Joi Wickliffe is a project director at the University of Kansas Medical Center who’s spent eight years researching inside prisons. She says some inmates are starved for connection. "They always say, oh, my gosh! I'm glad you found me. I'm so happy somebody thought about me," Wickliffe said. Kansas prison officials say they do let low-income inmates send four letters a month for free.

Trish Gaston spends $50 a week talking to her children in the Kansas prison system. She considers herself lucky because others can’t afford to do so. Gaston says constant communication is needed because it’ll help her kids once they are released. “We all make mistakes, we've all done things wrong," she said. "They are serving their time but they still have a right to be treated as human beings and have contact with their loved ones.” Federal legislation could soon reduce the cost of communicating with prison inmates. ( Read more.)


Kansas Wants TV Station's Interviews with Women Who Complained About Highway Patrol

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - An attorney for the state of Kansas is seeking a Kansas City TV station’s interviews with women who accused the Kansas Highway Patrol of gender discrimination. The Kansas News Service reports that the unusual move could violate a state law protecting freedom of the press. In a court filing, the attorney demands all recordings of interviews Kansas City TV station KMBC conducted with the five women suing the state for alleged discrimination. The subpoena was filed despite Kansas law protecting journalists from legal jeopardy for refusing to disclose information. KMBC interviewed the women after they filed a lawsuit against the patrol and the Highway Patrol's superintendent, Herman Jones.


Did Kansas Make a Poor Bet? Sports Gambling Generated $270,000 from $350 Million in Placed Bets

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Legalized sports gambling has generated barely $270,000 from the $350 million that Kansans have spent placing bets. A report from the New York Times says the low tax revenues stem from the gambling industry pouring money into lobbying state lawmakers. The newspaper reports that led to a provision that lets casinos write-off the money they spend on promotions, such as offering new users free bets. State Representative Pat Proctor, a Fort Leavenworth Republican who voted against the legislation that made sports betting legal, says it’s been a bad deal for Kansans. “Even if we decide we are going to make tax dollars on the back of people's hardship and struggles with addiction, we're not getting any tax money from this," he said. The report also says that none of the tax revenue Kansas has brought in so far has gone toward programs to prevent gambling addiction.

State Representative John Barker, the Abilene Republican who sponsored the legislation that legalized sports betting, says he doesn’t know what accounts for the low tax revenue number. But he stands by his bill. “I'm not sure it's a sweetheart deal," he said. "I think we did what most other states have done. And, of course, as with many bills that we passed, if it's bad, we can fix it the following year." Estimates from the Kansas Lottery earlier this year predicted sports betting would bring in $10 million a year for the state by 2025.


Survey Reveals Most Popular Thanksgiving Side Dishes in Kansas

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - A survey reveals the most popular Thanksgiving side dishes in Kansas. The website BetKansas.com used Google Trends to come up with - what it says - were the most searched for Thanksgiving side dishes in Kansas. The most popular item? Green bean casserole, followed by mashed potatoes, macaroni & cheese, stuffing and sweet potato casserole. The data were collected in November 2021 but presumably, the top five results are still quite popular. Green bean casserole itself was invented in a Campbells Soup test kitchen in 1955 in an effort to boost the sale of Cream of Mushroom soup. ( Read more.)


Price of Thanksgiving Turkeys Goes Up

UNDATED (HPM) - More than 8 million turkeys have died or been destroyed because of bird flu this year. That, along with inflation, is pushing up turkey prices. According to Harvest Public Media, a 16-pound turkey costs about $5 more than last year. That figure comes from the American Farm Bureau Federation. And while industry groups say there are plenty of turkeys available this holiday season despite bird flu, they may be a bit smaller than in previous years. Iowa State University’s Chad Hart says some turkeys were harvested earlier than normal to help fill Thanksgiving demand. "We will have a selection of larger birds available," Hart said, "but they won’t be quite as prevalent. And we’ll have a few that were started, say, in September, trying to make up for some of those lost flocks, that are going to be right there in the case along with them." But Hart says by Christmastime, size will be less of an issue.

Thanksgiving Dinner Will Be Pricier this Year

UNDATED (HPM) - One survey, by the American Farm Bureau Federation found a Thanksgiving feast for 10 people will cost an average of 20% more this holiday than last year. The farm bureau’s chief economist Roger Cryan says a third of that increase is because of inflation. "It robs consumers and farmers of their buying power," he said. "And it's leading to a quite a bit of of chaos in the macro-economy." Cryan says supply chain issues and the war in Ukraine have also been pushing up the prices of Thanksgiving staples. More than 8 million turkeys have died or been destroyed because of bird flu this year. A survey from the American Farm Bureau found a 16-pound turkey costs about $5 more this year than last.


Lawrence Holiday Lighting Event Set for Friday

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) – The City of Lawrence has announced that its annual downtown holiday lighting event and Santa Rescue will take place Friday evening from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Events will take place in front of Weaver's Department Store at 910 Massachusetts Street. The lighting ceremony will take place at 6:20 p.m. Massachusetts Street will be closed to traffic from 5 to 7 p.m. from 8th to 10th Streets, and 9th Street will be closed between Vermont and Massachusetts Streets. The event is co-sponsored by the Lawrence Central Rotary and the Lawrence Kid's Calendar Santa Rescue, and will feature Hank Booth as master of ceremonies along with Lawrence Mayor Courtney Shipley. The Rotary Club will have a special mailbox set up to collect letters to Santa. Unfortunately, Santa will not be able to stay to greet the crowd, as he needs to travel back to the North Pole to work with the elves to prepare for the holiday.


KPR Still Seeking Kansas Statehouse Bureau Chief to Join Station's Award-Winning News Team

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Kansas Public Radio, located at the University of Kansas, is looking for a new Kansas Statehouse Bureau Chief to cover all aspects of state government in Topeka for KPR and its statewide reporting partners. This exciting position requires skill, professional experience and curiosity. To apply, log on to:   https://employment.ku.edu/staff/23463BR. A review of applications began in October and will continue until a robust pool of qualified applicants is identified.

KU is an EO/AAE. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), age, national origin, disability, genetic information or protected Veteran status.


U.S. Supply Chain Under Threat as Unions, Railroads, Clash

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Railroad engineers accepted their deal with the railroads that will deliver 24% raises but conductors rejected the contract. The votes threaten the health of the economy just before the holidays and cast more doubt on whether the industry will be able to resolve the labor dispute before next month's deadline without help from Congress. Monday's votes by the two biggest railroad unions follows the decision by three other unions to reject their deals with the railroads that the Biden administration helped broker before the original strike deadline in September. Seven other smaller unions have approved the five-year deals that include 24% raises and $5,000 in bonuses. But all 12 must approve the contracts to prevent a strike.


Cybersecurity Threats Affecting Midwest Farmers

UNDATED (HPM) - The FBI warns that cyber criminals are increasingly targeting U.S. farms with ransomware. Harvest Public Media reports that the threat is especially high during the time-sensitive harvest season. Agriculture increasingly relies on things that are hackable – data, artificial intelligence and the GPS systems that help farmers grow crops. FBI Special Agent Eugene Kowel says holding that technology hostage can yield a big payday - especially during harvest, when farmers are in a time crunch and might pay a ransom to get back to work. Kowel couldn’t talk about current threats, but says last year, cyber-attacks hit six grain companies, including in the Iowa-Nebraska region. He said those attacks jeopardized the nation's food supply. "We do believe the cooperatives were targeted," he said. "And we did assess that the attacks were purposely launched to coincide with the planting and harvest season. Kowel says the FBI was able to stop the hackers before they harmed the grain companies. "So, whether or not you live in an agricultural state or live far from an agricultural state, the ramifications of cyber intrusions in the agricultural sphere affect everybody," he said. Kowel says the threats will only grow as technology advances and things like autonomous tractors get into fields.


Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Season Underway in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – The Salvation Army's iconic Red Kettles and bells are back in service for a new holiday season. KSNT reports that the kettles and bell-ringers are now stationed at retailers across Topeka. The theme for this year’s campaign is “Hope Marches On.” The kettles will be out in Topeka through December 24. This year, there are more options to donate via smartphone. Donors can use Paypal, Venmo, Apple Pay and Google Pay, or at DonateTopeka.com.

According to KSNT, the kettle has been around for decades, but the idea first came from Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee in the 1890s. He wanted to make a difference for those facing poverty in San Francisco. When thinking about how to fund a Christmas dinner for those struggling to make ends meet, he remembered the idea of a “Simpson’s Pot.” When McFee was a sailor in England, he remembered how boats would come in and people would toss money in the pot to help those who needed it. He started doing the same thing, and soon enough was able to help feed people at Christmas time. Anyone interested in signing up to be a bell ringer at one of the kettle locations can sign up at RegistertoRing.com. The website gives volunteers the option to ring bells as a group, individual or conduct an online fundraiser.


No. 3 Kansas Beats NC State in Coach Bill Self's Return

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) — First-year guard Gradey Dick scored a season-high 25 points to help No. 3 Kansas beat North Carolina State 80-74 in the Battle 4 Atlantis opener. It gave coach Bill Self a successful return to the bench after a four-game suspension. Dick had 18 points on six 3-pointers in the first half before going 1 for 8 from the field after halftime. Kansas led 39-31 at halftime but had to grind this one out to the final minutes. Casey Morsell scored 21 points to lead the Wolfpack, while Terquavion Smith added 19 points.


AP Source: KU Gives Coach Lance Leipold 2-Year Extension

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP/LJW) — Kansas and football coach Lance Leipold have agreed to a two-year contract extension to keep him with the Jayhawks through the 2029 season. That's according to a person familiar with the terms of the deal who spoke on condition of anonymity Tuesday night because the school had not announced the extension. Leipold had a year added to his original contract on Sept. 1 as a reward for a two-win first season that raised hopes that the football program might finally return to relevance. But after a 5-0 start had the Jayhawks ranked in the AP Top 25, and a sixth win made them bowl-eligible, the school made an aggressive move to lock up Leipold. ( Read more in the Lawrence Journal-World.)


K-State Faces KU with Big 12 Title Game Possibly at Stake

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State will know before Saturday whether it needs to beat Kansas in the Sunflower Showdown to earn a rematch with unbeaten TCU in the Big 12 championship game. If Baylor can knock off Texas on Friday, the No. 15 Wildcats will have their spot in Arlington. Otherwise, it will be up to Kansas State to beat the Jayhawks for the 14th consecutive time to play for the conference title, and it figures to be the toughest of any of them. The Wildcats are as good as they've ever been under fourth-year coach Chris Klieman, but Kansas is as good as it's been under any coach in more than a decade. The Jayhawks already have clinched a bowl game for the first time since 2008.


Power Shifting in Big 12 Conference as Changes Loom 

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Changes are afoot in the Big 12, even before Oklahoma and Texas depart for the Southeastern Conference. Fourth-ranked TCU has replaced the Sooners as the Big 12 team in the running for a College Football Playoff spot. The Horned Frogs already are in the conference title game heading into their regular-season finale against Iowa State. No. 15 Kansas State is a surprise contender for the other spot in the title game. The Wildcats would get in if No. 24 Texas loses to Baylor on Friday. If Texas wins, Kansas State would need to beat Kansas on Saturday night to qualify.


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.