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Headlines for Thursday, December 8, 2022



Keystone Pipeline Shut Down After Oil Release into Kansas Creek

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Kan. (Reuters) - Canada's TC Energy company says it shut down its Keystone pipeline as it responds to an oil release into a Kansas creek. The company says the pipeline leak occurred in Washington County, Kansas, approximately 20 miles south of Steele City, Nebraska. The Keystone pipeline carries about 622,000 barrels of oil per day. An emergency shutdown and response was initiated around 8 pm Wednesday, after alarms indicated a pressure drop in the system. Company officials say they've mobilized people and equipment in response. The company says the affected segment of pipeline has been isolated, and booms deployed to control downstream migration of the oil release. ( Read more.)

(– AP Version –)

Oil Spill in Rural Kansas Creek Shuts Down Keystone Pipeline

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An oil spill in a creek in northeastern Kansas has shut down a major pipeline from Canada through the Plains and to the Texas Gulf Coast. The spill briefly caused oil prices to rise Thursday. Canadian-based TC Energy said it shut down its Keystone system Wednesday night following a drop in pipeline pressure. It said oil spilled into a creek in Washington County, Kansas, about 150 miles northwest of Kansas City. The company did not say in a statement what caused the spill. The county's emergency management director said there were no evacuations. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said no wells providing drinking water were affected. 


Recreational Marijuana Now Legal in Missouri, but You Can't Buy It Yet

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — As of today (THUR), it's lawful for adults to possess and use marijuana in Missouri. That doesn't mean you can legally buy it just yet, or use it everywhere. Medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 2018, but voters went a step further in November by approving a constitutional amendment legalizing recreational use. Missouri is the 21st state allowing recreational use. The change comes with some confusion. For one thing, dispensaries can't yet sell the drug for recreational use. People will eventually be able to grow their own, but applications to do so won't be taken until next month. And places such as schools and businesses can still prohibit the drug.

John Mueller, co-founder of Greenlight Dispensaries, said the company's 15 Missouri shops are getting calls from people confused about the new law and why they can't yet buy it from the dispensaries. "I think everybody's anxious and excited about adult use," said Mueller, whose company plans to add 300 jobs at cultivation, manufacturing and dispensary locations for the expected uptick in business. "Every dollar we sell is a dollar that doesn't go to the black market."

Existing medical dispensaries will eventually be allowed to sell to recreational users, but the agency hasn't determined when that will be. John Payne, a leader of the campaign to legalize marijuana, said recreational sales will likely begin in February. The state is expected to issue an additional 144 dispensary licenses by early 2025.

Spokeswoman Lisa Cox of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, which regulates marijuana, said personal cultivation application forms will be available January 7 for people who want to grow a limited amount of their own.

Some places will continue to prohibit lighting up. Among them: the four campuses of the University of Missouri System. The system cited two federal laws — the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act and the Drug-Free Workplace Act — on Wednesday in announcing a continued prohibition of marijuana on campuses and at university-sponsored events. Student violators could face discipline up to expulsion. Legalization is concerning for some in law enforcement who worry it will mean more impaired drivers.

The amendment passed by Missouri voters in November also requires expungement of criminal records for most people incarcerated or on probation for a misdemeanor marijuana offense, a process expected to be completed by mid-2023.


Lawmaker: Recreational Marijuana Unlikely in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas lawmakers are moving ahead with a plan to legalize "medical" marijuana. But Republican leaders have no interest in pursuing recreational marijuana even as Colorado and Missouri laws change. The Kansas News Service reports that a medical marijuana committee in the Kansas Statehouse is meeting this week for the first time since Missouri voters passed recreational marijuana through a ballot initiative. Senator Rob Olson, the Republican chair of the committee, says cannabis for medical purposes is all that’s possible right now. Recreational marijuana is still too divisive. “It won't pass," Olson said. "I'm just trying to do what I believe the people want. And they might want it recreational but getting it passed - I don't see a way of doing that.” Olson says there are still dozens of questions to work out with proposed medical marijuana legislation, including issues like tax revenue and concerns from law enforcement.


Kansas Man Wanted in Nebraska Woman’s Disappearance Arrested in Belize

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A Topeka man sought by authorities for kidnapping a 43-year-old Omaha woman who went missing the weekend before Thanksgiving has been arrested in Central America. WOWT TV reports that 47-year-old Aldrick Scott was arrested in Belize. Douglas County, Nebraska, investigators had been looking for him for 18 days. Sources told WOWT last month that they believed Scott had plans to leave the country, possibly to Mexico. According to a Wednesday news release from the sheriff’s office, investigators learned that Scott had likely traveled by air out of the country while they were in Topeka working with Kansas law enforcement officers. Scott is wanted for kidnapping and accessory to a felony. Scott was arrested around noon Tuesday. Authorities are still working to find Cari Allen. She was last seen Saturday, November 19, near her home in west Omaha. Since that time, authorities have conducted searches at a home in Topeka and at a landfill in Bennington, Nebraska. Anyone with information about Allen’s whereabouts is asked to contact authorities in Douglas County, Nebraska, at (402) 444-6000. ( Read more.) 


Kansas Woman Found Dead After Boyfriend’s Arrest in North Carolina

CHANUTE, Kan. (KSN/KODE) – Authorities are investigating the death of a Chanute woman after a tip lead to the discovery of her body.  KSN TV reports that the Neosho County Sheriff’s Office received a phone call from law enforcement in North Carolina Tuesday evening, asking them to do a welfare check on a resident living in Chanute. After searching the area, deputies discovered the body of 47-year-old Elaina Asprea near her house. Local authorities contacted the Kansas Bureau of Investigation for assistance. The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office in Fayetteville, North Carolina, arrested Asprea’s boyfriend, 37-year-old Joseph Deluca, on an unrelated weapons charge. Kansas officials named Deluca as a person of interest in Asprea’s death. The original tip came from the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office. Asprea’s autopsy is scheduled for Friday.


Kansas Cowboys Help Roundup Cattle After Semi Overturns on Highway 50

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Cowboys and cowgirls in Finney County helped recover cattle after a semi-truck hauling a loaded cattle trailer rolled over on U.S. Highway 50. The crash happened around 8 pm Wednesday.  KWCH TV reports that officers found cattle wandering out of the trailer and on the ground. The semi’s driver, 37-year-old Hector Fierro-Acevado, of Garden City, was taken to the hospital and treated for minor injuries. Witnesses told police that as the semi turned onto a ramp, the trailer began tipping over and turned the semi truck over with it. Area cowboys and cowgirls were called in to assist in recovery of the cattle. Three animals died and one was injured. Traffic was diverted for approximately six hours.


Town of St. Marys Renews Library Lease 
UNDATED (KNS) – A Kansas town has renewed the lease for its public library after months of debate over LGBTQ materials. The City Commission in St. Marys, northwest of Topeka, has voted to extend the lease for its regional library for another year. City leaders had threatened not to renew the lease unless the library removed all LGBTQ or socially divisive books from its shelves. One commissioner had also proposed removing any book dealing with critical race theory. Commissioners said an outpouring of community support for the library prompted them to extend the lease.


ACLU Sues Missouri School District over Book Removal Policy

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — The ACLU of Missouri is suing a suburban Kansas City school district over its policy of automatically removing any library material from school libraries after it is challenged. Under the current policy of the Independence School District, library material is removed until a committee evaluates it and the school board votes on whether to keep it. The ACLU argues the policy violates students' First Amendment rights by preventing them from accessing books without prior notice and with no process to appeal. The federal lawsuit was filed Tuesday on behalf of four district parents after the school board voted to remove a book from elementary school libraries because it included a nonbinary character. The district said in a statement Wednesday that it stands by the policy, which it said was "thoughtful, well-considered, and calculated to balance and protect the rights of all students and their parents."The district said its policy is nearly identical to policies used by numerous public school districts in Missouri. "The District will vigorously defend against this lawsuit," the statement said. "It is unfortunate that the District will be required to expend taxpayer funds to defend against the ACLU's latest unfounded complaint."

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of four parents in the district, comes after a parent in April challenged the children's book "Cats vs. Robots #1: This Is War" because it includes a nonbinary character. The book was removed from shelves while a committee reviewed it, and the school board then voted to permanently remove it from elementary school libraries. The lawsuit comes as efforts to remove books in school and public libraries increase across the country.


Candlelight Vigil Planned for Daughter, Father Who Died in Shooting Near Baldwin City

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Kan. (LJW) - A candlelight vigil is planned for Friday night in memory of two people who died in a shooting Monday near Baldwin City. According to a Facebook post, the vigil for 13-year-old Hayden Koch, and her father, 55-year-old David M. Koch, will be held at 7 pm Friday at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Parish (1234 Kentucky St.). The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Hayden Koch was an eighth-grade student at Bishop Seabury Academy.  David Koch was a welder and maintenance worker for the City of Lawrence. The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office has released few details about the shooting, which took place at the family's rural home near Baldwin City, but officials did say that the wound David Koch died from was self-inflicted.


Classes Resume in Valley Center Following Online Threats

VALLEY CENTER, Kan. (KNS/KMUW) - Students returned to class in Valley Center today (THUR), after online threats canceled school Wednesday. The Kansas News Service reports that the threats came after a basketball game during which fans allegedly shouted racial slurs. A statement from Valley Center school officials says the district hasn’t found any evidence of racist remarks during a home game against Topeka High School. But the district is investigating claims that some Valley Center students and fans shouted racial slurs at the visiting Topeka team and waved around a Black baby doll. In a letter to the Topeka district earlier this week, Valley Center school officials said they were embarrassed by some students’ language and behavior, and they promised to keep it from happening again. Police are investigating online threats toward the district and will update parents.

(Earlier reporting...)

Two Kansas High Schools Investigate Offensive Chants at Game

UNDATED (AP) -  Two Kansas high schools are investigating after students at one school reportedly yelled racist and offensive taunts at the other school's basketball teams. The basketball coach at Topeka High School says the men's basketball team faced "outright racism'' when they played Valley Center High School on Saturday. Coach Geo Lyons says Valley Center students taunted his players. Valley Center administrators have apologized to Topeka High officials. They say an investigation uncovered inappropriate behavior but not specifically racist taunts from students during the game. Valley Center's coach, Geo Lyons, has started a petition to have Valley Center High School fans removed from future sporting events.


Kansas Game Wardens Warn of Coyotes Heading into Town

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) - Game wardens with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks are warning the public that more and more coyotes are heading into town across the state. KSNW TV reports that wildlife officials blame extreme drought conditions for the uptick in coyotes seeking food and water in more urban areas. Game wardens say city residents who spot a coyote should remain calm because most of the animals avoid people.


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.


Lawrence Democrat Boog Highberger Plans to Leave the Kansas House at End of Current Term

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - Kansas Democratic lawmaker Dennis “Boog” Highberger, of Lawrence, does not intend to seek another term in the Kansas House after his current term expires. Highberger, who recently won reelection — unopposed — to the 46th District in the Kansas House, was first elected to that body in 2015, taking over the seat vacated by Paul Davis, who chose to run for governor. Highberger, who will be 65 by the end of this term, said he decided not to run again because he will have been in the Legislature nearly a decade by then. “I think it’s time to step away for a younger generation,” he said. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Highberger, an attorney and former Lawrence mayor, plans to remain in Lawrence and continue working.


Judge Orders Midwest Slaughterhouse Cleaners Not to Hire Minors

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ A federal judge has ordered a Wisconsin company that cleans hundreds of slaughterhouses nationwide to ensure it is complying with child labor laws. Investigators identified at least 50 minors scrubbing and sanitizing dangerous equipment at five different meatpacking plants in Missouri, Nebraska, Arkansas and Minnesota.  The company, Packers Sanitation Services, has now entered into an agreement with the Labor Department. The company employs some 17,000 people working at more than 700 locations nationwide. As part of the agreement, the company promised to hire an outside consultant to review its hiring policies and provide additional training for managers. Investigators are still in the early stages of reviewing thousands of pages of records from other plants.



Kansas City Man Charged with Helping Cass County Inmates Escape

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KMBC) — Charges have been filed against a Kansas City man accused of assisting two inmates who escaped from the Cass County, Missouri, jail Monday.  KMBC TV reports that 64-year-old Steven Lydell Williams, Sr. has been charged with a single count of aiding or assisting in an escape. The escaped inmates, 33-year-old Trevor Scott Sparks, of Kansas City, and 43-year-old Sergio Perez Martinez, of Panorama City, California, escaped around 10 pm Monday and remain at large. Williams has been taken into custody.

Authorities say Sparks led a $4.1 million criminal drug business. Federal investigators believe his criminal enterprise is also linked to two murders. Little is known about Perez Martinez and any potential connection he has to Williams or Sparks. Perez-Martinez was being held at the jail in Harrisonville for drug possession. The U.S. Marshals Office is offering a $5,000 reward for each individual for tips that lead to their capture. In order to receive the U.S. Marshal’s reward, persons must contact them directly at (816) 512-2000.


President Biden Releasing Nearly $36 Billion to Aid Pensions of Union Workers

UNDATED (AP) - President Joe Biden is announcing the infusion of nearly $36 billion to shore up a financially troubled union pension plan. The federal aid is intended to stop severe cuts to the retirement incomes of more than 350,000 Teamsters workers and retirees. The Biden administration says it's the largest-ever federal payment to a union pension fund. The money for the Central States Pension Fund is the largest amount of federal aid provided for a pension plan, the Biden administration said, and comes from the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that he signed into law in 2021. Retirement plans have been under financial pressure because of underfunding and other issues. Without the federal assistance, Teamster members could have seen their benefits reduced by roughly 60%.

The amount going to the Central States Pension Fund represents somewhere between one-third and one-half of the total estimated cost of the federal aid program. The retirement plan has participants in almost every state, with the largest concentration in the Midwest. There are about 40,000 participants in both Michigan and Ohio, nearly 28,000 in Missouri, 25,000 in Illinois and about 22,000 each in Texas and Wisconsin, according to figures provided by the White House.


Lisa Larsen Once Again Chosen as Mayor of Lawrence 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (Lawrence Times) – Lawrence city commissioners voted in a new mayor and vice mayor last (TUE) night. The Lawrence Times reports that the last election's top two vote recipients were voted into the positions, as is traditional for the city. Lisa Larsen, the longest-serving current city commissioner, will once again serve as mayor. She previously served in the position in 2019. Bart Littlejohn is vice mayor. Larsen said in her comments following the vote that it would be crucial for the community to work towards sustainable and equitable growth policies, and encouraged public participation in a planned land development code update.  


Father, Daughter Found Dead in Rural Baldwin City Home

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) -The Douglas County Sheriff's Office has identified two people - a father and daughter - who were found shot to death Monday in a rural Baldwin City home. According to the Lawrence Journal-World, deputies were notified of the shooting Monday morning and discovered the bodies of 55-year-old David M. Koch, and his 13-year-old daughter, Hayden Koch, a student at Bishop Seabury Academy in Lawrence. Preliminary information indicates the teenager, Hayden, died as a result of a gunshot wound, Her father, David Koch, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He worked for the city of Lawrence as a welder and maintenance worker. Other details of the incident, including a motive, haven’t been released.


Jackson County to Pay $5.3 Million for Age Discrimination

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Jackson County, Missouri, will pay $5.3 million to a former sheriff's deputy who alleged he was fired because of his age and health conditions. The county legislature voted Monday to settle the lawsuit filed by Doug Caster, who was fired in December 2015. Caster alleged he and other senior deputies were targeted by former Sheriff Mike Sharp and undersheriff Hugh Mills. Caster, who was 59 at the time, said he also was targeted because he had to take sick leave to treat his diabetes. In its response to the lawsuit, the county had denied the allegations and said Caster was fired for rules violations.


Groundbreaking Underway at New Sports Complex in Overland Park

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (KPR) – Governor Laura Kelly has announced the groundbreaking of a multi-sport complex in Overland Park. The Bluhawk Sports Facility is part of a $400 million project funded, in part, by STAR Bonds. The facility will be built in two phases, anchored by a neighborhood shopping center, restaurants, and retail outlets. Officials say the complex will be one of Kansas City's premier indoor, multi-sport complexes. The Bluhawk facility will include basketball, volleyball and pickleball courts, as well as an indoor turf field for soccer, baseball, football, rugby and lacrosse. The complex will feature public skating, offering one of the area’s only regulation-size ice rinks.  


Will Shawnee County End Its Recycling Program?

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) - Shawnee County may decide to curb - or even end - its recycling program. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the cost of offering curbside recycling has risen to the point where it is increasingly impractical for government entities. The county's 10-year contract with the company that handles recycling will come to an end December 31st and shutting down the program is one of several options under consideration.


Northwest Kansas Newspapers Sold to Mullen Newspapers

OBERLIN, Kan. (AP) _ Six northwestern Kansas newspapers and a shopper have been sold to brothers from Washington and Montana. The Oberlin Herald reported that Jesse and Lloyd Mullen of Mullen Newspapers purchased The Herald, Colby Free Press, The Goodland Star-News, The Norton Star-Telegram, The St. Francis Herald, Bird City Times and The Country Advocate shopper from Steve and Cynthia Haynes, who are retiring after nearly 30 years with the newspapers. The Mullen brothers said they were born into a newspaper family in Wyoming, and have bought and operated several newspapers in the western and northwestern U.S. They named Frank Perea of Holyoke, Colorado, as publisher. Perea said he plans to move to northwestern Kansas in 2023. 


Kansas Attorney General Files Suit Against Drug Companies over Cost of Insulin

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is suing major drug manufacturers and pharmacy benefit managers for driving up the cost of insulin for Kansans. The Kansas News Service reports that almost 250,000 Kansans are diabetic and insulin prices have increased by more than 600% in the past 20 years. The filing claims the groups violated Kansas consumer protection laws. It alleges that the insulin manufacturers worked with the pharmacy benefit managers to raise prices and that was rewarded with financial kickbacks. Eli Lilly responded to a similar lawsuit filed in Arkansas saying the claims were inaccurate and that the company offers several affordable solutions. This is the second lawsuit about drug prices in the state to come out of an ongoing investigation.


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.