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Headlines for Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Kansas Public Radio
Kansas Public Radio

Kansas Governor Imposes TikTok Ban on State-Issued Devices

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has become one of the first Democratic governors to ban the use of TikTok on state-issued devices. Her action Wednesday to restrict the popular social media app comes five days after Congress approved the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill that banned TikTok from most U.S. government-issued devices for employees. Republican governors in at least 15 states have imposed such restrictions. In Louisiana on Monday, the state's commissioner of administration, a Republican appointee of Democratic governor John Bel Edwards, imposed restrictions with the governor's approval. Kelly is citing the same concerns that other officials have about security and the privacy of users' data.


Oil Company Says Cold Weather Slowed Spill Cleanup in North Central Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The extreme cold weather during the past week has slowed oil recovery operations at the Keystone pipeline spill in Washington County in north central Kansas. A spokesperson for the federal Environmental Protection Agency says that the extreme cold impacted some of the clean-up equipment. The Canadian oil company TC Energy, which owns the pipeline, says nearly 730,000 gallons of oil-water mixture has been recovered so far. The pipeline rupture at Mill Creek on December 8th dumped about 14,000 barrels of oil into the area 20 miles south of the Nebraska border. The EPA says it will continue to oversee and monitor the clean-up operations


Southwest Cancellation Crisis Causing Frustration at KCI

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCUR) – Ongoing cancellations from Southwest Airlines are still affecting travelers at Kansas City International Airport. Southwest canceled more than 70% of its flights through Kansas City Tuesday, continuing a streak of cancellations that has been worsening for the last several days. The airline said the cancellations are in part due to an arctic blast that hit the U.S. last week which complicated staffing. Customers at the airport are struggling to make new travel plans and get their luggage back as communication with the company stalled. Southwest canceled more than 2,900 flights nationwide Monday and more than 2,500 Tuesday. The latest check on KCI Airport’s flight status site shows Southwest has canceled 18 flights scheduled for Wednesday. Southwest said it would continue to operate on a reduced flying schedule for at least the next few days but didn't say just how long the problems might last. KCUR reports that some passengers say the airline told them that the earliest possible date to rebook a flight will likely be Saturday, December 31.


Terminally Ill Man Cited for Violating City Code with Vape Pen and THC; Case Dropped with No Penalty

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The Hays Police Department says it has dropped a case against a terminally ill man found in possession of a THC vape pen. KWCH reports that the case was dropped with no penalty. Police arrived at Hays Medical Center on December 19 to investigate suspicion of drug possession. A cancer patient there was found with a vaping device containing THC. Officers confiscated the vape pen and cited the patient for violating city codes. KWCH says that police asked the city prosecutor to dismiss the ticket after learning more about the situation. The story about the citation and paraphernalia seizure spread rapidly across the internet and on national and regional news outlets, leading to threats being made against the police and the hospital. Police say they are continuing to monitor the situation, but there have not been any arrests made in connection with the threats.


Racial Proportions of COVID Deaths Changing

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Black and Hispanic Kansans made up a disproportionate number of COVID-19 deaths in the state early on in the pandemic. Those numbers have now decreased while the number of white Kansans dying of the virus continues to rise. At a recent Kansas Health Institute panel discussion, state health officials explained how they reached out to communities of color. They highlighted the value of using trusted groups including churches to connect with people. The health department worked with community leaders to encourage people to get the COVID vaccine. The department brought mobile vaccine clinics to events including Fourth of July, Juneteenth and Cinco de Mayo. Department leaders say the success of vaccine outreach programs points toward measures that could be used to reach underserved communities when trying to combat other health issues.


Drug Convictions in Kansas Mean Lifetime Ban on Food Assistance

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas currently bans people convicted of some drug charges from receiving food assistance, but that could soon change. The Legislature may consider changing the food stamp program when the session starts next month. Getting two drug felony convictions in Kansas means no food benefits for life. Advocacy groups want that lifetime ban eliminated. They say the ban on food stamps is overly harsh because people convicted of felonies might struggle to find jobs due to their criminal record and denying them food assistance could cause them to turn back to crime. Advocates pushed to change the state law last year but their attempts failed. There is now some bipartisan support for lifting the ban when the legislative session begins in January.


Kansas Republicans Push for Easier Impeachment of Judges

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas lawmakers will consider making it easier to remove judges from office for undermining the power of the Legislature. The bill is related to Republican opposition to abortion rights. Republican state Representative Brett Fairchild is sponsoring the bill that would create more ways for judges to be removed from office. Currently the Kansas Constitution says judges can only be removed when they are convicted of serious crimes such as treason, bribery or high crimes and misdemeanors. Fairchild says court rulings in favor of abortion rights are wrong and the bill can help counteract that. “That might cause the supreme court justices and the other justices to not go quite as far in their rulings," Fairchild said. “I do believe that the judiciary has gone too far in taking away power from the legislature when it comes to regulating abortion.” The Kansas Bar Association opposed a similar bill passed by the Kansas Senate in 2016. Lawmakers return to Topeka for the legislative session on January 9.


Kansas Publisher, Pulitzer Chair Edward Seaton Dies at Age 79

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Longtime Kansas newspaper publisher and former Pulitzer Prize Board Chair Edward Seaton has died at age 79. His son Ned told The Manhattan Mercury that Edward Seaton died Monday night of natural causes at his home in the northeastern Kansas community. Edward Seaton was chairman of Seaton Publications at the time of his death. He served nine years on the Pulitzer Prize Board and was an advocate of international press freedom, particularly in Latin America. He was president of the Inter American Press Association and of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. He became The Mercury's publisher in 1969 and its editor-in-chief in 1981. His son Ned later became publisher.


Vital Statistics: Kansas Deaths Down in 2021

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Newly released vital statistics reveal that fewer Kansans died in 2021 than in 2020. But deaths were still significantly higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic. Heart disease and cancer remained the leading two causes of death in the state; COVID-19 was the third. But deaths from certain causes increased dramatically. Accidental drug deaths rose nearly 50 percent. And the rate of deaths by suicide rose to match the 2018 rate, which was the highest in the past twenty years. The birth rate remained unchanged from 2020, matching the lowest rate in more than a century.


Invasive Black Carp Found in Midwestern Rivers

DEKALD, Ill. – (HPM). The black carp, one of four invasive species of carp in North America, has been discovered in the Mississippi River basin. A new study from the U.S. Geological Survey found that wild populations of the invasive black carp are sustaining themselves in areas of the Mississippi River and its tributaries including the Missouri and Arkansas Rivers. Biologists with the USGS say the invasive fish poses a real risk for native mollusks because many of North America's mussel species are already listed as threatened or endangered. The black carp is a large-bodied species of fish endemic to parts of east Asia, typically growing over 3 feet long and weighing over 100 pounds. The fish was deliberately brought to the states during the 1970s as pest control for aquatic snails in fish ponds.


USDA Predicts Record Farm Incomes for 2022

LINCOLN, Neb. (HPM) – National farm income will likely reach new highs when the numbers are tallied for 2022, despite a difficult growing season. Drought, bird flu and costly fertilizer and fuel made it hard to raise crops and livestock this year. Prices skyrocketed when Russia limited Ukraine’s grain exports. A report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicates high prices won out – net farm income is forecast at $160 billion, up 14 % since last year. But agricultural economist Brad Lubben says that higher profits are not evenly spread among American farmers. "The drought definitely hurt the Midwest and the Great Plains much more than it did the rest of the country," Lubben said. "And in some of those places, higher prices don't make up for the lost bushels." For example, Lubben’s most recent research indicated 2022 farm income would be flat in Nebraska.


States Contend with Short Timeline to Correct Broadband Map

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kansas and other states are racing against a deadline to challenge the map federal officials will use to divvy up the nation’s largest-ever investment in high-speed internet. At stake is a share of the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program, part of the infrastructure measure President Joe Biden signed into law last year. States have until January 13 to challenge a broadband speed map the Federal Communications Commission released last month. For the first time, it illustrates the haves and have nots of internet access down to specific street addresses.


Kansas Distributes $23 Million to Fund Rural Broadband Access

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Six internet providers across Kansas are getting $23 million in federal tax dollars to bring high-speed connections to homes and businesses in rural parts of the state. Broadband can help boost economic development and curb population loss in small towns but it often costs companies too much to connect the internet to places with so few people. One of the providers chosen by the state is Wichita-based Ideatek. The company says it will use the money to install fiber optic lines in rural southwest Kansas. Ideatek’s James Krstolich says access to broadband is a game-changer for small towns. “People it take for granted when you live in larger cities, you've got multiple providers that you can call if you don't like one. But in these rural areas, they might have one provider or none at all.” The grant money comes from federal infrastructure funding. It will connect more than 4,000 homes, businesses, schools and other institutions in 12, mostly rural, Kansas counties.


Longtime Kansas City Artistic Director Found Dead Following Social Media Accusations

UNDATED (AP) – Jeff Church, the artistic director at Kansas City's Coterie Theatre for more than 30 years, was found dead on Saturday. The Kansas City Star reports that Church, 63, had recently resigned his position as sexual assault allegations began circulating on social media. Kansas City Police officers found Church dead at his home on Saturday afternoon. The medical examiner's office has not yet released a cause of death. Detailed social media posts have been shared in recent days, alleging the children’s theater artistic director was responsible for sexually assaulting young men. The Coterie Theatre had recently issued a statement indicating that the Board of Directors had accepted Church's resignation in the wake of the allegations, and was committed to investigating the accusations.


Cerner Puts over 4 Million Square Feet of Office Space on the Market in Kansas City Area in Last 22 Months

UNDATED (WDAF) – WDAF reports that Oracle Cerner has moved to put at least 4.1 million square feet of its Kansas City-area office and support space on the market in the past 22 months. That’s nearly as much space as downtown Kansas City’s six largest office towers combined. By comparison, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City’s lease assumption at 1400KC, adds up to 260,000 square feet. WDAF also reports that the 28 largest office lease transactions since 2021, as tracked by Cushman & Wakefield, total only 1.44 million square feet. That's just over a third of what Oracle Cerner is putting up for grabs.


Topeka Zoo Accepting Used Christmas Trees

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) – Wondering what to do with this year’s Christmas tree? The Topeka Zoo will be happy to take it off of your hands. WIBW reports that the many of the zoo’s animals love to play with the decaying trees before they are mulched and put to use by the zoo’s grounds keepers. The zoo will accept any live trees through January 8. They can be dropped off at the zoo’s back gate on Munn Memorial Drive.


UPDATE: Jayhawks Mount Furious Rally, but Fall to Arkansas in Liberty Bowl

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — KJ Jefferson passed to Rashod Dubinion for a 2-point conversion in the third overtime and Arkansas held off a furious second-half rally by Kansas for a 55-53 win the AutoZone Liberty Bowl on Wednesday night.

The Jayhawks had rallied from 25 points down in the second half to force overtime, but a failed on a 2-point conversion pass from Jason Bean to Lawrence Arnold ended a four-and-a-half hour bowl marathon.

“We got lucky at the end, but we’re Liberty Bowl champs and I’m pretty excited,” Arkansas coach Sam Pittman said.

Arkansas (7-6) celebrated the win prematurely in the second overtime after stopping Kanas quarterback Jalon Daniels just shy of the goal line on a 2-point conversion try. But a targeting call on the Razorbacks’ Quincey McAdoo gave the Jayhawks another try and they converted.

Jefferson passed for 287 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 130 yards and two more scores to lead the Razorbacks.

Arkansas and Kansas met for the first time in 116 years, and the Razorbacks used an old-school rushing attack to prevail. Arkansas gained 394 of its 681 total yards on the ground. Rashod Dubinion added 112 yards for the Razorbacks.

Kansas (6-7) played in its first bowl game since 2008, but was unable to stop a late-season streak in which they lost seven of their last eight games. Kansas quarterback Daniels passed for 544 yards and five touchdowns. He set Liberty Bowl records for passing yards, touchdown passes, completions (37) and total TDs scored (6).

(–Earlier Reporting–)

Liberty Bowl Pits Kansas vs Arkansas for 1st Time since 1906

UNDATED (AP) – The Kansas Jayhawks see a bright future thanks to a quick turnaround under coach Lance Leipold. And the Arkansas Razorbacks go into Wednesday’s Liberty Bowl hoping quarterback KJ Jefferson and running back Raheim “Rocket” Sanders can provide enough offense to make up for a roster thinned by opt-outs and transfer portal departures. Kansas and Arkansas come in with identical 6-6 records in the first meeting between these neighbors since 1906. A winning season is on the line. Kickoff for the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tennessee, is set for 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium is having water pressure issues, and local officials are working to ensure the game is played, including bringing in portable toilets.


Winning Record at Stake for Kansas, Arkansas at Liberty Bowl

UNDATED (AP) – A winning record is on the line in a rare showdown between neighbors Kansas and Arkansas. This is the first bowl game for Kansas since 2008, when the Jayhawks routed Minnesota in the Insight Bowl in Arizona. This is just the Jayhawks’ 13th bowl game ever and second time playing in the Liberty Bowl. Arkansas is playing its second straight bowl under coach Sam Pittman and 44th in program history. The Razorbacks are familiar with the Liberty Bowl, having played in it six times. The last was in 2016 in a rout of Kansas State.


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.