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Headlines for Friday, December 30, 2022

Kansas Public Radio

FEC Levies $30,000 Penalty Tied to Kobach's 2020 US Senate Bid

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Incoming Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach agreed to help pay a $30,000 penalty to resolve a Federal Election Commission complaint. The FEC reported Friday that it had approved an agreement with Kobach, his campaign, its treasurer and We Build the Wall — a group that raises money for a privately built wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The agreement resolves a complaint over Kobach's campaign's use of We Build the Wall's email list during his unsuccessful 2020 run for the U.S. Senate as an illegal campaign contribution from We Build the Wall.


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.


Pipeline Section in Kansas with Oil Spill Is Back in Service

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A pipeline operator has put a damaged section in Kansas back into service, a little more than three weeks after a spill dumped 14,000 barrels of crude oil into a creek. Canada-based T.C. Energy announced Thursday that it had completed repairs, inspections and testing on its Keystone pipeline in northeast Kansas. The company said that allowed for a controlled restart of the section from near the Nebraska-Kansas line to northern Oklahoma. The 2,700-mile Keystone system carries heavy crude oil from western Canada to the Gulf Coast and to central Illinois. The spill occurred December 7 in a rural county northwest of Kansas City.


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


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.


Douglas County Plans Public Meetings on Regulations for Proposed Wind Farm

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW/KPR) —Douglas County residents will have the opportunity to comment on a proposed revision to Douglas County’s existing regulations for wind farms. The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission is hosting a public meeting about those regulations in early January. The Lawrence Journal World reports that the Planning Commission reviewed a draft of the amended regulations last week. The public meeting planned for January 12 will be the first of six opportunities for the public to comment on the proposed changes. A Florida-based company, NextEra Energy, is proposing the construction of a 2,000 acre solar panel installation that would span southern Douglas and Johnson Counties. The wind farm would be the largest in Kansas, generating 320 megawatts of electrical power. The Douglas County Planning Commission will discuss amending the county’s existing wind regulations during four meetings between January and the end of March. A draft of the revised regulations is available on the city’s website and residents are encouraged to submit comments regarding the draft language.


Wichita School Employees Raise Concerns About Student Behavior

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - Employees of the Wichita School District, the largest district in Kansas, say they’re concerned about students’ unruly and violent behavior, and they’re urging district leaders to do more to stop it. Esau Freeman heads the union that represents service workers in Wichita schools including custodians, clerks, para-professional teachers and security officers. At a recent school board meeting, he said employees are increasingly getting harassed and even injured by students. “This mayhem has to stop before someone gets killed,” Freeman said. “Or is that what has to happen before we get your attention?” The district recently spent $1.5 million dollars to install screening devices to check for weapons in high schools. This year’s teacher contract calls for a work group to study student behavior and suggest ways to improve it. The teachers union, the United Teachers of Wichita, is also urging swift action. They say that this year's teacher contract called a work group to study student behavior and suggest ways to improve it, but they say, so far nothing has been done.


Separate Lawrence Stabbing Incidents Not Believed to Be Related

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW/KPR) —Lawrence police are investigating after two men were stabbed Wednesday in separate incidents. The Lawrence Journal World reports that the first stabbing incident occurred around 4:00 p.m. just north of Lawrence Memorial Hospital. The victim told police that the man stabbed him as he was leaving the walking trail from Sandra J. Shaw Park. On Thursday, police released a description of the alleged assailant as a bald, white male with tattoos, about 5 feet, 10 inches tall, carrying a backpack and wearing necklaces and a tactical vest over black and gray clothing. Police were called to a second stabbing incident around 11:30 p.m., when a man arrived at LMH with stab wounds. That victim told police the incident occurred earlier Wednesday night near an intersection in the area of 33rd Street and Ousdahl Road in south Lawrence. The victim was unable to give police a description of his attacker. Both victims were treated for injuries that were not life-threatening. Investigators say they don’t believe the two incidents are related. Anyone with information about either incident is asked to call the Lawrence Police Department at 785-832-7509.


Water Emergency Declared for Atchison Due to Low River Levels

ATCHISON, Kan. (WDAF) — The City of Atchison has declared a water emergency in response to continued low river levels. WDAF reports that the city said the low level on the Missouri River is primarily the result of upstream ice jams, one of which is reported to be 60 miles in length. The U.S. Corps of Engineers indicates that the ice jams are still in place, but could be allowing increased flow below the ice. The Corps is hoping that warmer temperatures will eventually alleviate the situation. The ice jams, once they break loose, could be held up at certain points as they make their way downstream. The city said it has been relying on a auxiliary pump with a lower capacity to draw from the river as levels dropped below the primary intake and remained at that low level. That is what led to the need for emergency conservation measures to be put in place.


Kansas Abortion Rates Fluctuate During Turbulent Two Years

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - A new report shows the number of abortions in Kansas increased in 2021 but the data do not reflect significant changes in 2022 after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Total abortions in Kansas rose 4% in 2021 to nearly 8,000. About half of the patients were Kansas residents and half were women from other states. But, over a longer term, abortion rates are down 29% from two decades ago. Providers say the new report is a snapshot of a reality that doesn’t exist anymore. Many nearby states banned abortion in 2022 sending far more out-of-state residents to Kansas clinics. A spokesperson for the Trust Women Clinic in Wichita said approximately two-thirds of their patients are now from Texas. Kansans voted to preserve abortion rights in August, making the state a refuge for people from across the South and Midwest seeking the procedure.


Warmer Winter Weather Affecting Midwestern Agriculture

AMES, Iowa (HPM) - The average winter temperature In Kansas is about 4 degrees warmer now than it was in 1970 and the warmer winters mean changes in the way mid-western farmers grow their crops. Data show extreme weather is just one of the many effects of climate change across the U-S. Researchers at the USDA Midwest Climate Hub in Iowa say the warmer winters are having an impact on soil. Midwestern soil is fertile because historically, it freezes every year, which stops bacteria and other organisms from breaking it down. When soils don’t freeze, the warmer earth can also help crop pests survive the winter and allow them to expand into new regions.


UPDATE: Alfalfa Sprout Recall Tied to Salmonella Outbreak Expanded

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A Nebraska company has expanded a recall of alfalfa sprouts after more than a dozen cases of salmonella were linked to the food. SunSprouts Enterprises on Friday doubled its recall that was first announced Thursday. Nebraska health officials say the 1,406 pounds of raw sprouts were distributed in 4-ounce and 2.5-pound packages to food service and grocery customers in the Midwest between late November and mid-December. The recalled sprouts have best-by dates between December 10, 2022, and January 7, 2023. People who have the sprouts are advised to dispose of them. Nebraska health officials say there have been 16 confirmed cases of people becoming ill. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it has confirmed 15 cases of people getting sick, including 2 hospitalizations.

(–Earlier Reporting–)

Alfalfa Sprouts Being Recalled After Salmonella Outbreak

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A Nebraska company is recalling alfalfa sprouts sold in three states after 15 cases of salmonella were linked to the food. SunSprouts said Thursday it is recalling sprouts that were sold at restaurants and grocery stores in Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas. Nebraska health officials urged people to stop eating alfalfa sprouts after it confirmed the illnesses. So far no illnesses have been confirmed in other states, but the FDA is conducting a multi-state investigation. Salmonella infections cause diarrhea and fever. Most people recover but federal officials estimate that 26,500 people are hospitalized and 450 die from salmonella infections every year. The recalled alfalfa sprouts have expiration dates between December 10 and December 27 and carry lot numbers of either 4211 or 5211.


Kansas Researchers Hope to Use Gene Editing to Convert Cover Crops to Biofuel

MANHATTAN, Kan. (KNS) — Researchers at Kansas State University are hoping that gene editing techniques can turn cover crops into a source of biofuel without displacing food crops. The project’s goal is to use cover crops, like pennycress and camelina, to produce more oil and make an oil better suited for biofuel. K-State biochemistry professor Timothy Durrett says the plants benefit farmers by preventing erosion on their fields in the cold months and will not decrease the output of food crop harvests. “We shouldn't be increasing the price of food to make more energy and now we know that that is possible,” Durrett said. The U.S. Department of Energy is allocating nearly $2 million for the research.


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.


Lawrence Transit to Offer Free Bus Fares in 2023

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) —Good news for people who ride the bus in Lawrence. The Lawrence Journal World reports that the city will begin a yearlong pilot program making it free to ride city buses in 2023. All Lawrence Transit services will be free for riders beginning Monday, January 2. The free ride program includes regular fixed-route bus service as well as the city’s paratransit service. An increase in federal transit funding is making the Fare Free Pilot Program possible. The volume of Lawrence transit riders declined significantly during the height of the pandemic and city leaders say ridership has not fully recovered. Fare free programs in other cities have resulted in ridership increases of between 20% and 60%. The Lawrence Transit system is funded by local sales tax revenue and state and federal funds with fare revenue accounting for only about 6% of operating costs. The program will be re-evaluated in Fall 2023 to determine the feasibility of extending the pilot.


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.


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

DEKALB, 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.


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.


Stable Chiefs Face Reeling Broncos in Midst of Playoff Push

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs have already clinched the AFC West for the seventh straight year and are tied with Buffalo for the best record in the conference. Then there's the Denver Broncos who are their opponent Sunday. They mortgaged their future to acquire struggling Russell Wilson from Seattle and just fired coach Nathaniel Hackett with two games left in his first season. It will be up to 67-year-old Jerry Rosburg to guide the Broncos through the next couple of weeks as the interim coach. Kansas City has beaten the Broncos 14 straight times. A 15th win would tie the third longest streak by any team against any opponent in NFL history.


Chiefs to Be Without WR Hardman vs. Broncos After Setback

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman experienced a setback in practice this week and will not play in Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos, leaving his status for the remainder of the season in question. Hardman has not played since Week 9 because of an abdominal injury that landed him on injured reserve. He returned to practice two weeks ago, but has not been added to the active roster, and under NFL rules, players that are not added after 21 days must be placed on injured reserve for the remainder of the season.


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).


Alabama, Kansas State Clash for First Time at Sugar Bowl

UNDATED (AP) – Fifth-ranked Alabama will seek its 10th Sugar Bowl trophy when the Crimson Tide plays Kansas State for the first time. Alabama's 17th Sugar Bowl appearance caps the Crimson Tide's NCAA-record 15th straight 10-win season. Kansas State is in the Sugar Bowl for the first time after winning the Big 12 championship game against TCU. The Wildcats have won four straight and put together their first 10-win season since 2012. All top NFL-draft eligible prospects are expected to play, including Alabama quarterback Bryce Young and linebacker Will Anderson Jr., and Kansas State running back Deuce Vaughn and defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah. The game is scheduled to kickoff at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.


For Alabama & Kansas State, Mentality Matters in Sugar Bowl

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Players for fifth-ranked Alabama say they aim to prove their Sugar Bowl matchup with Kansas State is meaningful to them, even if it isn't part of the College Football Playoff. Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban made a point of reminding his team about two-touchdown losses for Alabama the last two times it played in Sugar Bowls that were not part of the national championship picture. Alabama offensive lineman Emil Ekiyor Jr. says he and his teammates have been putting in extra work after practice and treating the clash with the No. 11 Wildcats like its their championship. K-State is on a four-game winning streak that includes an overtime triumph in the Big 12 title game over No. 3 TCU.

Alabama, Kansas State Extol Virtues of Opting in at Sugar Bowl

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — In an age of opt outs in college football, top NFL prospects for Alabama and Kansas State are opting in at the Sugar Bowl. Alabama quarterback Bryce Young and edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. headline those players who could have skipped Saturday's game and the risk of injury. Same goes for K-State running back Deuce Vaughn and defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah. All decided to play. Anudike-Uzomah says he and Vaughn worked three years to get the Wildcats to a major bowl and that it's a “dream” to play against Alabama.


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.