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Headlines for Tuesday, March 7, 2023

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Emily Fisher

Community Blood Center Declares First Blood Emergency of 2023

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KPR) - The Community Blood Center (CBC) has declared the first blood emergency of 2023. The blood emergency is due to several factors, including cold and flu season, a high number of lapsed blood donors and a decrease in first-time donors. In January, CBC received 2,000 fewer blood donations than the year before and blood donations are below hospital and patient needs. The number of blood donations still are not back to pre-pandemic levels. Compounding the problem is a continued lag in first-time and youth donors, which remain about half of pre-pandemic levels.

In addition to whole blood donors, platelet donors are urgently needed. With a shelf life of just 7 days, CBC relies on dedicated platelet donors to help patients undergoing chemotherapy, those with bleeding disorders, new mothers, and more. Blood donors can give every 56 days, and platelet donors can give twice per month. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently lifted eligibility restrictions for individuals who lived in Europe during certain periods of time. To view current eligibility guidelines, visit savealifenow.org or call 800.688.0900.

The need is constant, but the supply is not. Visit savealifenow.org to schedule an appointment to donate, or call 877-468-6844.

Founded in 1958, Community Blood Center (CBC) provides over 90% of the blood used by hospitals throughout the Greater Kansas City metropolitan area, as well as eastern Kansas and western Missouri.


Survey: Most Western Kansas Farmers Want to Save Aquifer

HAYS, Kan. (HPPR/KNS) - A new survey shows that a vast majority of western Kansas farmers view the dwindling Ogallala Aquifer as vital to the future of their communities. But less than half of them say they felt they should personally use less water. Roughly three-fourths of all water used in Kansas comes from the Ogallala Aquifer — nearly all of that goes to irrigate crops. But that water is running out, putting western Kansas communities and economies at risk.

Kansas State University sociologist Matt Sanderson led the research team that surveyed more than 1,000 farmers Even though only half of them said they feel personally responsible for depletion, Sanderson says conversations about reducing water use are becoming more common. “The culture is shifting towards a culture of conservation now," he said. "I think the real question is... is there enough time.” One solution could be helping more farmers adopt technology, such as soil moisture sensors, that can tell them when their crops have enough water already.

K-State researcher Jonathan Aguilar, in Garden City, worked on the survey. He says educating farmers about water-saving technology could help avoid a scenario where there isn’t enough water to support crop irrigation in the future. “We are not yet there," he said. "But we are headed there if we don't make any changes. So we still have time to make changes at the moment.”

He says if enough farmers make relatively simple changes, like ensuring the water pressure of their irrigation system is correct, that could make a big dent in the region’s overall water use.


Wichita Teacher's Union Wants to Ban Cell Phones in Schools

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - The union representing Wichita teachers is asking the state’s largest school district to ban cell phones from classrooms. The proposal from United Teachers of Wichita comes as several districts across the country have tightened their policies regarding cell phones. The union wants to eliminate cell phones in classrooms. Wichita schools currently allow them for instructional purposes with a teacher’s permission. High school students are also allowed to use cell phones before and after school, between classes, and at lunch. Union officials say they want to limit distractions and improve student behavior and safety. The North Kansas City school district recently banned cell phones during the school day. Students there are required to secure phones in their lockers or backpacks.


Topeka Woman Arrested in Suspicious Death

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) – A woman has been arrested in connection with a suspicious death that was discovered near downtown Topeka Monday morning. Authorities say 26-year-old Serena Sanchez was arrested Monday night on charges of second degree murder. According to WIBW TV, Topeka police discovered a deceased person in an area northwest of downtown Topeka early Monday morning.


Family Sues Kansas Highway Patrol over Woman's Death

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - A lawsuit has been filed against the Kansas Highway Patrol over the death of a woman following a police chase. The lawsuit claims state troopers carried out a chase when it wasn't safe, leading to the death of a 45-year-old woman. The family of the dead woman is suing the patrol in federal court. The lawsuit alleges in March 2021 a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper began pursuing a vehicle he mistakenly believed had been stolen. The car did not pull over and the trooper used a tactical maneuver to disable it. The vehicle then crashed into a utility pole. 45-year-old Anita Benz was sitting in the passenger seat and later died from her injuries. The lawsuit says the trooper should have suspended the chase because it wasn't safe. The patrol did not respond to requests for comment.


Lawrence Man Sentenced for Child Sex Crimes

LAWRENCE, Kan. (WIBW) - A Lawrence man has been sentenced to prison for attempted sexual exploitation of a child. Authorities say 65-year-old Bruce S. Springsteen violated the terms of his probation by conducting internet searches for child pornography. WIBW TV reports that Springsteen was sentenced to more than seven years in prison. Springsteen had already been serving a two-year period of probation for a 2021 conviction of possessing child pornography. He was already subject to lifetime registration as a sex offender.


Efforts to Legalize Medical Marijuana in Kansas Face Uphill Battle

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS/KPR) - Efforts to legalize medical marijuana in Kansas this year are facing an uphill battle. Last week, a Senate committee only took testimony from opponents of the legalization. Kansas is one of just three U.S. states that doesn’t allow any sort of marijuana use. Meanwhile, the state of Missouri has announced that sales of cannabis in that state exceeded $100 million in February, the first month of legal recreational sales. Some marijuana dispensaries in Kansas City are seeing about 100 medical cannabis patients daily. Other locations say they are serving as many as a thousand customers a day. Elsewhere, in Oklahoma, voters are deciding whether to legalize recreational marijuana sales for those 21 and older. That question, on Tuesday's ballot, is being opposed by a group of law enforcement officers, clergy and prosecutors.


EPA to Permit More Ethanol Sales

UNDATED (HPM) - The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has granted a request to allow several midwestern states to sell gasoline with 15% ethanol year-round. But the new rules don’t take effect until the summer of 2024. Troy Bredenkamp is the vice president of public policy for the Renewable Fuels Association, an ethanol trade group. He's happy about the ruling but frustrated by the delay. “It's just very unfortunate and disappointing to see the one year delay because it leaves a lot of retailers in the lurch in terms of what to do this summer," he said. Bredenkamp says his group has started lobbying the Biden administration for a waiver that would allow E-15 to be sold immediately. Ethanol producers are a major customer for Kansas Corn. The state’s 12 ethanol plants produce more than 600 million gallons of ethanol fuel annually.


Total Number of U.S. Farms Declines by Nearly 10,000

UNDATED (HPM) - The USDA’s latest report on farms estimates that the U.S. lost nearly 10,000 farms in 2022. The number of acres of farmland also decreased, while the average size of a farm has gone up slightly, especially for farms making a million dollars or more a year. Tim Gibbons, of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, says that these numbers are part of a larger decline. "Losing nearly 10,000 farms in a year is is a big deal," he said. "And I think it's just the continued downward trend year after year of family farms." He says that the 2023 farm bill is an opportunity to address corporate control of agriculture that is pushing out small farmers.


Overland Park Approves Vote on Sales Tax for Infrastructure

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Overland Park City Council has approved placing a 3/8-cent sales tax on the June ballot for repairing streets and other infrastructure projects. KSHB TV reports that the council agreed Monday night that much of the city’s infrastructure is old and in need of repair. Money raised by the tax would fund the repair of aging infrastructure, including streets, sidewalks and storm sewers. Some of the money would also be used to improve and replace traffic signals. If voters approve the tax in June, it would take effect in April of 2024. The election will be by mail-in ballot and those will be sent to qualified voters.


Kansas Out to Defend Big 12 Tournament Title in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Top-seeded Kansas will begin defense of its Big 12 Tournament title on Thursday against the winner of No. 8 seed West Virginia and ninth-seeded Texas Tech in Kansas City. Those two meet in the first game of a first-round doubleheader Wednesday night with the winner of No. 7 seed Oklahoma State and No. 10 seed Oklahoma advancing to face second-seeded Texas. Two quarterfinal games already are set: No. 10 Baylor, the fourth seed, plays fifth-seeded Iowa State in Thursday's opener, and No. 12 Kansas State, the third seed, plays sixth-seeded and No. 22 TCU in the nightcap.

The bulls-eye on the back of third-ranked Kansas these days is about as big as it's been in coach Bill Self's tenure.

The Jayhawks already have defended their Big 12 regular-season championship, winning the toughest league in the country by almost any measure in outright fashion. And beginning next week, Jalen Wilson and Co. will begin defense of the national title they won with a thrilling comeback victory over North Carolina last April.

In between, they'll try to defend the conference tournament title they won by beating Texas Tech a year ago.

"It's all good winning the Big 12 and doing these big things, but like coach said, 'Now the expectations are higher,'" explained Wilson, who was voted conference player of the year Tuesday. "We have a huge target on our back. Not only for winning the conference, but everyone wants to beat Kansas. Everyone wants to beat the reigning national champions. We have to understand we're going to get everybody's best game."

The top-seeded Jayhawks open their Big 12 Tournament on Thursday against the winner of No. 8 seed West Virginia and ninth-seeded Texas Tech, who meet in the first game of a first-round doubleheader Wednesday night. The other first-round matchup is a Bedlam showdown between seventh-seeded Oklahoma State and No. 10 seed Oklahoma. The winner of that game gets second-seeded Texas on Thursday. Two quarterfinal games already are set: No. 10 Baylor, the fourth seed, plays fifth-seeded Iowa State in Thursday's opener, and No. 12 Kansas State, the third seed, plays sixth-seeded and No. 22 TCU in the nightcap.

The Big 12 had six teams in the Top 25 most of the season, and it will likely land at least seven in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday. It could be as many as eight or nine depending on what happens in Kansas City this week. One of the reasons the Big 12 has been so tough this season is that it's stacked with experience. Three seniors, a junior and a graduate were chosen first-team all-conference Tuesday, while a senior and two juniors joined freshmen Keyonte George of Baylor and Gradey Dick of Kansas on the second team.


AP Source: Chiefs Sending Orlando Brown, Frank Clark into Free Agency

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A person familiar with the decisions says the Kansas City Chiefs plan to decline using the franchise tag for the second consecutive year on left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., and they will release pass rusher Frank Clark. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither of the moves has been officially made. The moves leave the Super Bowl champions with gaping holes on both sides of the ball but also frees up millions of dollars in salary cap space ahead of free agency.

The Chiefs and Brown's representatives spent all last season working on a long-term deal for him, but the two sides never could reach an agreement and he wound up earning about $16.6 million on the franchise tag. Brown would have made more under second-year franchise tag rules and the Chiefs were unwilling to go there with his salary. The deadline for teams to use the franchise tag is late Tuesday. And the Chiefs and Browns could still agree to a long-term deal before then.

The Chiefs, who also could lose right tackle Andrew Wylie to free agency, sent a package of draft picks to the Ravens to acquire Brown ahead of the 2021 season. He went on to start every game but one over two seasons in Kansas City, earning Pro Bowl nods each year and helping the Chiefs beat the Eagles in the Super Bowl last month.

As for Clark, the Chiefs were hoping to restructure a contract that would have been prohibitive for next season — the pass rusher would have counted nearly $29 million against the salary cap. They were able to do that last season and keep Clark in the fold, but they were unable to come to a similar agreement over the past two weeks.

The 29-year-old Clark had five sacks this past regular season before adding 2 1/2 more in the playoffs, moving him into third in postseason sacks since the NFL made them an official statistic in 1982. The victory over the Eagles also gave Clark his second Super Bowl ring in four years in Kansas City.

"I actually talked to him at the (Super Bowl victory) parade," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said last week. "He had to do some stuff for the actual exit physical, but I had a good talk with him. I love Frank Clark. It's just, you know, Veach has got to juggle all these different things going on. But Frank, he's a top-notch guy. I love him. Love him to death." Much like Brown, the Chiefs would be keen to reach an agreement with Clark once he hits free agency. He became a locker-room leader this past season, and rookie George Karlaftis praised Clark for helping him adapt to the NFL.

For now, parting with Brown and Clark leave the Chiefs with gaping holes on each side of the ball. But the moves also free up more than $40 million to use in free agency, and the Chiefs are expected to have 12 selections — once compensatory picks are awarded — to further fill holes when Kansas City hosts the NFL draft next month for the first time.


This summary of area news is curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Tom Parkinson and Kaye McIntyre. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays. These ad-free headlines are made possible by KPR members. Become one today. And follow KPR News on Twitter.