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Headlines for Tuesday, May 2, 2023

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Emily Fisher

Body Found Inside Burning Car in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WDAF) — A body was discovered inside of a burning vehicle in Kansas City early Tuesday morning. WDAF TV reports that Kansas City, Missouri, firefighters were called to a car fire around 4 am (near 908 NE 82nd Terrace). After crews extinguished the fire, they discovered a body inside the vehicle and contacted police to investigate. This is a developing story.


KBI: Two Arrested on Drug Charges in Parsons

LABETTE COUNTY, Kan. (KPR) – A man and woman have been arrested in southeast Kansas on various drug and gun charges. Late Tuesday morning, police in Parsons conducted a traffic stop that led to the search of a residence, where officers recovered pills believed to conatin fentanyl. Police also confiscated cocaine, meth, firearms and assorted drug paraphernalia. After the search, 56-year-old Vincent Janssen Sr and 50-year-old Melissa Oja, both of Parsons, were taken into custody and booked into the Labette County Jail. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI), Parsons Police Department and the Labette County Sheriff’s Office were all involved in the investigation and execution of the search warrant in Parsons.


Wichita State Computers Down After Attempted Data Breach

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS/KMUW) — Wichita State University says its computer systems will soon be back online as it recovers from an attempted data breach. The university says that over the weekend, a third party made an unauthorized attempt to access its network. In response, WSU disconnected its systems, resulting in students and staff being unable to access their emails and other services. Wichita State says most of its systems have already been restored. School officials say no secure data or information was compromised. The attempted breach comes as students are preparing to take their final exams for the spring semester. In 2019, someone hacked a university server that included private information for students, faculty and staff.


State Employees in Kansas Will Get a Raise but the Amounts Will Vary

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) — State workers in Kansas are in line for a significant pay raise with a $120 million price tag under a budget bill sent to Governor Laura Kelly on Friday. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the size of that pay bump will depend on how much workers are currently making. State employee pay has been a top priority for many lawmakers, particularly after the Legislature approved a pathway to increase pay for statewide officials and lawmakers.

Under the latest proposal, those whose positions are deemed to be 10% or more below the established market will be brought up to that 10% figure or given a 5% raise, whichever is higher. Those making about market rate will receive a flat 5% raise and individuals with a salary above 10% of market rate will get only a 2.5% pay hike. The framework comes after a study showed that workers in more than 100 positions were being paid under market rate. Kelly's budget proposed a flat 5% pay raise but also more targeted boosts to those most behind the going rate.

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation and Kansas Highway Patrol will get a 2.5% raise in addition to other scheduled compensation increases. Workers at state prisons, mental health hospitals and veterans' homes will get a flat 5% raise in addition to adjustments based on the job market. And employees at the state's public universities have access to a $13 million pool of money available for merit pay increases.


ACLU Lawsuit Takes on a Kansas Highway Patrol Maneuver

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KNS) — A trial is underway in Kansas City, Kansas, in a lawsuit challenging a Kansas Highway Patrol maneuver for detaining out-of-state drivers. The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas argues that state troopers violate constitutional rights by subjecting drivers to unwarranted drug searches. The lawsuit alleges the Kansas Highway Patrol uses a maneuver where a trooper will complete a traffic stop but then quickly return to the driver to initiate a consensual drug search. A man from Colorado testified that troopers used it to detain him and his family. The subsequent search of the family’s RV found no drugs. The ACLU of Kansas wants the procedure permanently banned. The Kansas Highway Patrol argues the search was legal because a police dog alerted troopers of drugs.


Kansas April Tax Collections Fall Short of Estimates

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW/KPR) - State tax collections for April fell short of estimates. The Kansas Department of Revenue reports that tax collections for April totaled $1.3 billion, about 2.3% or $30.1 million below the estimate. The number also marks a 14.7% fall from April of last year. WIBW TV reports that individual income tax collections were $76 million below estimates. Part of the decrease can be attributed to fewer processing days after the April 18 tax due date. Sales tax receipts were about $2.2 million less than expected. Officials noted that this is likely the result of reducing the state sales tax on food. Corporate income tax collections bucked the trend and came in $50.2 million more than expected.


Hiker Finds Remains of KCK Man Missing Since 2021

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KMBC) — The remains of a man who has been missing since 2021 have been discovered in a wooded area in Wyandotte County. The Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department says a hiker found the remains of Justin Siwek who was 32 years old when he disappeared on Father's Day in June, 2021. Police say he was last seen at a Days Inn near the Kansas Speedway in KCK. KMBC reports that investigators used DNA from Siwek's family to identify the remains.


KU Student Found Dead in Sorority House Identified; No Foul Play Suspected

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) — A 19-year-old University of Kansas student was found dead at a sorority house over the weekend. Lawrence police say no foul play is suspected in the death of Piper Alexis Carter, of Overland Park, but the cause of her death has not yet been established. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that officers and emergency medical personnel were dispatched to Alpha Chi Omega sorority at 10:30 am Saturday, where they found the student deceased in her bed. Investigators say the death did not appear suspicious.


Kansas Legislature Passes Bill to Limit Power of Health Officials

TOPEKA (KSNT) — Kansas lawmakers have passed a bill that would limit the powers of state health officials. The measure now heads to Governor Laura Kelly. KSNT reports that the bill includes provisions that would prohibit the state health secretary from requiring COVID-19 vaccines to attend child care or school. It would also remove the requirement for enforcement of isolation and quarantine orders by law enforcement, provide employment protection for employees who isolate or quarantine and address orders for school closure during a disaster. The governor has ten days to consider whether to veto, sign the bill or let it become law without her signature.


Recall Issued for Gold Medal Flour Due to Salmonella Concerns

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (FDA/KPR) – General Mills has issued a nationwide recall of two-pound, five-pound, and 10-pound bags of Gold Medal Bleached and Unbleached Flour. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say people are urged not to use any of the recalled flour. Click on the embedded links for more detailed information about the recalled flour.


Health Officials: Bird Flu Spreading to Pets

UNDATED (HPM) — Bird flu is spilling over to dogs and cats. But so far, only in rare cases. Harvest Public Media reports that the disease has killed about 60 million chickens and turkeys nationwide since last year. Animal ecologist Nichola Hill says it’s not a huge surprise to see it cross over to pets. “Maybe we were waiting for this moment to happen," Hill said. "So, there have been documented cases in domestic cats and domestic dogs now, that have been linked to predation on dead birds, as tends to be the habit of dogs and cats, they’re predators too." The infections happen when the pets eat infected wild birds. There’s only been a handful of reported cases, but those have been fatal. Hill recommends keeping dogs on leashes and keeping cats inside to prevent them from finding wild birds.


3 Men Arrested After Allegedly Traveling to Clay County for Sex with Minors During NFL Draft

CLAY COUNTY, Mo. (KMBC) — Three men have been arrested in a sting operation for allegedly trying to have sex with children in Kansas City during the NFL Draft. A spokesperson for the sheriff's office in Clay County, Missouri, says local authorities worked with officials from the Department of Homeland Security to set up a sting. According to KMBC TV, the three men traveled to Clay County to have sex with children they thought were between the ages of 10 and 14. The "children" turned out to be police investigators. Authorities say when the men arrived at the arranged hotel or apartment between April 26 and April 30, they expected to meet with adults who were offering the children for sex. Those individuals were also undercover members of law enforcement. Deputies arrested the men shortly after their arrival. Charges have been filed against all three men: Nicholas Keith, Link Laithreach and Glicero Gallahad.


National Professor's Group Says ESU Violated Academic Freedom, Tenure Rules

UNDATED (KNS) — A national group of college professors says Emporia State University violated academic freedom and tenure when it fired more than 30 faculty members last year. A new report from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) calls the firings a major event in higher education. It also calls Emporia State administrators and members of the Kansas Board of Regents "unfit to lead." Group spokesman Michael DeCesare says ESU did not prove it was under extreme financial pressure when it laid off 33 faculty members. “A number of those faculty members were outspoken critics of the administration and the Board of Regents. So, there’s a direct assault on tenure but also on academic freedom," he said. Emporia State officials have said an overhaul was needed to keep the university viable. The AAUP says it could add Emporia State to its list of censured universities.

(-Additional coverage-)

AAUP Investigation: Emporia State, Kansas Board of Regents Members "Unfit to Lead"

TOPEKA, Kan. (The Lawrence Times) — An investigation into Emporia State University’s realignment plan, which included the firing of tenured professors, faults the university for “shifting and incoherent rationales” and concludes university administrators and Kansas Board of Regents members are “unfit to lead.” The American Association of University Professors released its findings Monday following months of interviews and review of documentation. According to The Lawrence Times, investigators said the actions taken by ESU president Ken Hush, with the blessing of KBOR, amounts to an attack on academic freedom.

ESU fired 30 tenured and tenure-track professors in September 2022 under a temporary COVID-19 emergency policy that was put in place January 2021, before vaccines were widely available, and set to expire December 31, 2022. The university cited “extreme financial pressure” when presenting its “framework” for campus realignment to KBOR. The university subsequently reinvested in new programs, handed out secret “performance bonuses,” offered to rehire fired professors as adjuncts, and is looking to hire new professors with the same qualifications as ones who were fired.

Last week, an appeals officer for the state Office of Administrative Hearings reinstated Michael Behrens, an associate professor of English. He is the third fired faculty member to get his job back through the appeals process, with 10 more awaiting decisions. All three were reinstated for the same reason: The university refused to say why they were fired.


Five Brothers Who Served During Vietnam War Among Veterans on Kansas Honor Flight

Wichita, Kan. (KSNW) — Five Kansas brothers who all served during the Vietnam War have been touring the nation's capital this week. The first Kansas Honor Flight of 2023 departed from Wichita early Monday morning for Washington, D.C. KSNW TV reports that it's the first of four charter flights scheduled for this year. The five Boden brothers - Jerry, Don, Larry, Gene and Bob - are from the small town of Corning, northwest of Topeka. They were among the 98 veterans on board the Honor Flight.


Firm that Hired Kids to Clean Meat Plants Keeps Losing Work

OMAHA, Neb. (AP/KPR) — The slaughterhouse cleaning company that was found to be employing more than 100 children to help sanitize dangerous razor-sharp equipment has continued to lose contracts with the major meat producers since the investigation became public last fall. Federal officials have said they are concerned about the potential exploitation of migrants and they have urged the entire meat processing industry to make sure children aren't being hired.

For its part, Packers Sanitation Services Inc., or PSSI as it is known, says it has taken a number of steps to tighten up its hiring practices but it says the rising number of child labor cases nationwide is likely related to the increase in the number of minors crossing the U.S. border alone in recent years.

The scandal that followed the February announcement that PSSI would pay a $1.5 million fine and reform its hiring practices as part of an agreement with investigators also prompted the Biden administration to urge the entire meat processing industry to take steps to ensure no kids are working in these plants either for the meat companies or at contractors like PSSI.

Federal investigators confirmed that children as young as 13 were working for PSSI at 13 plants in Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Tennessee and Texas. It wasn't immediately clear if any additional children have been found working for the company because PSSI declined to answer that and government officials haven't offered an update on the investigation since February.


Feds: Kansas, Missouri Hospitals Broke the Law When They Denied Provision of Emergency Abortion

WASHINGTON (AP) — A first-of-its-kind federal investigation has found two hospitals put a pregnant woman's life in jeopardy and violated federal law by refusing to provide an emergency abortion when she experienced premature labor at 17 weeks. The findings are revealed in documents obtained by The Associated Press. The findings serve as a warning to hospitals around the country as they struggle to reconcile new state laws banning or severely restricting abortion with a federal mandate for doctors to provide abortions when a woman's health is at risk. The hospitals in question are in Missouri and Kansas. The hospitals haven't responded to requests for comment.

The competing edicts have been rolled out since the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to an abortion last year. But federal law, which requires doctors to treat patients in emergency situations, trumps those state laws, the nation's top health official said in a statement. "Fortunately, this patient survived. But she never should have gone through the terrifying ordeal she experienced in the first place," Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said. "We want her, and every patient out there like her, to know that we will do everything we can to protect their lives and health, and to investigate and enforce the law to the fullest extent of our legal authority, in accordance with orders from the courts."

The federal agency's investigation centers on two hospitals — Freeman Health System in Joplin, Missouri, and University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, Kansas — that in August refused to provide an abortion to a Missouri woman whose water broke early at 17 weeks of pregnancy. Doctors at both hospitals told Mylissa Farmer that her fetus would not survive, that her amniotic fluid had emptied and that she was at risk for serious infection or losing her uterus, but they would not terminate the pregnancy because a fetal heartbeat was still detectable. Ultimately, Farmer had to travel to an abortion clinic in Illinois. "It was dehumanizing. It was terrifying. It was horrible not to get the care to save your life," Farmer, who lives in Joplin, said of her experience. "I felt like I was responsible to do something, to say something, to not have this happen again to another woman. It was bad enough to be so powerless."

Farmer's complaints launched the first investigations that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, has publicly acknowledged since Roe v. Wade was overturned last year. Across the country, women have reported being turned away from hospitals for abortions, despite doctors telling them that this puts them at further risk for infection or even death.

President Joe Biden's administration has prodded hospitals not to turn away patients in those situations, even when state law forbids abortions. Weeks after the Supreme Court's ruling, the Democratic administration reminded hospitals that federal law requires them to offer an abortion when a pregnant woman is at risk for an emergency medical condition. The federal government can investigate hospitals that receive Medicare and Medicaid money — which encompasses most facilities in the U.S. — for violations of the law.

CMS has not announced any fines or other penalties against the two hospitals in its investigation, but it did send them notices warning that they were in violation of the law and asking them to correct the problems that led to Farmer being turned away. Federal Medicare investigators will follow up with the hospitals before closing the case.

Abortions are largely banned in Missouri, but there are exceptions for medical emergencies. In Kansas, when Farmer visited the hospital, abortions were still legal up to 22 weeks. It's unclear why University of Kansas Health refused to offer Farmer one. Neither hospital responded immediately to a request for comment on the case.

Nationwide, doctors have reported uncertainty around how to provide care to pregnant women, especially in the nearly 20 states where new laws have banned or limited the care. Doctors face criminal and civil penalties in some states for aborting a pregnancy.

But in a letter sent Monday to hospital and doctors associations that highlights the investigations, Becerra said he hopes the investigations clarify that the organizations must follow the federal law, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, or EMTALA.

"While many state laws have recently changed," Becerra wrote, "it's important to know that the federal EMTALA requirements have not changed, and continue to require that health care professionals offer treatment, including abortion care, that the provider reasonably determines is necessary to stabilize the patient's emergency medical condition."


Massive U.S. Farm Bill Affects Everyone, Not Just Farmers

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (HPM) — Every five years, Congress has to renew a large piece of legislation called the Farm Bill. This year’s Farm Bill is predicted to cost about $700 billion over the next five years, making it the most expensive farm bill ever. Some lawmakers want to trim the spending. Nutrition programs account for about 85% of the bill's total cost. The nutrition program includes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, which used to be called food stamps. Jonathan Coppess, director of Agriculture Policy at the University of Illinois, says cutting SNAP benefits through work requirements and other restrictions is a priority for some lawmakers. “If budget’s driving our whole discussion, then we're looking around for big numbers to cut. And this is a big number. So, it gets the first focus on cutting," he said. The farm bill also deals with crop Insurance and subsidy payments to farmers to grow certain crops.


Tiny House Stolen in Colorado Recovered in Kansas

COOLIDGE, Kan. (KSCB/KPR) — A tiny house stolen from Colorado was recovered in the small western Kansas town of Coolidge, in Hamilton County. Just after 8 pm Sunday, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office was told by Colorado authorities that the home was possibly headed to Coolidge. KSCB Radio reports the tiny house was recovered at Socular Grain in Coolidge. Three men were attempting to install lights on the tiny house and were arrested for possession of stolen property. Authorities also recovered a stolen trailer and Bobcat.

Coolidge, Kansas, was made infamous as the home of Cousin Eddie in the 1983 movie Vacation.


Charges Pending for Turkey Poachers Who Violated Kansas, Nebraska Laws

NORTON CO., Kan. (WIBW) — Charges are pending against two turkey hunters who allegedly violated hunting laws in both Kansas and Nebraska. WIBW TV reports that Kansas game wardens recently came across a pair of turkey hunters in Norton County. When the hunters noticed the game wardens, officials say one attempted to fill out a Nebraska turkey tag for a bird that was previously killed in Kansas. Officials say that three turkeys were seized in connection with violations of hunting regulations in both Kansas and Nebraska.


NFL Draft Draws National Attention to Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KSHB) — The 2023 NFL Draft has wrapped up and the event drew plenty of national attention to Kansas City. The league says a total of 54.4 million viewers in the U.S. tuned into the draft on television. Viewership for the 2023 NFL Draft was up 12% from 2022. The NFL says the daily average audience for the draft improved year-over-year when compared to 2022. KSHB TV reports that more than 300,000 fans visited the area around Kansas City's Union Station during the three day event.


List of the Largest Governor's Estates in America Puts Cedar Crest in Kansas at #1

TOPEKA, Kan. (The Daily Mail) — Cedar Crest, the official governor's residence in Kansas, features the largest official governor's estate in the U.S. The Daily Mail reports that the French-Norman style home in Topeka sits on a sprawling 244-acre estate, making it the largest such estate by far in the country. Oddly, the Kansas governor's home itself is one of the smallest among all governors.

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly's Cedar Crest estate is nearly 12 times larger than that of the governor with the second largest estate, Brian Kemp, of Georgia. A study by MoverDB used public sources and estimates from Google Maps to rank the size of the estates of 31 U.S. governors. All findings were based on the size of the entire estates and not the houses on them.

Cedar Crest was built in 1928, bequeathed to the state in 1955 and became the official governor's residence in 1962. It overlooks the Kansas River from the south.

Though built on a larger estate, Cedar Crest is perhaps not as grand as the Georgia governor's mansion in northeast Atlanta. Though the second-largest official home amongst all governor's residence, it is significantly smaller than the Cedar Crest property, sitting on a comparatively small 16 acres of land. Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington State, lives on the third-largest estate, which is next to the state's capitol building.

The New Mexico governor's mansion sits on the fourth largest plot - 12 acres in Santa Fe. The fifth-largest governor's residence, with a Neo-Renaissance house on a 10-acre plot of land, is in Jefferson City, Missouri.

It is one of the oldest governors' homes in the U.S. and has been the official residence since 1872.


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 and updated throughout the day. These ad-free headlines are made possible by KPR members. Become one today. And follow KPR News on Twitter.