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Headlines for Monday, November 20, 2023

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Emily Fisher

Kansas Oil Refinery Agrees to $23 Million in Penalties for Violating Federal Air Pollution Law

COFFEYVILLE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas refinery has agreed to pay more than $23 million for violating the federal Clean Air Act and breaching a 2012 settlement for earlier pollution problems, the U.S. Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday.

The federal agencies said the violations by Coffeyville Resources Refining and Marketing and its affiliated companies, collectively known as CRRM, resulted in illegal emissions from 2015 to 2017 that included an estimated 2,300 excess tons (2,000 metric tons) of sulfur dioxide from its oil refinery in Coffeyville in southeastern Kansas.

But CRRM’s efforts to come into compliance with federal requirements since the investigation began have already eliminated more than 39,000 tons (35,000 metric tons) per year of carbon dioxide emissions that can contribute to climate change, the agencies said in a joint news release. That's equivalent to using nearly 4 million fewer gallons of gasoline per year, they said.

The EPA also estimated that a waste gas recovery system required by Monday's court-enforceable settlement, known as a consent decree, will further reduce yearly emissions of greenhouse gases by nearly 13,000 tons, equivalent to using 1.3 million fewer gallons of gasoline annually. It will also reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, which can make breathing more difficult, and nitrogen oxide, which contributes to smog formation.

“The emissions reductions achieved under this settlement will result in healthier air for a community disproportionately affected by air pollution,” Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim said in the statement.

CRRM did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

The agreement also requires the company to spend at least $1 million on an environmentally beneficial project to be approved by the state.

The consent degree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.


Kansas Senator Hopeful for Brokered Deal Between Israel and Gaza

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) – Kansas Republican Senator Jerry Moran said Monday that he’s hopeful for a U.S.-brokered deal between Israel and Hamas. The deal would reportedly involve a temporary ceasefire to allow aid into Gaza in exchange for the release of several dozen Israeli hostages held by Hamas. The Kansas News Service reports that Moran’s comments came at a news conference in Wichita, following reports that Israel and Hamas could reach an agreement as soon as this week. Moran visited Israel earlier this month. United Nations officials and a growing list of U.S. Congress members are calling for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. In an October 7th attack, Hamas killed about 1,200 Israelis and took 240 hostage. Since then, the U.N. says Israel has killed more than 11,000 Palestinians and displaced more than 1.7 million people in Gaza.


Missouri's Park University Laying Off Staff

PARKVILLE, Mo. (Kansas City Beacon) — Park University in Parkville, Missouri, is laying off faculty, cutting programs, and closing campuses after a sharp drop in enrollment. The school has announced that it plans to cut 16 faculty positions, mostly in low enrollment areas. The Kansas City Beacon reports that the university also says it will eliminate three graduate degree programs and about a dozen majors, certificates, and minors. Students already enrolled in those programs will get time to finish. School officials blame nationwide drops in enrollment since the COVID-19 pandemic and more competition among colleges for a smaller pool of prospective students. Park's enrollment dropped more than 30% from more than 11,000 students in 2019 to less than 8,000 in the fall of 2022.


Fire Damages Historic Emporia Library

EMPORIA, Kan. (WIBW/KPR) — Fire damaged an historic library in Emporia over the weekend. WIBW TV reports that an accidental fire started at the historic Plumb Mansion Saturday afternoon, following some construction work being done on the building. The extent of the damage has not been determined, but the fire was extinguished before it spread to other areas. The mansion was owned by Preston Plumb, who served as a U.S. Senator in the late 1800s and was one of the founders of Emporia.


NASA Launch Includes KU Med Center Research into Female Reproductive System

UNDATED (KPR) — What are the effects of space travel on female reproduction? That's one of the questions researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center are trying to answer. KU scientists have partnered with NASA researchers in the first-ever examination of long-term space exposure on female reproductive physiology. A SpaceX rocket launched from the Kennedy Space Center earlier this month includes an experiment from the KU Med Center. Astronauts on the International Space Station will help examine the effects of spaceflight and microgravity on female reproductive health.

The purpose of the study is to learn whether spaceflight, directly or indirectly, causes ovarian dysfunction that leads to infertility in an animal model using female mice. Scientists say the International Space Station is an effective environment for the study because the ISS resides in low-Earth orbit and is protected from elevated levels of radiation. (Read more.)


AAA Issues Forecast for Holiday Travel

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) – More than 580 thousand Kansans will travel over the Thanksgiving holiday. The Kansas News Service reports that the American Automobile Association says early nine in 10 of those travelers will be driving. AAA officials say travelers can ensure a smooth trip over the long weekend by making sure their vehicle is in good driving condition. Due to seasonal patterns and lower demand, drivers can anticipate lower gas prices when they embark on their trip. Travelers who are flying can expect to see a slight uptick in passengers at the airport.


ACLU of Kansas Seeks Reversal of Order Stopping Drivers' License Gender Changes

UNDATED (KNS) – The ACLU of Kansas is asking a state judge to reverse an order that has barred transgender residents from changing the gender on their drivers’ licenses. The Kansas News Service reports that ID changes have been blocked since July, after Republican Attorney General Kris Kobach sued to stop them. A Shawnee County District Court judge granted Kobach’s request for a temporary injunction while the case progresses. But lawyers for the ACLU, who represent a group of transgender Kansans, say the ban is unconstitutional and harmful. A hearing in the case is set for January.


K-State Researchers Work to Help Drought Stressed Farmers in Africa

MANHATTAN, Kan. (KNS) — Kansas State University is partnering with the University of Georgia to help farmers in Madagascar. The goal is to help the African farmers succeed using drought-resistant crops like sorghum. Those grains originated in Africa and have been a successful crop for Kansas farmers during times of drought. Now it's come full circle as K-State uses research in Kansas on sorghum varieties to help farmers in Madagascar plant the most drought resistant crops. The plants that have genes that can help fight off fungal diseases and cope with climate change. Amy France, vice chair of the group National Sorghum Producers, says Kansas strategies for farming with less water can benefit other countries. USAID, the United States Agency for International Development, ranks Madagascar as the fourth most at-risk country from the effects of climate change.


Haskell University Professor Promotes 'Indigenuity' in New Book

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) — November is Native American Heritage Month. Dr. Daniel Wildcat, with Haskell Indian Nations University, says "indigenous ingenuity" is a way to tap into Native American knowledge, especially in this age of climate change. Wildcat recently spoke with KPR's Kaye McIntyre about his new book, On Indigenuity: Learning the Lessons of Mother Earth. Listen to the whole interview here.


ACLU Notifies School in of Possible Violation Linked to Hair

GIRARD, Kan. (KNS) — A southeast Kansas elementary school has come under fire for allegedly requiring a Native American boy to cut his hair to avoid suspension. The ACLU of Kansas says officials at R.V. Haderlein Elementary in Girard told the 8-year-old student to cut his long hair to comply with school policy. The boy, a member of the Wyandotte Nation, says he wears his hair long for cultural and spiritual reasons. ACLU of Kansas legal director Sharon Brett says the school’s policy and its refusal to grant an exemption violate civil rights and religious freedom laws. “Our hope is that the district will recognize that its actions are in clear violation of established law. If the district is unwilling to make changes as a result of that, I think we'll have to evaluate what comes next," she said.

School policy states that boys’ hair cannot extend below their earlobes. Brett says the boy cut his hair after school officials said he’d be sent home if he failed to do so: “Unless they rescind the policy or make an accommodation for him, he will have to continue to cut his hair or he will be suspended from school," she said. Board of Education officials now say they're planning to review the dress code policy in December.

(AP version)

ACLU: Kansas School Forced 8-Year-Old Native American Boy to Cut His Hair

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union says a Kansas grade school forced an 8-year-old Native American boy to cut off his hair after he grew it out for cultural reasons. In a letter sent Friday, the ACLU demanded that the Girard School District rescind a policy at the boy's elementary school that bars long hair for boys, alleging it violates state and federal laws. The ACLU said at a tribal gathering the boy saw men with long hair and was inspired to adopt the common cultural practice of cutting hair only when mourning a loved one. The superintendent says he can't discuss individual students, families or employees because of confidentiality laws.

But in August, school officials told him that he needed to cut his hair to comply with the dress code, the ACLU said. His mother went to the school in September and explained that he grew out his hair for cultural reasons and offered to show documentation of his tribal affiliation. The ACLU said she was told there were no exemptions. The assistant principal then emailed the mother on a Friday, telling her she had until the following Monday to get her son's hair cut or he would be sent home. Unable to reach the superintendent, she cut her son's hair over that September weekend, convinced it was the only way to keep him in school. But she said it caused him distress because it violated his spiritual tradition. The superintendent, Todd Ferguson, said in an email that he can't discuss individual students, families or employees because of confidentiality laws. But he added that the board of education would review the dress code policy during a December meeting. "Nothing matters more than creating a safe, respectful and caring school for every student," he said.

The ACLU's letter said the nation's history of "multifaceted efforts to separate Native American children from their families and tribes and to deny them their rights of cultural and religious expression" makes this particularly problematic.

It noted that Native American children often had their hair cut when they were placed in boarding schools, which systematically abused students to assimilate them into white society. The letter said there is no legitimate reason for imposing the requirement, noting that girls are allowed to have long hair. The policy also promotes "rigid views of gender norms and roles," the letter said. Girard has a population of around 2,500 and is located about 115 miles south of Kansas City.


Kansas Wildlife Officials Launch Statewide Photo Contest

TOPEKA (KPR) – Got some great pictures of the Sunflower State? The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) has launched a statewide photo contest featuring scenery and wildlife. Kansans have until December 2 to send in their best photos for consideration in the Wild About Kansas photography contest. Winners will be featured in the 2024 photography issue of the department's magazine.

Photos can be entered for the following categories:

  • Hunting and fishing
  • Game species
  • Non-game species
  • Landscapes
  • Outdoor recreation

Contestants will be split by age into two groups: below the age of 18 and above the age of 18. To enter a photo in the contest, click here.


KPR Searching for New Statehouse Reporter

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) — Kansas Public Radio is seeking a new Kansas Statehouse Bureau Chief (SBC) to manage the station's capital news bureau in Topeka. This position works primarily at the Kansas Statehouse and is responsible for reporting on all aspects of state government. To be considered, one must apply online at https://employment.ku.edu/jobs/staff/kansas-statehouse-bureau-chief/26495br. Application review begins in November and continues until a 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.


Kansas Public Radio Seeks New Membership Director

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) — Kansas Public Radio is seeking a new Membership Director to serve on its Development team. This position oversees various campaigns to raise funds to support KPR. Responsibilities also include accounting for contributions, maintaining the membership database, and organizing on-air membership drives. To be considered, one must apply online at https://employment.ku.edu/jobs/staff/membership-director/26505br. Application review begins in November and continues until a 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.


Chiefs Face Eagles on Monday Night Football

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KPR) — It’ll be a Super Bowl rematch on Monday Night Football when the Kansas City Chiefs host the Philadelphia Eagles. Along with the battle on the gridiron, TV viewers can expect multiple shots of one Arrowhead Stadium suite in particular. That suite is where Donna Kelce is expected to be for the game. She’s the mother of Kansas City’s Travis Kelce and Jason Kelce, the starting center for the Eagles. The matchup comes after a busy bye week for Travis Kelce, who made worldwide headlines with a trip to watch Taylor Swift play in Argentina. Even quarterback Patrick Mahomes had to admit Kelce’s off-the-field activities made his life seem tame. “It’s calmer than Travis’s, I’ll say that. I think I’m doing all right. I’ll keep playing football and having fun doing it," he said. Both teams have the best record in their conferences. The AFC Chiefs are 7-2, and it’s 8-1 for the Eagles in the NFC. Kickoff is at 7:20.

(Additional reporting...)

Kelce Bowl: Eagles' Jason, Chiefs' Travis Are the Center of Attention in Super Bowl Rematch

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Good luck going anywhere these days without hearing or seeing something that has to do with Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce or his younger brother, Travis Kelce, the star tight end of the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. The former was recently dubbed one of the "Sexiest Men Alive" by "People" magazine. The latter is dating Grammy-winning superstar Taylor Swift. Together they host one of the hottest podcasts in America, lent their voices to a Philly-centric Christmas album, and have transcended the NFL to become pop culture icons in their own right.

Even the matriarch of their family, Donna Kelce, has become an endorsement powerhouse over the past 12 months. "It's been a whirlwind," admitted Jason Kelce, who will try once more to beat Travis and the Chiefs for the first time when the Eagles visit Arrowhead Stadium on Monday night for a rematch of the Super Bowl. "It kind of started last year with the podcast and everything, and I think it continued to grow more and more."

It's been on hyperdrive since the Chiefs rallied to beat the Eagles for the Lombardi Trophy in February. That is when many football fans began to latch onto their podcast, "New Heights, with Jason and Travis Kelce," where the duo provided a glimpse of their lives behind their facemasks. The Kelces rap on everything from what happened that week in the NFL to what happened in the worlds of TV and entertainment, all with a stunningly disarming sense of humor.

That's also about the time that people began embracing Donna, who has made every effort to show up for both of her boys' games over the years — including those against each other — yet had never been in such a spotlight. She famously wore a half-Eagles, half-Chiefs jersey to the Super Bowl, and there is little doubt she will bring it out again on Monday night.

Suddenly, the Kelce brothers were showing up on late-night TV shows. Playing in made-for-TV golf spectacles. Raising millions of dollars for charitable causes. And yes, rubbing elbows with singers, actors and the Hollywood elite. "You just try to take it one game at a time," Jason Kelce said, using that well-worn cliché to describe the way he handles the hullabaloo. "You try to stay grounded with it. You try to stay realistic with it. You try to be the same person you are."

Even if you are named one of the sexiest men alive.

Then there's Travis Kelce, whose profile began growing the minute he stepped onto the field for his second season with the Chiefs. Since then, he's been an All-Pro four times, selected to eight Pro Bowls, won three AFC championships and two Super Bowl rings — including that one at the expense of his brother. Travis Kelce didn't become a crossover star, though, until he mentioned his failed attempt at giving Swift one of her famous friendship bracelets during a stop on her Eras Tour.

Undeterred, he invited the songstress to watch him perform at Arrowhead Stadium, and after she took him up on the offer early this season, the two have been seen together all over the world. That includes Buenos Aires, where last weekend Kelce took advantage of the Chiefs' bye week to drop in on her concert. And in a scene that was all over social media, Swift not only changed one of her lyrics — "Karma is the guy on the screen" became "Karma is the guy on the Chiefs" — she also raced off the stage to kiss him after finishing a song."We're learning with the paparazzi just taking photos from all over the place," Kelce admitted. "You have a lot of people that care for Taylor and for good reason. Just got to keep living and learning and enjoying the moments."

On the field, there have been a lot of good ones for both brothers.

The Eagles are 8-1 and were leading the NFC as they entered the weekend, while the Chiefs are 7-2 and atop the AFC. And while both teams have a long way to go, nobody would be surprised if they met again in Las Vegas for the Super Bowl. The NFL certainly would have no problem with it.

The Kelce brothers — despite playing two of the least-glamorous positions in the game — no doubt have created countless new football fans with their off-the-field endeavors. After all, how many "Swifities" have tuned in to see whether their hero will show up to the next Chiefs game, then became hooked on what happened between the end zones? "Listen," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said this week, "ex-players have done a great job once they've gotten done. We know that. But to have the guys still playing and doing it, and still maintaining the support of their teams doing it? That means they are doing it the right way, and not putting coaches and players at risk. There's no threat there. That's when you get in trouble."

Other players have transcended the sport over the years, though usually they play quarterback: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and, yes, the Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes. But rarely have they dived so headlong into the myriad of ventures of the Kelce brothers. That includes "A Philly Special Christmas," which features Jason Kelce singing alongside Eagles teammates Jordan Mailata and Lane Johnson, and with Travis Kelce enlisted to sing "Fairytale of Philadelphia" on their sophomore effort.

It's a lot that could take away from what happens on the field. Yet somehow, the Kelce brothers have thrived while doing it. "This will continue to grow with other teams," predicated Reid, who has known the family for decades, and even coached Jason Kelce when he was in Philadelphia. "How you handle it is important. And these guys have done a nice job."


This summary of area news is curated by KPR news staffers. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays and updated throughout the day. This ad-free news summary is made possible by KPR members. Become one today. And follow KPR News on Twitter.