Housing Assistance Still Available in Kansas
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) – Kansas has given out almost $25 million in federal homeowner assistance to help people catch up on their bills. And the Kansas News Service reports that funds are still available. The program has helped more than 2,000 Kansas homeowners in the last six months and homeowners can apply for the money if they own a home in Kansas, are at least 30 days behind on their mortgage and meet certain income requirements. The cash helps with mortgages, property taxes or utility fees. The program aims to keep people in their homes. Applications for the program are open until the remaining $30 million in funding runs out
Kansas Poll Reveals Effects of Pandemic on Mental Health
WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW/KNS) – The pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of many Kansans. That’s according to a new poll released by the Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University. The annual poll surveyed 520 adults from across the state this fall. According to the poll, one in two Kansans say their mental health – or their family’s mental health – has been affected since the pandemic began. Jessica Provines is a psychologist at Wichita State University. She says the disruption to routines and relationships during the pandemic is the likely culprit. “Going through such a national crisis as we did during the height of the pandemic, it really brought to the forefront how important mental wellness is in our overall health,” she said. The poll also found 44% of Kansans have utilized mental health resources since the pandemic, or know someone who has.
U.S. Sued over Lack of Protection Plan for Rare Grouse
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) _ An environmental group is suing U.S. wildlife managers, saying they have failed to protect a rare grouse found in one of the country’s most prolific areas for oil and gas development. A lawsuit filed Tuesday says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is nearly five months late in releasing a final rule outlining protections for the lesser prairie chicken. In 2021, the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed adding a Texas and New Mexico population to the endangered species list and a separate population found elsewhere in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado to the threatened list. The Center for Biological Diversity claims decades of stalling by the government is threatening the bird and its habitat.
Kansas Officials: No State Funds Used to Produce Drag Show
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) – Claims that Kansas used taxpayer dollars to produce a drag show have been swirling online. But it appears those claims are based on flyers for the drag show that mistakenly included a state agency logo. Republican nominee for governor Derek Schmidt blasted Democratic Governor Laura Kelly because of social media posts saying the state’s commerce department helped fund a drag show. A poster advertising the show was circulating online. It showed the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission logo. That led people to believe the state helped finance the show. But the studio that ran the drag show says it was a mistake to include the state logo and no tax dollars were used. The Kansas News Service reports that the state provided funding to that group for other arts programs, which is why the group had been using the logo, but that funding isn’t related to drag shows or used for them.
Missouri Sheriff: Autopsy Will Determine if Dogs Killed Driver
EXCELSIOR SPRINGS, Mo. (AP) _ Investigators in northwest Missouri are trying to determine if two dogs caused the death of an Amazon driver whose body was found in a yard. Ray County Sheriff Scott Childers says deputies went to a home in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, Monday evening after reports that an Amazon truck had been parked at the same location for several hours. Deputies found the driver’s body in the yard. Childers says the man had injuries consistent with an animal attack but that an autopsy will determine the cause of death. The sheriff says two aggressive dogs at the home were shot and killed.
Minimum-Security Inmate Escapee from Lansing Apprehended
TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR/KSNT) - A minimum-security inmate is back in custody after walking away from Lansing Correctional Facility over the weekend. Authorities say 39-year-old Joshua W. Renfro is serving a 30-month sentence for violating a protection order in Allen County. He walked away from Lansing’s minimum-security unit on Sunday. Officers arrested Renfro Monday night in Leavenworth County.
Lawrence Man Accused of Calling Police, then Assaulting 3 Officers with a Gun
LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) – A Lawrence man has been charged in Douglas County District Court after allegedly assaulting three police officers with a firearm. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 38-year-old Tiburcio Joe Reyes III is charged with three felony counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon on a law enforcement officer and interfering with law enforcement. The charges relate to an incident Saturday night, when officers responded to the 1400 block of Summit Street after receiving reports of suspicious activity in the area. Officers contacted the man who made the complaint, who allegedly threatened to start shooting people if they didn’t move their cars. When police approached the man’s house on foot, he met the officers with a weapon in his hand. The man dropped the weapon when commanded to do so, but police say he became confrontational with officers. The man then allegedly began to throw items at the police, threatened them with violence and went in and out of his house several times before confronting the officers with another weapon. The officers were able to de-escalate the situation and arrest the man. No injuries were reported. Reyes was arrested but was released Monday afternoon on a $50,000 own-recognizance bond. Reyes is scheduled to appear in court on November 2.
KU School of Music Celebrates 50 Years of Jazz
LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) — The University of Kansas School of Music celebrates a major milestone this month with a celebration and concert. The KU Jazz 50th Anniversary Celebration will commemorate 50 years of the “official” jazz program — and the “unofficial” bands that existed beforehand. The event will feature two concerts highlighting alumni of the KU Jazz Studies Program, both taking place at 7:30 pm at the Lied Center of Kansas on October 28 and 29.
Current performers for KU Jazz Ensemble I will present a tribute to saxophonist and woodwind artist Gary Foster, with guest soloists Steve Houghton (drums), Matt Otto and Paul Haar (saxophones), Ron McCurdy (trumpet), Jeff Harshbarger (bass) and others. Foster, a 1962 graduate of KU and a native of Leavenworth, is one of the most celebrated jazz and commercial music artists from the Los Angeles scene, with performance and recording credits including Barbra Streisand, Natalie Cole, Frank Sinatra and Mel Torme along with a list of some of the most important jazz artists of the past 50 years. He also appears on more than 500 motion picture soundtracks.
KU alumni from the past 50 years will perform in big bands and a vocal jazz ensemble, and they will be directed by the program’s four directors—Robert Foster (the founder of the program in 1972), James Barnes, Ron McCurdy and Dan Gailey.
The KU Jazz Studies Program began its “official” existence in 1972, when Robert Foster, then KU director of bands, formed the first jazz ensemble within the curriculum. Since that time, the program has grown to include three big bands, 11 jazz combos, a vocal jazz ensemble, and numerous classes in jazz and commercial music. In addition to Foster’s direction, the program was led in subsequent years by James Barnes, Ron McCurdy and the current director, Dan Gailey. The program is now considered one of the premier college jazz programs in the nation. (Read more.)
Kansas Not Planning to Require COVID-19 Vaccine for School Attendance, Despite CDC Recommendation
TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) – Kansas officials say they have no plans to require the COVID-19 vaccine for school attendance, despite a move by federal officials to place the shots on the childhood vaccination schedule last week. The action, taken by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, does not compel Kansas or any other state to require the shots for school attendance, but many states follow the CDC’s recommendations. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that anywhere from five to eight vaccines are required for school attendance, depending on the grade and age. That includes vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella, Hepatitis B, tetanus and chickenpox. There are no plans to add the COVID-19 vaccine to that list, Matt Lara, a spokesperson for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said in an email.
Governor Laura Kelly had previously said it was “premature” to have any discussions about the merits of requiring the COVID-19 vaccine until it was fully approved for all ages by the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA has granted full approval for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for kids 12 years and older. There is no timeframe for full approval for younger age groups. Still, Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who is Kelly’s Republican opponent in the governor’s race this fall, said in a statement that “no Kansas student will ever be forced to receive a COVID vaccine in order to attend school — not on my watch.” He also took Kelly to task for vetoing Senate Bill 34, which would have barred the KDHE secretary from requiring any vaccine or test that had not received full FDA approval and Schmidt said he would support such a measure. It’s likely that such a proposal will be considered when lawmakers return to Topeka in January.
Kansas Woman Jailed After Toddler Exposed to Drugs
PHILLIPSBURG, Kan. (KAKE) – Authorities in north-central Kansas have arrested a 27-year-old woman after a toddler was exposed to illicit drugs. KAKE TV reports that deputies in Philips County executed a search warrant Friday at a home in Phillipsburg. Authorities say Victoria Bowers was arrested at the home and booked for aggravated child endangerment and possession of paraphernalia, prescription drugs and methamphetamine. The search warrant stemmed from an earlier call to the local hospital emergency room. A 20-month-old child there was reportedly exposed to drugs. The toddler was transferred from Philips County Hospital to a higher level of care, the sheriff’s office said. The child’s condition was unknown but not believed to be life-threatening. Bowers and the child are not related. The sheriff’s office did not release any additional case information.
Kansas City Man Pleads Guilty to $4.1 Million Meth Conspiracy
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) – A Kansas City, Missouri, man has pleaded guilty in federal court for his role in a $4.1 million drug-trafficking conspiracy linked to two murders. The operation distributed 520 kilograms of methamphetamine in the Kansas City metro area. KCTV reports that 42-year-old Gerald Lee Ginnings admitted that between January 1, 2018 and October 1, 2018, he participated with others in conspiracies to distribute methamphetamine and launder drug proceeds. He also pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm in relation to a drug-trafficking crime and to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The U.S. Justice Department says the drug-trafficking organization with which Ginnings was associated was responsible for two murders in 2018. According to court documents, Ginnings was involved in burning the car of James Hampton, a man who was beaten, kidnapped and transported from St. Louis, Missouri, to Kansas City. Ginnings allegedly helped burn Hampton’s car in exchange for being forgiven of a $5,000 drug debt.
Ginnings was also involved in transporting Brittanie Broyles, a woman who was with Hampton when he was seized and who witnessed his beating and kidnapping. Documents said Broyles was shot in the head twice and died while Ginnings was involved in transporting her around Kansas City. The 42-year-old is among 22 co-defendants who have pleaded guilty in this case. He was ordered by a judge to pay a money judgment not to exceed $4,160,000, which represents the proceeds he received from the drug-trafficking conspiracy. Under federal statutes, the DOJ said Ginnings is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison without parole, but could receive up to a sentence of life in prison without parole.
Family Claims Horrific Abuse at Hands of Female ISIS Leader
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP/KPR) — Family members of a Kansas native convicted of leading an all-female Islamic State group battalion say they suffered years of horrific abuse at her hands well before she ever became a terrorist. The allegations come in court filings in the case against 42-year-old Allison Fluke-Ekren. The former Lawrence resident pleaded guilty earlier this year to terrorism charges connected to her support for the Islamic State group while she and her family lived in Syria. Two of her now-adult children say in court papers that they were physically and sexually abused by her. Fluke-Ekren denies the abuse allegations. Prosecutors are seeking a 20-year maximum prison term when she’s sentenced next week.
Kansas Undersheriff Faces Trial in Fatal Beanbag Shooting
BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — A rural Kansas undersheriff who shot and killed an unarmed man with a homemade beanbag round faces trial in Kansas City, Kansas. The case against Vergil Brewer is likely to focus on whether his lack of knowledge and training with the munitions amounts to reckless involuntary manslaughter. Jury selection began Monday for Brewer, the undersheriff in Barber County at the time of the deadly encounter with Steven Myers on October 6, 2017, in Sun City, Kansas. Defense attorney David Harger did not respond to messages seeking comment on the case. (Read more in the Lawrence Journal-World.)
Republican U.S. Senator Moran and Democratic Challenger Holland: A Portrait in Opposites
UNDATED (KNS) – Kansas has not elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since 1932. Democrat Mark Holland is trying to change that, but he faces an uphill battle against incumbent Republican Senator Jerry Moran. The two politicians don’t have much in common. Moran is backed by the National Rifle Association while Holland commended the group for its opposition to any kind of gun control. Moran celebrated the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Holland wants abortion rights put in federal law. Pollsters don’t give Holland, the Democratic challenger, much of a chance. But the pastor and former mayor of the Unified Government in Wyandotte County thinks he can buck the odds. “I think people are fired up. People are very excited,” he said. The Kansas News Service reports that voters have a choice between candidates who talk about very different issues. A vote for Moran would mean efforts to secure the southern border and invest more in U.S.-based energy to combat high gas prices. Picking Holland, meanwhile, would mean investing in more green energy and a push to stop criminalizing gender identity.
Powerball Jackpot Grows to $700 Million
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ Nobody won the half-billion dollar jackpot in Monday night’s multi-state Powerball lottery drawing. So, the jackpot will be up for grabs again Wednesday night. Only now, the Powerball jackpot will grow to an estimated $700 million. Odds of winning are not good, about one in 292 million.
Rising Fertilizer Costs Force Farmers to Rethink Fall Planting
HAYS, Kan. (KNS) – In the last two years, fertilizer prices have more than doubled. The Kansas News Service reports that those high prices and ongoing drought conditions are pushing some Kansas farmers to rethink their plans for fall planting. A recent survey by Farmers Business Network says 21% of Kansas farmers plan to use less fertilizer than they did last year. Kevin McNew, chief economist with Farmers Business Network, says the survey aims to bring more transparency to the fertilizer buying process. Usually, prices are not quoted publicly and farmers may not know how local prices compare to those in the next county. Fertilizer has also been hard to come by. “We’re hearing a lot of reports where farmers will get like a text from an ag retailer about, you know, they have fertilizer available at this price but if they don’t respond soon, they may not get it,” he said. The survey says nearly half of Kansas farmers expect to plant more wheat this season than last year. But the amount of corn, which needs more fertilizer and water than wheat, will stay roughly the same.
Help Wanted: Kansas Public Radio Seeks New Statehouse Bureau Chief
TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) – Kansas Public Radio is seeking a new Statehouse Bureau Chief This position works primarily at the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka. Duties include managing all aspects of KPR’s capital news bureau, which provides broadcast and digital news reports to a number of radio stations in Kansas and Missouri. This position is primarily responsible for reporting on all aspects of state government. The KPR Statehouse Bureau Chief researches, writes, reports and produces spot news, digital stories and long-form audio features for KPR and its reporting partners. Learn more about this position.
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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. Follow KPR News on Twitter for breaking news and links to other stories and issues of local and regional interest.