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News of Thursday February 16, 2023

K-State closed, KU opening delayed, K-12 schools closed in anticipation of winter storm

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) – Dozens of public schools have canceled classes for today (GIO) in anticipation of a winter storm that has so far turned out to be less severe than expected. The K-State campuses in Manhattan and Salina are closed today (THU). The University of Kansas has delayed the opening of its Lawrence, Edwards and Leavenworth campuses until 10am. And the government office buildings in Topeka won’t open until 10:00. (More details here.)


Winter storm fades in eastern Kansas

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) – The brunt of an expected winter storm has missed much of eastern Kansas. While roads and other surfaces are slippery in many areas, little has developed in the way of snow and ice accumulation for Lawrence, Topeka, Emporia, Kansas City and points further south. The northern tier of Kansas counties received some snowfall, but not as much as expected. However, snow and freezing rain are still possible Thursday across much of eastern Kansas.

Get the latest weather information here. We do.


Kansas City celebrates its Super Bowl victory with a parade

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City Chiefs stars Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce have promised thousands of fans celebrating their Super Bowl championship that the team will be back for more in the future. During a victory rally Wednesday after a parade through downtown, Mahomes and Kelce joked about “experts” downplaying the Chiefs’ chances of making the Super Bowl in what some said would be a rebuilding year. Mahomes said he “didn’t know what rebuilding meant,” and then said this season was just the beginning. Coach Andy Reid praised what he called the greatest team, the greatest organization and the greatest fans in the world.


Kansas hospitals lagging behind in transparency compliance

WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW/KNS) – A new report finds that hospitals across the country are not fully complying with price transparency rules. The Kansas News Service reports that only three of Kansas’ 20 largest hospitals fully complied with the requirements. The Patient Rights Advocate report argues that when hospitals provide detailed price lists, consumers are able to shop around and save money. Founder Cynthia Fisher says getting hospitals to disclose prices is the first step in addressing high healthcare costs. “The only way to get there is to be able to see the wide variety of prices that are there now and see comparatively what is happening in the State of Kansas on prices,” she said. The report called West Kansas hospital operator Centura by name. The organization said in a statement that it is following federal guidelines and offers a price estimation tool for patients. Fisher says the tools don’t provide enough information and are only estimates.


Nebraska landfill agrees to pick up waste from Kansas oil spill

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Kan. (KNS) – A Nebraska landfill has agreed to collect oil-soaked soil and other waste from the Keystone Pipeline spill in north-central Kansas. The December 7 oil spill contaminated several acres of prairies, farmlands and streams. Trucks are hauling contaminated soil from the site to a landfill near Omaha. The contaminated creek water enters huge tanks for treatment. Some will even go to a five-acre pond built for that purpose. The workers separate the oil from the water and send the oil to a refinery. Then they have to filter and treat the water — potentially repeatedly — until state environmental officials say it’s clean enough to flow back to Mill Creek.


Northwest Kansas County says donations can be used in diversion deals

THOMAS COUNTY, Kan. (KNS) – Diversion can keep criminal charges off someone’s record and can even keep people out of jail. But the detour to a northwestern Kansas county, Thomas, requires a donation, a rarity among programs. The average donation requested to the Colby Public Schools after-school program is approximately $200. The school district in the northwestern part of the state received nearly $6,000 last year. Requesting a donation like that is not how the program typically works.

Rep. Stephen Owens is the top Republican on a Statehouse Criminal Justice Committee. “I just don’t think the diversion was meant that way,” he said. “Now, there’s nothing that explicitly forbids that.” The groups that support justice reform don’t like the system. They say monetary punishments favor those who can afford it. Low-income Kansas citizens could lose the program if they don’t have the extra cash. Owens says he’s looking into the matter. The county attorney declines a request for an interview on the matter.


Union nurses begin contract negotiations

WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW/KNS) – Union nurses at St. Francis Hospital in Wichita have begun negotiating a new contract with Ascension Via Christi. Several nurses gathered outside the hospital to show support for the union and discuss some of the workplace issues they face, such as understaffing and violence from patients. Sara Wilson has been a nurse at St. Francis Hospital for four years. She says she and her colleagues want a contract that guarantees safe working conditions. “That’s why people are leaving the bedside,” she said. “They can’t and won’t do it anymore. I mean, it makes you feel like a bad nurse when you can’t give your patients the care they deserve. More than 650 nurses at St. Francis are represented by National Nurses United. Nurses at St. Joseph Hospital also filed for union election earlier this month and are awaiting their vote.


TikTok’s ban on state-owned devices could affect Kansas students

TOPEKA, Kan. (KAKE) – A move to permanently ban TikTok on state-owned devices is underway at the Kansas Statehouse and could end up affecting Kansas students. KAKE TV reports that the proposal includes state-owned and operated Internet networks. In less than a decade, TikTok has gone from nothing to over a billion users. Fear of what Chinese TikTok owner ByteDance might learn from all those phones is what’s spurring the action this week at the Kansas Statehouse.

Republican Representative Blake Carpenter, of Derby, told a Kansas House committee this week that he is concerned about user privacy and the data being provided to the Communist Party of China. Most members of the House Legislative Modernization Committee want to ban the TikTok app on all state-owned phones, notebooks and laptops.

Under consideration is a bill to expand a ban already implemented by Gov. Laura Kelly. Her executive order last December banned the use of TikTok in all executive branch offices. The proposed ban would not include privately owned devices, but could prevent a person from using state-owned Wi-Fi networks to access the app on those devices. This includes wifi such as the Statehouse open system or the wifi provided at many state universities.

Under the proposal, Kansas would join at least 11 other states with similar partial or total bans on state-funded schools. Lawmakers are moving fast on this issue. They voted the bill out of committee on Monday, the same day as the hearing. Now move on to the entire Kansas House for debate.


Shawnee Man convicted of child pornography

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KPR) – A Kansas man was sentenced to eight years in prison for possession of child pornography. Federal prosecutors say 34-year-old Justin Packham, of Shawnee, pleaded guilty to the charges in September. Based on a cybertip, the Shawnee Police Department launched an investigation which revealed that dozens of child pornography images had been uploaded to Google Drive using an email account in Packham’s name. Following a search of his residence, investigators found more than 1,000 child pornography photos and videos on various electronic devices and flash drives. The US Secret Service and the Shawnee Police Department investigated the case.


US marshals capture hundreds of fugitives, including dozens in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) – A month-long operation by the US Marshals Service resulted in hundreds of arrests nationwide, including dozens in the Kansas City area. Operation North Star II resulted in the arrest of 833 fugitives, violent criminals, sex offenders and self-identified gang members in 10 US cities. KCTV reports the operation focused on fugitives wanted for the most serious and violent crimes. Kansas City detectives arrested more than 51 people wanted for crimes including murder, rape, robbery and assault.

“A small number of people commit most of the crimes in the community,” said US Marshal Scott Seeling. “If we can locate and arrest those people, we get them off the street and we know they’re saving lives.”

In addition to Kansas City, arrests were made in Detroit, Milwaukee, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. The operation was also carried out in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Buffalo, New York; Jackson, Mississippi; Oakland, California and Puerto Rico.


Strong winds and dust storm cause accidents on US Highway 54

LIBERAL, Kan. (KSNW/KPR) – High winds and blowing dust forced the closure of US Highway 54 this week. On Tuesday, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation closed all lanes of US Highway 54 in the panhandle, due to multiple accidents caused by dirt and high winds. The highway itself runs east-west through southern Kansas. High wind warnings were issued for several counties in southwest Kansas on Tuesday. KSNW TV reported wind gusts of 81 miles per hour in Seward County, Kansas. In neighboring Stevens County, winds were recorded at 70 miles per hour.


Rare 1986 Dive in Titanic Wreckage video released

FALMOUTH, Mass. (AP/KPR) – Some rare underwater video of the wreck of the Titanic has been released. Kansas native Robert Ballard, perhaps the world’s greatest deep-sea explorer, discovered the Titanic in 1986. The video, largely never before seen in public, was posted by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on its YouTube channel. More than 80 minutes of footage has been released. It recounts some of the remarkable accomplishments of the expedition led by Wichita-born Ballard. His 1986 expedition marked the first time human eyes had seen the giant liner since it struck an iceberg in April 1912. The luxury liner sank in the freezing North Atlantic on her maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York city. About 1,500 people died.


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

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