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Noonletter, Oct. 4, 2018

Crysta Henthorne
Kansas News Service

Boondocks broadband

How you gonna keep ’em down on the farm if they can’t stream Netflix?

The Federal Communications Commission sent seven grants to Kansas totaling $4.7 million to expand  rural access to broadband internet.

That won’t go far. Put all that money in a single, small county, and you still couldn’t wire everybody there to high-speed internet. At best, you build a little infrastructure. (For context, consider that analysts put the cost of Google Fiber stringing fiber optic lines to just part of the Kansas City area at close to $500 million. And that sort of work in urban areas is far cheaper, per customer, than in rural communities. Distance matters.)

Reporter Madeline Fox looked into the grant and talked with Dan Andresen, a computer science professor at Kansas State University. He said the grants may help a little, but they won’t come close to covering the cost to connect all of rural Kansas.

“That might do one county,” he said. “(But) in terms of however many counties we have in the state of Kansas” — 105 — “it’s gonna be a pittance.”

The FCC says one in three rural Kansans — keep in mind, most of the state’s population is packed in urban and suburban areas around Kansas City, Wichita, Topeka, Lawrence and the like — lacks access to adequate broadband.

Trump bucks

President Donald Trump is holding a rally in Topeka on Saturday. He’s coming to boost the prospects of Republican candidate for governor Kris Kobach and Steve Watkins, who’s running for Congress in the district that covers the state capital, Lawrence and much of the rest of eastern Kansas.

Democrats are hoping to make the high-profile event work for them. In some parts of the state, they’re using the event, and liberals' loathing of Trump, to coax canvassers to campaign door-to-door for the party’s candidates.

Laura Kelly, the state senator and Democratic nominee running against Kobach, issued a fund-raising appeal Thursday based on the Trump visit. The president is sure to attack Kelly, her campaign says in a fundraising appeal. So it’s asking people to donate toward a rapid response and “fight back against the next attack.”


A former emergency room nurse at Lawrence Memorial Hospital lost a lawsuit that alleged the facility fudged numbers to reap bigger payments.

Megen Duffy contended the hospital administration told emergency room workers to change arrival time data of heart attack patients to qualify for higher reimbursements.

But KCUR’s Dan Margolies reports that a federal judge tossed the lawsuit, saying the nurse failed to prove that affected the rates at which the government paid the hospital.

Your day’s cat news

An Olathe mand man pleaded guilty Wednesday to unlawfully importing endangered leopard cats.

The leopard cat, or Prionailurus bengalensis, is about the size of an ordinary house cat, but with longer legs. It’s a wild feline native to Asia. Federal law considers it an endangered species.

Credit Wikimedia
Leopard cat

A news release from the U.S. Attorney’s office said 34-year-old Lawrence E. Payne pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Endangered Species Act.

An investigation in the case, the release said, began when Payne applied to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a breeding license for Asian leopard cats.

“When investigators served a search warrant at Payne’s home, they found three Asian leopard cats,” the release said. “Payne admitted importing the animals.”

He faces a penalty of up to a year in jail and a fine up to $50,000.

On NAFTA rewrite, everybody’s an editor

Farm groups are moderating their enthusiasm over transforming the North American Free Trade Agreement into the Trump Administration’s United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

Harvest Public Media reports that the deal changes provisions for auto manufacturing and intellectual property, but keeps many of the former NAFTA provisions for agriculture.

Joe Maxwell, executive director of the Organization for Competitive Markets, told HPM he finds the proposal disappointing.

His group advocates for independent family farmers and he says the new USMCA would only allow multinational agribusinesses like Cargill or JBS to lodge trade complaints, such as accusing one of the countries of unfairly subsidizing its farmers.

“Continuing to give private corporations the ability to bring a dispute actually puts the farmer in harm’s way,” he said.

The deal still needs congressional approval.

The zero is fading from zero tolerance

For a time, schools were eager to embrace zero tolerance policies. Get in a fight, take a weapon to school. You’re out.

But that approach is not put into practice so stringently today, the Kansas News Service’s Stephan Bisaha and The Wichita Eagles Suzanne Tobias report.

“In an effort to divert the so-called ‘school-to-prison’ pipeline,” they write, school “districts have begun rethinking policies that lead to expulsions for non-violent offenses. That has meant more leeway in dealing with students accused of certain infractions, including weapons — and a dramatic decline in zero-tolerance expulsions.”

More bad TV

The Republican Governor’s Association is helping out Kris Kobach’s campaign again, this time banging Kelly as “way too liberal for Kansas.”

And Ron Estes, the Republican running for re-election to Congress from Wichita, puts out a YouTube ad. (Hint, the fact that it runs a minute and a half means you’re unlikely to see it anywhere other than the internet.) And, yes, since it’s a biographical ad for a Kansas politician, cue the bucolic farm scenery.

Again from the Ron Estes campaign, but focused on Democratic challenger James Thompson. So crank up the ominous music and unflattering still photos.

Scott Canon is digital editor of the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. You can reach him on Twitter @ScottCanon.

 Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post. 

As the editor of a statewide news outlet, I aspire to work with our reporters to give Kansans a clear-eyed view of the place they call home. That means delivering hard-hitting stories that expose those things that keep Kansas from being the most vibrant, healthy place it can be. You can reach me at scott@kcur.org or 816-235-8023.
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