Kansas News Service | KCUR

Kansas News Service

The Kansas News Service produces essential enterprise reporting, diving deep and connecting the dots regarding the policies, issues and events that affect the health of Kansans and their communities. The team is based at KCUR and collaborates with public media stations and other news outlets across Kansas. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter. Bookmark our homepage at ksnewsservice.org

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

The Kansas News Service is made possible by a group of funding organizations, led by the Kansas Health Foundation. Other funders include United Methodist Health Ministry Fund, Sunflower Foundation, REACH Healthcare Foundation and the Health Forward Foundation. Additional support comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Scott Canon / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation said Tuesday that it’s opened dozens of investigations into alleged sex abuse by Catholic clergy after 119 people came forward in recent months saying they were victims.

The KBI called for tips from the public in February and continues to seek information. Agents have launched 74 cases so far in 33 counties.

SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, praised the news in a statement.

Kansas junior college football plays in the big time these days.

The Jayhawk Community College Conference made a key change to its player eligibility rules three years ago that drew blue-chip players in from out of state.

The level of play shot up almost overnight, transforming at least one team from a perennial doormat to a national contender.

WICHITA — Toxic blue-green algal blooms have been causing major problems on Kansas’ lakes since about 2010.

Because the pond scum can make people sick, the lakes became out of bounds for swimmers and the like.

Yet now the phenomenon is costing Kansans money. It’s infiltrating city water systems, triggering slightly more expensive treatments to keep drinking water safe.

The Washington Post

A newly released database shows that Leavenworth County, Kansas, had one of the highest concentrations of opioid pills per person in the United States between 2006 and 2012.

While those numbers might suggest a hidden calamity in eastern Kansas, the vast majority of those pills were actually processed by a Veteran’s Administration fullfillment center, rather than distributed locally, according to the data.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

This spring, abortion rights supporters scored a massive legal victory: The Kansas Supreme Court ruled that women have the right to abortion under the state constitution.

That means even if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, lawmakers won’t be able to ban abortion in Kansas unless voters amend the state constitution.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA — Kansas schools will require two new vaccines come August, including one against a virus that’s hospitalized 13,000 people and killed 200 across the country since 2016.

GARDEN CITY — Three years ago, rancher and farmer Jay Young got intrigued by a YouTube video.

A North Dakota farmer championed the idea of cover crops — plants that would be considered weeds in many other contexts — as robust plants for his cattle to graze on.

Young applied the cover crop strategy – rotating rye, radishes, turnips, oats and barley – to his land just east of the Colorado border. The plants held the soil in place, trapped nutrients in the ground and made the ground nicely spongy.

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

Every Wednesday night, 20 or so pinball enthusiasts gather at The 403 Club in the Strawberry Hill neighborhood of Kansas City, Kansas, to play a weekly tournament. 

Nearly a dozen pinball machines line one wall with themes like Deadpool, Metallica and The Twilight Zone. The place buzzes and blinks with energy as players clatter away on the machines' buttons, frantically trying to keep their games alive.

Amid this jangling hubbub, Keri Wing stands out. She's the one the other players call "champ."

Public Domain

Vegetarians have their reasons for not eating meat. But "I am an optimist" doesn't have a regular spot on lists more typically focused on health and environmental benefits.

Optimism was, however, the Englishman Henry Clubb's rationale more than 100 years ago, when he enticed dozens of people to move to the radical territory of Kansas to start a vegetarian settlement in what is now Allen County.

It didn't go well.

Brian Grimmett / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA — They’re here in Kansas. CBD products with a bit of that oh-so-taboo THC in them. To vape, to put under your tongue.

Some retailers argue those products became legal on July 1 because of tweaks to state regulation of cannabis-related substances in a bill supporting the state’s fledgling industrial hemp program.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA — A new Kansas law provides some protection for people possessing CBD oil containing limited amounts of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

But it’s not full-on legalization, meaning the oil could still result in legal trouble even for people with documents confirming it’s for medical purposes. 

CBD oil without THC is already legal in Kansas. CBD is made from the same plant that marijuana comes from, but the plants are bred with relatively small amounts of the psychoactive compounds.

Bigstock

Two Johnson County chiropractors accused by the federal government of defrauding Medicare have settled the case for $350,000.

The payment ends a civil lawsuit alleging that Ryan Schell and Tyler Schell, who are brothers, billed Medicare for peripheral neuropathy treatments not covered by the program or for treatments they did not provide at all.

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

When Porter Hall of Raymore, Missouri, was a year old, he broke out in hives after eating a spoonful of peanut butter. It led to a scary night in the emergency room and a diagnosis of peanut allergy.

But today, Porter, who’s now five, is giving peanuts another shot with the help of Kansas City doctors, who have been giving him tiny doses of peanuts over the course of months.

This oral immunotherapy treatment isn’t a cure, but doctors say these tiny exposures may help to reduce or prevent severe reactions – although some critics are warning families to consider the risks. 

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

KANSAS CITY, Kansas — Many people figure vaping spares their health because it lets them inhale nicotine in aerosols instead of sucking in smoke from burning cigarettes.

New research from the University of Kansas casts doubt on that, raising the specter that vaping nicotine may cause some of the same respiratory problems that plague and even kill smokers today.

“Vaping is just considered not harmful, even though there are no data to support that statement,” researcher Matthias Salathe said. “There are more and more data to actually oppose that statement.”

GARDEN CITY — Nearly all American cattle spend their final months in massive feedlots, munching on feed designed to fatten them for slaughter.

But not all that goes into the beasts transforms to beef.

Their four-chamber-stomach digestive systems continually seep all forms of gasses, including the powerful greenhouse gas methane they burp up silently and constantly.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

(This story was updated at 2:15 p.m.)

LEAVENWORTH, Kansas — Republican former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach announced Monday that he’s running for the U.S. Senate seat held by Pat Roberts.

Kobach beat then-Gov. Jeff Colyer in the primary election last year — helped partly by a last-minute endorsement from President Donald Trump — but ultimately lost the governor’s race to Democrat Laura Kelly.

File phto

A Johnson County judge on Tuesday tossed out a defamation lawsuit brought by Kansas Sen. Majority Leader Jim Denning against The Kansas City Star, finding Denning failed to prove malice.

Judge Paul Gurney also ordered Denning to pay the newspaper’s attorney fees, which could run as high as $40,000.

Gurney ruled that Denning had not met the requirements of the Kansas Speech Protection Act, which is designed to end meritless lawsuits that target the exercise of free speech.

PLEVNA, Kansas — P.J. Sneed walks through his small greenhouse in central Kansas checking on rows and rows of small hemp plants just waiting to be put into the ground.

The plants inside the greenhouse near Plevna look rather healthy. Problematically, they look better than the plants in the few acres he’s already planted just outside of the greenhouse.

Christopher Smith for KHN

One Monday in February, 65-year-old Karen Endicott-Coyan gripped the wheel of her black 2014 Ford Taurus with both hands as she made the hour-long drive from her farm near Fort Scott to Chanute. With a rare form of multiple myeloma, she requires weekly chemotherapy injections to keep the cancer at bay.

She made the trip in pain, having skipped her morphine for the day to be able to drive safely. Since she sometimes “gets the pukes” after treatment, she had her neighbor and friend Shirley Palmer, 76, come along to drive her back.

Chris Neal / For the Kansas News Service

COFFEYVILLE — More than one in 10 kindergartners in Kansas in the 2017-2018 school year lacked at least some of the shots that the state requires to shield students against outbreaks of measles, whooping cough and more.

The state’s most recent annual report pegged the figure at 15%.

GARDEN CITY — Fartun Gelle is a Somalian refugee who lives near the Neighborhood Learning Center in Garden City, where she’s gone for help since she arrived in western Kansas five years ago.

The center is located in a brick apartment building in the northwest part of town, and refugees from Myanmar, Somalia and Ethiopia live within walking distance. Gelle doesn’t drive, and relies on the center’s community health workers to help translate at her sons’ medical appointments.

“I don’t have someone to help me,” Gelle said through Somali interpreter Ifrah Farah.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Oklahoma, Missouri, Colorado.

The national measles outbreak — numbering more than 1,000 cases so far — hasn't hit Kansas yet, but it has crept awfully close to home.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

Build higher, build stronger — it pays off big in Kansas.

Disaster mitigation investments in Kansas yielded more savings than efforts in any other state, a new study found. The Pew Charitable Trusts listed Missouri as a close second.

It’s what you’d expect in a small gym. Treadmills. Squat rack. Elliptical machine.

But 54 Fitness, located in the 500-person town of Moran, still holds remnants of the building’s previous lives. Tile flooring. Booth seating. A washroom designed for rinsing off grease, not sweat.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

Kansas has agreed to change its policy and allow transgender people born in the state to update the sex listed on their birth certificates.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment on Friday entered into a consent decree that ends a lawsuit brought by four native Kansans and the Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project, Inc. (K-STEP).

The policy change is significant because birth certificates can determine access to education, employment, health care, travel and the ability to obtain other identification documents.

The terms for handing off the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, Kansas, have been settled — even as the billion-dollar-plus research site remains under construction.

The way Westar Energy runs its coal plants in Kansas unnecessarily costs consumers millions of dollars a year through an obscure, if common, practice known as self-committing generation.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

The Kansas Board of Regents pressured state university officials to rethink hiking tuition, and the schools did just that.

In-state tuition for undergraduates at all state campuses will be flat or reduced after the regents approved revised rates Wednesday. Though some graduate and out-of-state students will see modest tuition increases.

Regents Chair Dennis Mullin thanked university officials for scaling back their tuition proposals, which he said comes with “punishment and pain.”

Wichita Public Schools is considering adding explicit protections for transgender students and staff this year.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

“A Clockwork Orange.” “Invisible Man.” “Twelve Years a Slave.” 

Issues of Bloomberg Businessweek, Us Weekly, Elle.

“Excel 2016 for Dummies.” “Tarot Fundamentals.” “Electrical Theory.”

Over the past 15 years, the Kansas Department of Corrections banned those titles, and about 7,000 others, from its prisons across the state.

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