News

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

If all it took were a few shots to virtually eliminate the chances of contracting one type of cancer, you’d think at-risk people would be lining up for treatment in droves.

There is, in fact, a three-dose regimen that experts say essentially prevents cervical cancer, which is newly diagnosed in more than 12,000 American women a year and kills about 4,000.

Jacob Grace / for Harvest Public Media

Wearing latex gloves and digging through a sloppy patch of cow poop on his farm in central Missouri, farmer Ralph Voss spotted his target.

“Okay, here we go!” he said excitedly, plucking out a shiny insect the size of a sunflower seed – a dung beetle.

Despite their disgusting homes, dung beetles are worth searching for – it has been estimated that they save U.S. farmers hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Some researchers suggest that they could be worth even more, and are searching for new species meant to maximize that value.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Advocates of raising Kansas’ tobacco tax made one last push Monday during a rally at the Statehouse, with a prominent physician saying cancer will overwhelm the state’s health care system if the tax isn’t raised.

Legislators will look this week at options for raising $400 million to $500 million to close a budget gap and end the 2015 session.

Johnson County, Kansas, Sheriff's Office

Lawyers for accused Jewish Community Center shooter Frazier Glenn Cross Jr. want the state to strike evidence found in his car and suppress the statements of four witnesses who say they saw him carry out the attacks on April 13, 2014.

Though Cross, a known anti-Semite who also goes by Frazier Glenn Miller, has boasted in interviews he committed the murders at the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom, the motions his lawyers filed last week indicate they'll mount an aggressive defense.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Andrea Duarte-Rambo, a short, dark-haired woman from Johnson County, walked to the podium and commanded the attention of a full legislative hearing room as she began talking about her son’s traumatic brain injury.

Her son’s brothers hid the injury for fear of getting in trouble, Duarte-Rambo said. His undiagnosed condition led to unexplained mood swings and violent behavior, multiple inconclusive MRIs, treatment with antipsychotic medications that actually worsened his symptoms and a couple of trips to jail.

 

Gov. Sam Brownback on Monday announced that Kansas would file a brief supporting Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s lawsuit against the federal government over Medicaid expansion.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently warned Florida, Kansas and Texas that failing to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act could jeopardize special funding to pay hospitals and doctors for treating the poor.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Thousands of people get sick every year from E. coli bacteria in their food. While the beef industry has gone to great lengths to limit illnesses in meat, the industry has been slow to adopt an E. coli vaccine that could keep people from getting sick.

Ground beef has a track record of causing some serious outbreaks of food illness, like E. Coli O157 H:7. The problem is, when cows carry E. coli bacteria in their gut it’s totally harmless, but if the bacteria gets on your meat and then you undercook it, you could easily end up in the hospital.

Meat companies have been trying to clean up their E. coli problem. Infections are down 30 percent from the late 90s. Still, most E. coli outbreaks are from beef.

Cody Newill / KCUR

Medical marijuana activists from Kansas and Missouri met at the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain Saturday to rally for expanded medical marijuana legalization.

Activist groups Bleeding Kansas and Sensible Missouri organized the rally. Sensible Missouri founder Nick Raines says that lawmakers should allow citizens who are suffering from chronic illnesses the choice of medical marijuana.

Cody Newill / KCUR

In the wake of unrest in Baltimore, Maryland and Ferguson, Missouri, the Kansas City Police Department held a community peace rally at Linwood and Prospect Saturday morning.

Mayor Sly James told the crowd of several dozen police officers, community members and city council members that keeping the city peaceful will require a continued cooperative effort.

"The issues that arose in Ferguson are not unique to Ferguson," James said. "The issues can arise here just as easily, just as quickly, if we are not vigilant."

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Sometimes it just takes one teacher to change everything. For Seann Weir, who studies English and creative writing at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, it was poet Michelle Boisseau and her "high demand of excellence."

"I took a class with Michelle Boisseau," says Weir, "which terrified me and taught me how bad my poems were, which I'm really grateful for." 

Now a senior at UMKC, Weir is due to graduate next semester — and, after that, he plans to explore graduate school. Here, Weir reads a poem titled "In Your City."

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Dr. Fred Czerwonka, on paid administrative leave for the past 90 days as superintendent of the St. Joseph School District, abruptly resigned late Friday night.

But in one final twist to his rocky tenure, Czerwonka's letter of resignation was not sent to school board members but to the St. Joseph News Press.

"I hope my resignation can allow the District to move forward with the hiring of my successor. I look forward to continuing the good work I have been put here by God to do," Czerwonka wrote in a letter address to board president Brad Haggard.

Jen Chen / KCUR

Kashif Tufail is the owner of Chai Shai, a little Pakistani restaurant on the corner of 59th Street and Holmes in Brookside. Besides all the neighborhood regulars, it’s become a gathering spot for Pakistani students at UMKC. 

And before they eat, Tufail says, they always ask him, “Are these samosas as good as my mom's?"

“And I say, 'Yeah, I believe so.'”

Once they eat them, and agree on how good they are, Tufail reveals, “You know who’s samosas those are? Those are my mom’s.”

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Next week Kansas lawmakers will resume hammering out a budget for next year and trying to fill a $400 million deficit over the next two years.

But school districts all over the state are already feeling some pain.

Lower than expected revenue has already resulted in school budgets being cut for the current fiscal year that ends June 30.

A new tally from the Kansas Association of School Boards shows 26 districts across the state that have either cut spending or anticipates doing so in the next eight weeks.

randychiu/Flickr -- CC

Food trends come and go, but some dishes cycle back, either in traditional or updated form. Like meatloaf — would you like it with a ketchup glaze or topped with Marsala sauce? Whether you consider it retro, classic or timeless, these old-timey dishes are making a comeback on local menus.

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

As a child, David Beecham’s disabilities were so severe his family couldn’t care for him.

“When he was born, he didn’t have any muscles in his face, so the doctors had to make him a face,” said Linda Lock, executive director at Brown County Developmental Services (BCDS) in Hiawatha. “His family kept him as long as they could, but his mom died, his dad remarried, and with five kids they felt like they couldn’t keep him.”

Beecham, now 67, spent much of his childhood and early adult years living in nursing homes.

courtesy: Lyric Opera of Kansas City

The Lyric Opera of Kansas City announced this week, just days after the season finale of Tosca, that artistic director Ward Holmquist is out of a job — one he's held since 1998. 

"Lyric Opera of Kansas City is reorganizing along the lines of standard industry structure for the purpose of improved effectiveness and efficiency in our operation and has eliminated the position of Artistic Director. Lyric Opera of Kansas City today announces the departure of Artistic Director Ward Holmquist. We thank him for his years of service," Board chair Kenneth Hager said in a statement issued Thursday.

File: Kathleen Masterson / Harvest Public Media

As the number of farms hit with avian flu grows over to 100 nationwide, regulators are implementing containment plans meant to stop the virus’ spread, spare millions of at-risk birds and thousands of poultry farms.

  Leaders of the U.S. House and Senate Agriculture Committees also asked the Obama Administration to direct the USDA to allocate more money toward compensating growers that have lost flocks to avian flu.  

Some digital signs will be allowed in Kansas City, Missouri residential neighborhoods under an ordinance passed Thursday. 

The battle went on for nearly two years, according to ordinance sponsor Councilman Ed Ford. Churches and schools said the new signs were modern, convenient and efficient. Homeowners worried that they could be glaring, garish and constantly changing.

Ford said the compromise ordinance allows the signs at institutions with 15-acre sights (10 acres on busy thoroughfares).

C.J. Janovy / KCUR

There aren’t many places in town where an exceptionally talented high school musician can play a concert next to a professional. But that’s what the Midwest Chamber Ensemble has been doing for three years now.

Many of the ensemble's 35 musicians are students at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance, but others from all over the community — many quite young.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

In 1961, in the heat of the civil rights movement, black and white college students rode buses through the South to challenge segregated public transportation. These "Freedom Riders" are the subject of a new play being staged by the University of Missouri-Kansas City's theater department. It's a collaboration between students, several playwrights, a director, and a choir. They hope to inspire a conversation about how the lessons of the past can have meaning in the present. 

C.J. Janovy / KCUR

In Salina, along the railroad tracks, in the shadow of grain elevators, next to a gravel lot filled with industrial propane tanks, is the headquarters of Acoustic Sounds.

It’s run by Chad Kassem. He’s originally from Louisiana.

“Back in the mid-’70s every teenage boy had a stereo, or most of the boys in my neighborhood had a stereo, and maybe a hundred albums,” Kassem says. “So I wasn’t any more of a collector than most of my friends.”

By the time he was 21, though, Kassem’s drinking and drug abuse was causing him trouble with the law.

“I came to Kansas to get sober in 1984. That’s where the judge picked.”

As we know, Kansas has alcohol, but in general, there were fewer distractions for a man who needed to dry out.

Dirk Duckhorn/Flickr -- CC

La Crosse, Kansas is serious about barbed wire — it's the home to the Kansas Barbed Wire Museum and it even trademarked the phrase: "The Barbed Wire Capital of the World."

This weekend, La Crosse hosts the Antique Barbed Wire Swap & Sell, an annual event where collectors gather to buy, sell and trade the spiky, thorny wire.

The Kansas Barbed Wire Museum — the first barbed wire museum in the country— has a special relationship with Kansas: It's where the collecting hobby really took off in 1967. According to Brad Penka, president of the museum, there are so many different varieties of barbed wire and some are unique.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon had harsh words for lawmakers who want to enact lifetime limits on the state's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

Speaking at Operation Breakthrough in Kansas City, Missouri, Thursday morning, Nixon called Senate Bill 24 "a misguided measure that punishes poor children in the legislature's zeal to reduce reliance on government assistance."

Lawmakers want to cap TANF benefits at 45 months. Currently, families are eligible for five years of benefits.

Ryan Hyde / Flickr--CC

First things first: Are you ready for the weekend? OK, that’s a silly question. But how might you get the most out of it?

Fortunately, several singular pleasures can help make the first weekend in May a memorable one – whether you’re a fine-art lover or a comic-book fan, a follower of the “Piano Man” or an admirer of the animal kingdom. And if you like merrymaking powered by Mexican-American entertainment and food? Then you’re in luck, my friend.

Be among the first to take part.

1. First Friday in the Crossroads

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

Danette K. Wilson took over as president and chief executive officer of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City in January, taking the reins from David Gentile, who stepped down for health reasons.

Blue KC provides health coverage to more than one million residents in the greater Kansas City area, including Johnson and Wyandotte counties in Kansas and 30 counties in northwest Missouri.

Wilson has been with Blue KC for more than 25 years, serving in many capacities, including as chief marketing officer.

The NFL Draft takes place Thursday night, and a Kansas City area high school graduate was projected to be among the early picks. That is, until the news came out this week about Shane Ray being pulled over on I-70 and cited for marijuana possession.

Ray, a defensive lineman from Bishop Miege High School, was honored two weeks ago by the Kansas City Sports Commission for his three-year career at the University of Missouri. At that time, he was asked about the NFL Draft.

Frank Morris / KCUR

Remember last year, when the Kansas City Royals were the underdog darlings of baseball? The team’s winning again this season, but it’s been a bit ugly.

Opposing pitchers have hit Royals players 20 times, including a nasty one Alcides Escobar caught in the head Wednesday night. The Royals have hit six in return. Umpires have already ejected Royals players nine times, the most in baseball, and two recent series culminated in bench-clearing brawls. The numbers reflect a fundamental issue: The Royals keep running afoul of baseball's unwritten rules.

A proposal to require Kansas City, Missouri building owners to make energy efficiency figures on the buildings public met mixed reactions at a city council committee hearing Wednesday. 

The plan would require owners to compile energy usage figures and submit them to the city or face a fine for not doing so. Proponents representing environmental groups, civic groups and some building owners said the ordinance would further enhance Kansas City's image as a sustainability-focused community while helping to improve air quality, reduce energy use and make lower rents possible for many low or fixed income apartment dwellers.

Americasroof / Wikimedia -- CC

A Kansas City council committee took the next step in an attempt to sell Kemper Arena Wednesday. 

The plans, zoning and economic development approved a basic schedule for sending out requests for proposals. The invitations would go out next month, with 90 days for responses to come in. 

Chair Ed Ford said to try to get as many offers as possible the city shouldn't put many restrictions on intended use for the old arena.

"We may get someone who wants to put in a beer garden or a mega-church or move it to the riverfront and make an aquarium," he quipped.

Matteo Merzi / Flickr-CC

Kansas City isn't exactly known for being a pedestrian friendly city. Downtown is overcrowded by parking lots, there have been books written about the city's automobile obsession, and it still only has a "bronze" rating from the League of American Bicyclists for its cycling friendliness.

But there are still Kansas Citians who go against the grain and make it a point to walk. In a conversation with Central Standard's Gina Kaufmann Wednesday, Pedestrian Path blogger Rhianna Weilert said her breaking point came after her car was totaled in a hit-and-run accident.

Pages