News

A conservative advocacy group that opposes Medicaid expansion in Kansas is fighting a Florida plan backed by that state’s Republican Senate president.

Health News Florida, a partner of the KHI News Service, reports that Americans for Prosperity, a free-market advocacy group funded by Kansas business titans Charles and David Koch, is sending mailers to voters in 23 Florida Senate districts in an effort to stop a Medicaid expansion plan that recently started gaining momentum.

Courtesy photo

“Leaving Kansas City” is a series that shares the personal stories of why people decided to live somewhere else. It follows our series “Going to Kansas City.”

Martin and Cindy Blair are both from Kansas City. They went to the University of Kansas, met in Topeka at a dive bar, and were married in Kansas City. But 35 years ago, a job offer sent them to San Diego.

After a year or two they really missed Kansas City BBQ.

The Blairs decided to open Kansas City Barbeque in downtown San Diego, giving the place a Midwestern, down-to-earth feel. Only two years into the business, they were approached by a location director who wanted to film a few movie scenes in their restaurant. Cindy Blair says it was one of the best marketing decisions they ever made.

Two iconic scenes from the movie Top Gun were shot at the restaurant: the one where Goose plays "Great Balls of Fire" on the piano, and the closing scene with Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis. You can see poster of the Plaza and, if you look closely, a Kansas state flag in the background.

Mercy Hospital Independence

Two southeast Kansas hospitals — one in Independence, the other in Fort Scott — are among several in Kansas that might have to close in part due to the state’s failure to expand Medicaid.  

To prevent that, both are actively negotiating potential partnerships with neighboring hospitals. Officials at Mercy Hospital Independence and the Coffeyville Regional Medical Center are talking. Similar discussions are underway between Mercy Hospital Fort Scott and Via Christi in Pittsburg.

Even if agreements are reached, Medicaid expansion will remain a crucial issue, says David Steinmann, chief executive of the Independence hospital. He’s facing cuts of nearly $570,000 in Medicare reimbursements and federal disproportionate share hospital (DSH) payments, which are designed to partially cover the costs of treating uninsured patients.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Excitement enveloped a small band of foodies on Sunday as they feasted their way through a tour of Kansas City’s unique food offerings. 

Julián Zugazagoitia, director of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, helped organize the private tour for Spanish master chef Ferran Adrià, whose notes and sketches are on display at the museum in an exhibition called Ferran Adrià: Notes on Creativity. The tour started at the J. Rieger & Co. distillery.

courtesy of the author

Joanne Saxon Hill  lives in Peculiar, Missouri, but her writing is rooted in the South. 

A novelist and short story writer, Saxon Hill grew up in Alabama in a strict religious family — an upbringing that, at times, was isolating. But she says, she's always been "tuned to life's quirkiness." 

Saxon Hill, who goes by the name Sister Saxon, incorporates bits of memory, overheard conversations, and imagination into her stories, like The Affliction.

Bill Greenblatt / UPI

Filling Tom Schweich’s void in the state auditor’s office may be one of the most important decisions of Gov. Jay Nixon’s tenure. He’ll have to pick somebody who can perform the tasks of an important office – and contend with the rigors of maneuvering through statewide politics.

As chief executive of the state, Nixon has filled lots and lots of vacancies – everything from an opening for Howard County surveyor to slots on the Missouri Supreme Court. This time, the pressure is on: Some want Nixon to select an African-American for the job, which would bring the state to a weighty milestone 194 years in the making. And others feel Nixon, a Democrat, should take the unlikely step of appointing a Republican to the post.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas lawmakers will be busy this week before they leave for their annual spring break. They'll be on break for nearly a month.

The Kansas Senate has passed its version of a two-year budget and the House could take up a budget this week. Conference committees will also be working to hammer out differences between bills that passed the House and Senate in different forms.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Walking through the warehouse of food processor Heartland Gourmet in Lincoln, Nebraska shows how complicated the food safety system can be. Pallets are stacked with sacks of potato flour and smell of fresh baked apple-cinnamon muffins is in the air. 

Heartland Gourmet makes a wide range of foods from muffins and organic baking mixes to pizzas and burritos. That means business manager Mark Zink has to answer to both of the main U.S. food safety regulators, the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.

Cody Newill / KCUR

More than a dozen education activists are marching 60 miles from Merriam, Kansas to Topeka for the third year in a row to protest how the state funds public schools.

The walkers from Game On for Kansas Schools were greeted by hundreds of supporters in Lawrence Saturday. The group takes issue with the state legislature's decisions to fund schools through block grants and replace the old funding formula with an outcome based method.

Courtesy / KCU

The Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences (KCU) said Friday that it plans to open a campus in Joplin, Mo., with the capacity to graduate 150 doctors a year.

The development comes through a collaboration between KCU, located at 1750 Independence Ave., Mercy Hospital Joplin, Freeman Health System, the city of Joplin and philanthropic leadership from Joplin area, according to a news release.

Johnson County, Kan., Sheriff's Office

Update, 5:35 p.m.:

Attorneys representing the man accused of killing three people outside two Overland Park, Kansas, Jewish sites last year told a Johnson County judge Friday they'll need more than 150 days to prepare his defense.

But Frazier Glenn Cross Jr. disagreed, arguing he'd stand trial in 30 days if Judge Thomas Kelly Ryan would allow it.

"I asked about a speedy trial months ago," Cross complained to Ryan.

Dave Ranney / KHI News Service

A former child protection supervisor with the Kansas Department for Children and Families office in Winfield has filed a “whistleblower” lawsuit, accusing the agency of firing her for calling her supervisor’s attention to false reports filed by a social worker.

In the lawsuit, filed in early December in Cowley County District Court, Karen King asks that she be reinstated with back pay.

King’s attorney, Orvel Mason, declined to comment on the case.

“What’s in the petition is pretty much what we’d have to say,” he said. “We’ll leave it at that.”

For the past month, Kansas Rep. John Wilson has told everyone who will listen that his medical marijuana bill is different.

Wilson, a Democrat from Lawrence, proposed a bill to allow low-THC cannabis oil to be used specifically to treat seizure disorders. He was inspired to do so by parents in his district who moved to Colorado to access the treatment for their young son.

Courtesy Photo / Paula Rose

Gender representation at Wikipedia is well-documented. Studies conducted by the Wikimedia Foundation (which serves as Wikipedia’s support structure) conclude that less than 15 percent of the popular online encyclopedia’s contributors are female.

According to Siko Bouterse, director of community resources at the Wikimedia Foundation, diversity among editors is vitally important to Wikipedia’s vision.

“Our vision for Wikipedia is ‘the sum of all human knowledge,’” she says. “We need everyone to contribute to that. The encyclopedia is incomplete without that.”

The lack of female editors has significant repercussions on the encyclopedia’s content. Pages on women’s health, women’s issues, and famous women artists tend to be mere paragraphs long, or as Wikipedians say, “stubs,” if they even exist at all.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Kansas City, Missouri's newly approved budget for the coming year still calls for fewer people and no raises.  But last minute revisions eased some of the cuts in the original version.

The $1.5 billion spending plan the city council approved still pumps $80 million into long neglected pension funds and honors a fire department call for $10.5 million more to cover overtime and operating expenses. 

But improved collections for ambulance services inspired number crunchers to restore a portion of cuts planned in three notable areas.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

As curator of The Fishtank, an evolving performance space in the Crossroads Arts District, Heidi Van has helped ignite a growing interest in experimental theater. She's produced shows in the building's front windows with the audience in the street, performed a play in a lingerie shop around the corner, and tweaked the art of clowning.

In this month's installment of Director's Cuts, Heidi Van talks about how her avant-garde sensibility might influence her first directing job at The Coterie: a production of Dr. Seuss's The Cat in the Hat

Sony Pictures Classics

In contemporary movies where characters are motivated by revenge, they're usually armed with guns and bullets — and there will be blood. But director Damian Szifron's Wild Tales has a different type of arsenal.

By compressing six short films into a two-hour triumph, Szifron turns revenge into an urge that can be as hilarious as it is sinister. This Academy Award nominee from Argentina lost the Best Foreign Language Oscar to Poland's Ida, a film whose calm, contemplative nature couldn't be more different from Wild Tales' brash and buoyant effervescence.

St. Joseph School District

The embattled St. Joseph Board of Education Thursday night appears to have put one of its many legal problems behind it.

The board voted 5-0 to settle a lawsuit filed by CFO Beau Musser after he was falsely accused of sexual misconduct.

"We are relieved that we are at this point," said board member Chris Danford.

The amount of the settlement was not released. But it appears there are still a few details to work out.

Musser was one of the whistle-blowers on $270,000 in stipends secretly given to 54 top administrations last spring by former superintendent Fred Czerwonka.

According to his lawsuit, Musser was worried that the board was kept in the dark about the stipends and concerned it may violate Missouri law.

When he brought those concerns to Czerwonka and HR director Doug Flowers he was accused of misconduct. According to the lawsuit, Czerwonka and Flowers offered to buy out Musser's contract in return for his silence on the stipends.

Charvex / Creative Commons, Wikimedia

Rashaan Gilmore is a Kansas City native with a lot to say about our city's unspoken code for polite conduct. During a January conversation about race in Kansas City's LGBTQ community, he said, "We don't like to talk about things that are uncomfortable, we don't like to talk about things that are difficult. We're Kansas City Nice."

We invited Gilmore and some fellow panelists back to to Central Standard to unpack that phrase.

Here's Gilmore's definition of Kansas City Nice:

A uniquely Kansas City behavior that gives the appearance of kindness, helpfulness or interest but which belies a true attitude or feeling of envy, anger, disinterest or apathy.

And here is his list of 9 key characteristics that he thinks should tip us off when this particular form of politeness is in full effect.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Dr. Joseph Waeckerle says he's always been interested in sports medicine because athletes are usually highly motivated to get better and get back on the field.

Put simply, they're better patients.

But now doctors know more about concussions than they did when Waeckerle, a longtime Kansas City physician, studied sports medicine in the 1970s. 

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

Uber drivers rallied outside City Hall in Kansas City Thursday morning to oppose an ordinance draft that would regulate ride-hiring companies similar to taxi companies.

The proposal would require drivers to pay a $250 vehicle permit fee, or $150 if the parent company pays an annual $10,000 fee. The city says they need to make sure drivers have proper insurance, vehicle inspections and background checks.

Brad Wilson / Flickr-CC

Not 12 hours after Gov. Sam Brownback signed legislation that would fund public schools in Kansas with block grants, the law has been challenged in court.

The motion was filed in Shawnee County District Court by several schools districts, including Kansas City, Kan., which have sued the state claiming it is under funding K-12 public education.

The motion alleges the block grant law violates the Kansas Constitution because it freezes funding for the next two years. A three-judge panel has ruled that the state failed to provide enough money to adequately educate students. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Artist Sarah Lugg Regan is carefully gluing dolls to the back of a plastic Stegosaurus. Surrounded by buckets of toys in a sun-filled room in Epperson House on the campus of University of Missouri-Kansas City, Lugg Regan and her assistant Ben Breslow are working on a two-story sculpture for the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures.

When the museum reopens on August 1 after extensive renovations, this 150-foot "Toytisserie" — a rotating ribbon of metal covered by whimsical scenes of toys — will be in the lobby, greeting visitors.

Greg Echlin / KCUR

Olathe Northwest High School graduate Willie Cauley-Stein is one of five finalists for the Naismith Award recognizing the best college basketball player. But here’s the caveat: He grew up in Kansas, but plays for Kentucky. The prevailing question is: How did the Kansas schools let him get away?

When the Kansas Jayhawks and Kentucky Wildcats played for the NCAA championship in 2012, Willie Cauley-Stein, who is now listed at 7-feet tall, was a senior at Olathe Northwest High School. The Jayhawks had 6'10 Thomas Robinson that year before he turned pro. They also had 7-foot Jeff Withey, a junior at the time. When Cauley-Stein decided to sign with Kentucky, he stunned his grandparents, Val and Norma Jean Stein.

The Conmunity / Flickr-CC

Maybe it’s just in anticipation of the seasonal bunny that will soon be bringing hard-boiled gifts, but I’ve got eggs on the brain.

As will those taking part in all sorts of egg hunts this weekend, along with other entertainment and activities appealing to eggheads, good eggs and even folks who have a thing for free-range eggs.

However you go about it, eggs-press yourself!

Courtesy Black House Collective

Five Kansas City artists will receive $10,000 in unrestricted cash as this year's winners of the Charlotte Street Awards. The awards went to three visual artists and two generative performing artists.

The Charlotte Street Foundation has been giving cash to selected artists for more than 15 years — the visual artist awards began in 1997; the foundation added awards for performing artists in 2008. In total, Charlotte Street has now awarded $700,500 to Kansas City artists, recognizing their accomplishments and encouraging their continued development and achievement.

flickr user j.s. clark / Creative Commons

The Kansas City city council votes Thursday on putting Kemper Arena on the market nationally as “surplus property.” 

Councilman Ed Ford, who chairs the economic development committee says assuming full-council approval, the city will send out a request for proposals on Kemper in early April, hoping to get at least one feasible offer. 

"If there is none, then the city is going to have to determine whether it makes economic sense to to tear it down or to mothball it, because status quo it's not working.  It's costing the city too much money to keep it open for too few events,” said Ford.

www.woodsoncounty.net

A cluster of counties in southeast Kansas are among the least healthy in the state, according to new rankings released Wednesday.

Four of the five state’s unhealthiest counties — Woodson, Cherokee, Greenwood and Labette — are in southeast Kansas. Several other counties in the region rank among the bottom 10.

But the director of an initiative launched in 2011 to address the underlying causes of the region’s health and economic problems said progress is being made.

When it comes to standard measures of health, Kansas is a laggard. Whether we’re talking about obesity rates, incidence of diabetes, acute or chronic diseases, or childhood mortality, the Sunflower State typically ranks in the bottom half of state health rankings – and in recent years it’s been sinking even lower.

That’s bad enough. But there are vast disparities within the state itself. Averages only give a rough-and-ready sense of the state’s overall health picture; dig deeper – down to the county level – and you’ll find that some counties actually perform quite well while others perform poorly.

Chafer Machinery

As you’ve probably heard, a well-respected group of World Health Organization scientists said glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s wildly popular Roundup herbicide and its generic cousins, is probably capable of causing cancer in humans.

Here are five things you should know:

1. What the report said: Roundup could cause cancer in humans.

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