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Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

In deep-red Kansas, state Democrats threw their most energized annual meeting in years in Topeka on Saturday, largely thanks to the featured speaker: Vermont senator and former presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders. 

The Republican majority in Congress is intent on repealing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Freshman Kansas 1st District Rep. Roger Marshall is on board. So he’s gathering input from constituents on how to proceed with repealing and replacing the ACA with what he calls needed “free-market reforms.”

The Great Bend Republican recently mailed a survey to 50,000 households in the Big First. 

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Forget the sad desk lunch. The lunch break is a time to get out and explore new restaurants.

Whether you’re looking for something fast and affordable or luxurious — or something to grab and take to a nearby park (hi, spring!) — KCUR’s Food Critics search out the best lunch spots in and around Kansas City.

Here are their recommendations:

Bonjwing Lee, The Ulterior Epicure:

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Members of the Kansas congressional delegation are under fire — like many of their colleagues across the country — for ducking town-hall meetings with their constituents.

At the Kansas GOP convention earlier this month, two of them explained their reaction to raucousness at their offices. 

Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Pat Roberts speak to the crowd at a field hearing on the Farm Bill in Manhattan, Kan.
Bryan Thompson / KCUR 89.3

At a stressful time for U.S. farmers, the government’s efforts at calming the agricultural waters took center stage Thursday, when the heads of the U.S. Senate’s Agriculture Committee left Washington for the Midwest to solicit opinions on priorities for the next Farm Bill.

U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts, R-KS, and Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, heard from Midwest farmers at their first field hearing on the 2018 Farm Bill at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas.

Courtesy Ramy Essam

What’s the future of protest music?

That was a reasonable question for the hundreds of musicians who came to Kansas City in mid-February for the Folk Alliance International Conference, the theme of which was "Forbidden Folk." Given political developments over the last year, plenty of “old guys with banjos” — as one musician put it — were fired up, but I wanted to see what younger musicians thought about one staple of their genre.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

On Sunday, shortly before 11 a.m., British singer-songwriter Billy Bragg declared he was "itching to do a gig." It was day five of the Folk Alliance International Conference, and, as of that morning, Bragg had yet to play. 

Taber Andrew Bain / Creative Commons-Flickr

A federal judge today threatened to jail Johnson County businessman Joel Tucker after he failed to comply with orders requiring him to disclose details of a payday lending scheme.

The Federal Trade Commission has accused Tucker of selling bogus debt to collection agencies, which used them to get consumers to pay debts they didn’t owe.

Tucker is the brother of Leawood businessman and race car driver Scott Tucker, who pleaded not guilty a year ago to criminal charges of running a $2 billion payday lending scheme.

UMKC

Peter Witte, dean of the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance since 2008, will soon be leaving Kansas City for Stockton, California. The University of the Pacific announced on Wednesday that Witte had accepted the job as dean of their Conservatory of Music. 

This news comes at a critical time for the UMKC downtown arts campus at the corner of 17th and Broadway, just south of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Correct Care Solutions, a Tennessee-based company that is the sole bidder for a contract to operate Osawatomie State Hospital, has a history of safety problems at the state psychiatric facilities it runs in Florida.

Officials with the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services declined to provide details this week on Correct Care’s bid to operate Osawatomie State Hospital, one of two state facilities for people deemed a danger to themselves or others.

Eric Sherman / Hairball Online

Think of the weekend as a pizza. Or a taco. Or a bursting bag of potato chips. No, wait, make it an ice cream sundae with extra whipped cream and three cherries on top.

To be honest, I didn’t set out to reveal my diverse junk-food addiction in this space, but there it is. Just as you may not have intended to do something completely different with your weekend, but here we go.

Check out some things to do that are downright dissimilar from each other, even if your adventures are fueled by a run-of-the-mill healthy diet. Me, I’m cruising with a candy bar!

Johnson County Sheriff's Office

Last updated Friday, 1 p.m. 

Members of the Indian community in Johnson County, Kansas, have reached out to the family of Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani, two of the victims in Wednesday night’s shooting at an Olathe bar, according to an official with the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center of Kansas City.

Kuchibhotla died of his injuries. Madasani and another man, identified as Ian Grillot, are recovering from their injuries.  

Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences

With the United States facing a shortage of physicians over the next decade, health care groups and lawmakers are scrambling to increase the number of doctors – primary care providers in particular – to serve an aging population.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Kansas was out in front of just about every other state in 2013 when it fully privatized its Medicaid program and renamed it KanCare.

The switch to managed care was one of the first big policy changes made by Gov. Sam Brownback, who promised it would both improve health care and lower costs.

KanCare was immediately controversial.

Clay County Museum & Historical Society

The American Civil War ended more than 150 years ago, but those old divisions still affect us today. There’s perhaps no better example of this than Missouri, a border state claimed by both the Union and the Confederacy. The ongoing struggle to deal with this history recently came to light when the Clay County Museum and Historical Society in the town of Liberty, published an old diary.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Supporters of expanding Medicaid eligibility to more low-income Kansans succeeded Wednesday in a last-gasp effort to advance a measure, overpowering opponents who thought they had blocked it earlier in the week.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

The five-year fight over Gov. Sam Brownback’s efforts to remake Kansas income tax code came to a head Wednesday, and 16 senators voted to let it continue.

With the governor’s signature fiscal accomplishment hanging by a thread, the Kansas Senate fell three votes short in an effort to override a Brownback veto hours after the House did so.

The Green Plains Energy plant near Central City, Nebraska
File: Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

The Trump Administration is voicing its support for the ethanol industry, but without specifics it is hard to say what that means exactly for Midwest farmers.

In a letter (PDF) to industry leaders gathered at the National Ethanol Conference, President Donald Trump said renewable fuels “are essential to America’s energy strategy.”

The president wrote that he aims to reduce the regulatory burden on the renewable fuels industry, but did not detail specific plans.

Paul Andrews / www.paulandrewsphotography.com

On March 20, 1978, William Least Heat-Moon left Columbia, Missouri in a Ford van. The van, which he named Ghost Dancing, would be his home for the next three months.

He was 38 years old. His marriage was falling apart. He'd lost his teaching job due to staffing cutbacks. His decision to get behind the wheel in search of America's stories was part dream, part desperation.

Now that the van is a literary artifact, he has to visit it in a museum. And he's careful not to get behind the wheel. Sitting back in that driver's seat makes him misty eyed.

Danny Wood / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Mayor Sly James has announced the expansion of the Hire KC Youth program into a city-wide initiative. The program offers about 200 summer internships but the Mayor appealed to about 80 businesspeople and employment groups at a breakfast meeting to provide more.  

“There is no better social program than a job,” said James. “And when kids have work, when they have a sense of responsibility, then their entire world opens up and barriers and walls fall.”

Courtesy Trombone Shorty

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect developments since its publication Wednesday afternoon.

Kansas City has another chance to get the concept of a jazz festival right — though its rollout suggested organizers were not yet ready for the national stage.

Courtesy Momma's Boy/Facebook

Momma’s Boy is a new addition to the area’s thriving garage-rock revivalist scene, one that includes notables like the Conquerors and Psychic Heat.

3 reasons we're listening to Momma's Boy this week:

1. The band celebrates the release of its debut EP, Liquid Courage, at two shows this weekend.

2. Three of the four members of Momma’s Boy played together in high school.

Courtesy Pedro Lasch

Pedro Lasch’s artwork challenges familiar ideas of identity and belonging, of which he has first-hand knowledge. Lasch – a citizen of Mexico, Austria and Germany – became a United States citizen on Inauguration Day this year. His was the last round of naturalization ceremonies in the Obama presidency.

Lasch, a visual artist from Mexico City and professor at Duke University, titled his series “Abstract Nationalism & National Abstraction.” The work employs a fusion of flags and national anthems from around the world.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

KanCare is a $3 billion program that provides health insurance to more than 425,000 Kansans — complex and bureaucratic by its nature.

And lately it seems the privatized Medicaid program has drawn more than its share of complaints from Kansas medical providers, beneficiaries and applicants.

Some are the result of a switch in 2013 to management not by the state but instead by three private insurance companies, while others stem from court rulings or policymaker decisions.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

All that Michael Sykes has to show for his months-long quest to get his mother’s nursing home bed covered by Medicaid is a pile of paperwork.

Kansans like Sykes have been facing long waits to find out if they qualify for health coverage under KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program. The state has cleared up much of the backlog over the past year, but thousands of applications for long-term care coverage remain hung up.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

Kansas House members on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected a bill that would have increased the amount they could get from campaign donors.

House Bill 2011 would have doubled the amount that individuals, political parties and political action committees could donate to candidates in races for everything from the House and Senate to the governor. But the House voted it down 22-101.

A Columbia man allegedly plotting a Presidents Day terrorist attack was charged in federal court Tuesday.

Tammy Dickerson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, says 25-year-old Robert Lorenzo Hester Jr., 25, believed he was meeting with members of ISIS who were actually undercover law enforcement agents.

KCUR Studios released today Midwesternish, a new podcast about the thinkers, doers and makers in the middle of the country.

Courtesy Wonderscope Children's Museum

Leaders of the Wonderscope Children’s Museum of Kansas City, which is currently located near Johnson Drive and Nieman Road in Shawnee, Kansas, announced Tuesday that they plan to raise $12 million for a new building in the Red Bridge Shopping Center at 112th and Holmes in south Kansas City.

Plans are to share the building with the Red Bridge location of the Mid-Continent Public Library.

Not my Presidents Day.

Though they carried different signs, that’s the message of protesters across the country who rallied Monday to oppose the policies of President Donald Trump.

In Kansas City, hundreds of people gathered at the J.C. Nichols fountain just off the Plaza.

“The sign that I have says, ‘El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido,’” says Regina Sanchez of Kansas City, Missouri. “‘The people united shall never be defeated.’ My grandparents used to march in Chile with the same sign.”

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