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Schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other institutions that purchased single-serve cups of Blue Bell ice cream are being urged to return them as a listeria-related recall broadened on Tuesday.

Multiple state and federal agencies launched an investigation of Blue Bell products earlier this month after five Kansans who ate them at Via Christi Hospital St. Francis in Wichita became sick with listeriosis, a potentially-serious bacterial infection. Three of them died.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

A proposed change to livestock rules has put Nebraska hog farmers at the center of a debate that gets to the very core of what it means to be a farmer today.

In the top pork producing states like Iowa, Minnesota and North Carolina, many farmers are under contract with giant meatpackers like Tyson or Smithfield Foods – the companies actually own the pigs and pay the farmers to raise them. That arrangement is illegal in Nebraska.

Like many other Midwest states, Nebraska barred corporations from owning livestock in the late 1990s in order to protect smaller farm businesses. After a slew of court challenges, Nebraska’s ban on meatpacker-owned livestock is one of the only laws still standing. And a bill introduced in the state’s legislature seeks to change that.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback says he isn’t concerned by budget bills in the House and Senate that aren’t balanced. The chambers are considering bills that would require a tax increase to keep the state out of the red. That comes after lawmakers cut taxes in recent years.

Brownback fielded some questions about the budget at an event in Topeka Monday. Brownback does not seem phased by the budget bills. He says lawmakers will fill the deficit, like the Kansas Constitution requires.

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

The recent legislative hearings on Medicaid expansion brought representatives from dozens of powerful groups to the Kansas Statehouse.

Lobbyists representing hospitals, doctors and some big businesses pleaded with members of the House Health and Human Services Committee to approve an expansion proposal one day.  The next day representatives of conservative, anti-tax organizations urged committee members to continue to say ‘no’ to expansion, despite the billions of additional federal dollars it would inject into the Kansas economy.

But the hearings also attracted scores of everyday citizens. They included those who need the coverage that expansion would provide and others opposed to extending benefits to non-disabled adults.

Greg Echlin / KCUR

The city of Omaha made a lot of money over the weekend on college basketball fans who followed the Kansas Jayhawks and Wichita State Shockers to their NCAA matchup.

The most devout fans did anything they could to get their hands on seeing a game that, until Sunday, hadn’t been seen in a long time — it has some wondering if the two teams would play each other again soon.

When it was apparent that Wichita State was going to advance from Friday’s game against Indiana, Shocker alum Tony Townsend knew he had to find a way from his home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to Omaha. He looked for tickets online.

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Representatives from the Kansas City branch of ridesharing company Uber say that a new ordinance scheduled for debate by the Kansas City Council Thursday could force them to leave the city entirely.

The new ordinance would require ride-share drivers to pay a $250 fee to get licensed, or $150 if their parent companies pay an annual $10,000 fee. To ease the up-front cost, the city would waive its inspection fee and allow drivers to use state vehicle inspections instead.

Now that it appears block grants will replace the current school funding formula in Kansas, work has already begun on a new formula.

The block grants, which moved swiftly through the Legislature, were always meant to be a bridge between the current formula and a new one set to go into effect in two years.

This week a bill from Senate Education Committee chairman Steve Abrams, a Republican from Arkansas City, will start to be worked on.

courtesy of the author

Andrés Rodríguez grew up in a working class family in Kansas City. For about two decades, his father’s job was at the Swift meatpacking plant – and one visit, as a young child, made a lasting impression. But Rodríguez says in writing poetry, there’s a fine line between memory and imagination.

"The paradox is that the more you imagine, the closer you come to the truth," says Rodríguez. "But I know that the experience that it's trying to get it is the letter and spirit of what happened."

Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR

The Kansas City school district may be getting into the charter school business.

The district says it received the OK from the state board of education on Tuesday to become a charter school sponsor.

Kansas City Superintendent Steve Green says if the charter schools are going to continue to play a bigger role in education, the district should be part of that discussion.

"This gets us to the table and allows us to be an active and equal participant in the conversation about charter schools in our community," Green said in a statement.

Eleanor Klibanoff / KCUR

Tucked up on a hill in Kansas City's historic Westside neighborhood, Novel looks more like a house than a restaurant. But, very few of the dishes on the menu will remind you of mama’s home cooking — at least at first glance.

Chef and owner Ryan Brazeal serves a lot of offal, which, despite it's pronunciation, is not a judgment on his cooking.

 

Bill Walsh / Flickr--CC


From nose to tail, chefs are getting creative with all parts of the animal. Whether it’s game or offal, we go beyond chicken breast to talk about the more unusual cuts of meat that are popping up on area menus.

 

On this week’s Central Standard, Ryan Brazeal, owner/chef of Novel, discusses how to prepare offal, and James Worley from the Missouri Department of Conservation talks about hunting and cooking wild game. Our Food Critics Charles Ferruzza, Mary Bloch and Bonjwing Lee hunt down the best creative meat dishes in Kansas City.

Cody Newill / KCUR

The University of Missouri-Kansas City's graduating medical students gathered in the School of Medicine's courtyard Friday to find out what hospital they'll be paired with to complete their residencies.

Nearly every one of the more than 100 graduating students was crying, laughing or a combination of the two when they got to open the envelopes containing their assignments.

As their names were read off, faculty members stuck colored pins on a map of America to represent where the class of 2015 will be going. Graduate Chiazotam Ekekezie ended up getting her first choice of school: Rhode Island Hospital at Brown University.

David Stonner / Missouri Department of Conservation

The Missouri Department of Conservation has long been the envy of the nation, as far as conservation departments go.

Since the mid-1970s, it has been solely funded by a ⅛ cent conservation sales tax. Because it does not receive any general revenue from the government, it naturally operates without much oversight.

Until now, the model hasn’t presented much of a problem. In fact, Missouri's has been touted as one of the best conservation departments in the country.

But one Missouri representative thinks the current model is flawed. Rep. Craig Redmon, the Republican Chair of the Conservation Appropriation Committee, thinks the current funding mechanism is vulnerable.

Redmon wrote a bill calling for the repeal of the ⅛ cent conservation sales tax — a bill he doesn't actually support.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

The two-act ballet Giselle premiered in 1841. Today, this story of a peasant girl who falls in love with a nobleman in disguise is considered a classic. There’s a love triangle, a mad scene, and ghosts who dance men to death.

Giselle as a 'personal experience'

At the Bolender Center on a recent afternoon, Kansas City Ballet rehearsals were underway for Giselle. It's the first act when Giselle, a young peasant girl, falls in love with Albrecht, a nobleman disguised as a peasant. Here’s the problem – the village gamekeeper, Hilarion, is also in love with Giselle.

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Two items that have been on the back burner for some time for the Kansas City City Council will move to the foreground next week. 

Ordinances were introduced Thursday addressing the future of Kemper Arena and regulation of ride-share services like Lyft and Uber. 

A committee will start refining an ordinance declaring Kemper Arena “surplus property” and starting a nationwide request for proposals on what to do with it. 

Sam Zeff / KCUR

It was a year ago that the first crack appeared in what many in the St. Joseph School District called the "friends and family plan."

If you were connected, you cashed in.

On March 24 of last year a routine school board meeting took a sudden and drastic twist.

School board member Chris Danford, to the surprise of everyone in the room, blew the whistle on a stipend program that would open up the district to investigations by the FBI, a grand jury and the Missouri State Auditor.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas officials told legislators Thursday that the state's share of Medicaid expansion costs could start at $100 million per year and increase from there, and those costs could double if the federal government required full funding of waiting lists as a condition of expansion.

One day after her predecessor testified in favor of expansion under the Affordable Care Act, Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Susan Mosier provided neutral testimony that warned legislators of potential fiscal pitfalls.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Six people face federal money laundering charges in an alleged $13 million scheme that allowed Kansas contractors to pay undocumented workers in cash.

U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom announced the charges Thursday at the federal courthouse in Kansas City, Kan. Grissom said that instead of raiding factories looking for undocumented workers, his office is trying to target the root cause of illegal immigration.

"We've thought that there has to be a better, more humane and from the taxpayer's standpoint, a more effective way to address this problem," Grissom said.

GisleHaa / Wikimedia Commons

Want to have a rootsy weekend? It might take some digging. Don’t worry — no tools are required, only the desire to drill down into your pleasure zone.

If you’re into rock music, why not experience a new take on the world’s first hippie rock musical? Is rhythm and blues your deal? Then one of its vital purveyors could be at your disposal. Or maybe you enjoy the sheer spectacle of expert female impersonation. There’s a way to make that happen, too.

In many states, funding for schools is determined by a complicated formula that adjusts the basic per pupil funding according to set of factors like how many students are considered “at-risk,” receive bilingual services, ride buses or whether enrollment is declining. A bill awaiting Gov. Sam Brownback’s signature would bypass the school funding formula for the next two years in favor of block grants to districts.

Zenoir/Creative Commons

A request from the hospitality industry to put an end to individual liquor server licenses in Kansas City, Missouri, gets thumbs down from a city council committee. 

Representatives of the Restaurant Association have argued that requiring liquor cards is burdensome for workers and inconsistent with policies of other municipalities in the metro. But the Public Safety Committee voted 3-2 for only minor changes. 

Elle Moxley / KCUR

When it comes to delivering meals to seniors, Don Davis is an old pro. 

“Every once in awhile they miss one, and it’s easier to count them ahead of time and not be short,” he says, sifting through two big cooler bags of food outside the Matt Ross Community Center in Overland Park.

Once he's sure the number of meals is right, he hoists them into the trunk and tells wife, Toni, it's time to hit the road. It’s about 10:30 a.m. when the couple begins their regular Friday route for Johnson County Meals on Wheels.

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

Robert Moser, who until December was the secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, headlined a long list of Kansans asking legislators Wednesday to expand Medicaid.

Updated at 1:07 p.m.

State and county health officials will provide free chest x-rays and antibiotics to more than two dozen Olathe Northwest High School students and staff who tested positive for tuberculosis.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment teamed up to test more than 300 people at Olathe Northwest after a student contract tuberculosis earlier this month.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Supporters of expanding Medicaid in Kansas are finally getting an opportunity to make their case to lawmakers.

Republican legislative leaders opposed to expansion have blocked hearings on the issue for two years. They agreed to allow hearings this year only after supporters in the Kansas House threatened to force an immediate vote on the floor.

Noah Jeppson / Flickr--CC

Thousands of Missouri residents who may have been exposed to asbestos in the Jackson County Courthouse over more than three decades will now get their day in court.

The Missouri Court of Appeals on Tuesday overturned a lower court’s decision declining to certify a class consisting of Missourians who worked at the courthouse during and after the courthouse’s renovation in 1983 and 1984.

The state of Kansas and four nonprofit organizations are seeking federal approval to conduct an experiment that they hope will boost participation in a summer meals program that now is serving only a fraction of eligible children.

Led by the Kansas State Department of Education, the coalition is asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to temporarily waive some rules so that it can conduct a demonstration project to feed needy children in rural parts of the state when school is out for the summer.

A bill that scraps the school funding system in Kansas has passed the Legislature and is heading to the governor’s desk for consideration. The Senate voted 25-14 to concur with a bill that had previously passed the Kansas House. It would temporarily create a block grant system while lawmakers write a new funding formula.

Supporters of the bill say it has $300 million in new funding and gives Kansas schools more flexibility. Republican Senate President Susan Wagle says the bill lets them start over and ditches a school funding formula she calls “broken.”

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

Yahye Mohamed wants to be a surgeon when he grows up, but the shoe was on the other foot Monday when he attended a health fair at his public housing complex in Kansas City, Mo.

Or, to be more precise, some hands were in his mouth.

Shortly after he hopped aboard Truman Medical Centers’ mobile dental bus, parked at the Chouteau Courts development at 586 Tracy Ave., Yahye, 10, was in an exam chair.

The experience left the Garfield Elementary fourth-grader with mixed feelings.

Alex Smith / Heartland Health Monitor

Parenting is a tough job for anyone, but raising children with autism, who often have behavioral or communication problems, can be especially demanding.

Research has shown that parents of children with autism are at increased risk of depression.

But in Kansas City, some of these mothers and fathers are finding a measure of respite, and sympathetic ears, through comedy.

On a recent Thursday night, a handful of parents with kids who have autism took a break from parenting and faced down their latest challenge: stage fright.

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