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Esther Honig / KCUR

On a Monday night at the Lee A. Tolbert gymnasium in Kansas City, 80 dancers ages 6-25 gather for one of two weekly practices of The Marching Cobras. 

In gym shorts and sneakers, the dancers break a sweat running through their routines. They move to the beats of a group of young drummers banging out a rhythm loud enough to make your ears pound.

Blue Bell Creamery

The foodborne listeria outbreak that sickened five patients and contributed to the deaths of three at Via Christi Hospital St. Francis in Wichita was traced to a production line at Blue Bell Creameries' ice cream plant in Brenham, Texas.

Kansas health officials say that they initially matched the listeria found in two patients at Via Christi with listeria found in an ice cream product food sample in South Carolina. Around the same time, Texas health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had traced the South Carolina listeria to the plant in Brenham.

In 2013, fairy homes — with doors custom-built for the hollows of trees and tiny furniture nestled inside — cropped up on a wooded trail in Overland Park. Firefly Forest, as it was called, appeared as if by magic. People tucked hundreds of notes into these small abodes, listing their struggles and dreams. And, to their surprise, the fairies answered.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Farmers face plenty of risk, including the unknowns of weather, global markets and the more predictable expenses of taxes and equipment costs.

Federal commodity support programs were created to help farmers during bad years. But under a relatively unknown provision of federal law, farmers don’t have to actually grow a particular crop to get farm bill payments.

That might sound like “paying farmers not to farm,” but it’s actually a complicated way of helping to reduce over-dependence on one crop.

A bill that would replace the school funding formula in Kansas with block grants has been speeding through the legislative process. It could stay on the fast track this week and could be on the governor’s desk in mere days.

The bill passed the House on a tight vote just over a week after it was introduced. Republican Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce says the Senate could move to simply agree to the House bill as soon as Monday. That would skip sending the bill through the normal committee process in the Senate, but Bruce says a motion to concur isn’t out of the ordinary

Last week, Kathryn Gardner was the second judge confirmed under Kansas’s new method of selecting appellate court judges, and her confirmation gives the state a look at the system Gov. Sam Brownback wants to use for choosing state supreme court justices.

Confirmation by a process "comfortable" for Kansans

Washburn law professor Michael Kaye says he thinks Gardner was a good choice.

“When I think of her temperament, I think she would be an excellent judge,” he says. 

There are two opponents the Kansas Jayhawks avoid if they had their say: the Missouri Tigers in any sport and Wichita State in men’s basketball.

But an unavoidable clash might occur in the NCAA basketball tournament. It might be entitled “The Omaha brouhaha” if KU and Wichita State win their first games in the NCAA basketball tournament.

That might mean something to Wichita native Perry Ellis, who Jayhawks coach Bill Self says was glad to see playing in the Big 12 tournament.

Cody Newill / KCUR

The 13th-ranked Iowa State Cyclones beat the ninth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks, 70-66, in their typical style a —comeback, and won the Big 12 tournament Saturday night.

They trailed KU by as many as 17 points.

Cyclone forward Georges Niang, voted the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, said the Cyclones got a lift from the fans dressed in cardinal and gold.

Cody Newill / KCUR

Dozens of volunteers from across the Kansas City metro gathered at the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., Saturday as part of a disaster simulation.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Poet Marcus Myers says he started to get serious about his writing about a decade ago, when he turned 30 — and set his sights on publishing in literary magazines. Myers and poet Brian Clifton now co-edit Bear Review, an online journal of poetry and micro prose.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

On the same day the Kansas House passed legislation that would drastically change the way schools are funded in the state, a three judge district court panel in Shawnee County issued a ruling which could complicate the issue.

By the narrowest of margins, the house passed a block grant funding bill backed by Gov. Sam Brownback and Republican legislative leaders.

Lawyers involved in the school funding case say the order late Friday afternoon is a shot across the Legislature’s bow.

Paul Andrews

 

Paul Mesner has never been bored. 

"I was a pretty shy kid, but I also was and still am very content to be by myself,"' he says. "There's tons I can do to entertain myself."

In that sense, Kansas City's master puppeteer was his own first audience.

It started with a teddy bear.

Early beginnings

Three Kansans have died from an outbreak of listeriosis, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment announced Friday.

Five Kansans became ill between January 2014 and January 2015 after a majority of them ate Blue Bell Creameries ice cream products at the same hospital, KDHE said. The five patients had been hospitalized for unrelated causes. KSN-TV in Wichita reported on Friday that the ice cream was shipped to Via Christi Hospital in Wichita. 

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Law enforcement across the country has been forced to confront violent acts of terrorism, and with the shootings at Jewish sites in Overland Park just a year ago – officials realize we’re as vulnerable here as anywhere.

A bill currently waiting to be heard on the floor of the Kansas House is aimed at helping police intervene in incidents across the Missouri-Kansas state line. The bill is known as the Critical Incidents Bill, named for the type of incidents it applies to — those that could cause serious injury or loss of life.

Colm O'Regan

 

Irish comedian Colm O'Regan might have something to say about your mama. Rather, his Irish mammy might.

The comedian, who is in Kansas City for a stand up show Friday, achieved accidental Twitter fame while preparing for a comedy web-sketch.

"I wanted to make it look like an Irish mother, maybe 60 years or so, had a Twitter account — this was back in 2011 when Twitter wasn't as ever present as it is now," he says.

He started Tweeting ordinary things an Irish mother might say. For example:

A shortage of beds for Missouri inmates means a West Bottoms center for parolees and probationers will go back to being a minimum security prison.

The Kansas Department of Agriculture has quarantined parts of two counties in the southeast corner of the state in response to an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza. The quarantine is aimed at keeping the bird disease out of Kansas.

The Kansas House has voted to scrap the current school funding system in Kansas and replace it with block grants for two years. That would give legislators time to craft a new formula.

There was a contentious debate Thursday and the bill won initial approval on a 64-58 vote.

Republican Rep. Ron Ryckman admits change isn’t easy, but he says the plan will give Kansas school districts more local control over how they spend their dollars.

Greg Echlin / KCUR

Though the Kansas Jayhawks won their 11th straight regular season title, they didn’t look like a championship team in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals. But they beat TCU, 64-59, to advance to the semis.

Already without Cliff Alexander for their fourth straight game with an NCAA eligibility issue, the ninth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks also played without their leading scorer, Perry Ellis, who has a knee injury. But KU coach Bill Self doesn’t want to go down the same road as last year when he lost his starting center, Joel Embiid, at the end of the season with an injury.

Paul Sableman / Creative Commons-Flickr

The University of Kansas Hospital is opening what hospital officials say is the first urgent care clinic in the downtown core of Kansas City, Mo.

Set to open on Monday, the clinic will be housed in the lobby of the Sprint Center, next to the College Basketball Experience.

In a news release, KU Hospital said the decision to open a clinic downtown was driven by the growing number of people working and living there.

Available to patients older than 6 months, the clinic will be open from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Additional hours might be added.

Several months ago, KCUR asked “artist types” to tell us how parenting changed their art. Artists from across the region shared their stories about trying to find the time to be creative, while also juggling careers and the responsibilities of parenthood. 

It's clear from the responses that becoming a parent can dramatically change how artists commit to their craft.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Balancing the responsibilities of raising children with the demands of work is a challenge for any parent. For many artists, the pressure is intensified by the need to create. As part of our series, Artists As Parents, two local artists talk about their latest collaboration — their son Sam.     

Working though a lack of sleep

Johnson County Board of County Commissioners on Thursday narrowly approved a plan to repurpose the 1960s-era King Louie building in Overland Park, Kan. as the county’s new Arts & Heritage Center.

The vote was 4-3.

Michael Gil / Flickr-CC

How many times have you seen a car pulled over at the side of the road and wondered why they were being pulled over?

Three professors at the University of Kansas did more than wonder. Charles Epp, Steven Maynard-Moody, and Donald Haider-Markel started surveying drivers in the Kansas City metro area in 2004 and studied the research over the next 10 years. 

What they found is that race is deeply embedded in police practice.

Speaking to more than 700 people at the Pride Breakfast on the campus of the University of Missouri-Kansas City Thursday morning, Nico Leone, general manager at KCUR, announced the station will be bringing the national storytelling project StoryCorps to Kansas City.

In partnership with the Gay and Lesbian Archive of Mid-America (GLAMA) at UMKC, KCUR and StoryCorps will capture the stories of the LGBTQ community in the Kansas City metro this June.

File photo

Millions of veterans nationwide now have a card that’s supposed to improve their access to health care. But a Kansas senator and some other members of Congress doubt the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is really serious about the new Veterans Choice Program.

The program is meant to let veterans get care from private providers if they live at least 40 miles from a VA health care facility or if they face a wait of more than 30 days for an appointment.

Kevin Dooley / Flickr--CC

  What does it take to be considered truly super? True believers.

Without fantastic fans, how would talented singers get their chartbusters? Rising comedians their hit shows? World-saving superheroes their blockbuster movies?

It’s no superlative to suggest that this weekend should please devotees of many different pop-culture persuasions, including fans of increasingly pervasive comic book culture, classic rock, stand-up comedy and the most awesome figure of them all – which, surprisingly, doesn’t belong to Wonder Woman. But I wouldn’t tell her that.

Kansas lawmakers are preparing to vote on a bill that would further tighten the rules for the state’s two main public assistance programs.

The measure, which the House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee endorsed on Wednesday, writes into state law several recent administrative changes made as part of Gov. Sam Brownback’s welfare to work initiative.

It’s that time of year when we’ll start to see more and more mammals scurrying about around the city. Mammals like foxes, squirrels and, yes, maybe even some coyotes.

In the past 15 years, coyote populations in Midwestern urban and suburban areas have been increasing -- including in the Kansas City area.

“A  lot of folks don’t realize that we have them around the state, they don’t realize that they’re inside the cities. So when they see one they get all concerned,” says Andy Friesen, a wildlife damage biologist for the Kansas Department of Wildlife.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Musicologist John Lomax set out to do field recordings in the early 1930s of African-American songs in the southern United States. With the help of his son, Alan, he recorded ballads, reels, work songs, and the blues – some were recorded in prisons. That’s where John Lomax met the guitar player Huddie Ledbetter, better known as "Lead Belly."

A version of this story – with two women as the lead characters – is the focus of the play Black Pearl Sings! written by prolific Kansas City playwright Frank Higgins.

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