Brian Ellison

Host/Contributor

Brian Ellison is substitute host of Central Standard and Up To Date and has served in a variety of roles at KCUR since 2008. He has been acting producer and associate producer of Up To Date and was acting producer of The Walt Bodine Show. A member of the Religion Newswriters Association, he also contributes occasionally to KCUR news coverage. Even before joining the KCUR staff, he was a producer and frequent guest on Up To Date's "Religion Roundtable," as well as a committed listener and volunteer.

An ordained Presbyterian minister, Brian served as pastor of Parkville Presbyterian Church for 13 years and now is executive director of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians. A graduate of Harvard University and Princeton Theological Seminary, he is also a freelance writer and an adjunct instructor in preaching at Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Mo.

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Central Standard
5:07 pm
Mon September 9, 2013

Online Courses: Education Of The Future?

In earlier generations, getting an education meant going to class, sitting in a classroom or lecture hall listening to the professor, and participating in discussions. Now, something as simple as raising your hand in class, or asking your neighbor to borrow a pen could become obsolete. In the growing phenomena of online education, thousands of students are logging into class, and instead of going to a physical building, they participate from the comfort of their home or local coffee shop.

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Central Standard
1:54 pm
Wed September 4, 2013

Micro-Lending Around The World

Credit World Bank Photo Collection / Flickr -- Creative Commons

Micro-loans are becoming something of a trend now. Anyone can loan as little as $25 to $50 to someone across the globe they've never met. Bob Harris, a man who saw poverty in the world and pledged to himself to do something about it. 


Oftentimes these loans go to small businessman and businesswomen who need the money to get started or finish a project.  For instance, an individual may need a small loan to open up a new shop, or buy capital for a business they want to start, but they simply don't have the money.

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Central Standard
8:56 am
Tue September 3, 2013

Should Midtown Have A Public Elementary School?

Credit Flickr / Creative Commons

  Oftentimes, a neighborhood is formed around a school. A school can be much more than a place where our children go Monday through Friday, but rather it becomes a community space for all. However, when this community space does not exist in a neighborhood, families either have to deal with the inconveniences, or take matters into their own hands to create a school in their neighborhood. 

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Central Standard
12:37 pm
Thu August 29, 2013

New Islamic Art Exhibit At The Nelson

Credit Kayti Doolittle

When we hear about the Middle East and the cradle of Islam, many will no doubt think of news or politics-- about a war  in Syria or civil unrest in Egypt. But that would be only a partial picture. There are major cultural and artistic elements that have been created within the region.

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Central Standard
3:47 pm
Tue August 20, 2013

The Precarious State of Space Exploration And The Sale Of The Washington Post

An artists rendering of NASA's still developing Space Launch System (SLS). If completed it will be able to haul more payload into space.
Credit NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center / Flickr -- Creative Commons

The Washington Post's Joel Achenbach joins Central Standard to discuss the precarious state of space exploration and the recent purchase of the Post by Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com.

Guest:

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Central Standard
12:08 am
Tue August 20, 2013

What Do We Know Of Jesus' Life?

How would you investigate what one itinerant, unemployed Jewish man's life was like 2,000 years ago?  The record keeping wasn't so great, there's not even microfiche to consult.  It turns out there is a historical evidence to suggest that parts of the biblical account of Jesus' life are highly speculative.  Dr. Reza Aslan joins us to discuss what it is we can know and speculate about Jesus and the social, political and physical environment in which he lived.

Guest:

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Central Standard
5:07 pm
Mon August 12, 2013

Back To School With KCMO And Shawnee Mission Superintendents

Jim Hinson and Stephen Green (L to R)
Credit Shawnee Mission School District and Kansas City Public Schools

Budgets, common core, accreditation and aspirations for the year will be some of the topics of our conversation.  Superintendents Jim Hinson from the Shawnee Mission School District and Stephen Green from Kansas City Public Schools  join in a discussion of the pressing issues facing our schools and taking questions and comments from the community.

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Central Standard
1:03 pm
Tue August 6, 2013

Elmwood Cemetery Loses A Longtime Friend

Ella, Elmwood Cemetery's resident deer.
Bruce Mathews Elmwood Cemetery

Family and friends come and go as they pay their respects at Elmwood Cemetery, but one visitor lived on the grassy grounds her whole life. 

Ella was a two-year-old deer born in the courtyard of one of Elmwood's mausoleums. The volunteers who run the cemetery, located at Truman Road and Hardesty Avenue, say they don't know exactly where she came from. About three months after she was born, her mother strayed away from the grounds and was struck by a car.

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Central Standard
9:31 am
Tue August 6, 2013

The Psychology Of Branding

The label for Boulevard Brewing Company's Tank 7 beer.
Credit Adam Barhan / Flickr

Logos and brands are all around us, and we probably recognize more of them than we think. But what goes into creating those familiar symbols? And how do they work to make us buy the products they represent? Today on Central Standard, we'll talk label design.

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Central Standard
7:19 pm
Mon July 29, 2013

How The Kindness Of Strangers Changes Lives

Credit jessleecuizon / Flickr -- Creative Commons

Has a stranger ever helped you in a moment of need or brightened your day with a a small interaction that you can't forget?  Have you ever been that stranger to somebody else?

Central Standard explores why someone might be kind when they have nothing to gain in return and what impact that can have on people's lives and the world. Our guests include Suzy Hall, co-organizer of Kinder KC and Dr. James Doty, director for Center for Compassion and Altruism Research Education (CCARE).

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Central Standard
9:00 am
Wed July 10, 2013

What Does The Minecraft Video Game Tell Us About Society?

The work of many individuals in one server playing Minecraft.
Credit DancingChimp / Imgur

Perhaps you've seen kids - or some adults -  busily playing away on their computers or Xbox, moving through a virtual world of blocks, digging and building.

Maybe you've wondered: What exactly is that game?  

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Central Standard
5:05 pm
Mon July 8, 2013

Why Are Secrets And Privacy So Important?

Do you ever get the feeling that you're being watched?
Credit Chris Samuel / Flickr -- Creative Commons

Right now our government is mining data about your conversations--who you called, when you called them, how long you talked, and who you’ve emailed. It’s all technically approved by law, but for many it’s deeply unsettling.

On this Central Standard we take a step backward and inward from the controversy surrounding domestic surveillance and look at the psychology of secrets and privacy with psychologist Bruce Liese.

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Central Standard
11:38 am
Wed July 3, 2013

The Exciting World Of Molecular Mixology

Molecular mixology is a scientific approach to preparing cocktails that uses alcohol in unique ways.

These mixologists use chemistry to create cocktails with different tastes, textures and phases of matter. Arielle Johnson, a Ph.D candidate at UC Davis and a Flavor Chemist at Nordic Food Lab along with author Kevin Liu explained the science behind molecular mixology. And for those not as fluent in chemistry as Johnson and Liu, Scott Tipton of the Kill Devil Club in Kansas City created some drinks in studio to explain to the common bar goer. 

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Central Standard
8:58 am
Mon July 1, 2013

11 Places To Watch Fireworks In The Kansas City Area

Credit Anthony Cramp / Wikimedia--CC

From its inception, Americans have celebrated the Fourth of July with grand fireworks displays.

John Adams envisioned fireworks as part of the festivities before the Declaration of Independence was even signed, and the first commemorative Fourth of July featured a display that began and ended with 13 rockets.

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Central Standard
6:53 pm
Tue June 25, 2013

Nature In The City: Summer Edition

Credit AnnCam / Flickr -- Creative Commons

Summer is here, the humid days and the hot nights. The nesting robins and the walks through nature sanctuaries. The dead armadillos by the side of the road, yes, it’s all part of Nature in the City.

Larry Rizzo, Natural History Biologist at the Missouri Department of Conservation in Kansas City, and Mark McKellar, formerly with the Nature Conservancy and the Audobon Society and now owner of the Backyard Bird Center in the Northland, join us to explore these issues and more on this summer edition of Nature in the City.

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Central Standard
6:45 pm
Tue June 25, 2013

Supreme Court Rules On Voting Rights Act

Credit Wallyg / Flickr -- Creative Commons

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional.  Section 4 is the part of the bill requiring certain states, mostly in the south, to get federal approval for changes to voting regulations.  Professor Allan Rostron provides an initial reaction and potential implication to this ruling.

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Central Standard
9:13 pm
Mon June 24, 2013

Saying Goodbye To Neal Conan

Credit Doby Photography / NPR

NPR’s Talk of the Nation ends a 21-year run this week. And that means the end of an era and a new start for its longtime host Neal Conan.  We talk with Neal Conan about the change of seasons in midday talk.

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Central Standard
6:31 pm
Wed June 19, 2013

Why Wicca Is A Misunderstood Religion

Wiccans celebrating the summer solstice
Credit Ryan Schuessler / KCUR

Friday, June 21 will be the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. And for one religious group it's a time to celebrate the Oak King falling to the Holly King.

We take a look at the often misunderstood Wiccan religion. Recently they’ve made inroads into popular acceptance, but practitioners still say there's more to be done.  Owen Davies, author of the book America Bewitched,  joins two local Wiccan practitioners, "J" and "Thorgo" to discuss the Wiccan faith locally and internationally.

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Central Standard
8:23 am
Tue June 18, 2013

What You Should Know About The Food Stamp Debate

The 2013 Farm Bill could bring major cuts to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs, formally known as food stamps.
Credit Beautiful Lily/Flickr--CC

The U.S. House is set to take up the farm bill this week, after the Senate passed its version of the bill in early June. Both bills include about $500 billion in spending over five years. Few pieces of legislation can produce such sharp divisions, even by Washington standards—but few could have such immediate, significant impact on so many Americans.

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Central Standard
6:07 pm
Thu June 13, 2013

Why Storm Chasers Do What They Do

Category F5 tornado viewed from the southeast as it approached Elie, Manitoba on Friday, June 22, 2007
Credit Justin Hobson / WikiCommons

Last month, as we all know, a series of tornadoes devastated areas around Oklahoma City, with dozens killed and hundreds injured over several days of storms.

Among the casualties were three men who were well known in the meteorological community and, indeed, to television audiences: Storm chasers Tim Samaras, his son Paul Samaras and Carl Young were doing interviews and sending back footage the day of the EF-3 El Reno storm that changed direction on them and killed them.

In light of these tragic events we wonder, just what is a storm chaser anyway?

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Central Standard
9:20 am
Thu June 13, 2013

The State Of Feral Hogs In Missouri

A feral hog and her piglets cross a dusty path.
Credit minds-eye/Flickr--Creative Commons

They spread disease and pollute the land. They devour birds and baby fauns. They have sharp teeth, weigh 300 pounds, and are now in 38 states across the US. It sounds like the stuff of nightmares, but the wild pig is real and they cause damage to farms and rural communities throughout America.

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Central Standard
6:24 pm
Tue June 11, 2013

The Problem Of Evil

Credit Riv / Flickr -- Creative Commons

It’s a question as old as humanity itself—why, in a world full of good options, do people still do bad things? Why do people who haven’t done anything wrong end up suffering, while those who use others for their own gain end up succeeding? And for heaven’s sake, how do we explain a Hitler? Or a Stalin? Or Idi Amin? How do we explain evil?

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Central Standard
6:22 pm
Tue June 11, 2013

Program Helps Vets Get STEM Education

Credit "Veteran in transition" Cailey McClurken / veteransinstem.org

They've mastered advanced battlefield operations planning. They’ve navigated years of overseas intricacies and family complexities. But now, can they master trigonometry?

The Veteran in STEM program seeks to support veterans in acquiring the education they need to pursue jobs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math fields.  While the process of retooling your education to focus on math or science might seem daunting to anybody, only half of STEM jobs require a bachelors degree or higher level of education, the other half typically require associate degrees or specific trade training.  Dean Kevin Truman of the School of Computing and Engineering and Alexis Petri, Co-Principal Investigator and Project Director of the KC BANCS program guide us through the unique supports and programing they've put together to help veterans advance their education and careers.

Central Standard
6:30 pm
Thu June 6, 2013

City Fountains At Risk

Credit WhiteRabbitArt / Flickr -- Creative Commons

Just as many fountains as Rome? Perhaps.  Whether Kansas City meets or falls short of these accolades the fountains, which began as a practical tool for keeping horses hydrated, have turned into a unique symbol of regional identity and pride.  But, these fountains are at risk.  With decreasing city parks budgets maintaining these iconic fountains has been difficult.  Currently, over half are in need of maintenance and a fourth are in critical condition.  Mark McHenry, director of the  Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department gives delivers the story of our city fountains and what's being done to help keep them running.

Central Standard
6:42 pm
Wed June 5, 2013

Solar Power Viability In The City

Credit N A I T / Flickr -- Creative Commons

If you're reading this right now you're consuming energy and that energy has to come from somewhere.  Typically, "we’re killing people in foreign lands in order to extract 200-million-year-old sunlight. Then we burn it... in order to boil water to create steam to drive a turbine to generate electricity. We frack our own backyards and pollute our rivers, or we blow up our mountaintops just miles from our nation’s capital for an hour of electricity, when we could just take what’s falling free from the sky.” Those words from Danny Kennedy, the founder of Sunergy, are the heart of any call for more investment in solar energy.  It’s a hot topic and in Kansas City, Missouri were  80 government buildings will soon be leasing solar panels and getting cheaper energy as a result. In light of that we take a look at our regions solar options with Chuck Caisleym, vice president of Marketing & Public affairs at KCP&L and Susan Brown, VP of Public Affairs at Brightergy.

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Central Standard
4:09 pm
Tue June 4, 2013

The Challenges Of Saving For College

Credit j.o.h.n. walker via flickr

As the school year draws to a close and a new crop of students heads off to college this fall, the age-old challenge of paying for it is on the minds of many. But this year another group is taking up that challenge: Congress, and the President.

On July 1, the interest rate for federal education loans is going to increase from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent if Congress does not take action, which is where bill H.R. 1911 comes in.

This bill proposes tying the interest rate of education loans to the 10-year treasury note rate plus 2.5 percent.

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Government
11:02 am
Wed May 29, 2013

MoDOT: Making Do With Half As Much

Credit Theresa L Wysocki / Flickr--Creative Commons

So imagine you’ve got a budget for home improvements. You’ve pared it down to the bare bones. You know exactly how much you can afford and you won’t spend any more than that. Now cut that budget in half. What things do you leave behind? And what are your top priorities?

This exact situation is happening to the Missouri Department of Transportation. With their budget being slashed to just about half, MoDOT is preparing to enter maintenance mode.

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Central Standard
12:00 am
Tue May 28, 2013

Army Corps of Engineers Face River Issues

In 2011, the Army Corps of Engineers faced infrastructure issues, farmland destruction and reservoir management challenges as it dealt with the aftermath of the flooding. Runoff and drought forecasts for the summer show decreasing drought levels across the Midwest plains and increased soil moisture levels. (See here for more predictions from the Missouri DNR.) The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Kansas City District produced a good summary of the problems they faced with the flooding and drought of 2011-2012. The Corps also had to defend the maintenance and management of the river’s infrastructure after the 2011 floods.

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Central Standard
8:34 am
Wed May 22, 2013

The Rise Of Anti-Sharia Legislation

Most religions have rules, guidance, law of some kind. Christians look to the teachings of Jesus, or the commandments. Jewish people turn to Torah. And Muslims look to Shariah—the code of Islamic law that guides everything from what to eat and how to dress to bigger questions—like resolving marital disputes, or punishing violent crimes.

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Central Standard
8:58 am
Wed March 27, 2013

Grain: A Deadly Business

The Bartlett grain elevator in Atchison, Kan., exploded, killing six on Oct. 29, 2011. (Courtesy Kansas City Star)

In 2011, an explosion at a grain elevator in Atchison, Kansas, killed six people—employees and inspectors there—and rocked a community. Federal prosecutors are now considering charges in the case, but with 2010 the worst year on record, why does this keep happening?

On today's Central Standard, we explore the world of safety and regulation in the grain industry. Investigative reports this week from NPR News' Howard Berkes, Harvest Public Media's Jeremy Bernfeld, and the Kansas City Star's Mike McGraw, have revealed that hundreds have died in explosions and drownings in grain elevators—even as business is thriving, including here in Kansas—which is second in the nation in grain deaths.

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