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The American Humanist Association on Wednesday sued Kansas prison officials, alleging the Topeka Correctional Facility promotes Christianity in violation of the First Amendment.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Kansas City, claims the prison displays prayers and messages on prison bulletin boards, has erected an eight-foot cross in one of its multi-purpose rooms and often broadcasts movies with Christian themes on inmates’ televisions.

KCUR's Band Of The Week: Molly Hammer

Sep 20, 2017
Kevin Morgan

Molly Hammer is a prominent Kansas City actress and vocalist whose debut album, "Out of This World," was released on September 15. Produced and arranged by pianist Joe Cartwright, the 11-song album also features saxophonist Brad Gregory, bassist Steve Rigazzi, drummer Todd Strait and backing vocalists Molly Denninghoff and Jessalyn Kincaid.

Kevin Collison / KCUR 89.3

The Crossroads Academy hopefully has found a new permanent home for its downtown high school, the long-vacant, historic Attucks School in the 18th & Vine Jazz District.

The charter school has submitted a bid to the city to buy the old building at 1815 Woodland Ave. If accepted, it could ultimately house 500 high school students attending the expanding Crossroads Academy program.

The Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas.

Editor's note: This story was produced in collaboration with UMKC students covering the people and issues in Wyandotte County.

Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, Mayor and CEO Mark Holland came out of the primary last month with promising numbers, securing 40 percent of the vote compared to challenger David Alvey’s 32 percent.

The signs popping up around residential streets in downtown Kansas City, Kansas, however, suggest Alvey is gaining ground in the low-income neighborhoods surrounding City Hall.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 19.

Residents of Allen County in Kansas are getting some national recognition for their health-improvement efforts.

The county is one of eight 2017 winners of the Culture of Health Prize awarded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation’s largest public health philanthropy.  

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

Editors note: This story was updated at 6 p.m. Sept. 18.

The Leavenworth County Commission on Monday morning backed off its support for a controversial chicken processing plant, throwing the future of the massive project into doubt.

Courtesy Kansas City 48-Hour Film Project

You’re making a film and there are some constraints. You have to include a hat as a prop (not a baseball cap!). You have to have a character named Alex (or Alexis) Brownstone who must be a restaurant server. Your script has to include the line “she should be here any minute.” Your film must be between 4 and 7 minutes long.

The final catch: You don’t get to choose the genre.

Could you do it?

Could you do it in 48 hours?

Updated at 3:25 p.m. Sept. 18 with release of Post-Dispatch reporter — More than 80 people were arrested Sunday night, St. Louis police said, long after the official — and peaceful — protests ended. The last group of people to be arrested downtown were boxed in by police and sprayed with a chemical agent, a livestream showed, and a St. Louis Post-Dispatch staffer tweeted that one of their reporters was among them. A Post-Dispatch editor this morning announced that reporter Mike Faulk has been released.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos touted the importance of making higher education accessible Thursday while on a whirlwind tour of vocational classrooms at Johnson County Community College.

The highly orchestrated two-hour visit included stops to view spaces used for teaching automotive, electrical, welding, nursing and culinary programs.

The stop was part of a six-state tour in which DeVos has traveled to public and private schools, highlighting themes ranging from services for children with autism to Native American education.

Courtesy photo / facebook

Steve Glorioso, a political operative known and respected by officials and movers and shakers of every political stripe, died Thursday night, according to The Kansas City Star.  He was 70 years old.

Mayor Sly James said Glorioso was dedicated to improving Kansas City throughout his long career.

Courtesy Full Moon Productions

There are so many reasons to waver. But, dare I say, none this weekend?

I dare! And so can you, with such unflinching things to do as steadfastly enduring a haunted house or two (or three), resolutely rooting in the stands for our Kansas City Chiefs in their 2017 season home-opener and tenaciously traversing the disturbing twists and turns of a classic Greek tragedy.

So are you up for it? Hello? OK, that’s two in the arm for flinching. Now you’re ready!

1. West Bottoms Haunted Houses

Courtesy Kansas Health Institute

Low-income Kansans are less likely to have health insurance than their counterparts in other states, according to an analysis of new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Barbara Shelly / KCUR 89.3

The recent refusal of a Kansas City Council committee to move forward with a plan to focus on health and safety concerns in rental housing may not be the last word on the contentious matter.

Advocates for tenants and low-income Kansas Citians are drawing up a strategy to collect signatures for an initiative petition that, if successful, would compel the city council to put the question of a rental inspection fee to voters.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Tiny works by 68 artists from around the world, on display this weekend at the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures, can help us understand "what defines us as humans,” according to the museum's director.

To host this special exhibit celebrating all things small, the museum partnered with the International Guild of Miniature Artisans for a juried showcase of fine-scale miniatures.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas is setting aspirations for much higher math and reading competency among the class of 2030 — today’s kindergartners — in a long-term accountability plan for its public schools.

Kansas officials submitted the accountability blueprint Tuesday to the U.S. Department of Education. It does not include language promoting controversial school choice concepts that Gov. Sam Brownback’s office advocated for, according to staff at the state education department.

U.S. Census Bureau

The uninsured rates in Kansas and Missouri continue to drop, but not as fast as those in states that have expanded their Medicaid programs.

New numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau show the uninsured rate in Kansas dropped to 8.7 percent in 2016 from 9.1 percent the year before. That is not a statistically significant change.

Approximately 249,000 Kansans lacked health coverage in 2016, down from about 261,000 the previous year.

The uninsured rate in Missouri declined to 8.9 percent from 9.8 percent the previous year.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

Fellow members of a presidential commission on election integrity pushed back against Republican Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s argument that out-of-state voters may have swayed the outcome of a Senate election in New Hampshire.

Kevin Morgan

When Molly Hammer takes the stage in front of people who haven’t seen her, their first reaction may be curiosity.

Hammer is small, with a shock of bright red hair styled into a pageboy, her face serene under glaring white stage lights. In a venue where people know her, such as the Green Lady Lounge, her commanding presence creates an air you could manducate, and everyone in the cozy, dark booths seems to perk up a titch in anticipation.

Karen Almond / Dallas Opera

Young Friends of Art, a networking group for The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, has been around for more than two decades. Then there are a few upstarts, like Kansas City Symphony's new Maestro KC, which "connects people to the music they love and the musicians who make it possible." 

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

The head of the Kansas Department of Corrections says he sees no connection between last week’s riot at a prison in Norton and disturbances earlier this summer at the state’s El Dorado prison.

But some lawmakers are charging that mismanagement of the state’s prison population is contributing to the unrest.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Lawmakers remain concerned about potential snags as Kansas wraps up years of work on migrating driver’s license records from an old mainframe computer to newer infrastructure ahead of a January launch date.

Rep. Kyle Hoffman, R-Coldwater, a member of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Information Technology, asked legislative auditing staff Friday whether the state might see a repeat of the technical woes that plagued the first phase of the same project five years ago.

Tory Garcia / Courtesy of Kemet Coleman

The Phantastics describe themselves as “dance floor activators.”

For the last six years, they’ve been activating local dance floors with songs that meld rap, jazz, gospel, funk and more.

“We definitely try to incorporate as many genres as possible to create not chaos, but a winding river of music,” rapper Kemet Coleman told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

After hearing more than five hours of testimony late Friday afternoon, Kansas City Municipal Judge Joseph H. Locascio handed down a decision in a matter of minutes: With a few quick words, he found Steven Paul Woolfolk, director of programming and marketing at the Kansas City Public Library, not guilty of three charges stemming from an incident at a library event in May 2016.

University of Kansas Hospital

The University of Kansas Hospital is denying allegations by a patient that it wrongly diagnosed her with pancreatic cancer and then covered it up.

In an answer filed this week, the hospital says that many of the allegations made by Wendy Ann Noon Berner “reference undisputable hearsay and speculation, and many would arguably constitute defamation” if they were not part of a lawsuit.

The hospital’s 18-page answer broadly disputes Berner’s allegations of malpractice and cover-up, and terms many of them “vague and ambiguous.”

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

At dusk on Friday, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art celebrates the Bloch Building's 10th anniversary with dance, sound sculpture and light. The free, outdoor event features around 40 dancers, musicians and technicians from the performance art collective Quixotic

The herbicide dicamba is thought to have been the culprit in more than 3 million acres of damaged soybeans across the country, destroying plants and leaving farmers out millions of dollars in crops.

The chemical has been in use for decades, so why is it today apparently causing farms so much damage?

Kansas Department of Corrections

Inmates turned over a tactical response vehicle, made weapons out of broken pieces of glass and tried to run over a corrections officer with a commandeered cart during a riot Tuesday night at the Norton Correctional Facility in north-central Kansas, according to a copy of the prison's log obtained by KCUR. 

The threat posed by inmates was serious enough that, at one point, responding officers were told to use lethal force if necessary. 

James Abbott / Flickr — CC

Whether you’re figuratively the straw or the drink, stirring situations beckon this weekend.

Dance outdoors! Sketch a street art masterpiece! Hobnob with the world’s first superhero!  

Oh, there’s more. But whether to stir or be stirred? I say go for both!

1. Dance in the Park

Courtesy Ryan Heinlein

Individual jazz musicians regularly hit multiple spots in a single night, but it’s far less common for an entire band to play three venues in a 12-hour span. But that's what The Project H, led by trombonist Ryan Heinlein, is doing in different parts of town on Saturday.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is touting a controversial multistate voter database as a key resource in response to U.S. Department of Justice questions about Kansas’ compliance with federal voting law.

In a recent letter to the Justice Department, obtained by the Kansas News Service through an open records request, Kobach describes the database as “one of the most important systems” Kansas uses to check the accuracy of voter rolls.

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