Midwest | KCUR

Midwest

Paul Andrews / paulandrewsphotography.com

Every city has that one bookstore, the irreverent corner shop where literary types plot revolutions. In Kansas City, that bookstore is Prospero's, owned by Will Leathem. Leathem took a surprising path to becoming a used book salesman.

 

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Matthew Long-Middleton / KCUR 89.3

At one point in history, Atchison, Kansas was positioned to be one of the main connecting points for the railways between Missouri and Kansas. It's said there were more millionaires there than anywhere in the world. Can Atchison hold onto its grand past but carve out a new identity for young residents?

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Courtesy of Will Fisher / https://www.flickr.com/photos/fireatwillrva/6800794340/

Malls used to be "cool" places to hang out. But now, more and more malls are becoming abandoned structures, rotting inside and waiting for the wrecking ball. What do these hollowed-out shopping centers say about where we are as a country?

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Matthew Long-Middleton / KCUR 89.3

At one point in history, Atchison, Kansas was positioned to be one of the main connecting points for the railways between Missouri and Kansas. The town played an important role in the Civil War, and had many significant residents. But what's going on there today?

KCUR's Central Standard takes a road trip to Atchison. Come along with us.

Guests:

What is the Midwest? In a recent video, comedian Jeff Houghton played a Midwest correspondent out to solve this great mystery. The typical perception? Think Wizard of Oz, and American Gothic ... you know, that old white couple standing in front of a church with a pitchfork, and yellow brick roads.

Really though. What defines the Midwest? What are its borders, and what makes it home? 

Jimmy Emerson, DVM / Flickr Creative Commons

Earthquakes in the Central U.S. have been steadily increasing due to oil production, gas extraction and disposal of wastewater. Seismologist Heather DeShon tells us if it is possible to mitigate the number of occurrences. Then, finding political common ground between parties. Mark Gerzon, president of the Mediators Foundation, explores cross-party cooperation in his most recent book, The Reunited States of America.

Sean Davis / Flickr - CC

Patsy Cline's last show was here in Kansas City in March of 1963; she died in a plane crash as she was leaving town. Nearly 55 years later, a young local singer shares how Patsy Cline has influenced her.

Then: Have you noticed that more and more people are saying "y'all"? A look at how the word has spread beyond its Southern roots.

Guests:

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

A shooting in Olathe, Kansas that left one Indian man dead and another injured has captured national and international attention. How does violence like this change South Asian immigrants' perceptions of the Midwest and the "American Dream?"

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The New York Times calls him "one of the most acclaimed travel writers of his time." A chat with William Least Heat-Moon about his Kansas City roots, his new novel and how he got his name.

Guest:

  • William Least Heat-Moon

Sage Ross / Flickr - CC

Do you drink pop ... or soda? Do you wash something or "warsh" it? Those answers depend on where you grew up. Today, we learn How to Speak Midwesternand discover why the Heartland dialect is so different from our Illinois and Minnesota neighbors. Then, consumer advocate Ralph Nader shares an important message in his latest book, Animal Envy, a fable akin to Charlotte's Web and Animal Farm.

Paul Downey / Flickr - CC

Climate change is a global phenomenon, and when we think about climate change we tend to think about the greater global implications. Like how will increasing ocean temperatures affect glaciers and coastal communities? But how will climate change impact our local communities? How will Kansas City change? 

David Nichols / Flickr -- CC

We've heard about how climate change will affect the coasts (glaciers melting, New York City underwater and more). But what will happen in the Midwest? A look at what's at stake here, from our water supply to flooding to the Ozark forests.

Guests:

Suzanne Hogan / KCUR 89.3

This story first appeared on KCUR's Question Quest. You can find the episode here or wherever you download podcasts.

First, a look at how an increasing Latino population in the Heartland is changing the region. Then, how the border showdown between Kansas and Missouri lives on through Granny Basketball. Finally, Brian McTavish gives us the latest Weekend To-Do List.

Alissa Walker / Flickr - CC

Before LaCroix Sparking Water became a trendy drink, it was a favorite of Midwestern moms.

That’s according to Vox.com reporter Libby Nelson, author of "Why LaCroix Sparkling Water Is Suddenly Everywhere."

In her article, she traces how the bubbly drink  — which she remembers from her Kansas City childhood as “the pastel cases of tasteless soda that my Girl Scout leader packed into her minivan” — went from a Midwestern staple to a status symbol.

Cody Newill / KCUR 89.3

This story first appeared on KCUR's Question Quest. You can find the episode here or wherever you download podcasts.

Just about every city has "that store." The one that just can't seem to find its footing for very long. One year it's a seedy liquor store, the next, a themed restaurant, the next, a sleepy book store.

Suzanne Hogan / KCUR 89.3

This story first appeared on KCUR's Question Quest. You can find the episode here or wherever you download podcasts.

Lots of people have stores they remember going to when they were a kid— for you maybe it was the video store, the arcade, a comic shop, an ice cream stand or corner store.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

This story first appeared on KCUR's Question Quest. You can find the episode here or wherever you download podcasts.

Alissa Walker / Flickr -- CC

Before LaCroix Sparkling Water became a trendy drink, it was a favorite of Midwestern moms, according to reporter Libby Nelson in a recent article.

How did the drink that Nelson remembers from her KC childhood as "the pastel cases of tasteless soda that my Girl Scout leader packed into her minivan" go from a Midwestern staple to a status symbol?

Guest:

Cody Newill / KCUR 89.3

For Rachel MacPhee, co-owner of Kansas City-based Ribbon Events, weddings are the bread and butter of her business. And she sees a lot of different clients, from older couples to a pair who are just 20 years old.

"We have someone that's still in college, we also have a couple that have two kids and two more are on the way," MacPhee says.

Though typically, she says, clients are in their late 20s.

John Audobon marveled at its beauty; European princes crossed it in game safaris. Dan Flores’s American Serengeti tells the story of the Great Plains over the 19th Century, which saw the largest destruction of wildlife in modern history. 

We explore the historical ecology of the Great Plains. What have we lost, and what can we restore?

Guest: 

Courtesy Beth Jacobs

Across the United States, thousands of men, women and children are being forced to work as prostitutes. 

Sex trafficking remains a big problem, but a small group is mobilizing the far-flung trucking industry to fight it.

That’s a big change from the early 1980s, when Beth Jacobs was a teenager. At the time, she thought if you were prostitute, it was your choice.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Massive bison herds used to be a staple of the Great Plains. That is until we almost hunted them out of existence.

Now, with a new designation as the United States’ national mammal, bison ranchers argue that to conserve the species we have to eat them.

It’s an idea called “market-based conservation,” and it contends that humans are no good at saving species out of the goodness of our hearts, or motivated by some driving force of environmental justice.

Ronnie Russell, who farms near Richmond, Mo., stands in one of his soybean fields.
Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

On this sunny, summer morning in late June, Ronnie Russell is “windshield farming.”

Driving from field to field in his Ford pick-up, he can see that his corn is about to tassel, his soybeans are mostly weed-free and white butterflies are floating above the alfalfa.

All three crops, adding up to about 1,500 acres, are grown with genetically-engineered seeds, a technology Russell views as a boon to farming.

The meat found on American dinner tables is produced by slaughterhouses, which remain among the most dangerous places to work in the country.
Brian Seifferlein / Harvest Public Media

The meatpacking plants that enable American consumers to find cheap hamburger and chicken wings in the grocery store are among the most dangerous places to work in the country. Federal regulators and meat companies agree more must be done to make slaughterhouses safer, and while there are signs the industry is stepping up its efforts, danger remains.

The rate of meatpacking workers who lose time or change jobs because they’re injured is 70 percent higher than the average for manufacturing workers overall, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Teresa, 31, worked at a pork processing plant in Nebraska for five years until injuries to her shoulder forced her to quit.
Brian Seifferlein / Harvest Public Media

The nights were often worse for Gabriel, even after long days working on the production line at a pork slaughterhouse in Nebraska.

He had nightmares that the line – what the workers call “the chain” – was moving so fast, that instead of gutted hogs flying by, there were people.

“You’ve been working there for three hours, four hours, and you’re working so fast and you see the pigs going faster, faster,” he says. 

Greata Horner holds a photo of her and her husband Ed taken a few months before he died.
Dan Boyce / Rocky Mountain PBS for Harvest Public Media

On the worst day of Greta Horner’s life, she was dressed in a burlap robe, waiting by the window for her husband to come home from work.

The couple was down to one car. The other one was in the shop. She donned the costume for a play, set in Old Jerusalem, later that morning, part of Vacation Bible School at the church. She just needed the car to get there. 

Flickr - CC

Monarch butterflies are disappearing. Scientists agree that in the last 20 years, populations of the black and orange insect have been in precipitous decline. But there's much less certainty on what’s causing them to vanish.

As each new scientific paper on monarch decline is published, the image becomes slightly less opaque. So far, potential culprits include disease, climate change, drought, deforestation, and nectar plants. Blame has been cast on everyone from loggers to farmers to suburban developers.

Through the centuries, technological advancements, from the tractor to developments in crop chemicals, have revolutionized the way we farm. Now, something new is disrupting the farming industry — and that’s big data. We take a look the new normal in one of America's oldest industries.

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