Audio Feature | KCUR

Audio Feature

ST. JOHN, Kansas — Water — who gets to use it, when and how — sparks fights all over the world.

The latest battleground is in south-central Kansas, near the federally operated Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.

In its simplest form, it’s a clash between the refuge, which isn’t getting its legal share of water, and the local farmers who may be forced to cut back on how much water they use on their crops.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

By the end of 2019, police expect 150 homicides in Kansas City, most at the point of a gun. Authorities say another 500 people will be shot and wounded.

Many of the survivors, plus their families and neighbors, will spend the rest of their lives dealing with the aftermath of a gunshot wound. A new program is seeking to give people the help they need to heal both their physical and mental wounds.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

A roving work of art has sparked a lot of thought about the nature of walls this year, especially among those who live near the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri.

"Walking Wall" is a 100-ton art installation that’s been blocking traffic and building friendships as it moved toward the Bloch Building at the museum.

On Wednesday, it goes inside — and stops.

While local 4-H groups are known for summer programming, educator Julie Kreikemeier

Megan Phelps-Roper

The cover of Megan Phelps-Roper's book "Unfollow" gives away the ending. We know the hero leaps far beyond her old confines and goes on to live a healthy, happy life reaching out to others in need.

But in this case, the ending isn't as captivating as the middle of the story.

"A lot of people had these very personal experiences with Westboro and there's a lot of confusion, I think, people don't understand why we were doing what we were doing," Phelps-Roper says of Topeka's infamous  Westboro Baptist Church.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3 file photo

The conversation around climate change often feels dire and urgent. But experts say there’s still time to make a difference.

“I think it's really easy to get bogged down in the doom and gloom of climate change,” says Karen Clawson, principal planner with the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), which is coming up with a regional climate action plan.

“It will take an army to do this … Everybody has a place,” she says.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service file photo

More than 2 million people live in the Kansas City metro, on either side of the state line. They live in urban, suburban and rural communities, and in everything from subsidized apartments to century-old farm homes.

As scientists better understand the impact of climate change, elected officials, city planners and housing advocates are working to design housing that will endure extreme weather. 

During 2019, the curveballs thrown at farmers began with the partial government shutdown in January, when some U.S. Department of Agriculture agencies were closed. Spring brought a storm system—called a bomb cyclone—that dumped rain on top of frozen fields unable to make use of it, kicking off weeks of flooding exacerbated by additional precipitation. Planting ran later than usual and some farmers never got a cash crop into certain saturated fields.

Greg Echlin / KCUR 89.3

It seems odd that Sporting Kansas City would make a presentation this week at a national sustainable agriculture summit. 

After all, professional sports eat up lots of resources: jet and diesel fuel for trips to away games, water to keep the turf or fairways looking lush and electricity to fire up their fans and keep score.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

On one busy corner of Kansas City's St. John Avenue, a community is coming together to create a piece of art that reflects the whole world.

Home to culturally and ethnically diverse businesses and many artists, the city's Historic Northeast neighborhood is already a colorful place.

Carolina Hidalgo / St. Louis Public Radio

After counting out the last in a series of chest compressions, Harry Painter Jr. sets up a nebulizer and begins piping oxygen into his patient’s lungs.

“Mr. Jones, you scared us there. How are you feeling?” he asks. The lifelike mannequin blinks back. 

Everything around Painter looks exactly as it would in a hospital, but this is a simulation room at St. Louis Community College’s new health care facility on the Forest Park campus.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

Holes punched in walls. Car headlights smashed. Windows broken. Weapons, threats, sexual comments. Children who can’t live with other children. Children whom foster parents won’t take in. Children who aren’t able to get the mental health care they desperately need.

Kansas foster care contractors and parents say all of these situations have become more common — and more risky — since 2017, when the state made sweeping changes to the juvenile justice system. The changes, they say, removed options for dealing with foster children who have high needs and violent behaviors.

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

It’s been one of the wettest years on record in Kansas City. With climate change, the likelihood of heavy rainfall is expected to increase, as are flash floods. And cities are starting to realize their infrastructure is not up to snuff. 

Kansas City faced that reality about 10 years ago, when the Environmental Protection Agency mandated the city replace its 100-year-old sewer system after multiple violations of the Clean Water Act.

Kyle Palmer / KCUR 89.3

Residents in the Kansas City metro are increasingly choosing to power their homes with rooftop solar panels. It's a choice spurred by both the promise of lower monthly energy bills and concern for the environment. But barriers to "going solar" remain, especially for low- and middle-income households. 

Severo Secreto

At the corner of St. John and Askew in Kansas City’s Historic Northeast is a nondescript red brick and stone building that almost blends with the surrounding neighborhood. The exterior stands in contrast to  lively Spanish language movies being screened inside. 

Yosmel Serrano opened the movie theater, La Selva De Los Relojes (or the Jungle of Clocks), to help a Latino community embrace its cultural voice and heritage.

"I know English, but I love Spanish, and I don't want to lose my Spanish and I don't want to lose my art," he says. "So the first thing to be proud of yourself and to be able to integrate into another community is to learn more about yourself."

Jeremy Kaczor

The Benedictine College football team in Atchison, Kansas, will likely help its coach keep a somewhat dubious distinction. Ravens coach Larry Wilcox has more career wins without a national championship than any other active college football coach in the country.

Wilcox has 296 career victories, 14th on the all-time football coaching victories list. Regarded as a legendary figure in Atchison with 41 seasons as a head coach, Wilcox has the Ravens’ home stadium named in his honor — Larry Wilcox Stadium.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Missouri students spending more money to earn degrees want to know they’re making a sound investment in their future. That’s why college administrators have started steering them toward in-demand professions like education and nursing, where they’re all but guaranteed jobs. 

It’s a pathway to get students to and through college with less debt when they graduate. But some students and professors say Missouri’s colleges and universities still have an obligation to provide a well-rounded liberal arts education, and are tired of having to defend their majors every time state lawmakers propose another round of cuts.

Illustration by Aviva Okeson-Haberman / KCUR 89.3

In the spring of 1989, Missouri lawmakers were motivated to figure out how climate change would affect the state’s economy, political future and social capital. 

A year after California started looking into climate change, the Missouri General Assembly created a commission of 14 experts and politicians to study the issue and come up with solutions. The result was more than 100 policy suggestions, covering everything from the use of solar and wind energy to transportation and teaching about climate change.

Three decades later, experts say Missouri hasn’t achieved its goals. 

Alex Smith / KCUR

Starting treatment with a mental health specialist often requires a wait of several weeks, but many psychiatrists and other specialists in Kansas City have waiting lists stretching over months.

While the need for mental health treatment has been growing in Missouri, many patient advocates say the state’s refusal to aggressively enforce mental health parity may be making the wait times even longer.

Marty Sexton, a 50-year-old disabled grandfather who lives in Peculiar, worked as a firefighter and then an army medic in Operations Desert Storm, Desert Shield and Enduring Freedom.

Greg Echlin / KCUR 89.3

The 2019 calendar for the U.S. women’s national soccer team is over, but for new coach Vlatko Andonovski, who has strong ties to Kansas City, the work is just beginning.

Andonovski’s coronation by U.S. Soccer as the new coach of the women’s team was held, Oct. 28, in New York. He won his first two matches with the team, beating Sweden 3-2 and Costa Rica 6-0. The international friendlies are helping prepare the team ahead of the Olympic qualifiers.

McGown Gordon Construction

In Kansas City and across the country, performance venues and artists have had to make adjustments due to more extreme weather events.

And when it comes to climate change, there's one thing arts organizations need to do: "Prepare." That's according to Karin Rabe, properties master at the Alley Theatre in Houston, where flooding is a growing concern. 

Element5 Digital / Unsplash

Democrats in Virginia claimed big wins in the Tuesday election, fueled in no small part by big investments from gun control advocates.

The historic blue wave marked the first time Democrats seized control of the state’s government in a generation.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Middle schoolers in the Kansas City area are paying close attention to Greta Thunberg and other youth climate activists making waves across the world. They’re also proposing their own solutions for global warming.

“I like to see kids taking action about what might happen in the future,” said Liam McKinley, an eighth grader at Chisholm Trail Middle School in Olathe. “I like to come up with random ideas about how we can fix that, even though it might not be achievable in the next few years.”

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Singers often travel to Kansas City from places like San Francisco, New York and Moscow to perform at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City. And they arrive with a question that might surprise people who have stereotypes about opera. 

"The number one question I probably get when they come in is: 'What's the best barbecue?'" said Sarah Zsohar, "which is probably the hardest question in Kansas City to answer."

As the Lyric's artist services manager, Zsohar's job is essentially to organize everything and everyone. 

Michelle Tyrene Johnson / KCUR 89.3

When Quinton Lucas was elected mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, he said his success would be determined by three issues: crime, housing, and infrastructure.

With 100 days behind him as of Friday, Lucas says he’s feeling good about his progress.

David Kovaluk / St. Louis Public Radio

On any given weekday, University of Missouri student Jack Hale is working six to eight hours and dashing to class in between. 

“I wake up a little after five and I do not stop until 11 p.m. most days,” Hale says. Between a full load of classes and two jobs taking up nearly 40 hours a week, he barely gets enough sleep.

Michelle Tyrene Johnson / KCUR 89.3

Nicole Jackson came to the first Midwest SoulVeg Fest to get some inspiration on her slow path to being a vegan. She admitted that as a black person who grew up going to events centered on meat, it’s easier said than done.

“Sunday dinner after church, the cookouts, the barbeques, where we are just gathered by food that pulls us together,” said Jackson, who is from Olathe, Kansas.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

The changes in climate that people in the Kansas City region are now experiencing haven't been seen in previous lifetimes.

That's according to Doug Kluck, a regional climate services director for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). He also spent 18 years with the National Weather Service as a researcher and forecaster.

KCUR recently sat down with Kluck in an effort to provide readers with some perspective on what's happening. Below is the edited version of that conversation.

Becker1999 / Flickr

Depending upon whom you ask, there have been somewhere between eight and 350 mass shootings in America so far in 2019. That’s a pretty big range. So why don’t we know the exact number?

Pregnancy On The Farm Comes With Its Own Set Of Risks

Oct 31, 2019

In the fall, livestock veterinarian Dr. Bailey Lammers is often busy with vaccinating calves and helping wean them from their mothers.

A herd of auburn cattle greeted her at the barn gate during one of her house calls in northeastern Nebraska, peering from behind the dirt-caked bars. Lammers and her technician Sadie Kalin pulled equipment from tackleboxes in the back of Lammers’ truck.  

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