Audio Feature | KCUR

Audio Feature

Frank Morris / KCUR

Lots of people in Kansas City are ramping up for the AFC Championship game on Sunday. If the Chiefs win, they’ll play in the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years. Some area business are betting on a win, one they hope will trigger a shopping frenzy.

It’s easy to spot team logos around town. Season ticket-holder Greg O’Neil has about a dozen of them on his SUV alone.

“I’ve got six Chiefs flags, I got three Chiefs arrows, Chief’s name and another helmet,” chuckles O’Neil, who’s also wearing a Chiefs cap. “You can see me coming a mile away.”

Jenna and Martin / Facebook

Jenna Rae and Martin Farrell both grew up in cities. But when the two got serious about playing music together as the folk duo Jenna & Martin, they ended up living the life they were singing about.

Rae is from Merriam, Kansas, and Farrell is from Minnetonka, Minnesota. The two met four years ago on the sprawling campgrounds of the Walnut Valley Bluegrass Festival in Winfield, Kansas. They soon started performing together, and onstage, they’re young and carefree with a chemistry that’s easy to see and hear.

Facebook/Aviva Okeson-Haberman

The Missouri Senate conservative caucus formed just last year, but its six senators are already shaping the direction of Jefferson City politics. The caucus was among the staunchest supporters of a sweeping anti-abortion bill, which is being challenged in court. They also broke with their party to oppose one of Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s key workforce development proposals (though it eventually passed). 

And the caucus could get some concessions in the 2020 session using their threat to filibuster as a bargaining chip, though it also could further the division within the Republican Party if they kill priorities like a prescription drug monitoring program. 

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Negotiators for the Shawnee Mission School District and the teachers union are at an impasse and will now present their cases to a neutral party.

On one side are teachers who feel overworked and underpaid. On the other side are school administrators who say the union’s demands will ultimately put the district in the red. It’s a dispute with deep roots in the Great Recession and all the years Kansas seriously underfunded schools, happening amidst a national conversation on teacher pay.

Chris Neal / For the Kansas News Service

KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Chris Costantini lay in a cold sweat, his shoulder dislocated after slipping on a porch in Kansas City, Kansas.

He’d been out alone, knocking on doors and rustling up voters for the upcoming midterms in October 2018. Now he waited for an ambulance, full of anxiety about how the injury could hinder his next performance at the Kansas City Ballet.

Peggy Lowe / KCUR 89.3

A board member under fire for allegedly swindling an Indian tribe in Oklahoma. The organization’s $3 million Kansas City headquarters, bought and renovated just a few years ago, up for sale. The founder stepping away from day-to-day control. A CEO abruptly leaving after only a few months at the helm.

That’s the state of the Kansas City Barbeque Society, the world’s largest organization dedicated to promoting barbeque, which appears to be in turmoil more than three decades after its founding in 1986.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Carl Butler can quote chapter and verse of the Bible, but he’s equally comfortable citing "the great theologian" — a country singer named Tom T. Hall — who once proclaimed that "the good Lord likes a little pickin’ too."

Butler is a honky tonk preacher at Knuckleheads, the sprawling roadhouse in Kansas City's East Bottoms. Since he began his ministry 12 years ago, Butler has delivered his blend of party music and heartfelt praise to countless Kansas City bargoers in the 70-seat back room that bears his name: Carl Butler's Gospel Lounge.

Barbara Shelly / KCUR 89.3

Cancer survivors and their loved ones who attend meetings of the Prostate Network in Kansas City have talked for years about a radiation treatment called proton beam therapy.

They know it’s expensive and controversial. Some doctors and healthcare experts say it’s no more effective than standard X-ray radiation, and costs twice as much. But some of the network’s own members have used proton therapy and swear by the results.

courtesy of the artist

In the art world, what makes regular abstraction different from "queer abstraction"?

Unlike LGBTQ artists who explore identity through representational images that make clear statements, the 20 artists in "queer abstraction" at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art are expressing themselves through color, shape and form.

But as with non-queer abstract art, what they're expressing is not always easy to discern.

Buzzy phrases like “regenerative agriculture” and “precision farming” are gaining traction among younger farmers looking to produce more sustainably. But implementing newer practices can require education and training.

Some schools in Nebraska are embracing the interest in specialized agriculture degrees, and want to make them more accessible to students across the region.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89-3

Though he’d been deported once before, it was worth the risk for Florencio Millan to come back illegally to Kansas City, Missouri. He’d lived here off and on since he was a teenager. He had a son here, and he was not only a top chef in a well-known restaurant, but he’d found love.

Waiel Turner, 20, was not planning on going to college. He thought about entering the U.S. Air Force or becoming a police officer for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. 

Enrolling at Harris-Stowe State University was strictly happenstance.

In 2017, he accompanied a friend to the campus in midtown St. Louis where she was registering for classes. An admissions counselor told Turner he should enroll. Two days later, Turner became a college student. 

Turner said it is the family environment that makes Harris-Stowe home for him. Like many historically black colleges and universities, Harris-Stowe is struggling to keep its tight-knit family of students and staff together in the face of shaky finances and relative lack of state resources. 

Across the country, nearly 95,000 people are waiting for a kidney transplant. And the list has been growing for years. That's pushed some people to try unusual ways to find donors.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media file photo

A tentative agreement easing trade restrictions with China seems like great news for farmers, who’ve been pummeled by the trade war. Some farmers, though, are skeptical. They worry that ag exports will suffer for years, and they've got history to back them up.

Prices for the corn and soybeans started rising last week, on rumors of a possible trade deal. Good news for Tom Kreisel, who farms near tiny Houstonia, Missouri.

“The last couple of days, they'd been up,” says Kreisel. “But they had took a nosedive before that, so we need to make that back.”

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — Wearing sweaters, small kids (of the goat variety) went springing over hay-lined pens in the Good Karma Micro-Dairy barn in Russell County. Here, Erin and Doug Renard milk goats and cows and make raw cheese, Greek yogurt, butter and gelato.

“As you noticed when you came here, there's no signs,” Erin Renard said. “One of the reasons there's no signs is expense. But the other reason was we couldn't even put 'raw milk' on the sign. Now we can.” 

Karen Craigo

Karen Craigo is Missouri's new poet laureate. Gov. Mike Parson announced the decision last month that the "Marshfield Mail" editor and general manager will have the two-year position, replacing Aliki Barnstone.

Greg Echlin / KCUR 89.3

Fans have high expectations for Eliah Drinkwitz, the newly named University of Missouri head football coach. But a former college president’s research has found that if history holds, Tigers fans’ hopes could be dashed.

Former Kansas State University President Jon Wefald estimates that Drinkwitz, or any coach in a similar position, has at best a 30% chance of success.

“I’m not a mathematician,” said Wefald, who retired from Kansas State in 2009.  “I just use common sense. Quite a few people have read my paper, and no one disagrees with the 30%.”

Aviva Okeson-Haberman / KCUR 89.3

Clay County Commission meetings are tense. There are arguments over procedural matters, like what’s even on the agenda, as well as policy matters like budgeting. There’s a lot of finger-pointing about who is to blame. 

The county itself is under a microscope, the subject of high-profile legal battles and a state audit initiated by thousands of voters. Citizens who want more of a say are showing up at commission meetings and posting updates on Facebook groups, but they don’t feel heard. And some elected county officials are open about the fact they feel they’re part of a dysfunctional system.

Everyone agrees on one thing: Something isn’t working.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

It had not been a good day for John Albers. The 17-year-old Overland Park teen had ADHD, and occasionally went through extreme ups and downs. It was January 20, 2018, and he told his parents he didn’t want to go out to dinner with the family that night.

“So we left the house and John obviously went to a really dark place very, very quickly,” his mom, Sheila Albers, said.

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.

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