Audio Feature | KCUR

Audio Feature

Courtesy Stan Kessler

Anyone who's stepped inside a Kansas City jazz club during the past several decades has probably run into Stan Kessler, the impish trumpeter known for amusing pranks and soulful solos.

Kessler has played music in Kansas City for 40 years, serving as the jazz scene's crafty institutional memory and passionate conscience. He's seen a lot of ups and downs, but his new album, "Skywatcher," makes a career-defining statement, showcasing his formidable talent at the same time as it demonstrates the vitality of the regional scene.

Courtesy of UMKC Athletics

CSU-Bakersfield men’s basketball coach Rod Barnes emerged from the locker room late last month at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City. He was seeking a familiar face, one who gave Ole Miss its first all-African-American starting five, who encouraged him to not listen to naysayers.

He was looking for former UMKC athletic director and basketball coach Lee Hunt, the man who was on the leading edge of race relations in high school and college sports during the Civil Rights Era. Barnes found him, exclaiming, “Coach! It’s good to see you.”

Allison Shelley

Longtime health reporter Julie Rovner is chief Washington correspondent for Kaiser Health News, a nonprofit news service providing in-depth coverage of health care policy and politics. Before joining KHN, Rovner was a health reporter for 16 years at NPR, where she helped lead coverage of the enactment and implementation of the Affordable Care Act. 

Ben Kuebrich / Kansas News Service/Harvest Public Media

A new, widely debated federal mandate requires truckers to electronically track the number of hours they’re on the road — a rule that’s meant to make highways safer. But there’s a big difference between hauling a load of TVs and a load of cattle destined for meatpacking plants.

Livestock haulers, who have a soon-to-end temporary exemption from the rule, argue enforcing it will upend their industry and put animals at risk. There’s also a good chance, experts say, that the prices of meat at the grocery store will go up.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

In winter, farmers across the U.S. visit their banks to learn whether they have credit for the next growing season, relying on that borrowed money to buy seed, fertilizer and chemicals.

But prices for corn, soybeans and wheat are low enough that some producers have had a hard time turning a profit, and financial analysts expect some farmers will hear bad news: Their credit has run out.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

This story has been updated with information on the legal proceedings in the deportation case pending against Syed Jamal.   

Syed Jamal, the Bangladeshi chemistry teacher whom ICE is trying to deport, has a new lawyer and she’s challenging the legality of his removal order.

The lawyer, Rekah Sharma-Crawford, argues that his arrest two weeks ago in the yard of his Lawrence home was unlawful. She says there’s no record that the immigration court advised Jamal on his immigration status as required before he was detained.  

J. Robert Schraeder / Courtesy of The Coterie Theatre

Playwright Laurie Brooks has tackled challenging subjects for young adults — from the Salem witch trials to bullying. Her latest play, The Secret of Courage, explores a teenager facing a health crisis ... with a little help from a magical world.

Missouri Foundation for Health, Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Society and Health and University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health

In the last few decades, rates of premature death have been decreasing throughout the industrialized world largely because of improvements in public health. But there’s a striking exception.

Young adult and middle-aged non-Hispanic whites in the rural United States have been dying in increasing numbers since 2000.  

Courtesy of U.S Coast Guard Academy/U.S. Congress

This week, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens introduced what he considers to be "the boldest state tax reform in the nation," looking to reduce the income and corporate tax rates, among other things.

The Republican may have learned a thing or two in putting together his plan from almost-former Gov. Sam Brownback in neighboring Kansas, where legislators almost completely rolled back the aggressive 2012 tax cuts that left Kansas cash-strapped.

KCUR's Kyle Palmer spoke with fellow reporter Jim McLean, who covers the Kansas Statehouse, to break down where the proposed Missouri plan intersects and differs from the Kansas tax experiement. 

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

It's Saturday afternoon, and Estephania Chang-Jimenez, 19, just got off work. The small Lee's Summit apartment fills with the aroma of fresh mole and cilantro from her mom's cooking. It was a long day.

"There was nothing crazy, just the normal pinching and kicking," Chang-Jimenez laughs.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

In the coming months, Congress will map out how it’ll spend upwards of $500 billion on food and farm programs over the next five years.

The massive piece of legislation known as the farm bill affects all taxpayers — whether they know it or not — and runs the gamut from farm safety net and conservation programs to food stamps and loan guarantees for rural hospitals. Since the bill hasn’t been introduced yet, now is the time when interest groups, farmers and others clamor to ensure their desires will be heard.

Courtesy of Unicorn Theatre

Playwright Karen Hartman knew her work "Project Dawn" dealt with intense material. Its story, about women with multiple prostitution convictions who are going through a treatment program in hopes of having their charges erased, is based on a real place in Philadelphia called Project Dawn Court.

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

Entrepreneurs Keely Edgington and Beau Williams, owners of a Westport bar called Julep, say that the Affordable Care Act has been an easy, inexpensive way for them to get health insurance. 

Having insurance has been critical for the married couple. Their daughter Lula was diagnosed with cancer in 2016 when she was nine months old. Even with insurance, the family needed help from friends and family to pay her medical costs.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Five days after he was inaugurated as president, Donald Trump issued an executive order cracking down on illegal immigration.

It included money for tighter security at the border, plans for a border wall with Mexico and tougher standards for becoming a U.S. citizen.

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

University of Kansas film professor Kevin Willmott made national headlines last fall for wearing a bullet-proof vest in protest of a new state law allowing concealed weapons on campuses. He said he’d wear the vest until the law changed.

And with start of the spring semester this week, Willmott is keeping that promise.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The Jackson County jail is a mess. It’s overcrowded, understaffed and from elevators to toilets, there's a lot that’s broken.

Everyone agrees with that. But how to fix it is complicated and fraught with politics.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Jason Pollen’s colorful wheels of cloth and fluttering fabric mobiles have been exhibited around the world. He retired from teaching in the fiber department at the Kansas City Art Institute in 2010; at 76, he now spends his time creating his own work in a bungalow on Locust Street, just a block from the Art Institute.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

In places where the unemployment rate is well below the national average — states like Nebraska, Colorado and Iowa — one would think it’d be easier for communities to recruit new residents to fill open jobs.

But the housing market works against rural towns and cities where jobs often stay open because there are too few affordable homes and apartments to buy or rent, or the ones that are affordable need lots of TLC. It’s a situation that threatens to turn low unemployment from an advantage into a liability.

Danny Wood / KCUR 89.3

Some works of art hold mysteries that may never be revealed (the Mona Lisa’s smile will likely remain an enigma forever). But many years after completing public murals in Liberty, Missouri, David McClain is ready to talk about his artwork’s secrets.

Dry cleaning can leave a really big mess behind.

One of the largest plumes of toxic dry cleaning waste ever discovered in Kansas is just south of Wichita, and state environmental officials are working to make sure people in the plume’s path have clean drinking water.

Alex Smith / Harvest Public Media

A few years ago, Kansas City restaurateur Anton Kotar surveyed the local and national restaurant scenes and concluded his town’s reputation as a steakhouse paradise had slipped.

The problem, he says, is the way conventional beef is raised – bulked up with grain on feedlots, making it cheap and plentiful and changing what Americans expect to taste.

E.G. Schempf

Cardboard has a smell.

You notice it as soon as you walk into the glass-encased Kansas Focus Gallery at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, where eight of May Tveit’s cardboard sculptures emerge from the walls like sentries, layers of flat, precision-cut cardboard stacked into pyramids arranged in various rectangles. You recognize the smell; you just weren't expecting it in an art gallery.

But why not? As Tveit's exhibition makes clear, cardboard is an evocative medium. 

File Photo / KCUR 89.3

In one of his last acts as mayor of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas, Mark Holland has called a meeting of the UG Commission today to discuss a report that KCK firefighters were paid for work they didn’t perform last year.

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

Ambulances are often considered a prime example of the excessively high cost of medical care in the United States. One ride can cost more than a trip from Kansas City to Hawaii.

But David Slusky, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Kansas, thinks he may have found something surprising that’s reducing ambulance use: the ride-hailing company Uber.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Advanced biofuels have been touted as the next step beyond the corn-based ethanol that’s the bulk of the country’s renewable fuel for cars and trucks. These next-generation options were supposed to bring jobs to rural communities and provide farmers with fresh revenue sources, in addition to reducing the carbon footprint of vehicles.

Nearly a decade of federal incentives encouraged companies to invest in cellulosic technology, which produces ethanol from crop waste such as stalks, cobs and leaves left on fields after harvest, and at least three plants were built in the Midwest since 2014.

But cellulosic ethanol is harder to make than grain ethanol because it uses the inedible and irregular parts of the plants, meaning it was tough for machines to chew up the wet, heavy material. And companies faced other challenges, such as a steady supply, fluctuating markets and stalled policy decisions.

Greg Echlin / KCUR

The four-lane road that connects Manhattan, Kansas, and Interstate 70 is wider and busier now than it was when Bill Snyder took over as Kansas State’s football coach in 1989. So much so that it’s named after Snyder, who has more than 200 wins at K-State, making him only the sixth person to do that with one football program.

Snyder is 78, the oldest coach in the top division of college football. And while his 26th season with the team ended Tuesday on a high note with a 35-17 win over UCLA in the Cactus Bowl, he says he isn’t sure whether he’ll return next season. And that uncertainty makes K-State fans apprehensive.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Every once in a while, a Kansas City band releases an original Christmas song. But it’s unusual for area musicians to put out an entire album of holiday standards.

That’s what the bluegrass band Old Sound did this year, but making it happen involved something like a Christmas miracle.

“This is one those instances where the universe starts kind of opening up and giving you signs,” says guitarist Chad Brothers.

Peggy Lowe / KCUR 89.3

Dairian Stanley’s ex-girlfriend was warned before she met up with him that Sunday morning in September 2016.

Stanley had been missing for two days, had been talking “crazy stuff” and threatening to kill himself, his mother told her. When the ex-girlfriend found him at a BP gas station on Van Brunt Boulevard, Stanley demanded to know who she had been with.

“If I can’t have you, nobody can have you!” Stanley, then 21, said to her, according to court documents.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

"Where are the brave ones?" 

Academic coach Charlette Wafer looks out across an auditorium of students, administrators and community members at Central Academy of Excellence. She's reciting a poem. 

"Where are the brave ones? The ones who don't use guns to solve problems. The ones who are mentors and provide support before things get started. The ones who aren't afraid to snitch. The ones who are brave enough to stitch ... Our wounds, our community, our families, our city back together. Where are the brave ones?"

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ stop at a tiny private school in Kansas City’s Waldo neighborhood earlier this year became a flashpoint in a national conversation about transgender rights.

The education department’s rollback of Obama-era protections for transgender students quickly overshadowed DeVos’ purported reasons for visiting Kansas City Academy – an innovative fine arts curriculum and farm-to-table culinary program.

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