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To try to prevent the spread of COVID-19, most arts organizations in metro Kansas City have canceled performances or closed, at least temporarily. That's hitting revenue streams pretty hard, including independent artists who rely on crowds or personal contact to make their money.

“It’s an incredibly tough time,” said Maite Salazar, a poet and writer.

Segment 1: Lenexa, Kansas, is reconsidering its rules around homeless shelters.

Zoning restrictions in Lenexa caused a stir this winter because they precluded the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church from operating a homeless shelter on their campus, which is an old school. A temporary solution was reached, but now the city is taking another look at how it regulates shelters. With possible changes on the horizon, advocates for those experiencing homelessness share their thoughts on the process and its outcomes.

Segment 1: In 1990, Deanna Dikeman took a photo of her parents waving goodbye to her as she drove away.

She continued to take these pictures for decades and today, what started as random keepsakes is now a series of photos spanning through her father’s death until her mother passed away. Since releasing “Leaving and Waving,” she has also received comments from people who can see moments from their own lives, reflected in hers.

Segment 1: Kansas City health experts on keeping your family prepared

With cases of COVID-19 popping up in Missouri and Kansas, we talk with local doctors about prudent precautions to keep your family safe, and to keep the virus from spreading. We also ask how and if Kansas City's most vulnerable — children and the elderly — are being affected. 

Randy Brown

Randy Brown was barely talking yet when his father shipped out for Vietnam. To close the distance over the course of that deployment, Brown's parents made recordings for each other.

"The first time that he heard my tiny, little voice was probably on one of those little three-inch audio reels," says Brown, who is now retired from the Iowa Army National Guard.

Segment 1: A career change introduced one man to the hidden flaws of the American justice system.

Jason Hardy's time as a parole and probation officer in Louisiana revealed a system that makes a prisoner's re-entry into society difficult. Today, he describes the misinterpreted freedom of being released from incarceration and the unfavorable working conditions for officers.

Segment 1: A Lawrence poet is coming out with the first book of fast food poetry.

Danny Caine's new book reviews chain restaurants with poetry, touching on parenting and how they shaped his identity as a Midwesterner along the way. We'll also hear Caine's feelings on Amazon. As a local bookstore owner, he has recently become a central voice in the movement against its influence.

Segment 1: "We need to make sure that we're being responsible with every dollar," said Mayor Quinton Lucas.

Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas wants to allocate $1.7 billion in the latest city budget, but key stakeholders worry it isn't enough to do everything that needs to be done. He's also catching heat for a proposed budget that cuts a great deal of funding to the arts.

Gary Scott

Desperate for a better connection with his kids, writer and editor Dan Kois uprooted his family from their busy lives. Kois documents this journey in his book, "How To Be a Family: The Year I Dragged My Kids Around the World to Find a New Way to Be Together.”

Before hitting the road, Kois said, his family was in "crisis." Though they lived under the same roof in Arlington, Virginia, everyone seemed to be living apart from one another.

Segment 1: Can trust in the American electoral system be restored?

As the 2020 election season takes shape, the fairness and security of our electoral systems are being questioned by regular voters, politicians and the intelligence community alike. From voter supression to foreign influence campaigns, we get a threat assessment for electoral integrity in the U.S.

Segment 1: When it comes to what makes a president's speech memorable "ideas are the most important thing."

Rhetoric expert Robert Rowland acknowledged that not every U.S. president has produced a memorable speech like Lincoln's second inaugural address. Rowland laid out the ingredients found in the ones that have stood the test of time and gave examples of those which met or missed the criteria, including speeches by Reagan, Obama and Trump.

Segment 1: Weaving a memorable presidential speech is a difficult art.

A good speech can do wonders for a those who deliver them, but behind many famous orations are the writers who craft them. From George Washington's innaugural address, written by James Madison, to Richard Nixon's efforts to formalize the speechwriter position, the efforts of these writers have literally served to narrate history.

Segment 1: A key player in Kansas City's hip hop community died unexpectedly.

In addition to being a producer for Ces Cru, Justin "Info Gates" Gillespie started the Beat Academy of Kansas City at the Plaza Academy, touching a lot of teens. Now the hip hop community is banding together to carry on his legacy and make sure those teens will continue to be supported.

Segment 1: "Tough love, to me, means you love fiercely but not uncritically," said Susan Rice. 

Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice recounted stories of her time as the 24th national security advisor, and what it was like to work so closely with President Barack Obama. Today, we take a second listen to a conversation on some of the best and worst things she saw during her time in Washington.

Segment 1: Analyzing impeachment from a historical perspective

Amidst the trial in Washington, it can be enlightening to look at how impeachment has evolved from since its beginnings in 13th-century England. We also discussed where this historical process fits into modern government.

Vladimir Sainte

As a teenager in Queens, New York, Vladimir Sainte often didn't want to go home after school. So he didn't. His parents, Haitian immigrants, worked several jobs, and Sainte had become a defiant and anxious boy.

When his parents decided they could no longer manage him, they shipped him to Kansas City to live with his uncle. He was 16 then. But now, years later in his career as a social worker, he sees he could have been taught to manage his emotions better.

Children, he notes, don't have the "verbal literacy" of adults.

Segment 1: A Kansas native moderated the last Democratic debate in Iowa.

Brianne Pfannenstiel grew up in Lawrence and got her first job in journalism at the Kansas City Star. Now that she's in a state with a huge voice in this year's election, we wanted to know: How does she feel the Midwest is represented in national discourse today? What does she think of Iowa's role specifically? And, what is it like to moderate a national debate?

Segment 1: What's the deal with this Bike Plan that advocates are trying to push through?

There is a plan for increasing bicycle safety in Kansas City that's been languishing in City Hall for almost a year. The death of a cyclist has ignited a groundswell of urgency for the city to take some kind of action. 

Segment 1: What 2020 could bring for health care

Health care is one of the hottest issues across the country, and Missouri and Kansas are no exception. We previewed what this year might bring for a variety of health-related issues and storylines.

Segment 1: A new book from an MU professor says hidden fees are chipping away at the middle class.

A professor of History, Black Studies, and Public Affairs at Mizzou says banking fees, mortgage fees, student loan fees, and payday loan fees disproportionately affect people, with the wealthy being able to largely avoid them. 

Segment 1: Some institutions of higher education use tracking software to assess prospective applicants.

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.

Enjoy this guide to the best books read by our Bibliofiles and KCUR staffers in 2019.

courtesy of Charlie Mylie

Gift-giving can be challenging enough when you're human. But when you're a mouse, it's really tough. Kansas City artist Charlie Mylie has just released his first children's book about this difficulty.

"Something for You" is about a mouse who delivers a cake to a friend and finds her unwell, not in cake-eating spirits at all. He must find something to cheer her up, so he takes to the surrounding streets, meadows and mountains.

Logan Action

Artist Hugh Merrill, who is white, had troubling memories from what he saw growing up in the Jim Crow South of the 1950s and '60s. And when he started looking into his family history, he was shocked by what he found out.

"It's a little bit like finding out that not only, if you were German, that your ancestors, that your uncles, were guards at Auschwitz — it's like finding out they ran Auschwitz," he says. "I had to make a decision about what to do with this. And it was absolutely clear what had to be done. I had to tell the truth."

Segment 1: Morgan Orozco is a sixteen-year old who's playing an active part in local government. 

Sick of waiting for adults to do something about climate change, this high schooler is taking matters into her own hands.

  • Morgan Orozco, Sustainability Advisory Board member, City of Lawrence; vice chair, Kansas High School Democrats

Segment 2, beginning at 23:16: A tale of mice, friendship and what's really important.

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.

Simon and Schuster

How did Harry Houdini make an elephant disappear?

It happened in 1918 in New York. One night, the great magician showed the audience a huge cabinet. After feeding Jennie the elephant some sugar, she was led inside. Curtains were closed around the cabinet. And when they reopened, Jennie was gone.

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

Local, independent bookstores in the Kansas City area are making a comeback. 

Buoyed by growing consumer unease with online retail giant Amazon, "indies" here and around the country are trying to capitalize on customer sentiment that favors brick-and-mortar intimacy and community spirit. 

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