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Illustration by Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

A Missouri appeals court helped labor groups Tuesday, giving them a backup plan in their attempt to block the new right-to-work law that’ll take effect Aug. 28.

The court ruled that the state must restore the original ballot language for initiative petitions that seek a constitutional amendment to make sure Missouri can’t have any right-to-work laws. Such laws bar unions and employers from requiring workers to pay dues or fees.

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act rallied in front of the White House in late February 2017
Ted Eytan | Flickr

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office weighed in on the Senate health care bill on Monday, saying that 22 million people would lose health coverage in the next 10 years under the Senate's plan. Of those, 15 million would lose Medicaid coverage. It's projected to lower the deficit by billions over 10 years, and also cut taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

Colorful photos hang on the walls at HCI Alternatives in Collinsville. The marijuana dispensary is set up like a typical doctor's office.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A small building nestled off Interstate 70 in Collinsville looks like a typical doctor’s office, until you get inside and look up close at the colorful artwork on the walls. They’re portraits of marijuana plants.

At this dispensary, about 12 miles east of the Missouri border, patients and the medical staff have lively conversations about the various medical marijuana products available, from brownies and blueberry-flavored candies to transdermal patches.

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated June 27 with a new timeline:

Republicans in the U.S. Senate said Tuesday they would delay a vote to pass their plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.

The Senate's Better Care Reconciliation Act would reduce the federal deficit by $321 billion and leave 22 million more people uninsured by 2026, according to Monday’s estimate by the Congressional Budget Office. Like the House plan, it slashes Medicaid and allows states to redefine what’s covered in a basic health insurance plan, in a bid to lower costs.

Monsanto's widely-used weed killer Roundup
File photo | Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, will be added to the list of chemicals California warns are known to cause cancer.

The state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment has posted a notice on its website that glyphosate will be added to the list on July 7. A California judge denied Monsanto's request to block the state from doing so, but the company has filed an appeal.

An illustration of pollution, 2017
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

For years, Granite City had some of the worst air quality in Illinois. But a new effort to track greenhouse gases could help reduce the city’s air pollution and improve public health.

For 18 months, Washington University researchers tracked levels of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide from Granite City municipal operations. The area has historically dealt with high levels of particulate matter pollution, largely from the local U.S. Steel plant. The plant idled temporarily at the end of 2015 but began operating again this year.

Nate Larson's photography and oral history project "Centroid Towns" documents life at towns that were, at one point, designated the mean center of U.S. population.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

“The Centroid” refers to the point of the United States’ mean center of population. Baltimore-based photographer Nate Larson has taken this construction and run with it, documenting life in the “Centroid Towns,” which have been calculated by the U.S. Census Bureau since 1790. Here's how that's done.

Dr. Sheandra Brown and Kristy Jackson are two local educators who recently spoke at The Crooked Room Conference at UMSL, which focused on improving outcomes for African American girls and women in education.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

There’s a growing body of research that shows African-American girls are punished in school at rates much higher than girls of any other race.

Stephen Webber, June 2017
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Webber joins St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies for a candid episode of the Politically Speaking podcast.

Webber is a former state representative from Columbia who was elected last year as party chairman. He took on that role after narrowly losing a state Senate race to Republican Caleb Rowden.

Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, Missouri
Ryan Famuliner | KBIA

Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision involving a Missouri church ultimately could make it easier for religious institutions to seek out state money for non-religious needs.

The justices ruled 7-2 in favor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, which had sought a state grant to put a soft surface on its preschool playground, but was denied funding. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote it is “odious to our Constitution” to exclude the church from the grant program.

House Speaker Michael Madigan speaks with reporters on Sunday, June 25, 2017, after the first meeting of Illinois' four legislative leaders in six months.
Brian Mackey | NPR Illinois

As Illinois closes in on a second full year without a budget, the top leaders of the General Assembly met Sunday for the first time this year. There are some signs of progress.

A crew removes a bronze sculpture from the Confederate Memorial Monday afternoon. (June 26, 2017)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 4:30 p.m. with comment from Louis Gerteis  — The Confederate Memorial will be removed from St. Louis' Forest Park this week, likely by Wednesday.

The Missouri Civil War Museum and the city of St. Louis settled a lawsuit last week over who owns the memorial, though the action wasn’t announced until Monday morning. The museum will cover the cost of removing and storing the statue, as well as finding an appropriate place to display it — but it can’t be in St. Louis or St. Louis County.

Downtown St. Louis,  looking east
File photo | Brent Jones | St. Louis Beacon

After the difficult process this year of piecing together Missouri’s budget, lawmakers believe they’ve found a way to get more money for vital state services: Cutting tax credits.

But a report from state Auditor Nicole Galloway’s office shows that even with big changes to popular incentives, it could be years before the state saves a significant amount of money.

A drawing of St. Louis resident Mychal Vorhees hearing an animal inside her chimney.
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

About a month ago, Mychal Voorhees heard a strange noise near her apartment.

“I was just sitting at home watching TV and I heard what sounded like a bird outside,” said Voorhees, who lives in the Saint Louis Hills neighborhood. “Then I realized it was much closer to me, that is was in the chimney, in the fireplace.”

Initially, she thought the animal was stuck in her fireplace, so she opened the damper and attempted to remove it with a broom. Then, she called her landlord, who sent a wildlife control expert to her home. The expert told her that the bird had built a nest above her fireplace. But he couldn’t remove it because it was a chimney swift, a species protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Head Start teaching assistant Shavonda Willis helps Jemez Jackson Harris IV close a bracelet he made to practice patterns June 23, 2017.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Ordinarily Head Start teaching assistant Shavonda Willis would be on vacation during the summer. But this year she is spending six weeks at an East St. Louis elementary school teaching 5 and 6 year olds who’ve never been to preschool.

Missouri Department of Transportation St. Charles County camera

Crumbling roads and old bridges have long been something lawmakers say they should work on.

Now, a task force created to study Missouri's transportation system will begin holding public meetings this week.

Volunteers clear brush from a community garden in the Jeff-Vander-Lou neighborhood June 24, 2017.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

At a community garden half a mile north of Powell Hall, Marcia Martin spent Saturday dragging branch trimmings into piles to clear out the greenery that had overrun the garden. Martin and her husband were joined by about a dozen other volunteers working on the lot at the corner of Montgomery and Coleman in the Jeff-Vander-Lou neighborhood.

“When we started on this project you couldn’t see the grass,” said Martin, 60, of St. Louis. “There were four of us down here working, and then all of these other people showed up. It was just amazing.”

Missouri union members at an anti-right to work rally in St. Charles on Oct. 4, 2016.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 11:15 a.m. June 26 with comment from Ashcroft — Missouri’s top labor group says the union effort to go to the ballot box next year to block “right to work’’ remains on course, despite a judge’s ruling Thursday that changes the ballot language.

The state AFL-CIO already has collected “tens of thousands of signatures,’’ said spokeswoman Laura Swinford. But those signatures were on petitions that contained the original summary ballot language that had been approved by Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft.

A comparison of what flames look like on Earth versus in zero gravity.
NASA video screenshot

Despite how long ago humans began using fire, the substance is still a mystery to scientists. Researchers at Washington University are hoping to answer some fundamental questions about it by studying flames in space. Earlier this month, they launched an experiment to do this to the International Space Station.

When a flame burns on Earth, gravity pulls cold, dense air to the base of it, causing hot air to rise. The upward flow of air is what gives flames the familiar teardrop shape. However, a flame acts differently in space.

Kathy Favazza (L) and Nika Leoni (R) are the co-founders of Make Music St. Louis, the organization responsible for bringing Make Music Day to St. Louis.
Alicia Lee | St. Louis Public Radio

If you happened to be in the Delmar Loop on Wednesday or in a number of other places in the St. Louis area, it’s likely you heard live music.

Those sounds were part of Make Music Day, an international holiday that’s celebrated in more than 750 cities worldwide including more than 50 in the United States. 

Opera singers Nika Leoni and Kathy Favazza are co-founders of the event in St. Louis.

Planning for this year’s St. Louis Pride has been marked by some disagremeents.
Provided | St. Louis Pride

Over the decades, St. Louis’ PrideFest has grown from a few dozen people daring to come out for a day, to 200,000 community members and supporters gathering to celebrate.

Now, as St. Louis gets ready for its 36th PrideFest, the annual event is experiencing some growing pains. Planning for this year’s gathering has been marked by conflict. For Pride St. Louis President Matt Harper, it’s been a period of trying to balance the contradictory opinions of a disparate community.

“You just can’t please everyone,” Harper said.

Patrons sit on Iowa Street outside Yaquis on Cherokee.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On April 30, Francis Rodriguez, the owner of Yaquis on Cherokee, was drawn to his apartment window by a commotion outside on Cherokee Street. Rodriguez lives above the pizza parlor and, as shots rang out, he and his wife dropped to the floor. After a pause, he ran downstairs to check on the restaurant, where people didn’t immediately recognize the sound of gunfire.

“They're still playing music in here. They didn't hear the shots upstairs that are right outside the door,” he said. “But just as I open up the back door from our apartment and hear people start raising the alarm in here [Yaquis] and so people started screaming and falling onto the floor.”

U.S. Department of Justice attorney Jude Volek, center, listens to activists in the Ferguson community June 22, 2017 after an update on the progress Ferguson is making on mandated changes to its police and courts.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

For the first time since it was adopted, Ferguson residents and activists got a chance Thursday to give their take on how the city is doing at making federally mandated changes to its municipal court and police department.

Everyone who spoke appreciated the opportunity to weigh in, but the reviews given to U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry were decidedly mixed. 

Gov. Eric Greitens signs the Foster Care Bill of Rights into law. (June 22, 2017)
Marshall Griffin|St. Louis Public Radio

Gov. Eric Greitens on Thursday signed into law a bill designed to improve the safety and quality of life of children in Missouri's foster care system.

 

At the heart of the measure is the Foster Care Bill of Rights, which begins by stating the “best interests of the child shall be the first priority of the children’s division” of the Department of Social Services.

Painkiller
Tom Walker | Flickr | http://bit.ly/22McgqC

Last year set a record for the number of drug overdose deaths in the St. Louis region, most of them opioid-related. Gun violence has also long been a problem in St. Louis. Although there’s no evidence to prove the rise in the prevalence of both issues is related, the solution to them is interconnected, advocates say.

St. Louis County officers join Clayton police in Februrary at a protest outside of Sen. Roy Blunt's office in downtown Clayton.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Officers with the St. Louis County Police Department will see, on average, a 30 percent pay raise on Jan. 1, 2018,  thanks to revenue from a new sales tax that voters approved in April.

The news, announced Thursday by St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, puts even more pressure on officials in the city of St. Louis to find money for their own police pay raises.

Logan Ely is the chef behind Square 1 Project, a pop-up restaurant concept.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Sound Bites is produced in partnership with Sauce Magazine, our monthly installment exploring cuisine in the St. Louis area.

Chef Logan Ely has been around the globe and back a few times since growing up in St. Louis. He spent time at Chicago’s North Pond Restaurant after graduating Forest Park Community College’s culinary program and from there went to Hong Kong and New York.

Sens. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, and Bob Onder, R-Lake Saint Louis, talk with St. Louis Public Radio's Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies at Picasso's coffeehouse in St. Charles. June 21, 2017
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Public Radio’s Politically Speaking podcast team of Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies were on the road again Wednesday, this time to Picasso’s coffeehouse in the historic downtown of St. Charles. The two welcomed state Sens. Bob Onder and Bill Eigel, Republicans who represent much of St. Charles County.

Onder, of Lake St. Louis, and Eigel, of Weldon Spring, focused on a variety issues and fielded a number of tough questions from the audience. Each praised Gov. Eric Greitens for calling a special legislative session, now underway, to deal with the abortion issue. Both are outspoken opponents of abortion.

A statue of former U.S. House Speaker Champ Clark stands before the Pike County Courthouse. Democrats like Clark controlled most of northeast Missouri's offices for decades. Now, the GOP rules the roost.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

BOWLING GREEN, Mo. — For decades, as other parts of rural Missouri turned red, voters in northeast Missouri sent Democrats to Jefferson City and backed Democratic statewide candidates.

That changed starting in 2010, though Republicans and Democrats said the most marked shift was in November 2016, as then-candidate Donald Trump touched a nerve with residents who’d seen jobs leave and economic fortunes sour. 

On Chess: Super-GM event has surprising result

Jun 22, 2017
Grandmaster Hikiaru Nakamura at the Super GM event in Norway in June, 2017. Nakamura got second place in the event.
Lennart Ootes | Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis

The annual Super-GM event in Norway began in 2013 and continues to get stronger each year. This year’s edition held June 6 -16, had 10 players, including the “Big 3” American players: St. Louis resident Fabiano Caruana; 2017 PRO Chess League Champion with the Saint Louis Arch Bishops and reigning U.S. Champion Wesley So; and several time U.S. Champion Hikaru Nakamura.

 

The event was played in a round-robin format, where each player plays all other participants. With 10 participants, each player plays nine rounds, hoping to score the most points to win the tournament.

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