Audio Features | St. Louis Public Radio

Audio Features

Feature-length audio news reports from St. Louis Public Radio reporters.

Missouri Department of Conservation official Mark McLain shows how the BoarBuster, a feral hog trap, can be deployed with his phone.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

The invasive feral hog roams in more than 30 counties in Missouri, decimating farmland and wildlife areas in its path.

This summer, state officials banned feral hog hunting on public lands in their latest effort to eradicate the pest from Missouri. They’re also beginning to use new technology to trap the animals.

Botanist Nigel Taylor checks the stems of cassava plants at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in Creve Coeur.
File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

As botanist Nigel Taylor moves through a greenhouse kept to 90 degrees Fahrenheit and 80 percent humidity, he checks the stems of young, potted cassava plants.

“You can see it there, OK?” Taylor said, pulling one forward. “We’re getting lesions on the stem, this plant’s quite badly infected.”

Call it manioc, tapioca or cassava — this starchy, tropical tuber feeds millions of people around the world. In many parts of East and Central Africa, farmers are experiencing declining yields of cassava due to brown streak virus, a plant disease that can render a crop inedible.

For the past decade, scientists at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in Creve Coeur have led a project that tries another tack: genetically modifying cassava plants for disease resistance.

A art piece by Kelley Walker depicting a civil rights-era protest is splattered with melted dark, white, and milk chocolate.
Kelley Walker, Black Star Press | Paula Cooper Gallery

Walk into the Contemporary Art Museum today and you will be greeted with brick paintings, light boxes, laptop sculptures, and a 4-by-4 chocolate disco ball. It’s Kelley Walker’s first U.S. solo museum show, Direct Drive.  

Walk deeper into the main galleries and you’ll see works from the Georgia-born artist’s past shows, most notably Black Star Press, and Schema. They include a floor-to-ceiling print of the model and rapper Trina scantily clad on the cover of KING magazine coated in digital scans of smeared toothpaste. Another uses a 1963 image of Birmingham police and dogs attacking a civil rights protester. The print is splattered with different shades of chocolate. Both works have garnered Walker, who is white, a reputation for commenting on race in America — and fierce criticism of his use of the black body.

The jazz-electronica group Koplant No emerged several years ago at the University of Iowa.
Provided by Koplant No

When an emerging jazz band seeks to make a fresh statement, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that its musicians would embrace the modern sounds they grew up with.

That explains the path of Koplant No, a quartet that fuses intricate jazz composition with improvisation, electronica and elements of hip-hop to capture a listener’s imagination. The Midwestern group, which this weekend returns to Jazz at the Bistro in St. Louis, has a light and airy sound that can sound a bit like a futuristic movie soundtrack.

For a while, even its members didn’t know how to precisely describe what they play, saxophone player Joel Vanderheyden said. But they've agreed on a description, perhaps after learning that some listeners feel that hearing the music is like taking a journey.

“Only in probably the last couple of years we sort of stumbled upon the label of cinematic electro jazz,” he said.

Benjamin Yates, right, works on a puzzle with his mother, Tracy Yates, and his brother, Nicholas, at their Webster Groves home.
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

On a late summer morning, when most 6-year-olds have returned to the classroom, Benjamin Yates knelt on a blue mat in the living room of his family's home in Webster Groves.

He was working on a human body puzzle with his mother and his 3-year-old brother, Nicholas. And he was clearly having a good time, which echoed in his response to the simple question: What do you like about learning at home?

“I get to choose what I learn about, so it's more fun.”

'Miriam Makeba: Mama Africa the Musical' dancers and singers held a pop up performance at UMSL's Millennium Student Center Monday.
Provided by UMSL campus photographer August Jennewein

When Niyi Coker considers Africa’s contributions to modern music, he can’t help but think of Miriam Makeba, the acclaimed South African singer and activist who introduced international audiences to the continent’s sounds.

It’s impossible to separate Makeba’s art from her activism, said Coker, a professor of African-American studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. In a life that was heroic and tragic, the singer suffered three decades of forced exile from her homeland for challenging its racist policies and injustice.

When Makeba died in 2008, she left an incredible legacy, said Coker, a native Nigerian who wrote “Miriam Makeba: Mama Africa the Musical.” Its first performance in the United States takes place Thursday at the Touhill Performing Arts Center.

Linda Lockhart | St. Louis Public Radio

On Sunday, as Americans remember the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, 93-year-old Warren Nelson of St. Louis will avoid looking at the photographs.

Humberto Howard | Criteria Entertainment

The St. Louis Ballpark Village is usually a venue for throwing back a few cold ones and watching the Cardinals game. But today the venue will give locals a taste of Los Angeles. La Santa Cecilia, a modern band that fuses Mexican roots music and Pan-American sounds, from cumbia to soul, is the headliner for the En Vivo Latino Music Festival.

Kelvin Urday, center, rehearses "21 Chump Street" with, from left to right, Kevin Corpuz, Omega Jones and Phil Leveling.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A St. Louis theater company opens a show by playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda tonight. No, it’s not the blockbuster “Hamilton,” although of course that’s what Miranda is known for.

R-S Theatrics is staging “21 Chump Street,” an earlier, shorter musical, as part of trio of one-acts named “Love? Actually … .” It definitely has those Miranda hallmarks: hip-hop, social issues and moral questions, in its telling of a real-life story of love, deception and a drug sting in a Palm Beach, Fla. high school.

(via Flickr/hlkljgk)

So far, Missouri voters will decide six ballot questions this fall. The deadline for issues to be certified for the Nov. 8 ballot was Aug. 30.

That number could rise to seven if a judge rules to validate about 2,200 more signatures gathered for a proposal to allow the medical use of marijuana.

Emily Koplar - Wai Ming
Provided by St. Louis Fashion Incubator

Updated 11:48 a.m., Aug. 25 with inaugural class announcement -  A local designer is part of the St. Louis Fashion Incubator's first class. Emily Koplar is one of six people chosen to go through the two-year program aimed at supporting the businesses and boosting the city's fashion-related economy. She is founder of the Wai Ming women’s clothing line. Other members of the inaugural class are from the New York City area, Dallas and Chicago.

A black bear revival is coming to Missouri

Aug 21, 2016
A bear cub observes the Conservation Department team from the safety of a tree branch.
Mallory Daily | St. Louis Public Radio intern

Three black bear cubs look down on a team of Missouri conservationists from a tree branch about 60 feet above. They’re scared, but after climbing that distance in a matter of seconds, they’re safe.

They were probably about 4 months old, Mike Woodring, a retired conservation officer, said, in a recent interview. Woodring is involved with the Missouri Department of Conservation’s efforts to track the growing black bear population in Missouri. He’s trapped more than 30 bears during his career, his most recent was on that morning, when this mother of three took the bait.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, or one of its many predecessors, has been in St. Louis for more than 70 years and has about 3,000 employees in the city.

Earlier this summer the federal spy agency announced it had chosen a north St. Louis site for its new $1.75 billion campus.

St. Louis Public Radio's Maria Altman sat down with NGA director Robert Cardillo to talk about his vision for the new facility. (The conversation has been edited for length and clarity):

Biology teacher LaJuana Stidmon examins at microscope she received as a gift at Clyde C. Miller Career Academy in St. Louis earlier this month on Aug. 11, 2016.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Comparatively low pay. Long hours. High — and often changing — expectations. A sometimes reluctant audience. Two months of vacation isn’t a big enough perk to lure anyone into the teaching profession for long. So what inspires St. Louis teachers to return each year?

With most St. Louis area schools now back in session, St. Louis Public Radio asked local teachers what keeps them coming back, what are their biggest challenges and what advice they have for parents.

Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

Kathie Harnacker is house hunting in Ferguson.

She braved relentless rain on Sunday afternoon to tour a compact three-bedroom brick ranch on a tree-lined street in the Old Ferguson West neighborhood.

“This house is great,’’ she said, while standing in the lush patio garden. “It looks well-maintained. It looks like a very nice neighborhood.”

Karen Downey as Betsy Boss, left, and Allison Harris as Emily Lickinson, right, speed through a quick arm wrestling match during a dress rehearsal at the Heavy Anchor bar.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

As the lights dim, wrestler Hulk Hogan’s theme song will rise and Betsy Boss will strut onstage in her American flag bikini. Her biceps flexed, and with a sewing kit tucked under her arm, the newest St. Louis Lady Arm Wrestler will be ready to rumble.

Her motto: She leaves you red, white and boo hoo.

Betsy Boss — local fitness instructor Karen Downey — makes her debut tonight at the group’s latest Grease-themed bout — “Summer Shovin.”

The St. Louis Lady Arm Wrestlers — also known as SLLAW — describe themselves as "a philanthropic conglomerate of awesome," with a mission to “empower women and strengthen the community through theatre, philanthropy and the pure power of ladyhood.”

Keyboardist and singer Ashley Underwood, on the right in red, was only 9 when he saw the Beatles in St. Louis. Pam Strasser, a third-grade teacher, was 14.
Nancy Fowler / St. Louis Public Radio. Ticket stubs provided by Steve Adams and Barbara Ward

In 1966, the civil rights movement was in full swing, protesters marched against the escalating war in Vietnam, and the Beatles were revolutionizing the U.S. music scene.

But for good Catholic girls like Pam Strasser, it was still a time of relative innocence. She and her friends used their babysitting money to buy their tickets when the Beatles came to St. Louis.

Eli Chen

Inside a huge warehouse at Boeing’s headquarters in St. Charles, a table-shaped drone rose from the middle of the floor.

As intern Edwin Mercado-Colon sat at a computer typing commands, the drone began to move around the room and an unmanned vehicle automatically followed.  But Mercado-Colon wasn’t using a controller to direct the drone. Instead, he picked a destination for the drone without telling it how to get there.

“He’s picking a spot in the lab to fly to,” said Mike Abraham, manager of Boeing’s Collaborative Autonomous Systems Laboratory. “That command goes to the vehicle. The vehicle knows where it is because of the motion capture system. It’s determining how to get to the next point, on its own.”

Developing unmanned vehicles that can work together on their own represents the latest in drone technology, a global industry that analysts predict could be worth $127 billion by 2020.

Members of Black Pride march in the Pride St. Louis parade in June.
Pride St. Louis

A group of people in St. Louis face a one-two punch of adversity every day.

As members of the LGBT population, they can legally be denied housing or fired on a whim. As African-Americans, they’re already more likely to be homeless or unemployed.

A small, local LGBT organization called Black Pride  embraces all these challenges. But as members prepare for their annual celebration this weekend in The Grove area, members still have to justify the group’s very existence.

Members of "The Palpations," a band started by second-year medical students, try to fix a broken guitar string during practice.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

During her first year of medical school, Katherine Hu struggled with the feeling that she didn’t measure up.

“You end up becoming, actually, pretty cynical. I’d be sitting in class, the professor’s speaking a million miles an hour, and I don’t know what’s going on,” Hu said. “It just becomes heavier and heavier … kind of hopeless sometimes.” 

Kenrich Henderson gazes at a portrait of her daughter Jamyla Bolden. The painting is a gift from St. Louis artist Jane Martin and an organization called Faces Not Forgotten that produces portraits of children killed by gun violence.
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

Kendric Henderson was lying on the bed with her daughter Jamyla Bolden, doing homework, when bullets burst through the window of their Ferguson home. The gunshots killed the 9-year-old and wounded her mother.

Nearly a year later, the pain is still agonizing. But local artists are trying to help keep the good memories alive for Jamyla’s loved ones. They're also helping dozens of other families around the country.

The Witherspoon family

Most of us, at some point, will know someone who is struggling with a life-threatening illness. More than one in three U.S. residents are diagnosed with a form of cancer in their lifetime, and one in nine adults over the age of 65 are living with Alzheimer’s disease.

But when a close friend or loved one shares that they have a serious health issue, we’re often left not knowing what to do or what to say.

Danielle Washington of the Wyman Center walks Ozzie Furlow through financial aid literacy training at St. Louis Graduates' High School to College Center. Furlow plans to enroll as a freshman at Arkansas Baptist in August 2016.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

When Ozzie Furlow graduated from Hazelwood East High School in June, he planned to attend Missouri Western State University in the fall.

But there was a problem.

“They wanted me to be part time, and I have nobody to stay (with) down there,” Furlow said.

Treasure Shields Redmond and her book, “Chop: A Collection of Kwansabas for Fannie Lou Hamer"
Kim Love / Shields Redmond headshot

As a child in Meridian, Miss., Treasure Shields Redmond donned special shoes nearly every Sunday — a black patent leather pair that skipped after her mother as they walked to the Baptist church.

By high school, she’d traded her Mary Janes for Nikes, and hymns like “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” for Public Enemy's “Party for Your Right to Fight.”

The daughter of East St. Louis Poet Laureate Eugene Redmond is now a poet and performing artist, and an English professor at Southwestern Illinois College.  In our latest Cut & Paste podcast, we talk with Shields Redmond about using language and song as tools for social justice and illuminating women’s lives.

Marty Murray, a candidate for 7th Ward committeeman, talks to Stacy Kistler while knocking doors in the Lafayette Square neighborhood of St. Louis on June 10, 2016.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated July 21 with additional Mobilize Missouri endorsements. — The biggest races in August are getting all the attention. But a group of seats on the St. Louis Democratic Central Committee could prove to be just as important in the long run.

Candidates from across the city have their sights on being committeemen and committeewomen, in an effort to push for change in the party now and at future elections.

A scene from "Menudo Pops," a spoofy  commercial for popsicles created from a traditional Mexican dish that's made from the stomachs of animals.
Mike Snodderley

This month, St. Louisans can experience something they’ve likely never seen or heard before: 90 minutes of local theater focused on Latino themes and characters.

Theatre Nuevo is staging a series of one-act plays in English, Spanish and a sprinkling of Spanglish, from the touching tale of a struggling family restaurant to a new take on “Little Red Riding Hood.”

The presentation is the brainchild of Anna Skidis Vargas, a local theater professional who wants to honor her heritage. Skidis Vargas, who's from Southern Illinois, has Mexican-American roots. She said the project gives all Latinos a chance for visibility.

Come January, there will be a new prosecutor in the city of St. Louis for the first time in 16 years.

The election to replace Jennifer Joyce as circuit attorney comes as the city is struggling to get homicides and other violent crime under control. Relations between law enforcement and some communities remain strained as well, with Joyce herself having been the target of protests.

Jack Grelle (left) poses with Patrick Haggerty, who wrote and performed Lavender Country
Jess Luther | St. Louis Public Radio

The first song off Patrick Haggerty’s 1973 album “Lavender Country" proudly proclaimed the recording’s intentions. It’s gay. It’s country. And it makes no apologies. 

“We were making it for ourselves, which allowed a certain freedom of expression because we weren’t cow-towing to anybody,” said Haggerty, who performs Friday in St. Louis.

Four decades ago, the country-music industry greeted the album with hostility. Haggerty’s recording career came to an end. But his seminal work is finding a receptive country music audience today. Two years after a small Philadelphia label re-released the album to critical acclaim, Haggerty is on his first-ever tour.

(Updated) Three weeks to go before the Aug. 2 primary, Missouri’s GOP candidates are hitting the road — and doubling down on the negatives.

State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, and Congressman Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay and state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal don’t have a lot of commonalities. But they’re both good at winning elections.

Inspired and fueled by their successful mentors, Clay and Chappelle-Nadal have withstood strong challenges to survive and advance through Missouri politics. Now, the two University City Democrats are putting their unblemished electoral records on the line in a battle to represent the 1st Congressional District.

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