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Top Stories

Editor's picks for the top news stories of the day.

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

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.

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.

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.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says Republicans will release a discussion draft of their version of the health care bill on Thursday, with a vote likely next week.

Private health care talks have been underway in the Senate for weeks. McConnell tapped a 13-member working group last month to hash out senators' differences over the House-passed American Health Care Act. McConnell's office has since taken the lead drafting the Senate version of the party's long-promised legislation to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

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. 

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

The state of Missouri filed suit Wednesday against three major drug companies, alleging they fueled the nation’s opioid epidemic with a campaign of false advertising and fake claims.

On the steps of St. Louis Circuit Court, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley said he would seek “hundreds of millions of dollars” in damages against Purdue Pharma L.P., Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc., and Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

Next year, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City will leave the individual health care marketplace in Missouri that was set up under the Affordable Care Act. And when it does, about 18,000 patients in 25 western Missouri counties will lose their health insurance. If those enrollees sign on to Healthcare.gov this fall to buy a replacement plan, they may have no options to choose from.

That's because those 25 counties could become "bare."

June 12, 2017 photo. Patty Prewitt (right) and Amy Sherrill perform a scene from "Run-On Sentence" in the Prison Performing Arts production at the Women's Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center
Provided | Prison Performing Arts

A St. Louis-based organization called Prison Performing Arts (PPA) is taking a fresh approach in its 27-year-old effort to turn inmates into actors.

The program is known for the “thees,” “thous” and “forswears” of Shakespeare’s scripts. But a contemporary play on stage Thursday at the Women’s Eastern, Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Vandalia expands PPA beyond The Bard.

“Run-On Sentence” is based on interviews done with those inside the institution. Inmate Patty Prewitt said the playwright Stacie Lents took time to really understand their world.

Saint Louis University Robert Pasken and his graduate student Melissa Mainhart perform a test run of a weather balloon that they plan to launch during the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

It's not just astronomy nerds who are preparing for the total solar eclipse in August. Scientists are also using the event, which has not occurred in Missouri since 1442, as an opportunity to gather data. 

St. Louis is one of 30 locations across the U.S. where scientists will launch large balloons into the upper layers of the Earth's atmosphere during the eclipse, as a part of the NASA and NSF-sponsored Eclipse Ballooning Project. On Tuesday afternoon, Saint Louis University and Jefferson College researchers performed a test-run of their balloon, which will carry a radiosonde, an instrument that measures wind speed, humidity, barometric pressure and other conditions of the atmosphere. They will also be using Ameren Missouri's network of weather monitoring stations, called Quantum Weather

The final tally of the house vote during special session on June 20, 2017.
Tim Bommel | Missouri House Communications

A much larger abortion bill is on its way back to the Missouri Senate, after the House loaded it up with more regulations Tuesday.

It’s the exact opposite approach the upper chamber took last week, which removed several items as a means of keeping Democrats from blocking it via filibuster. The bill passed 110-38 along party lines after four hours of debate.

Michael Brown Sr. stands at the back of the Ferguson Community Center's event space during the public comment portion of a 2016 Ferguson city council meeting.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The city of Ferguson has settled a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of Michael Brown.

Federal district Judge Richard Webber accepted the settlement on Tuesday. The amount that Michael Brown Sr., and Lezley McSpadden will receive from the city, former police chief Tom Jackson, and former police officer Darren Wilson will remain confidential.

Philando Castile's sister, Allysza Castile, speaks outside the Ramsey County Courthouse in St. Paul, Minn. after a not guilty verdict was delivered in the trial of Officer Jeronimo Yanez on June 16, 2017.
Lorie Shaull | Flickr

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis American.

Philando Castile’s family in St. Louis was watching on June 16 as a Minnesota jury acquitted the police officer who fatally shot Castile, a 32-year-old black man, during a traffic stop last year in suburb of St. Paul, Minn.

“Everyone’s heart fell to the ground,” said Stacy Castile, Philando Castile's uncle who lives in St. Louis. “We just lost him all over again.”

has eight KC-135 Stratotankers. The planes can carry 33,000 gallons of fuel. June 2017
Maria Altman, | St. Louis Public Radio

The steel gray KC-135 Stratotankers are massive.

The Boeing jets, first deployed way back in 1956, can carry up to 83,000 pounds of cargo with the thrust of four turbofan engines.

The plane is also capable of carrying 33,000 gallons of fuel and off-loading it in mid-air.

That’s the primary mission of the Illinois Air National Guard’s 126th Air Refueling Wing, assigned to Scott Air Force Base, near Belleville.

Rep. Diane Franklin, a Republican from Camdenton
File photo | Tim Bommel | Missouri House Communications

Unsatisfied with the extent of the Senate’s new proposed abortion restrictions, a Missouri House committee restored some provisions Monday, including one that gives the attorney general the ability to enforce any abortion law at any time.

Republicans on the House Committee for Children and Families said they added back the provisions, which had been stripped from the bill the Senate passed last week as a means of protecting against Democratic filibusters, because they didn't want to be a rubber stamp for the Senate.

Contractors start to prep the Confederate Memorial for removal on June 19, 2017.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis can’t take down the Confederate Memorial in Forest Park for at least two weeks, a judge ruled Monday.

The Missouri Civil War Museum sued the city last week, arguing it is the rightful owner. And St. Louis Circuit Judge Robert Dierker ruled there were enough questions about who owned the statue that work needed to stop. The case is scheduled to go to trial July 6.

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

June’s arrival heralded a new era for elections in Missouri, one in which voters are expected to show identification before filling out a ballot.

Any new law stirs up questions — especially when similar measures in other states make headlines again and again.

Nermana Huskic, right, and Diana Mrzljak, 15, set out watermelon before lunch at Gateway 180 June 18, 2017.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Because Islam puts a special focus on charity during the holy month of Ramadan, many Muslims St. Louisans are taking extra time to serve others.

This year, Ramadan began May 27 and ends June 25.

Sunday a couple dozen people from a nonprofit organization called RukaNade served lunch at the Gateway 180 homeless shelter in St. Louis’ Carr Square neighborhood.

Jackson County Committeeman Jalen Anderson speaks to a group of Pike County Democrats last week in Bowling Green.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

BOWLING GREEN, Mo. — After Missouri Democrats were routed in rural areas last year, the party’s leaders promised to be more aggressive in fielding candidates for the legislative districts ceded to Republicans.

Accomplishing that goal may require them to promote and fund House and Senate aspirants with socially conservative views on abortion — a strategy that makes some uneasy in a party that largely supports abortion rights. The talk also comes as the legislature holds a special session to strengthen abortion restrictions in Missouri.

Olivia Stevens pauses for a photo with her brother Alex at her high school graduation May 2017.
Provided

A scholarship founded in 2015 to support rural Missouri LGBTQ youth has announced its 2017 scholarship recipients.

The Missouri Courage Scholarship is being awarded to 11 students this year, including six from the St. Louis area. Four of the six are sponsored by Pride St. Charles.

A worker adjusts a lift after the removal of the top piece of the Confederate Memorial in Forest Park last week. (June 8, 2017)
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 6:35 p.m. to correct headline — The Missouri Civil War Museum may sue St. Louis if the city challenges the museum’s ownership of the Confederate Memorial in Forest Park, the organization said Friday.

Beating the heat
File photo | Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

With high temperatures expected in the St. Louis region on Saturday, the heat index — a measure of temperature and humidity — could break 100, according to the National Weather Service. That means it’s a good time to take precautions against dehydration and heat exhaustion.

Twenty-five people died of heat-related causes in Missouri last year, including an 85-year-old woman who died while sunbathing at her St. Louis County retirement home. Seniors, children, and people with chronic medical conditions are at the highest risk for heat stroke.

Jazz St. Louis Executive Director Gene Dobbs Bradford
File photo | Dennis C. Owsley

The Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis will honor two performing arts advocates with lifetime achievement awards during the 2018 St. Louis Arts Awards.

The Rev. Ken McKoy of the Progressive A.M.E Zion Church organizes NightLIFE walks three times a week in two north St. Louis neighborhoods.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

A group of local clergy and community organizers will hold a “Fathers Peace Walk” for the first time after dark Friday, throughout some of St. Louis’ most dangerous neighborhoods. The event, held two days before Father’s Day, aims to confront high levels of crime in the area.

Fathers will lead the walk, beginning at 7:30 p.m. in front of West Side Missionary Baptist Church, 4675 Page Blvd., in north St. Louis, while mothers lead prayers inside the church.  

Bombus balteatus, commonly known as the golden-belted bumblebee, pollinates a sky pilot in Colorado.
Candace Galen

When  a native bee received federal protection under the Endangered Species Act for the first time earlier this year, it drew an attention to a growing public concern.

Many  bee species in the United States have become threatened or have declined sharply in the last couple decades. Since native bees are crucial to pollinating crops, scientists are making a major push to keep track of them.

Researchers at Webster University and the Saint Louis Zoo are inviting residents to help the effort by leading a bee photo survey in Forest Park this Saturday. Images taken at the St. Louis Bee Blitz will help scientists better understand the abundance of various native species that live in the area.

Maplewood city attorney Craig Biesterfeld and city manager Marty Corcoran look through the city code during a meeting with a reporter at Maplewood City Hall.
Jenny Simeone-Cases | St. Louis Public Radio

Nuisance ordinances have been commonplace across the U.S. for at least a century. They are used to crack down on everything from overgrown grass to large-scale drug dealing. In the city of Maplewood, that extends to excessive calls to the police.

Maplewood's nuisance ordinance, last updated in October 2006, is the subject of two lawsuits, which allege the policy and its enforcement are discriminatory. How the city handles nuisance complaints is hailed by some as a way to keep the community safe, and reviled by others who believe it’s a way to regulate residents’ behavior and push out people of color, people with disabilities and survivors of domestic violence.

State Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Republican lawmakers pushed an abortion bill through the Missouri Senate this week, but were unable to secure many of the provisions they wanted.

Democrats are happy with a watered-down bill, but unhappy with having to deal with another attempt to further restrict access to abortion and that it came during a special legislative session.

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