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

Updated at 8:40 p.m. July 19 to correct numbers in 2nd paragraph —There are few places better to see the effects of an intensifying drought than a hulking, 200-plus-acre complex just off of Interstate 44 in southwest Missouri.

This is the Joplin Regional Stockyards, one of the biggest in the country, selling more than 430,000 head of cattle in 2017 alone. Usually, they’ll have 800 to 900 cows on the block at weekly Wednesday sales. On July 11, they had double that.

Before and after its facelift: Milque Toast Bar, 2212 S. Jefferson Ave., received a Community Development Block Grant to improve its facade.
provided | Neighborhood Commercial District Improvement Program

Leonard Johnson admits many run-down storefronts in St. Louis could use a facelift. He’d like to help “polish up” each and every one. But, for now, the director of the Neighborhood Commercial District Improvement Program only has a $1-million Community Development Block Grant to improve small-business facades. So, he plans to “spread the love” to businesses in the most underserved areas of the city.

“We understand that development happens downtown and in the central corridor,” Johnson said. “And it rarely spreads into north St. Louis or north city and even deeper in south city. We want to address that and be intentional about that, because that’s where our program had some shortcomings before.”

Logan and his sister, Ireland, swim at Manchester Aquatic Center on July 16.
Ashley Lisenby | St. Louis Public Radio

Ava Battelle leans into her camp counselor at the back of a big cafeteria called Miller Hall at Wonderland Camp. Parents, including Ava's mom, are registering their kids for another week there. Ava’s counselor, Sydney Dungan, dangles her arm across the girl’s shoulders.

“You don’t get any other experience like this than to live with someone with disabilities for a whole week, getting really close with them, and then just seeing them as a real person and not just as their disability,” Dungan said later.

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger is going into the 2018 election cycle with few strong allies on the county council.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo I St. Louis Public Radio

The race to represent the 5th District on the St. Louis County Council comes amid a backdrop of extreme discord between Council members and the county executive.

County Executive Steve Stenger came into office in January 2015, with most of the Council on his side. As time went on, six out of the seven members -- many of them fellow Democrats -- ended up against him. The upshot is that Councilman Pat Dolan has become Stenger’s lone ally.

Dolan, D-Richmond Heights, is hoping to retain that designation after the Aug. 7 primary election. He’s facing a strong challenge from Lisa Clancy, a Maplewood Democrat who wants to supply a “fresh voice” on the Council.

An analysis of states that decriminalized marijuana reported a steep drop in the number of related arrests and no increase in adolescent use.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Decriminalizing marijuana doesn’t necessarily lead to an increase in adolescent use, according to research from Washington University.

Marijuana possession is still illegal under decriminalization, but it is treated as a civil offense.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Cori Bush prepare to take a photo on Saturday, July 21, 2018, at Sqwires Restaurant in St. Louis.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

A Democrat challenging incumbent Congressman Lacy Clay is getting a boost from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who made national headlines earlier this year by toppling a long-time New York representative.

Ocasio-Cortez was in St. Louis on Saturday on behalf of Florissant Democrat Cori Bush. Her visit comes a day after Ocasio-Cortez joined Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in campaigning for Brent Welder, a former St. Louis resident is who running for a congressional seat in Kansas.

'Duck Boats' Have A History Of Fatal Accidents

Jul 20, 2018

The death toll from the capsized tourist "duck boat" in Branson, Missouri, has risen to 17, making it the deadliest accident involving a duck boat in North America.

Democrats Brad Bakker, at left, and Wiley Price IV, right, seek to replace Missouri House Rep. Karla May in District 84.
Jon Saucier Photography, Wiley Price IV via Facebook

In Missouri’s 84th House district two Democrats are competing for Karla May’s term-limited seat as she makes a bid for the state Senate.

Brad Bakker, an attorney, came to St. Louis to attend Saint Louis University; he left to get his law degree before returning to St. Louis with his family several years ago. Wiley Price IV, an events management director, is a lifelong resident of the 84th district, which includes the Forest Park, the Central West End, Dogtown, Wellls-Goodfellow and Hamilton Heights neigborhoods.

Attorney General Josh Hawley shakes hands on Thursday with Vice President Mike Pence. Pence made a speech in downtown St. Louis to bolster President Donald Trump's policies.
Bill Greenblatt I UPI

This week’s election edition of Politically Speaking examines how national and state-based political figures are assisting Attorney General Josh Hawley and U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill’s campaigns.

Hawley received a fundraising boost this week from Vice President Mike Pence, who swung through the St. Louis area on Thursday to promote President Donald Trump’s policies. Meanwhile across the state, House Democrats are trying to a link a 2017 controversy involving Senate President Ron Richard with Hawley.

Updated at 5:25 p.m. ET

Seventeen people are dead after an amphibious tourist boat carrying 31 people capsized and sank Thursday during a severe squall in a lake in southern Missouri.

The Ride the Ducks Branson boat sank on Table Rock Lake near the resort town of Branson on Thursday. Divers worked through the night on rescue and recovery operations. On Friday morning, the county sheriff told reporters that all the bodies had been found, bringing the death toll to 17.

Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader confirmed around 10:19 AM Friday that divers had located the remaining four bodies of passengers who had been on the boat that capsized and sank Thursday night in Table Rock Lake.

This means that a total of 17 people died in the incident, which authorities say was partially caused by severe weather. 

Kevin and Danielle McCoy, seen here with their daughter, Elle, posed an artistic response to their own experiences with colorism. 7/20/18
Jeremy D. Goodwin | St. Louis Public Radio

Married couple Danielle and Kevin McCoy are used to being treated differently based on the color of their skin — not only because they are each African-American, but because her skin tone is lighter than his.

“Dani being fairer-skinned, wavier-textured hair,” Kevin McCoy said, “and me darker, more coarse, as we say nappier hair — I was not the ‘safe’ black person.”

He said people they encounter, both “in the black community and outside of the black community,” appear comfortable with Danielle but view him as “aggresive.”

This led them to create the work in “Color-ism,” an exhibition that opens at the Gallery at the Kranzberg Arts Center on Friday and remains on view through Sept. 3. Put simply, colorism is the preference for lighter-colored skin, even within communities of color.

Former Mayor Raymond Tucker (at right) and then-civic leader and bond issue chairman Sidney Maestre look out over an area of Mill Creek Valley slated for clearance in this photograph from 1956.
Missouri Historical Society

Lois Conley of St. Louis grew up in Mill Creek Valley, where everything was in walking distance, and neighbors kept a close eye on each others’ children.

“You felt safe; You felt protected. Everybody knew everybody,” Conley said.

But in the late 1950s, the area between Union Station and Saint Louis University was condemned in the name of urban renewal. Families moved away and lost touch.

Now St. Louis is a finalist in a national contest that would help fund a public art project documenting the destruction of Mill Creek.

Mike Parson
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Gov. Mike Parson is now detailing the reasons why he made several line-item vetoes to Missouri’s fiscal year 2019 state budget, which took effect this month.

The state constitution requires that vetoes of bills or budget line items be accompanied by a letter alerting the Legislature of each veto, and why it was made. While Parson issued explanations for the two standard bills and one resolution he vetoed, he initially did not for the budget cuts.

The City of Clayton has apologized to the 10 black Washington University students involved in the July 7 incident.
File Photo | Kae Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated July 20 at 4:15 p.m. - STLPR journalists Holly Edgell and Chad Davis joined St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh to provide context and analysis about this story.

Original story from 7/19:

Clayton City Manager Craig Owens, Clayton Police Chief Kevin R. Murphy, and other officials met with several black students who were falsely accused of “dining and dashing” at an IHOP in Clayton.

Owens said the meeting was “emotionally powerful.”

“In hindsight, it is clear to us that we mishandled the interaction with these 10 Washington University students and lacked sensitivity about their everyday reality,” he said in a statement.

Mosquitoes with the West Nile virus have been found in St. Louis County for the first time this sumemer
(via Flickr/John Tann)

Health officials have detected the West Nile virus in mosquitoes found in St. Louis County.

The West Nile virus can potentially be deadly, but cases in humans are relatively rare. No Missouri residents have contracted the disease so far, this year, according to federal health data.

Marchers protest ICE and U.S. immigration policy in downtown St. Louis on July 19, 2018.
St. Louis American

More than 20 immigrant advocates and St. Louis clergy occupied the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office in downtown St. Louis Thursday afternoon. With a banner stating “U.S. Funded Kidnapping” and “#AbolishICE,” they held a sit-in at the office, located at Spruce Street and Tucker Boulevard.

“We want to send a message that we do not welcome ICE in St. Louis,” said Amanda Tello, a community organizer for Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates (MIRA), in an interview with St. Louis American prior to the action. “Most of our actions have not been targeted at ICE, and so it was time to let them know that we see them and that we don’t want them here.”

Bird, an electric scooter share program that launched Thursday morning in St. Louis, is temporarily on hold.   According to the city of St. Louis officials, the company dropped off scooters throughout St. Louis without a permit from the city. July 2018
Provided | Bird

Updated July 19 at 11 p.m. with a comment from Bird — Some St. Louisans might have noticed motorized scooters around the city on Thursday morning. Bird, a low-cost, electric vehicle sharing company, launched the scooter share program this week.

The problem is the company didn’t notify anyone in the city.

According to city officials, Bird dropped off scooters at several locations in St. Louis without the approval or knowledge of the city.

Ferguson Councilman Wesley Bell
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Ferguson City Councilman Wesley Bell comes back to the Politically Speaking podcast to talk about the race for St. Louis County prosecutor.

The Democratic official is taking on incumbent St. Louis Prosecutor Bob McCulloch, one of the longest serving local officials in the entire state. Because no Republican signed up to run, the winner of the Aug. 7 primary will serve a four-year term.

Vice President Mike Pence visited St. Louis on Thursday to tout President Donald Trump's tax cuts and campaign for Senate candidate Josh Hawley, at left. July 19, 2018
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Updated July 20 at 4 p.m. — Analysis from St. Louis on the Air added.

Updated July 19 at 3 p.m. — U.S. Vice President Mike Pence defended President Donald Trump’s record as “18 months of action, 18 months of results, 18 months of promises kept,’’ as he exhorted St. Louis area supporters to get out to vote in November.

In particular, Pence called for help in defeating U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat who the vice president contended is too liberal for the state — and the country.

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