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Top Stories

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

Illustration by Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

Mental illness is real in the African-American community and needs to be talked about.

That was the message of the final panel at the National Urban League conference, which wrapped up in St. Louis on Saturday. All three speakers were celebrity women of color who had had their own struggles with mental illness.

A view of the Mississippi River from Dubuque, IA, where government agencies, environmentalists, engineers and residents gathered to discuss flood risks along the upper Mississippi River.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Communities along the upper Mississippi River have seen a major uptick in heavy rains and flooding in the last decade.

Residents, environmentalists, engineers and government agencies agree that they need a coordinated strategy to manage flooding. That could be particularly important in coming years, as scientists predict that climate change will likely bring more heavy rain to the region.

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri Court of Appeals has given labor its second boost in a month in unions’ two-pronged effort to  overturn the state's "right to work" law.

On Friday, the court overturned a judge's earlier decision changing the wording on labor's proposed referendum to block "right to work," which is slated to go into effect Aug. 28.

On Thursday, U.S. Sens. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., cast late night votes for and against the most recent health care bill making rounds on Capitol Hill.
Ryan Delaney, Gage Skidmore, Center for American Progress

After another Republican Senate loss early Friday, Missouri and Illinois senators are calling for a return to bipartisan talks to overhaul the nation’s health care law.

They include U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, who had tried to help his party’s leaders come up with the votes needed for a trimmed-back version of a bill that would have repealed key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, the signature achievement of former President Barack Obama.

Katey Finnegan demonstrates how to use the chill zone, a space where students can take time to regroup while at the Maplewood Richmond Heights district's Student Success Center.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis-area school districts are in the midst of a discipline revolution. After the Ferguson Commission in 2015 recommended banning suspensions for students in kindergarten through third grade, schools began looking at how to address the root causes of difficult behavior.

Twenty-one districts pledged to at least attempt to reduce suspensions, and two have followed through, but officials say it can be tough to do without substantially investing time and money.

Provided: Ameren

Seven startup companies are taking part in the inaugural Ameren Accelerator program, which began this week in the St. Louis innovation district Cortex.

Ameren Corporation CEO and President Warner Baxter said bringing the utility together with startups will spur innovation that will ultimately help customers.

“They’re going to bring some technologies that we’re going to be able to study to see how we can do things around energy efficiency, how we can make the grid smarter, how we can make the grid more secure,” Baxter said.

St. Louis County Councilman Pat Dolan, D-Richmond Heights, July 2017
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome St. Louis County Councilman Pat Dolan to the program for the first time.

U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-University City, speaks at a congressional forum hosted by the League of Women Voters at Christ Church Cathedral in July of 2016.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Places that were crucial to the civil rights movement in the mid-20th century are starting to deteriorate, U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay says, which is one of the main reasons why he’s pushing to preserve them.

Clay’s other angle: He has Republican support, including U.S. Rep. Jason Smith of Salem, Mo. The two are co-sponsors of a bill that passed the U.S. House on Wednesday that would establish the African-American Civil Rights Network.

Matthew Kerns poses for a portrait with his late father's mounted deer head. The head, of the first deer his father killed, is now his prized possession. July 2017.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Who among us hasn’t grappled with building a relationship with our parents?

Matthew Kerns, director of the St. Lou Fringe festival of performing arts, struggled to bond with a father who was very different from him. Kerns was a gay theater kid; his dad was a stereotypically “manly” man who drove a truck and hunted deer.

The Illinois State Capitol in Springfield.
File photo | Seth Perlman | Associated Press

Updated 1 p.m. July 27 with lack of action on second day — Illinois legislators adjourned Thursday, the second day of a special session on school funding, after just a few minutes. 

Gov. Bruce Rauner summoned lawmakers to Springfield with the task of resolving a fight over a new funding calculation. Both chambers have approved a plan, but the Senate has refused to send it to Rauner, who says he'll rewrite it and send it back over objections to money for Chicago Public Schools.

On Chess: St. Louis to host chess legends in 2 tournaments

Jul 27, 2017
Former world champion Garry Kasparov and grandmaster Wesley So compete in 2016.
Lennart Ootes, Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis

The biggest chess event in the United States will fittingly be hosted in the chess capital of the nation. The Sinquefield Cup, which is the third leg of the Grand Chess Tour, will take place Aug. 2-12 at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. The top players in the world will compete for $300,000 in prize money, tour points and the coveted title of the 2017 Sinquefield Cup Champion.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has launched a website to show that most school districts stand to gain more state funding under his plan than under the Democrats' plan. How he calculated those numbers is a question reporters have asked repeatedly. We turned to the state board of education for answers.

People inside the Workhouse look out as protesters face off with St. Louis police officers. July 21, 2017.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis’ Medium Security Institution, also known as the Workhouse, has been the target of protests and lawsuits for years, including for its lack of air conditioning during the recent record-breaking heat.

While the city brought in temporary air conditioning units Monday, providing what city engineers said would be the ability to “sustain a temperature of 78 degrees inside the dorms,” the events sparked several questions. Here are some important facts about the Workhouse and the regulations it must adhere to.

A pond inside the John F. Kennedy Memorial Forest in Forest Park. July 2017.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Ecologist Amy Witt of Forest Park Forever was leading a nature walk through the John F. Kennedy Memorial Forest, a wooded habitat on the park’s southwestern edge. There are trees here that are older than the 1,300-acre park, which the city of St. Louis opened in 1876.

“They’re awesome. Right? We have some really old trees. We have some really young trees. That’s the natural regeneration of a forest and of a habitat,’’ Witt said. “We are called Forest Park for a reason.’’

Mizzou researchers studied fossils of clams called Abra segmentum valves that had been infected by trematodes, collected from nothern Italy.
Scientific Reports

Fossil records suggest that there could be another consequence of climate change and rising sea levels: an increase in parasitic worm infections. 

Scientists at the University of Missouri-Columbia and the University of Bologna studied clams collected in northern Italy that date back to the Holocene Epoch, a time when the planet was warming up after the Ice Age. Parasitic worms called trematodes, also known as flukes and flatworms, would attempt to feed on these ancient clams and the clams would respond by developing pits to keep them out.

By looking at the pits, the researchers learned that the presence of trematodes increased during relatively short periods of sea level rise.

File photo: Customers line up outside Crown Candy Kitchen, which sits across from 2720 N. 14th Street. (June 5, 2017)
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Contestants in the Fantasy Food Fare competition have been sweating it out in overtime to see who would make the final-three list for a free restaurant space in St. Louis' Old North neighborhood.

The list was set to be released on Tuesday. But Nos. 3 and 4 were too close to call. Finally, Wednesday night, the six judges decided to the only thing to do was expand the list to four finalists for the 2720 N. 14th St. location, across from Crown Candy Kitchen.

Deborah Ruffin speaks to the press about Clean Sweep and the effort to clean up her Hamilton Heights neighborhood.
Maria Altman | St. Louis Public Radio

A grass-roots effort to clean up some north St. Louis neighborhoods is holding an event this weekend.

Clean Sweep will tackle the Hamilton Heights and Wells Goodfellow neighborhoods and parts of the city of Pagedale, in St. Louis County, on Saturday. Better Family Life and Habitat for Humanity organized the effort, the second such clean-up event.

Leaders prepare to cut the ribbon in front of the Ferguson Community Empowerment Center on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. It's on the site of the QuikTrip that was burned during protests following Michael Brown's fatal shooting.
Wiley Price | St. Louis American

Updated at 4:50 p.m. July 26 with additional comments from the ceremony — In 2014, the burned-out Ferguson QuikTrip quickly became a national symbol of a community’s frustration over police brutality. Local and national leaders hope the building that replaced the convenience store becomes a symbol of hope.

Nonprofit, corporate and political leaders gathered Wednesday to celebrate the grand opening of the Ferguson Community Empowerment Center. It also served as the opening of the National Urban League’s annual conference, which is in St. Louis through Saturday.

Josh Hawley takes part in a debate.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri attorney general’s office said late Tuesday that it wants a federal appeals court to reinstate a ban on political action committees transferring money to each other during campaigns.

Dr. Shilpa Babbar, an OB-GYN physician for SLUCare in St. Louis County.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio.

Twice as many United States women are dying in childbirth today as in 1990, even though all other wealthy nations have seen declines in maternal mortality rates.

Rising rates of obesity and women having children later in life may help explain the rising number of deaths, said Dr. Shilpa Babbar, who specializes in high-risk pregnancies at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital in St. Louis County.

A MetroLink train
File Photo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 9 a.m. July 26 with more details — There will be an investigation into whether the St. Louis County officers assigned to patrol MetroLink stations and trains violated any laws, the St. Louis County Council decided Tuesday on the heels of three reports by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, and Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, discuss abortion regulations on the Senate floor on Tuesday.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 3 p.m. on Wednesday with information about Greitens signing the bill: JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Physicians will have to meet with women seeking abortions three days before the procedure and Missouri’s attorney general will have the ability to enforce abortion laws under the bill that Gov. Eric Greitens signed into law on Wednesday.

Greitens spokesman Parker Briden confirmed that the Republican governor signed Sen. Andrew Koenig's bill into law on Wednesday afternoon. Koenig's bill, which will go into effect in late October, passed on Tuesday by a 22-9 vote and came after a Democratic filibuster. Supporters say the legislation will make clinics safer, while critics contend it will make it harder for women to obtain abortions. The legislation may also complicate Planned Parenthood’s bid to expand throughout the state.

The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis is the largest local branch of any other Urban League in the country.
Jenny Simeone | St. Louis Public Radio

If you want to know why the National Urban League conference is in St. Louis this week, look no further than Michael Brown’s fatal shooting. The local chapter of the organization, which champions civil rights and economic empowerment for African-Americans, said it wanted to call attention to what it’s done since August 2014, and the work that remains.

But the location is also symbolic of the dilemma that the Urban League, which has been in the St. Louis area since 1918, and other long-standing organizations like the NAACP face: finding ways to stay relevant as movements like Black Lives Matter continue to rise to prominence.

More than a thousand demonstrators gather on Canfield Drive on Aug. 30, 2014 as part of a National March on Ferguson.
File photo | Emanuele Berry | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 4:45 p.m. to correct that the ruling may have violated Johnson's constitutional rights — A federal lawsuit filed by Dorian Johnson against the city of Ferguson, former officer Darren Wilson and former police Chief Thomas Jackson can go forward, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

St. Louis Comptroller Darlene Green takes the oath of office during an inauguration ceremony at City Hall in April. (2017)
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Darlene Green first became St. Louis’ comptroller in 1995, making her the first most politically powerful African-American woman in the region. Twenty-two years and seven elections later, she’s still in office, and has lots of company, putting St. Louis on the leading edge of a national trend.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar on July 24, 2017.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 10:45 a.m. July 25 with County Council expected to consider a related resolution — St. Louis County’s police chief disputed allegations Monday that his officers aren’t working hard enough to keep MetroLink trains safe.

schoolbus
Vipal | Flickr

Updated at 11 a.m. July 25 with statement from House Speaker Mike Madigan — Illinois lawmakers must hold the summer’s second special session due to disagreements over state’s K-12 school funding formula.

Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

 

As tensions rise in the Old City of Jerusalem, hundreds of people gathered on Delmar Boulevard in University City Sunday evening to show their support — some for Palestinians and others for the Israeli government.

School Illustration
Illustration by Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Officials in Metro East K-12 school districts say they have teacher shortages in some subject areas. But new teacher licensing rules that went into effect July 1 may help.

The Sny Island Levee System in Illinois is one of 10 levee systems that have exceeded their authorized heights, according to a survey conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers' Rock Island District this year.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Nancy Guyton has lived by the Mississippi River her entire life. She and her husband farm in Annada, a small town on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River. She knows that growing crops on the floodplain comes with some risks.

The Guytons’ farm, about 65 miles north of St. Louis, endured major floods along the Mississippi in 1993 and 2008. But since 2008, she’s noticed more flood events.

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