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Top Stories

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

Jennings Superintendent Tiffany Anderson takes her turn as a crossing guard.
Jennings School District

The arcane world of school finance in Missouri can be harder to understand than the most obscure poem or the most difficult calculus problem. But clear away all of the acronyms and calculations and modifications, and it comes down to two simple questions:

Should the quality of children’s education depend on where they live? And how important is money to education anyway?

New genetic test can detect almost any human virus

Oct 5, 2015
This colorized scanning electron micrograph image shows filamentous Ebola virus particles (shown in blue) infecting a cell (shown in yellow-green).
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH

Scientists at Washington University have developed a genetic test that can be used to detect practically any virus known to infect humans.

It could be especially useful for quickly identifying the cause of deadly disease outbreaks or helping a patient whose disease has eluded diagnosis.

A year without Chuck Berry at Blueberry Hill

Oct 5, 2015
Chuck Berry
Bill Greenblatt | UPI | File Photo

This month marks one year since Chuck Berry wrapped up his iconic run at Blueberry Hill in the Delmar Loop. The musician’s performing status is up in the air, according to Blueberry Hill owner Joe Edwards.

“The fact he’s almost 89 years old, who knows? He has the interest in doing it but he’s also working on some songs,” said Edwards. 

John Thavis covered the Vatican for 30 years.
Provided by the author

When veteran Vatican journalist John Thavis interviewed exorcists for his new book, many said right off that exorcism was “nothing at all like the movie.”

These American and Italian priests were referring to the 1973 movie “The Exorcist” made from William Peter Blatty’s novel, which was based on a St. Louis event.

Parking lots disappear in renderings of the new east entrance of Washington University.
Renderings from Washington University

Two of the most important civic, cultural, educational and recreational institutions in the region — Washington University and Forest Park — announced building and renovation plans over the weekend, plans that include transformative changes to come as well as some work already completed.

The plans also include a campaign for bulking up endowment funds for the future for Forest Park. Together, the plans represent a total of about $370 million and include five buildings and a green on the eastern part of the university campus.

Parents cheer during a football game against Christian Brothers College High School at St. Louis University High on Friday. At left, Verlion Evans cheers for her nephew, Andrew Clair.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

When she was a student at Maplewood Richmond Heights High School back in the 70s, Betty Pearson would ring a cowbell every time the Blue Devils made a touchdown. Her high school sweetheart — now her husband — played football, and their oldest son later followed in his footsteps. So when the school board announced they were ending the district's high school football program due to a lack of interest, Pearson was pretty shocked.

“I was first sad! I was like, 'Oh wow.' You know?” Pearson said.

Left: Audience members at an Ameren employee diversity festival clap when Ameren's $2.5 million donation is announced on Sat. Oct. 3, 2015 in St. Louis. Right: Rev. Earl Nance Jr. of Heat Up St. Louis shakes hands with Ameren CEO Warner Baxter.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

​Updated at 10 a.m. Oct. 4 with more detail on recipients - Ameren Corporation has pledged $2.5 million dollars to programs that support the Ferguson Commission’s priorities to reduce poverty and improve educational opportunities in St. Louis. The commission’s other priorities include justice and racial equity.

Ameren announced the funding Saturday during an employee festival celebrating diversity.

Missouri Department of Corrections

A Missouri death row inmate scheduled for execution next week has been spared, as Gov. Jay Nixon has commuted his sentence to life without parole.

Kimber Edwards was sentenced to death for the 2000 murder of his ex-girlfriend Kimberly Cantrell in St. Louis County.

St. Louis Alderman Scott Ogilvie speaks in favor of his bill exempting sheltered workshops from the city's minimum wage law.
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen exempted sheltered workshops from its new minimum wage law.

When the board passed legislation that is to gradually raise the city’s minimum wage to $11 an hour, they didn’t leave out sheltered workshops. Those facilities provide employment opportunities to people with developmental disabilities and often pay less than the minimum wage.

A line of police face off with protesters on West Florissant Ave., last Sunday night.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Revised following conference call - The St. Louis County police department is falling short of best practices in several critical areas.

That is the conclusion of the latest report on policing post-Ferguson released Friday by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community-Oriented Policing Services. The voluntary review, requested by Chief Jon Belmar more than a year ago, found 50 areas where the department can improve, and includes 109 recommendations.

File photo | Thomas Hawk | Flickr

In what some are calling a historic compromise, a broad spectrum of senators on Thursday announced support for sweeping changes in criminal sentencing laws.

The coaltion formed at a time when many Americans see Congress as dysfunctional, and lawmakers even within the same party at odds over national priorities.

photo of Barbara Harbach
Stephanie Zettl

For good reasons and for bad ones, the north St. Louis County city of Ferguson has acquired an international reputation. Its name has spread through conversations about social justice and inequities, including economic and educational issues. Art also has spread impressions of the city, more positive than not, and has come to play a significant, sometimes cathartic role in the life of Ferguson.

Most of the works of art are visual – drawings, paintings on wood used to board up buildings, even professionally produced prints that exalt the hands-up posture. There had not been a major musical endeavor such as a symphony. Now there is.

The west wing of Soldiers Memorial Museum
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

The person in charge of the Soldiers Memorial Museum is excited about management shifting from the city to the Missouri History Museum. A bill to do just that is now before the St. Louis Board of Aldermen. And   Superintendent Lynnea Magnuson says she's hopeful that the building may now receive the care it deserves.

“This is something that when I started, I would never have dreamed of it happening,” said Magnuson.

A new report finds the rate of homeownership among foreign-born residents in St. Louis is lower than the nation's.
Jim Larrison | Flickr

As St. Louis leaders are looking to turn the city into the fastest-growing metro region for immigrants in the next few years to spur economic growth, a new report shows that a majority of the city's foreign-born residents don't own their own homes. 

Mayor Francis Slay and County Executive Steve Stenger
Jason Rosenbaum and Alex Heuer | St. Louis Public Radio

The leaders of St. Louis and St. Louis County say their administrations are tackling the big issues that were highlighted in the Ferguson Commission report.

The commission’s nearly 200-page final report showcased substantial racial, economic and social divides throughout the St. Louis region and provided dozens of policy recommendations. Many of the report’s suggestions require action from the Missouri General Assembly, but some could be implemented by local governments.

ozone air pollution St. Louis
Missouri Department of Natural Resources

Since last fall, when the Environmental Protection Agency announced plans for an administrative rule to tighten standards on “ground-level ozone,” better known as smog, business and environmental groups have been fighting over what might seem to most of us to be minute differences on a grand scale. In anticipation of the new standard, both of Missouri’s U.S. senators have introduced separate bills to limit the rule’s economic impact on businesses, and state and local governments.

Jonathan Mueller | Flickr

There’s a lot of talk about “privilege” these days: “white privilege,” “heterosexual privilege" or “male privilege.”

It’s not uncommon to have some kind of privilege and not even know it. Many of us in St. Louis and elsewhere don’t know how to define it. But some people learn about male privilege in an unexpected way. They know what life is like for men and for women because they've lived both.

East St. Louis teachers on strike

Sep 30, 2015
East St. Louis students spend about a month without school last fall due to a teacher strike. In this Oct. 1, 2015 file photo students spend their free day outside the school district office.
File photo | Wiley Price | St. Louis American

Updated Thursday, Oct. 1,  2015

School is canceled Thursday for 6,000 students in East St. Louis as teachers walk the picket line. About 400 union teachers and staff members went on strike at 7 a.m.

East St. Louis School District 189 spokeswoman Kelli Hawkins said Wednesday the superintendent is hopeful teachers will meet Thursday and reconsider the district’s contract offer. The district’s 400 union teachers rejected it Tuesday before voting to go on strike.

File photo | Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

Five public schools in Missouri will have their cyber security measures reviewed as part of an initiative announced Wednesday by State Auditor Nicole Galloway.

She told reporters that more than 250 K-12 schools nationwide have suffered data breaches over the past 10 years. One of those was the Park Hill district in Platte County, near Kansas City, which is among the five being audited.

Panelist Dr. Karen Edison, who helps create health policy surveys at the University of Missouri, said she was once threatened with a loss of funding for including survey questions about sexual orientation. AJ Bockleman of PROMO sits to her right.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Sometimes, state and federal law are in conflict.

Rules for the protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is one example. Even though the federal government prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity on many counts, Missouri state law does not include those protections. 

Resolving those conflicts was the focus of a summit Wednesday between members of the LGBT community, their advocates and representatives from five federal agencies. 

The St. Louis County Council spent nearly an hour hearing criticism about legislation requiring a license for rental property.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated with comments from County Executive Steve Stenger - The St. Louis County Council held off on voting on legislation that requires owners of certain rental property to obtain licenses.

But even without a vote, the bill was the subject of immense criticism from a coalition of people who feel the bill is too broad and could have unintended consequences that would adversely affect victims of domestic violence.

Starkloff Disability Institute

It has been 25 years since the historic Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted by the U.S. Congress and St. Louis will join cities across the country in commemorating its passage. 

The St. Louis heroin epidemic: barriers to treatment

Sep 29, 2015
Mike Morrison talks with two staff members at Bridgeway's detox center in St. Louis.
File photo | Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

(Part 3 of 3)

In November 2013 Kari Karidis was in her office at Collinsville High School when a local hospital called to tell her that her son Chaz was in cardiac arrest. When she arrived at the emergency room she was told her son had died. All she could do was go into his room and say goodbye.

“He still had the tube — the breathing tube in,” Karidis recalled, sitting in that same office earlier this year. “I just sat there. I don’t know how long. I just remember thinking I can’t look at this but I can’t leave.”

Pope Francis waves to crowds gathered in Philadelphia, which include a group of De Smet Jesuit High School students and faculty.
Courtesy of Kenneth Luecke, De Smet Jesuit High School

As St. Louisans who traveled to see Pope Francis during his U.S. visit in Philadelphia last weekend return home, some said they were "awestruck" by an experience they described as "thrilling."

But not everyone was pleased with the pontiff's words, particularly around the issue of clergy sex abuse. 

The St. Louis County Jail is located in the Buzz Westfall Justice Center in Clayton.
Nate Birt

St. Louis County officials will soon decide whether to turn medical services at two county jails over to a private contractor. The decision is pending even as members of the medical community — including current justice center employees — have raised concerns over the dangers of privatizing healthcare in jail.

Michael and Kelley McDonald and Laura and Pete Stenger reminisce about their sons Sean McDonald and Mitch Stenger at Cottleville Wine Seller in St. Charles County. Both Sean and Mitch died of heroin overdoses in 2014. Mitch used to work at the Wine Seller
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

(Part 1 of 3) - On an April morning in 2014, Kelley McDonald woke up in her suburban St. Charles home and went downstairs to remind her son Sean to take his bipolar medication.

“I go over to the couch and I kind of shake him and I’m like come on buddy you’ve got to take your medicine. And that’s when I looked at him and he was kind of blue and I started screaming,” said Kelley McDonald, her voice shaking as she sits next to her husband Michael at a restaurant gazebo one year later.

How to talk about death, and why it matters

Sep 27, 2015
Pearl Holden portrait
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Adrienne Holden has seen hard deaths and easier deaths. Long ones and short ones. Times when the deceased left their families with precise instructions for their care and burial, and times when they did not.

A rendering of the proposed riverfront stadium
Courtesy of HOK

Members of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen may soon get a chance to do something that’s eluded lawmakers in Jefferson City: Vote on funding a proposed football stadium on the city’s riverfront.

While Gov. Jay Nixon's administration may very well issue state bonds for the project without legislative or statewide approval, city aldermen are expected to take up legislation soon that would authorize the city’s funding share of the roughly $1 billion project.

U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin
Official photo

The divisions among House Republicans over the funding of Planned Parenthood that contributed to Speaker John Boehner’s decision to step down next month will not force a government shutdown this week, according to Ballwin Republican Ann Wagner.

Lorie El Atlassi brought her toy poodle Zach and mini poodle Pepper to protest Petland in Lake St. Louis Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015.  She says her dogs were both rescued from breeders.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Tuesday, September 29 with comments from one of the store owners.

Animal rights activists continue to push for an end to what they call “puppy mills” in Missouri, five years after voters passed a proposition tightening dog breeding regulationsA year later, Gov. Nixon signed a compromise bill into law that reduced some of those regulations.

About 20 people picketed Petland in Lake St. Louis Sunday, carrying signs that read “Honk for a shelter dog” and “Boycott stores that sell puppies.”

Leanne Fritsch of University City organized the protest for “Puppy Mill Awareness Day.” She said a smaller group meets at Petland every Saturday.

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