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Health Insurers Have To Give Back $1.4 Billion, And Kansans Get The Fattest Checks

A private insurer’s 2018 premiums in Kansas ran too high — at least compared to the medical bills it had to pay for customers that year. That means thousands of Kansans get money back this fall because they got overcharged last year.

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Had a garage sale the other day. Swore I’d never have another one 2 sales ago. But stuff just kept piling up and something had to be done. So my wife, my daughter and I spent a long 90-degree June day saying over and over, “Yes, we’ll take 50 cents instead of 75 cents for that.”

I was going to do another commentary today about British Petroleum’s oil massacre of the Gulf of Mexico. But when I sat down to write it and began thinking about the leak which is a mile below the surface of the water, my thoughts were interrupted by a BP official who burst into my brain and quickly waved me away from the scene.

“You can’t consider this at all,” he ordered. “This entire area of thought is off-limits to anyone except employees of BP. Cease all mental cogitation on this subject immediately.”

The amazing thing about the tragic BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico for me, is not that it happened. It’s not the gargantuan size of the spill itself. And it’s not that the three corporations involved are each blaming the other. What’s unbelievable about this disaster is the fact that the drilling industry had no plan for what to do in the event that such a spill took place. They seem to be scrambling and improvising in a way that reminds me of a three-year-old who shattered Mom’s favorite flower vase all over the kitchen floor while trying to get to the cookie jar.

There’s a local businessman who’s running for Representative Todd Tiahrt’s congressional seat.  This guy is apparently just nuts about me. He really really really wants to be my pal. I know this because he’s tried three times to “friend” me on Facebook. Each time I turn him down and it never hurts his feelings. He just comes back again with another request. He’s positively smitten with me, I can only surmise.

Spring is such a generous season. Without our having to lift a finger, nature showers us with spectacular abundance every April. It didn’t require a public vote on which trees would bud first. There was no legislation passed stipulating that by a certain date all tulips would burst open. The enthusiastic birdsong outside our kitchen windows every morning now does not have to be critiqued by a panel of celebrity judges.

My ego can beat up your ego. My team can beat your team. My political party can beat your political party. My country can beat your country. My planet can beat your planet. My galaxy can…well, we’re not quiet that far yet, but the time will come.

Bragging rights. We humans love ‘em. Gotta be the best, the biggest, the baddest. In a conversation with a friend recently I found myself saying this about the recent basketball season: “Thank goodness for the Emporia State women’s team! National Division II champs!”

What’s wrong with this picture: Here I am living in Wichita, Kansas, and I have to buy frozen White Castle cheeseburgers at the grocery. That’s right. Frozen. They come 6 to a box. Shipped in from God-knows-where. To Wichita.

Wichita is the home of White Castles. They were invented by Walter Anderson and Billy Ingram right here in 1921. They swept throughout the Midwest in the next decades. They continue to thrive all over the place. But are there any in Wichita? No, there are not.

I don’t know about you but I’m seeing signs of spring everywhere these days! The tiniest hint of green on my lawn; birdsong in the mornings; two whole weeks without snow and that surest indicator of Spring in Kansas – state legislators giving more tax breaks to businesses while our schools agonize over deep budget cuts.

You see, our legislators argue that they may be creating new jobs for our state by giving businesses these tax breaks. You know, to sort of offset the jobs lost due to school budget cuts.


Commentary & Podcasts

Movie Review: Tallgrass Film Festival

This week, KMUW's Fletcher Powell sets aside his usual weekly movie review and instead looks at a few of the movies he's most excited about at this year's Tallgrass Film Festival.

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KMUW Music

Sunday, October 20

“The Funk is Back” Sunday on Soulsations. The Brand New Heavies, known as the grand masters of British soul, funk and jazz, are back with fresh new grooves featuring R&B vocalists N’Dea Davenport (veteran lead singer with TBNH), Siedah Garrett, and Angie Stone.

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Thursday, October 17

Ode To Joy is the latest release from Wilco and is being heralded as one of the group’s best records within the last decade. We’ll hear selections from it as well as songs from the latest by Texas band Fastball from the album The Help Machine.

Friday, October 18

Newly sober and having recently disbanded the group he’d led since 1979, The Replacements, Paul Westerberg set about making his solo debut album sometime in 1992. Released the following summer, 14 Songs veered between emotional ballads (“Things,” “Even Here We Are”), raucous, punk-inspired tunes (“Something Is Me,” “Down Love”) and a song that may have been inspired by Kurt Cobain (“World Class Fad”). Joining Westerberg were Joan Jett, Josh Freese (Devo, The Vandals) and Westerberg’s then-partner Laurie Lindeen (Zuzu’s Petals). We’ll hear music from that release as well as selections from Anything Could Happen, the 2017 release from Westerberg’s former Replacements bandmate Tommy Stinson’s band Bash & Pop.

Saturday, October 19

To celebrate 30 years as a band the country-inflected outfit The Mavericks retreated to the studio and recorded a series of cover tunes, ranging from songs by Freddie Fender to John Anderson. The result is The Mavericks Play The Hits. We’ll hear songs from that release as well as selections from B5-549’s 1996 self-titled debut album.

Monday, October 21

Opening with an admonishment from the Minneapolis police, Stink, the 1982 EP from The Replacements leaned into the Minnesota quartet’s punk aesthetic with songs such as “Kids Don’t Follow,” “Stuck In The Middle” and “Dope Smokin’ Moron.” We’ll hear music from that release as well as from The Cavves’ Venture Out.

Tuesday, October 22

Trigger Hippy is a band co-founded by former Black Crowes’ drummer Steve Gorman. The group recently issued its sophomore release, Full Circle and Then Some. We’ll hear music from it as well as songs from Mojo by singer-songwriter Evan McIntosh.

Wednesday, October 23

Released in 1997, the self-titled effort from Grandpaboy appealed to the lighter side of former Replacements front man Paul Westerberg’s songwriting with fare such as “Ain’t Done Much” while also touching on the singer’s struggles with depression and anxiety (“Psychopharmacology”). We’ll hear music from that release as well as songs from the new Replacements boxed set, Dead Man’s Pop.

Monday, October 14

Night Train celebrates Canadian Thanksgiving Day with a show devoted to music from Canadian artists. We’ll hear music from pianists Oscar Peterson and Oliver Jones, bassists Dave Young and Neil Swainson, singers Molly Johnson and Holly Cole, saxophonists Cory Weeds and PJ Perry, and jazz versions of Joni Mitchell songs from Diana Krall, Herbie Hancock and Laila Biali, along with music from Mitchell’s Mingus album.

Tuesday, October 15

Night Train marks birthdays of pianist and singer Freddy Cole, bassist Palle Danielsson (with Charles Lloyd and Keith Jarrett), and pianist Bill Charlap (featured in a Savannah Music Festival special in hour two of the show) – plus more music from October featured artist Anita O’Day, along with music in tribute to the other October featured artist, Art Blakey, on a new album from guitarist Joshua Breakstone.

Wednesday, October 16

Night Train marks birthdays of trombonist Ray Anderson, trumpeter Roy Hargrove, and drummer Mark Walker; highlights new music from the Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet; and continues with more music from October featured artists Anita O’Day and Art Blakey, including a special in hour two focusing on some of the great players in the Jazz Messengers, including Hank Mobley, Bobby Timmons, Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter and Kenny Dorham.

Thursday, October 17

Two guitarists born on this date – Barney Kessel and Howard Alden – are featured tonight on the Night Train, along with more music from October featured artists Art Blakey and Anita O’Day. We’ll hear music from a Blakey tribute album done by a number of Jazz Messenger alums, and a Jazz Profiles special on Anita O’Day  in hour two (just an hour before her centennial birthday on Friday). Plus the latest releases from the Ethan Iverson Quartet and Yoko Miwa, and some classic Thelonious Monk compositions performed by various artists, including Jerry Gonzalez & the Fort Apache Band.

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Friday, October 18, and Sunday, October 20  

Crossroads continues the October Albert Collins feature with music from the Grammy-winning album he did with Johnny Copeland and Robert Cray, a guest appearance with John Lee Hooker, and from his Live in Japan release.

Crossroads also marks the October 18th birthday of Chuck Berry with some of his classic tracks and music from George Benson’s recent tribute in hour one, and a special about Berry’s life and music in hour two of the show.

Plus the latest from the Jersey Swamp Cats, the Cash Box Kings, and Kenny ‘Beedy Eyes’ Smith.

Monday, October 14

Global Village celebrates Canadian Thanksgiving Day with music from a wide array of Canadian artists. We’ll hear traditional, folk, and roots music from Beyond the Pale, Jayme Stone, Vishten, Jon Brooks, the Jerry Cans, Harry Manx, and Ten Strings & a Goat Skin, along with a variety of world sounds from Lorraine Klaasen, Danny Michel with the Garifuna Collective, Kobo Town, Roberto Lopez, the Souljazz Orchestra, and Ron Korb.

Tuesday, October 15

Global Village marks the birthday of Fela, one of the true giants of African music and the creator of Afrobeat, a style that wedded strong social commentary to equally powerful African music and American funk.  The program features classic sounds from Fela, and music from his sons Femi and Seun, Tony Allen who was the long-time collaborator and musical director for Fela’s band, the Red hot + Fela compilation, and American and European bands inspired by the Afrobeat sound.

Wednesday, October 16

In conjunction with the October Turkish Psychedelic Folk Rock feature, Global Village this time highlights some contemporary Turkish and Turkish expat bands including Gaye Su Akyol, the Turkish-Canadian group Minor Empire, the Netherlands’ Altin Gun, Hamburg’s Derya Yildirim, and ‘70s Turkish psychedelic rock star Fikret Kizilok. Plus music from Richard Thompson, this month’s Global Village at the Savannah Music Festival artist, new music from Tuareg group Tinariwen, and some American afrobeat from the Chicago Afrobeat Project.

Thursday, October 17

Global Village marks Dessalines Day, a national holiday honoring the first leader of the independent nation of Haiti, with a program devoted entirely to music of Haiti. Highlights include roots music bands Boukman Eksperyans and Boukan Ginen, compa pioneers Nemours Jean-Baptiste and Webert Sicot, hitmakers Coupe Cloue and Tabou Combo, vocal ensemble Grupo Vocal Desandann (now known as the Creole Choir of Cuba), and Haitian jazz artist Jacques Schwarz-Bart.

Friday, October 18

Global Village devotes the show to a wide array of contemporary Latin jazz styles and artists – including recent releases from Colombian harpist Edmar Castaneda (with harmonica player Gregoire Maret and special guest Bela Fleck), Bay Area Brazilian guitarist Ricard Peixoto, Canadian saxophonist and flutist Jane Bunnett & Maqueque, pianists Bill O’Connell (with the Afro Caribbean Ensemble) and Oscar Hernandez (with Alma Libre), and guitarist Steve Khan.



When Medical Debt Collectors Decide Who Gets Arrested: Welcome to Coffeyville, Kansas

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up for ProPublica’s Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox as soon as they are published. On the last Tuesday of July, Tres Biggs stepped into the courthouse in Coffeyville, Kansas, for medical debt collection day, a monthly ritual in this quiet city of 9,000, just over the Oklahoma border. He was one of 90 people who had been summoned, sued by the local hospital, or doctors, or an ambulance service over unpaid bills. Some wore eye patches and bandages; others limped to their seats by the wood-paneled walls. Biggs, who is 41, had to take a day off from work to be there. He knew from experience that if he didn’t show up, he could be put in jail.

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