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For anyone who loathes Donald Trump (yes, gang, I’m talking to you!), The New York Times Sunday Review section is mandatory, and gratifying, reading. (If you don’t have a print subscription, you can probably still get the Sunday Times at the grocery.)

The entire 10-page section was dedicated to establishing that Trump is “A Man Unworthy of the Office He Holds” — the title of the editorial.

Following the lead editorial, The Times broke Trump’s spectacular unfitness into five compartments: His Unapologetic Corruption, His Demagogy, His Fake Populism, His Incompetent Statesmanship and His Super-Spreader Agenda.

Here are some of the highlights from the editorial and the five sub-sections…

From the lead editorial:

  • The enormity and variety of Mr. Trump’s misdeeds can feel overwhelming. Repetition has dulled the sense of outrage, and the accumulation of new outrages leaves little time to dwell on the particulars. This is the moment when Americans must recover that sense of outrage.
  • Under his leadership, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has stopped trying to protect consumers, and the Environmental Protection Agency has stopped trying to protect the environment.
  • In June, his administration tear-gassed and cleared peaceful protesters from a street in front of the White House so Mr. Trump could pose with a book he does not read in front  of a church he does not attend.
  • He campaigned as a champion of workers, but he has governed on behalf of the wealthy.

From “His Unapologetic Corruption”…

Even Americans who don’t support Mr. Trump are filling his coffers. Each time the president, a family member or certain top administration officials visit a Trump property, taxpayers foot the bill for the security details that must tag along…Forget draining the swamp; the president slapped his name on it and began charging admission.

From “His Demagogy”…

A few months after his inauguration, he told a gathering of police officers that they should rough up the people they arrest. “Please don’t be too nice,” Mr. Trump said, to cheers.

From “His Fake Populism”…

Much ink has been spilled about whether Trump supporters voted for him out of economic anxiety or racial anxiety, with plenty of studies concluding the latter. But spend time at a dying factory and you might see how difficult it can be to disentangle the two.

From “His Incompetent Statesmanship”…

“From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first,” Mr. Trump warned in his Inaugural Address. Today, what that meant is clear in the decline of American leadership and the hallowed American brand, in the wariness of allies and the glee of strongmen.

From “His Super-Spreader Agenda”…

Pollution is up, fines for polluters are down, carbon emissions have risen and are poised to rise further. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost, and millions of livelihoods destroyed, by a pandemic that could have been contained.

**

The final page of the section consisted of quotes from some of the people who have been close to the president and have come to their senses regarding his dangerous incompetence. Here are three of those quotes…

  • This is far beyond garden-variety narcissism…Donald is not simply weak, his ego is a fragile thing that must be bolstered every moment because he knows deep down that he is nothing of what he claims to be. — Mary Trump, from her book about Trump called “Too Much and Never Enough.”
  • He’s off the rails…And the honest people in the room know that he is crazy.Anthony Scaramucci, former White House Communications director.
  • As I’ve been saying since the beginning, Trump was a mobster, plain and simple.Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer.

I don’t know what, but something jogged my memory last Friday or Saturday, and I got to thinking about Timothy O’Leary, a former Jackson County Circuit Court judge, who before and after his 20 years on the bench practiced law in Kansas City.

Then, as bad luck would have it, I went to The Star’s Sunday obituary page, and the first paid obit was that of “Timothy Dean O’Leary.”

I took in a short breath, and my heart sank. I have such fond memories of Tim O’Leary, who was always smiling, telling funny stories and making unpredictable comments.

Here was his career in capsule: Graduated from UMKC Law School in 1956; was a practicing attorney until 1969, when he was appointed to the Circuit Court; resigned as a judge in about 1989 and joined the law firm of Shughart Thomson and Kilroy, which became Polsinelli. He worked at Polsinelli until 2018, when he was 90.

Tim O’Leary

I got to know Tim in about 1971, two years after I had arrived in Kansas City and shortly after getting my first major “beat” with The Star — Jackson County Courthouse reporter. At the courthouse, I covered politics and government and civil and criminal courts. It was a tremendous beat, and I loved it.

The press room — mostly inhabited by just us Star reporters — was on the fourth floor mezzanine, 4M, between the fourth and fifth floors. You could take the elevator to four and walk up a half flight or take it to five and walk down a half flight. It was a two-room office, very adequate for our purposes. A tall, wide window afforded a great view of the majestic, 29-story City Hall directly across 12th Street.

(Toward the end of my seven-year run at the courthouse, I’d sometimes look over at City Hall and think, “That’s where I want to be.” I got my wish in 1985, when I began a 10-year run as a City Hall reporter.)

I was actually working for The Kansas City Times, “the morning edition of The Kansas City Star,” and my hours were generally noon to eight, or whenever a particular day’s story was wrapped up.

A few people, including a couple of judges, would sometimes drop by the office about 5:30 or 6, after they’d finished work and were about to head out of the building.

Tim and another judge who later returned to the law, Paul Vardeman, were regular visitors. These days you wouldn’t find many judges dropping by press rooms to shoot the breeze with reporters. (In fact, you don’t find many press rooms in courthouses these days.) But back then it was commonplace.

I called him Judge, and he called me “Scoop” — a nickname that tickled me.

Tim would always be wearing a coat and tie and a natty, short-brimmed hat. He’d stand next to that big, wide window while we chatted, and he’d often smoke a cigarette — a habit he later gave up. He spoke unhurriedly and in a mildly gravelly voice. We’d talk about everything, from court cases to what was going on in our lives. As a young reporter, I leaned on his every utterance, looking for insight into whatever subject came up.

I remember only one of those conversations vividly, however. I remember it because it wound up with him coming out with a line I’ve used ever since.

He got to talking about youth basketball and the fact that he had recently started coaching somewhere — not a school, as I recall, maybe the YMCA. I had played grade-school basketball and was a big fan of the game, so I was very interested in the subject. I asked him if he’d played basketball in school, and I don’t remember if he had, but, regardless, he said just about anybody could teach the fundamentals, of basketball — passing, dribbling and shooting.

And then he turned the subject around on me. “You ought to try it,” he said.

“What?” I said.

“Coaching kids basketball. It’s fun and would give you something else to do.”

“No, no,” I said, “I don’t know enough about it, even though I played when I was younger; I certainly couldn’t coach.”

“Well,” he said, “you ought to do it; it would take your mind off your fat self.

…I’d never heard a line like that in my life. I knew he wasn’t speaking literally because, for one thing, I wasn’t fat. I understood he was simply emphasizing, figuratively, how important it is for all of us to get involved in something that gets our minds off ourselves and, instead, helps us engage and interact constructively with others.

I don’t remember if I laughed when he said that, probably did. But in short order our chat wound up, and off he went down that half flight of stairs.

I never did give serious consideration to coaching youth basketball, but I never forgot that line.

After I left the courthouse beat in 1978, I didn’t see Tim regularly, but I’d run into him occasionally because we both lived in the Brookside area and were members of Visitation Catholic Church. Once I saw him tailgating at an M.U. football game. (He was an M.U. grad.) I would usually call him “Judge,” and he would usually call me “Scoop.” It was always good to see him and his lovely wife Darlene, with whom he had five children.

Until a few years ago, I believe, he played golf with another retired judge, Forest “Frosty” Hanna. And they walked the course.

**

I can’t tell you how many times, over the decades, I’ve told someone — sometimes in jest, sometimes in the vein Tim said it to me — “You need to get your mind off your fat self.”

When I told Patty about Tim’s death after reading Sunday’s obit, I related the story of that nearly 50-year-ago conversation in the press room. “So that’s where you got that line,” she said. “You’ve used it so many times; I never knew where it came from.”

…The man who turned the phrase is gone, but the line lives on. And of course it’s still true: We’re all better people when our minds are not consumed with our fat selves.

The late Darlene and Tim O’Leary

On Nov. 3, Jackson County voters will see two questions of their ballots, and in all my years of covering and watching politics, I’ve never seen two issues that are farther apart in complexity.

:: Question 2 is as straightforward as any issue you’ll ever see:

“Shall Jackson County, Missouri, remove the statues of Andrew Jackson now located outside the Jackson County Courthouse in Kansas City and the Historic Truman Courthouse in Independence?”

On one hand, I’ve loved saying I’m a resident of Jackson County since I arrived here from Jefferson County (Louisville), Kentucky, in September 1969. It’s an infinitely stronger name than Johnson County (named for missionary Thomas Johnson), Platte County (named for the Platte River) or Clay County (named for Kentucky politician Henry Clay).

On the other hand, Andrew Jackson was a slave owner, reportedly a racist, and enforcer of the Indian Removal Act. He’s one of those people, like developer J.C. Nichols, whose image and legacy are crumbling with time.

For those reasons, I’ll be voting “YES” on this issue. It’s time for Jackson to come down off his high horse(s).

:: Question 1 is a ballot-title nightmare…

“Shall Jackson County, Missouri, impose a monthly fee not to exceed $1.00 (one dollar) on a subscriber of any communications service that has been enabled to contact 911 for the purpose of funding 911 service in the County? The proceeds of this fee shall be deposited in the County’s special E-911 System Fund and not co-mingled with the general funds of the County, to be expended solely for the purpose set forth herein?”

The clearest deciphering I’ve seen of this confusing proposal was an Oct. 6 Independence Examiner story by longtime Examiner reporter Jeff Fox.

Fox explained that the overwhelming majority of 911 calls are made on cellphones, but cellphone owners do not help pay for the 911 system. The system is financed strictly with a seven-percent-fee fee on landlines, and landlines, of course, are falling like a rock slide.

The county’s inability to tax cellphones for the 911 system has led to a $600,000 shortfall in 911 funding, according to County Administrator (and former Kansas City Manager) Troy Schulte.

In an attempt to beef up revenue, Jackson County Legislator Jeanie Lauer of Blue Springs introduced and got passed an ordinance calling for an election to also tax cellphones.

Now, I don’t doubt Lauer’s sincerity or Schulte’s assertion of a shortfall, but I do have problems with just about any Jackson County proposal that involves reaching deeper into residents’ pockets.

During the last several years, the county has lost virtually all credibility. From former County Executive Mike Sanders and top aide Calvin Williford going to prison for stealing tens of thousands of dollars in campaign funds to last year’s tax-assessment gouge, county officials have given voters no reason to trust them on anything.

It’s not just the executive branch that has turned many residents against county government. Some legislators have held onto their posts long enough to be considered career employees. I refer to Dan Tarwater (Class of 1994) and Scott Burnett and Ron Finley (Class of 1998). If they live long enough, any of those three could some day challenge Fred Arbanas’ record of 42 years on the Legislature.

…In addition to the issue of the county’s credibility, Question 1 also has complexity working against it. When voters have trouble understanding a ballot question, their tendency is to vote “NO.”

I won’t be confused when I vote, but I will be voting “NO” along with those who are.

As Rex Hudler might say, “Question 1, you got to go!”

One of the biggest casualties of the contraction and diminution of major metropolitan daily newspapers has been coverage of local and state governments.

Where The Kansas City Star, for example, used to provide government coverage of most area municipalities and most county governments, only Kansas City’s City Hall gets regular coverage now. Even Jackson County government, the biggest of the area’s county governments, seldom makes The Star’s print or online pages.

In addition, coverage of the Kansas and Missouri state houses is way down. I pointed out recently, for example, that The Star failed to report the final, approved ballot title of Constitutional Amendment 3, which, if approved by voters Nov. 3, would negate the reforms that came with passage of the Clean Missouri Amendment two year ago.

Fortunately for residents in many states, a new, nonprofit network of state-based publications is taking root, including in Kansas and Missouri, and it will help offset some of the attrition that has taken place at newspapers.

The quickly growing nonprofit network is called States Newsroom, which officially launched last November and is financed with individual contributions and institutional grants. There is no “paywall” for readers, meaning all content is provided free of charge.

States Newsroom’s mission is to provide “relentless capitol reporting” and to “connect people to state leaders and government policies that affect their lives.”

States Newsroom has offices in Washington and Chapel Hill, NC, and it has established newsrooms in about 20 states. Kansas opened its States Newsroom operation — called Kansas Reflector — in July. One of its four staff members is C.J. Janovy, formerly of KCUR and before that editor of The Pitch.

Jason Hancock

A States Newsroom operation is getting ready to start up under the leadership of Jason Hancock, longtime statehouse reporter for The Star in Jefferson City. Hancock announced on Twitter Aug. 21 that he was leaving to be editor of “an as-of-yet unnamed nonprofit news site focused on Missouri politics and government.”

Hancock’s operation, to be called The Missouri Independent, will launch Oct. 20.

Here’s more about the Kansas Reflector and The Missouri Independent.

Kansas Reflector

Besides Janovy, the three other Kansas Reflector staff members are Tim Carpenter, Noah Taborda and Editor-in-Chief Sherman Smith.

Smith spent 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal, where he held various jobs, ranging from copy editor to managing editor and including covering the state Capitol.

The staff of Kansas Reflector: from left, Noah Taborda,, Tim Carpenter, C.J. Janovy and Editor-in-Chief Sherman Smith

Carpenter is also a veteran of the Capital-Journal. He previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World.

Taborda has worked in public radio in Columbia, MO, and also at KCUR, where he spent part of his time reporting news and features.

The Reflector’s lead story today is about Kansas district courts having fallen far behind on the resolution of criminal cases. More than 1,700 cases have been delayed by Covid-19 and need to be rescheduled.

The Missouri Independent

Hancock headed The Star’s Jefferson City bureau for eight years and was on top of many ground-breaking stories, including the ill-fated administration of former Gov. Eric Greitens. Before coming to The Star, he was statehouse reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for nine months.

Rudi Keller

Deputy Editor Rudi Keller is a 30-year journalism veteran, having spent 22 years covering Missouri government, most recently as the news editor of The Columbia Daily Tribune.

Rebecca Rivas

Reporter Rebecca Rivas has been reporting in Missouri since 2001, most recently as senior reporter and video producer at the St. Louis American, the nation’s leading African-American newspaper. As a Fulbright scholar, she investigated Peru’s high maternal-death rate among Andean women and produced a 45-minute documentary that has been used as an educational tool in college campuses nationwide.

Tessa Weinberg

Reporter Tessa Weinberg previously covered the Missouri General Assembly for The Star and The Columbia Missourian. She most recently covered state government in Texas for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, which, like The Star, is a McClatchy paper.

**

These are positive and hopeful developments for people who want to stay abreast of developments in Topeka and Jefferson City. These niche operations will help fill the ever-enlarging hole in metropolitan papers’ coverage of state governments. I urge everyone to give these new websites a lot of “clicks” — and maybe even contribute.

As we watch and wait for reports on President Trump’s condition, the experience of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson could yield clues as to how Trump might fare.

Even though Trump’s doctors said this morning he was doing “doing very well,” there is no assurance that is the case. And in a very confusing and contradictory development, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows later told reporters: “The president’s vitals over the last 24 hours were very concerning and the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of his care. We’re still not on a clear path to a full recovery.”

As you know, when Trump was admitted to Walter Reed Medical Center on Friday, doctors said they were transporting him out of “an abundance of caution.”

That phrase sounds a lot like what 10 Downing Street put out on Sunday, April 5, when Johnson was admitted to the hospital. He supposedly was going in for “routine tests” and as a “precautionary step.”

The next day, though — Monday, April 6 — he was moved to ICU in a development that rocked the world. It was clear then that Johnson was in real danger.

Unlike Trump, Johnson had been displaying “persistent symptoms” for 10 days before being hospitalized. (The diagnosis was March 26.)

Johnson was in ICU for four days, until Thursday, April 9, when he was moved back to a regular room. He was released three days later, on April 12. Here’s what he looked like shortly after being discharged…

Johnson was 55 when he had the virus and he’s now 56. Trump, on the other hand, is 74, and clearly more overweight than Johnson. Also — like me — he takes a statin drug to treat high cholesterol and aspirin to prevent heart attacks.

It would not surprise me a bit if Trump ended up in ICU, and from there, his fate would be more uncertain than it already is.

A New York Times story today quotes Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University, as saying: “He is 74, he’s hefty and he’s male, and those three things together put him in a higher-risk group for a severe infection. Although he is being watched meticulously and may well do fine for a few days, he is not out of the woods, because people can crash after that period of time. This is a very sneaky virus.”

With Johnson, it truly did seem like a sneak attack. If it happens with Trump, it won’t be quite so sneaky.

Another thing I read is that non-mask-wearers who contract the disease often get worse cases than masked people because they get a fuller “load” of infectious particles.

The images of that Rose Garden ceremony last Saturday, with scores of people sitting side by side, unmasked, is what really shocks the senses. Same with the photos of Trump family members sitting in the front row at Tuesday’s debate, unmasked and having firmly rejected a direct offer to don masks, which was a requirement to be in the debate hall in the first place.

Fools all. Absolute knuckleheads.

**

I said in yesterday’s post that this development should pretty well seal the deal for Biden, and two New York Times/Sienna College polls conducted late this week tend to support that statement.

In Pennsylvania, Biden led by seven percentage points, 49 percent to 42 percent, among likely voters surveyed. In Florida, the margin was 47 percent to 42 percent.

Pennsylvania and Florida were key states in Trump’s 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton.

The polls also showed voters disapproved of the president’s conduct in the debate by a whopping 65 percent to 25 percent. Perhaps more important, some of those expressing disapproval were core supporters.

A third of the president’s supporters said they disapproved of his performance, while eight percent of people who backed him in the survey said the debate made them less likely to support him in the election.

Is even the base starting to crack? Is Superman’s cape starting to slip from shoulders to waist?

For all we know, Superman could be flat on his back in a hospital bed on Election Day. Or worse…

Well, well, well…

First we had the September surprise — RBG dying. And now we’ve got what a physician/commentator on MSNBC described this morning as “the October surprise of all October surprises.”

The President has Covid-19.

Now, being what I would like to consider an empathetic person of goodwill (it took me a long time to get there), I should wish Trump and his wife the very best and a speedy recovery.

But after what Trump has put this country through and the absolute ignorance he has displayed regarding this lethal virus, it is hard for me to muster much of a charitable attitude.

He has been such a fool, such a fool. Listen again to his comment at Tuesday’s debate about Joe Biden’s scrupulous diligence about wearing a mask…

I don’t wear masks like him. Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from them and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.

Now, surely, Trump wishes he would have worn a very big mask every day, all day.

But it’s too late, and we will see where this goes. The Times is reporting that two people familiar with his condition said he was suffering mild symptoms, but how can you believe anything coming from his orbit?

Like me, Trump is 74 years old and much more susceptible to a bad, bad case of Covid than much younger people in good health.

Frank Bruni, a New York Times columnist who regularly and eloquently expresses disdain for Trump, said in a column this morning that the Trump’s Covid carries a moral that is “necessary to articulate”…

There is a real risk in being cavalier. The president is now the embodiment of that.

Now, Trump is off the campaign trail. In a few days, or a week, he could be fighting for his life. We don’t know.

What we do know, politically, is that this development pretty much assures Biden of beating him on Nov. 3…if he survives.

The floor is now open for your thoughts and reflections…

Well, that was painful.

And everybody I’ve talked to agrees, as, apparently, does a vast majority of Americans.

In a CBS “snap” poll that asked “How did the debate make you feel?” the answer of 69 percent of respondents was, “Annoyed.”

As depressing as the debate was and as tempted as I was to turn it off a couple of times, I felt a civic duty to see it through. Everyone who hung in there from beginning to end should give themselves a gold star. And those who bailed? Well, I understand…

The big question today — one that many of us are ruminating on — is: Should Joe Biden refuse to participate in the last two debates?

Frank Bruni

One of the first Op-Ed columns I read this morning was by Frank Bruni, one of The Times’ most insightful and eloquent columnists. He called the debate “a horror show” and “an insult to the country.”

He also made it clear he thought Biden should pull the plug, saying…

But I have a message for him, and I’m serious: Don’t do this again. You showed your willingness. You showed up. But another of these fiascos is beneath you. I’d add that it’s beneath America, if there’s even such a thing anymore.

After reading that, I put the question — Should Biden withdraw from future debates? — to our 32-year-old daughter Brooks and three good friends.

One friend, Ginzy Schaefer, a former KC Star employee and now a neighbor, wrote: “Yes!!!! No more debates because Trump can’t behave. He can’t let anyone else talk.”

One of my longest-standing friends, Bill Russell of Louisville, KY, agreed but didn’t offer an explanation.

Another friend and former Star colleague, Fred Wickman, wrote: “Yes. No more with a bratty child!”

Brooks was the most voluble and, with her being a representative of the generation following the Baby Boomers, I was eager to hear what she had to say.

“It’s awful,” she wrote in a text. “It didn’t produce anything fruitful regarding their policies or presidencies or what they would do for America. It made everyone look bad. Even Biden said a few low blows. But he did mostly hold it together…I don’t think it’s a good use of time at all. It wasn’t about telling the U.S. people what the country would look like. It didn’t even show their political skills or knowledge. (Well, for Trump that’s zero anyway). But it was more like a bully in a playground trying to railroad the other kid out of the way. No one wants to see that, and he shouldn’t have another opportunity to do it.”

…So, in my snap poll, the result was four out of four saying, “Enough is enough.”

And now I’ll cast my vote and make it five of five.

Biden, in my view, has nothing to lose by refusing to get back in the ring for another bloody, 10-round match. He won last night because the other guy inexplicably managed to swing so hard he ended up on the mat.

The only way this could go on, I think, is if the Commission on Presidential Debates, a nonprofit corporation established in 1987, made some dramatic changes that guaranteed a significantly more traditional proceeding.

This afternoon, the commission released a statement saying it would do just that. “The CPD will be carefully considering the changes that it will adopt and will announce those measures shortly,” the organization said.

Still, I’m dubious. When a person is determined to be the turd in the punch bowl, it’s damn near impossible to stop the stink.

**

What about you? What do you think? Step up to the firing line…

I’m sure most of you have read, or at least read about, The Times’ latest expose on President Trump’s tax scam and how the bills are fast coming due on hundreds of millions in tax liabilities.

The Times posted the story Sunday afternoon, and in today’s print edition it starts on Page 1 and jumps inside, where it consumes five pages.

The Washington Post, The Times’ biggest competitor, called it a “blockbuster report” and has run several stories about it…Which shows that when one paper has a story this big, even the competition bows in acknowledgment.

What I really admire about this story, in addition to further exposing Trump as a con man and shyster, is the compelling writing that propels the story along and makes it seem shorter than it is.

The story contains a waterfall of facts and figures, which, without good writing, would prompt many readers to give up. But the three main reporters — Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig and Mike McIntire — and their editors packaged and wrote it in such a way that a majority of readers, I suspect, will read it all the way through.

Let me give you some examples of the outstanding writing…

:: What the complex web of numbers and other data mean:

Ultimately, Mr. Trump has been more successful playing a business mogul than being one in real life.

:: How his faltering finances may have influenced his entry into politics:

Indeed, his financial condition when he announced his run for president in 2015 lends some credence to the notion that his long-shot campaign was at least in part a gambit to reanimate the marketability of his name.

:: On the president’s actual and potential conflicts of interest:

His properties have become bazaars for collecting money directly from lobbyists, foreign officials and others seeking face time, access or favor.

:: On his practice of carrying forward leftover losses to reduce taxes in future years:

That provision has been the background music to Mr. Trump’s life.

:: The main takeaway:

The picture that perhaps emerges most starkly from the mountain of figures and tax schedules…is of a businessman-president in a tightening financial vise.

**

That the story is beautifully written should not be a surprise. The Times has the best writers in the business, and many have won major awards.

In 2019, for example, Buettner and Craig were part of a three-member team that won a Pulitzer Prize for their investigation that shattered the myth that Trump was a self-made billionaire. The third member of the team that produced yesterday’s story, Mike McIntire, also has a Pulitzer on his resume.

Here are thumbnail bios of the three:

Buettner

Buettner is an investigative reporter whose work has focused, since 2016, on Trump’s finances. He has produced notable articles exploring Trump’s record of failure in Atlantic City and overstating revenues from his businesses. Buettner joined The Times in 2006 after working on investigative teams at The New York Daily News and New York Newsday. He got his undergraduate degree from California State University-Sacramento, and he attended the University of Missouri Graduate School of Journalism.

Craig

Craig joined The Times in 2010 and since then has produced investigative articles on a wide range of subjects, including presidential politics and state-house corruption. Previously, she was a reporter at the Wall Street Journal and worked at The Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper. At The Journal, she was the lead reporter on a team of writers who were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of the fall of Lehman Brothers and the financial crisis. She graduated from the University of Calgary.

McIntire is an investigative reporter, author and editor. He joined The Times in 2003 and shared the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for reporting on covert Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election. Earlier in his career, he was an investigative editor at The Hartford Courant, where he was part of a team that won a Pulitzer for breaking news reporting and was a Pulitzer finalist for investigative reporting on medical malpractice.

McIntire

He has also been a national writer at the Associated Press in New York and a reporter and editor at several Connecticut newspapers. He graduated from Hartwick College in Oneonta, NY, in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and government.

**

Finally, another element that makes this story so riveting is the main photo that accompanies it on The Times’ home page. (The photo is also on Page A16 in the print edition.) The photo, by Doug Mills, one of The Times’ best photographers, is a black-and-white image of a menacing-looking Trump sitting in the back seat of his presidential limo. The reader’s eye goes first to Trump and then to the presidential seal, directly below Trump, on the side of the car. The photo leaves the impression Trump is hermetically sealed in a black, steel cocoon.

One of The Star’s biggest profit centers — the obituary pages — has just become more profitable.

The paper went to a new obituary system today, and the changes are significant. First and foremost, instead of giving families the first eight lines free, as has been the case for many years, the paper now charges for every obituary.

People who don’t want to — or can’t — pay for obituaries will only be able to have their loved ones listed in an index at the beginning of the obituaries.

Until today, The Star charged people based on a sliding, per-line fee after the first eight lines. As of 2017 (when I last checked prices), lines nine to 11 were $114; lines 12 to 15 were $170; and every additional five lines was $39.

Now it’s a flat fee of $68 per column inch. By my rough calculations, the change will increase obituary revenue from about $6,000 a page to about $7,750 a page. That’s a nice bump for the paper but not for KC area residents.

It’s regrettable that The Star has chosen to charge for all obituaries. Giving the first eight lines free was a great customer and community service. It was not only a goodwill gesture but also a point of ongoing connection with the community.

At the same time, I’m not surprised. The Star’s circulation continues to dwindle, and the paper’s connection with the community continues to become more remote. Although it’s always been “for profit,” The Star used to be considered a civic jewel, similar to institutions like the Kansas City Symphony, the Lyric Opera and Missouri Repertory Theatre. Now, it’s strictly a business enterprise, at least from ownership’s point of view.

I don’t know if this new obituary system is being implemented at the other 28 McClatchy newspapers, but I would assume it will be, if it isn’t already. As most of you know, a New Jersey hedge fund, Chatham Asset Management, recently bought the McClatchy chain out of bankruptcy, and, as I’ve said before, hedge funds are not in the newspaper business to make readers happy. Their focus is on the bottom line, and Chatham is going to maximize revenue every conceivable way it can.

**

Besides cost, here are some of the other changes in the obits…

:: The names of the deceased are in larger type than they used to be.

:: The date of death is included in each heading, along with the name.

:: Each obituary starts with the person’s city of residence. (This is the best element of the new system, in my opinion. In the past, you could read all the way through some obits and never learn where the deceased lived or what his or her connection to Kansas City was.)

:: The obits are no longer in alphabetical order. A clerk in the obit department told me she wasn’t sure why the obits are now randomly placed but that she thought it had something to do with the file formatting. (This is the second-worst part of the new system, after the elimination of the eight free lines.)

**

As you might expect, the rollout was a bit patchy. For example, Jerry A. Hines’ nine-line obit appeared twice in succession, and only half of Marsha Elizabeth Macri Stanton’s name made it into her heading. She was just Marsha Elizabeth.

Like most significant changes in a newspaper, it will take readers a while to get used to the new format. From the appearance standpoint, I don’t mind it, but like I said, at its core it represents more distancing between The Star and its readers.

**

NOTE: Thursday’s obituaries are in alphabetical order. Perhaps Wednesday’s random presentation was just one of the first-day wrinkles.

After plunging into a months-long period of uncertainty, the Kylr Yust case is lurching its way back onto track.

At a 30-minute hearing in Cass County Circuit Court this morning, Judge William Collins told the prosecution and defense attorneys to keep their schedules open for a trial to be held in March or April or straddling those two months.

He said he would be scheduling case reviews weekly, if necessary, “so we can get this thing resolved.”

“We’re not going to get blindsided with new things like we have here the last year,” he added.

Yust has been in the Cass County Jail since October 2017, when he was charged with murdering Kara Kopetsky in 2007 and Jessica Runions in 2016. The women’s remains were found in a wooded area south of Belton in April 2017.

Late last year, the case seemingly was headed for trial in July, when two things happened: First, Covid-19 hit, and then Yust’s defense attorneys exposed a problem that could have jeopardized Yust’s right to a fair trial. The attorneys discovered that the Cass County Sheriff’s Office and a subcontractor that handles its phone system improperly recorded numerous client-attorney calls. In addition, it turned out, a number of client-attorney emails were unencrypted and all text communication was not secure.

The “communication” was accessible to all members of the Cass County Sheriff’s office, and two deputies accessed and listened to all or part of the phone calls between Yust and his attorneys.

A big question at the time was how deeply, if at all, the Cass County Prosecuting Attorney’s office was involved in the improper recordings and other communication snafus.

In light of the flaws, the defense moved to dismiss the case or at least remove the Cass County prosecutor’s office from the case.

Judge Collins appointed a “special master,” retired Judge James Bickel, to sort through the mess and determine if Yust’s rights had been fatally compromised. Two weeks ago, Judge Bickel ruled that the prosecutor’s office “was never provided the content of the above communications” and that neither of the sheriff’s deputies who recorded the calls would testify at trial, assuring that the verboten conversations would not be used against Yust.

Judge Bickel concluded that while Yust’s right to confidential communications had been violated, “the violations do not rise to the level of prejudice that will violate his right to a fair trial.” (Although the case will go forward, the defense would still be able to appeal Bickel’s ruling if Yust is subsequently tried and convicted.)

The privileged communication problem could, in the end, be eclipsed by the biggest issue of all: How strong a case does the prosecutor’s office have against Yust?

Here are some of the shortcomings…

— The Kopetsky case is now 13 years old, and the ticking clock and calendar almost always work in favor of the defense.

— If there is any physical evidence in either case, I believe it is scant. There’s been no indication of DNA evidence and no eyewitnesses that we know of.

— Yust has consistently denied to authorities that he killed either woman. He apparently told some people he killed one or both, but, as assistant prosecuting attorney Julie Tolle told Judge Collins today, all confessions are second, third or fourth hand.

— Sitting in the courtroom, Yust does not look the least bit menacing. He is slight and impassive. His hair is cut short, and while he has a lot of tattoos on his body, none are visible with his arms covered and his T-shirt covering most of his neck.

Besides those alleged confessions, here are some of the strengths…

— Yust dated both women, and he was reputed to be hot tempered. Runions was last seen in September 2016 leaving a gathering with Yust. Witnesses at the gathering said Yust was drinking heavily and “acting very possessive towards (Runions) and aggressive towards others at the party.”

— If the state can establish that Yust was the last person to see Runions alive and that he was acting possessive of her and aggressive toward others, it would be highly incriminating.

— The biggest thing the state has going for it is that there are no other suspects. I don’t think the defense will be able to show, credibly, that anyone else had a serious beef with either woman. In other words, who besides Yust would have had a motive?

— Judge Collins is going to keep the case moving forward.

**

Before testimony begins, Judge Collins and the attorneys will travel to St. Charles County, west of St. Louis, to select a jury. (The judge ruled earlier it would be too impossible to impanel an impartial jury in Cass County.)

After a jury has been selected, the jurors will come over to Cass County, where the case will be tried.

It’s going to get interesting. I guarantee it.