Reorganizing education
The state committee working to reorganize government agencies has made suggestions that would give Gov. Matt Blunt more power to appoint top education positions. Blunt could appoint the heads of Missouri’s two education departments, Elementary and Secondary Education, as well as Higher Education, should the committee’s recommendations be approved.
Right now, two agencies choose the departments’ leaders. The state Board of Education selects the head of Elementary and Secondary Education, while the Higher Education Coordinating Board appoints the latter. The committee says changing the procedure will make the governor more accountable for public education and strengthen the influence of leadership in the positions.
Columbia School Board members and two leading education associations in Missouri, however, aren’t sure if direct gubernatorial appointments are the way to go. Board president J.C. Headley has advocated the current procedure, saying that it keeps politics out of the selection process.
What would happen to public education if the political party in power got to choose who ran the system?
 No Gays Allowed
Gay men would be banned from the altar if, as church officials suggested last week, the Vatican releases a document that would forbid the ordination of gay men. The proclamation, in the works for 10 years, would not include a concrete definition of what makes a man homosexual, nor would it specify how deeply the church would investigate someone’s sexual history.
A Vatican ban on gay priests would further divide the church on the issue of homosexuality. Friends of the Rev. Mychal F. Judge, a gay priest in New York who died while issuing last rights during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, have expressed anger at the Vatican’s document, saying that sexual orientation did not prevent him from being a dedicated and compassionate member of the priesthood. Representatives of male Catholic religious orders, such as the Jesuits and the Franciscans, are planning a trip to Rome to personally voice opposition to the document. Some Catholics support the Vatican proposal and blame the church’s sexual abuse scandals on gay priests.
Would a Vatican-issued ban on gay priests hurt the Catholic church’s efforts to attract new clergy?
With some hesitation, the Columbia City Council decided to give the groups in charge of refurbishing the historic Heibel-March drugstore another chance to complete the project. Five years ago, a team promised the city it would turn the building, at Rangeline and Wilkes Boulevard, into a community center and get an occupancy permit for the building by Sept. 19, 2005. Now, the original renovation team, Central Missouri Counties Human Development Corp. and the North Central Columbia Neighborhood Association, have added a new partner, Progressive Arts, Inc. The council gave the groups one more year to complete the project and have ordered a progress report in six months.
Members of the renovation groups told the council about their excitement and passion for the project, but with little visible progress since the original proposal was made, some representatives doubt if the building, which has been vacant since the mid-1990s, could be finished in one year. Council members are also worried about how the three organizations would share the center upon its completion.
What other alternatives are there for the successful renovation of the former Heibel-March drugstore?
 Alternative fuel sources
Long lines and high prices at gas stations are becoming the norm around Columbia, and some people are tired of it. The aftermath of two major hurricanes are putting pressure on the wallets of car-driving consumers across the nation, prompting President Bush to, for the first time, suggest people should cut back on their fuel consumption.
The average price for a gallon of gasoline recently reached its highest point in more than 20 years, and worries of gas shortages have made finding an alternate source of fuel a more pressing concern for some. An agricultural group that wants to build an ethanol plant in Laddonia met to announce the building design and construction timeline last week. This would be the fourth ethanol production plant in Missouri. On Saturday, the Mid-Missouri Peaceworks sponsored a fair to promote energy conservation and to show off alternatives to fossil fuels.
How high would gas prices have to be before you change your behavior?
 Judy, Judy, Judy
Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter who refused to reveal the name of a source to whom she promised confidentiality, was released after more than 12 weeks in jail. Miller was sent to jail in the midst of a federal investigation into who made public the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame.
The investigation reached all the way to the White House this summer when at least two reporters said they received information about Plame, who is married to former diplomat and administration critic Joseph Wilson, from a top presidential adviser, Karl Rove.
Miller says she only agreed to testify after her source, I. Lewis Libby, chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, assured her that he had waived confidentiality on his own accord and not under pressure from investigators. Lawyers for Libby have said Miller received the waiver more than a year ago, but did not accept its validity until she spoke with Libby.
How important is the journalistic principle of protecting the identity of sources who have been promised confidentiality?
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