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Brightening our hearts

Each year between Thanksgiving and the first Sunday of Advent, Bob and Sharon Emery begin the laborious process of decorating their yard, which can be seen from blocks away. The strands of lights and glowing displays announce the coming of Christmas.

Although the couple placed first in this year’s Holiday Lighting Contest, sponsored by the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department and Westlake Ace Hardware, their true reward, as Sharon said, is the pleasure of seeing so many people enjoy the decorations.

Bill would cut summer school funds

An early proposal in the Missouri General Assembly would reduce state funding to school districts that hire outside, for-profit agencies to organize summer school programs.

That means Columbia Public Schools could lose money if the bill passes because the district contracts with Newton Learning Program to run summer schools.

Crowds at arena smallest in years

Mizzou Arena is bigger, newer and fancier than the Hearnes Center but still attracts smaller crowds.

Although the $75 million arena was heralded during its construction as a fresh start for an embattled men’s basketball program, turnout so far this season has been lower than any of the past five seasons played at the Hearnes Center. Average per-game attendance for the first 10 men’s basketball games of the 2003-04 season was 11,058. This year, it’s down to 8,827, the lowest average in six years.

Research groups join to fend off stem-cell ban

The leaders of four Missouri research institutions, including the University of Missouri system, are asking legislators to reject bills that would criminalize stem-cell research.

They said a ban on nuclear transfer — one type of stem-cell research — would undermine efforts to create economic growth based on life sciences, as well as limit Missourians’ access to first-rate health care.

State Farm’s consolidation works for one mobile family

Chris Coon’s family has moved eight times in the last 13 years, enough to deter most people from ever moving again. Yet, when the State Farm auto claims manager and his clan were offered a chance last summer to relocate to Columbia, they jumped all over it.

“Out of the offices in the central zone I don’t think State Farm could have picked a more family-oriented and culturally diverse and interesting place than Columbia,” Chris Coon said. “There is just something about this town.”

Go get ’em

Glenn Garrett walks down a moonlit path through the woods of Three Creeks Conservation Area, calming his dogs as he searches for the best spot to set them loose.

Once unleashed, the two redbone coonhounds bound into the darkness. Storm, 6, is a veteran. Her younger counterpart, Snuff, is also female and just 18 months old. For Snuff, this will be only her second season hunting raccoon.

City lists more roads for improvements

Additional proposals for road improvements in Columbia will be submitted to the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission for approval when it meets on Jan. 14, said Jay Bestgen, planning engineer for District 5.

The proposals include work on Missouri 740, 163 and 763 and the I-70 Business Loop.

Engineering nets $1 million

The Ameren UE will donate $1 million to MU’s College of Engineering, it announced Wednesday.

“It strengthens education and helps ensure a new group of professionals will be ready and qualified to fill the positions required to keep Missouri in a leadership position among states,” Ameren spokeswoman Susan Gallagher said at the company’s St. Louis headquarters.

MISSED CHANCE

ST. LOUIS — It’s not too often the nation’s best team has an off night.

When No. 1 Illinois did, Missouri was in position to take advantage but failed to convert on several late opportunities, and the Fighting Illini held on to beat Missouri 70-64 in front of 22,153 fans in the Braggin’ Rights game Wednesday at Savvis Center.

Illini guards wear down McKinney

In his hometown, guarding two of the best players on the No. 1 team in the country, Missouri’s No. 1 was nowhere to be found for the first 35 minutes.

Nothing seemed to be going right offensively for Tiger guard Jimmy McKinney, who wears No. 1, in Missouri’s 70-64 loss to top-ranked Illinois.

Horton shines for Tigers

Missouri freshman Jason Horton probably had the game of his life Wednesday night against Illinois.

His superior play didn’t show up on the stat sheet. He scored eight points and had four assists in 35 minutes, but he played great defense against one of the best point guards in the nation.

Taguchi back in fold with Cards

The St. Louis Cardinals have agreed to one-year contracts with outfielder So Taguchi and pitcher Mike Myers, the club announced Wednesday.

Taguchi will earn $550,000 plus performance bonuses. Myers agreed to $600,000.

St. Louis ready for Final Four repeat

ST. LOUIS — One hundred days away from St. Louis’ first Final Four in 26 years, organizers are looking forward to the next one.

“We want this to be a basketball town forever,” Saint Louis University athletic director Cheryl Levick said Wednesday at a news conference that marked the proximity of the event. “And we want the Final Four back.”

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