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Judge reduces fine against church

SPRINGFIELD — A judge has cut in half the amount of money the West Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church has to pay to a former music director but declined to overturn a jury’s finding that the woman had been raped by a former minister. Greene County Circuit Judge J. Miles Sweeney ruled Monday that a $2 million jury award to Teresa Norris for compensatory damages could stand, but he reduced punitive damages from $3 million to $1 million. Sweeney said the conference’s assets of about $4.8 million made the damage award too high.

Fundraising pervades Mo. veto session

JEFFERSON CITY — Leaning over a desk in his office, Sen. Chuck Gross rapidly scanned some documents in preparation for the Legislature’s veto session, highlighted a few lines and handed them to an assistant as he dashed out of the room. Gross was in a hurry to get to a luncheon fundraiser for his re-election campaign. He’s not alone.

Peril on the water

Former Marine Delmas Bartley spent three years in Vietnam and said he understood the dangers his 19-year-old son, Dustin Bartley, would face when he started his tour of duty. Dustin Bartley had attended Marine combat training at Fort Leonard Wood and knew that within a year he might be headed to Iraq or Afghanistan. But the young Marine spent the last hour of his life far away from a combat zone, drinking with friends on a pontoon boat at the Lake of the Ozarks. He fell off the roof of the pontoon boat, hit his head on a jet ski and drowned. “That’s the last thing I ever would have thought my son would have died from,” Delmas Bartley said.

Prices for heating to increase

Mid-Missouri residents are going to take a hit when it comes to heating bills this winter, according to national energy estimates. The cost of natural gas is expected to rise to unprecedented levels over the next several months, the Energy Information Administration reported earlier this month. The Energy Information Administration, a branch of the Department of Energy, estimates increases of 37 percent to 50 percent as compared to last winter.

Downtown makeover in the works

A downtown Broadway, lined with lush trees and clad with colorful, business-specific awnings, is envisioned by store owners and city officials. While the removal of the concrete canopies is already under way, the push to transform downtown Columbia into a more aesthetically appealing center continues.

Task Force I returns to Louisiana

Less than a week after Task Force I returned from New Orleans, a second, larger force was deployed Tuesday to continue search and rescue operations and to aid in recovery efforts. The new squad is a full Type I team, which Capt. Gale Blomenkamp of the Boone County Fire Protection District said consists of nine vehicles, 80 task force members and 75,000 pounds of equipment.

Air show case to be heard at MU

Law students and community members will have the opportunity to listen to oral arguments in a free-speech case against the city of Columbia on Sept. 30. Lawyers for the plaintiffs, Bill Wickersham and Maureen Doyle, and defendants, the city of Columbia and Salute to Veterans Corp., will hold a hearing before District Court Judge Nanette Laughrey in the courtroom at the MU law school to present supplemental arguments before the judge.

Panel aims to increase efficiency

JEFFERSON CITY — A Missouri task force will meet Thursday to examine options for increasing government efficiency. Members of the state government’s review commission, appointed by Gov. Matt Blunt, drafted more than 100 preliminary proposals that would reorganize and expand some state departments.

Tax refund up for review

JEFFERSON CITY — For the second time in three years, the Missouri Supreme Court is considering a contested tax refund for telephone companies that, if allowed, is projected to cost state and local governments about $200 million. The court ruled in June 2002 that a sales and use tax exemption for manufacturing machinery should apply to equipment used to transmit telephone calls — even though phone companies don’t produce a product as tangible as most factories.

Schooner bound for Atlantic docks at Cooper’s Landing

A 61-foot, 48-ton schooner docked Tuesday at Cooper’s Landing on the Missouri River on its way from Independence to Charleston, S.C.

New life in Missouri

Antoine Lambert is beginning a new job and a new life. Lambert left New Orleans the day of Hurricane Katrina, before the flooding began. The Orleans Parish native had planned to move to Missouri before the storm hit and found himself relocating sooner than expected.

Press making truth important again

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, one fact emerges crystal clear: one’s financial situation can sometimes mean the difference between life and death. Poor people, especially those caught up in the complicated maze of the typical big city, can easily find themselves trapped in the web of poverty for their entire lives. It just somehow doesn’t filter through to the powers that be that for one person to survive on a minimum wage salary is an iffy proposition. It is virtually impossible for folks to support families on those kind of salaries, even with the help of government subsidies. When one can barely pay the bills that enable him or her and their family to eat, be sheltered and warm or cool enough to exist, there is nothing left over to even pay for a bus ticket to get out of town. And, of course, too much of the time, folks with plenty of money could care less. Elements of the tragedy we viewed on television during the past weeks are to a lesser degree the way many cities operate on a day-to-day basis. In the days shortly after the hurricane struck land, some people expressed shock at the treatment of those who were left clinging to life without resources of any kind to assist them. Others were deeply saddened by the painful realization of how much money has come to matter in the richest country in the world.

Hearing set for fatal car crash

A preliminary hearing for the man charged in an August wreck that killed one man and left another in serious condition has been set for Oct. 14. David Hayes, 21, of St. Louis will face charges of involuntary manslaughter and assualt, both felonies.

Boy mourned at accident site

As cars zipped through the intersection of Scott Boulevard and Bethany Drive on Monday, bouquets of balloons and flowers left on a grassy patch at the corner nearly blew over in the wind. The intersection marks the site of several accidents involving children, including the one that killed 7-year-old Patrick Knedler, who was hit by a car while crossing the street on Saturday.

Abortion bill cleared for House vote

JEFFERSON CITY — An abortion bill with restrictions on minors cleared a committee hearing Monday and is expected to pass in the state House this week. One of the legislation’s sponsors told the House’s Children Committee that clergy members should be sued if they help minors get abortions without parental consent.

Women’s issues discussed

Medicaid and Supreme Court nominations were hot discussion topics at a public forum Monday night organized by the Alliance for the Status of Missouri Women. The event, “Key Issues in Washington,” was held at Stephens College and featured speakers Judy Waxman and Ahaviah Glaser of the National Women’s Law Center.

School board votes to add artificial turf

The Columbia School Board voted 6-1 Monday night to spend more than $1 million to cover grass athletic fields with artificial turf at Hickman and Rock Bridge high schools. Board member Don Ludwig called the installation of artificial turf “a more efficient use of landlocked space,” giving a wider range of students — from physical education classes to marching bands — a chance to use the fields. Right now, access to the fields is limited to keep them in good shape.

Many evacuee students attend MU

Adrienne Berra left everything where it was in her Loyola University apartment in New Orleans when she evacuated for Hurricane Katrina. She knew the drill and expected to return soon. So with two pairs of jeans, a T-shirt, a pair of gym shorts and a pair of tennis shoes, Berra went home to St. Louis.

Birdie’s Flock

Inside a white envelope, Birdell Owens finds several $20 bills. “Look at what that woman just gave me.” When asked who handed her the money, she says, “I don’t know — I’ve never seen her before. And don’t call me Birdell — my friends call me Birdie.”

Stewart collection on display

Stormin’ Norman Stewart has donated a lifetime of awards and memorabilia to the University of Missouri’s Western Historical Manuscript Collection, but not even Stewart, the most successful coach in MU history, is certain what’s inside all 21 boxes. The collection, based at Ellis Library, recently became available for public inspection and includes plaques, correspondence, photographs and newspaper clippings that span 60 years. But Stewart isn’t ready to sit back and reflect on the past.

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