In record Powerball, some to bank on bad luck

Tonight’s Powerball jackpot is a record $340 million dollars, and people are stopping at gas stations on their way home for that1-in-146,107,962 chance to win. As if those odds aren’t enough, imagine winning, only to share your winnings with more than a thousand people. ABC’s new hit “Lost” has complicated the odds by popularizing a specific combination of numbers that people are using in real life to play the lottery. In the show, the unlucky character, Hurley, used the so-called cursed numbers four, eight, 15, 16, 23 and 42 to win, leading to a string of endless bad luck leaving him stranded on the mysterious island on which the show is based.

Paige Laurie returns degree from USC

Paige Laurie, the Wal-Mart heiress for whom Mizzou Arena was originally named, voluntarily returned her degree from the University of Southern California. A Sept. 30 statement from USC confirms Laurie surrendered her diploma, which “concludes the university’s review of the allegations concerning Ms. Laurie.” The statement says Laurie is not a graduate of USC.

Ashland couple in critical condition after fire

An Ashland couple was in critical condition Tuesday afternoon after a house fire Monday morning. Donald and Marie Zumwalt’s injuries were primarily due to smoke inhalation, said Bill Abrams, Southern Boone County Fire Protection District public information officer. He said he did not know the victims’ ages. Abrams said the fire appeared to have started in the bedroom, but he didn’t know the cause. A neighbor reported the fire at 6:23 a.m. and banged on the Zumwalts’ door, he said. The couple opened the dead bolt and door latch but was unable to undo the chain lock, Abrams said.

Janitor says he saw Ferguson

A former janitor who worked in the Columbia Daily Tribune building identified Ryan Ferguson in court Tuesday as the man he saw standing near the body of slain sports editor Kent Heitholt. Jerry Trump, the janitor, told the jury he immediately recognized the faces of Ferguson and Charles Erickson when their photographs were printed in the Tribune after their arrest in March 2004 in connection with Heitholt’s slaying. “I thought to myself, ‘I’ve seen these two faces before,’” Trump told the jury.

Program provides role models for girls and teen mothers

After volunteering with teen pregnancy projects for a service learning class at MU, Annie Morrison became convinced that the women she worked with lacked opportunity. She decided to do something about it.

Transforming public housing

KANSAS CITY — It wasn’t long ago that public housing in this major metro city was literally falling apart. Apartment buildings built in the 1940s and ’50s, some with plain gray facades and tiny, cell-like windows, were deteriorating. Neighborhoods plagued by crime began to resemble ghost towns as residents withdrew from the environment around them. Over the past decade or so, those neighborhoods have been transformed. Years of creative financing, demolition and construction — combined with the hopeful vision of developers — have produced new models of public housing for low-income families.

Pick for airport job withdraws

The woman chosen to become Columbia Regional Airport’s new manager will no longer fill that position. Public Works Director John Glascock said Tuesday that Kathryn Sok has withdrawn from the position.

Cell phone signals may track traffic

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri plans to be the first state in the nation to use cell phone signals in a statewide effort to reduce traffic congestion. Under the plan, the Missouri Department of Transportation would use data from cell phone towers to track traffic flow, the average speed of vehicles and estimated travel times.

Out to eliminate poverty

John Edwards, who ran for the U.S. vice presidency last year, is putting MU students to work. As part of his campaign to end poverty in the United States, Edwards pitched his “Opportunity Rocks” speech to about 500 students and community members on Tuesday. He was on campus to trumpet Project Opportunity, which seeks to engage college students in the anti-poverty campaign.

Mizzou looks at film major

MU freshman Clayton Kreisel created Mizzou Students for Film in September. So far, it has attracted more than 50 students seeking to persuade the university to offer a major in film studies. The group received a significant boost last week, when Roger Cook, chairman of MU’s film studies program, presented Richard Schwartz, dean of the College of Arts and Science, with a proposal to upgrade the curriculum.

Investigator describes crime scene

The crime scene investigator who studied blood spatter patterns in the slaying of Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt took the stand Wednesday morning and explained the story told by stains in and on the victim’s car. Heitholt’s blood-splattered clothes hung on a silver rack between the judge’s bench and the defense and prosecution’s tables in the center of the courtroom as Detective Jeff Nichols testified throughout the morning of the third day of the trial of Ryan Ferguson, charged with first-degree murder and second-degree robbery in Heitholt’s slaying in November 2001. Boone County Assistant prosecuting attorney Dan Knight first focused on Nichols’ education and experience in the field of forensics, specifically blood stain pattern analysis.

Airport hire fired from last job

A woman chosen as Columbia Regional Airport’s new manager was fired three weeks ago from her previous job, a fact that surprised city officials Monday after they had announced their decision to hire her. Also at issue is the assertion by Kathy Sok of Grand Island, Neb., on her resume that she was assistant airport manager at Central Nebraska Regional Airport. She never held that position, the chairman of that airport’s board said.

Erickson describes killing of Tribune sports editor

In testimony that he described as “repressed memories” but that the defense said was riddled with inconsistencies, Charles Erickson described Monday how he and his high school friend beat and strangled to death a Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor “for no reason.” Erickson is the prosecution’s key witness in its case against Ryan Ferguson, who is charged with first-degree murder and second-degree robbery in the death of Kent Heitholt.

Ramada Inn is put on the market

Columbia might soon see its first casualty of the city’s expanding hotel market. The Ramada Inn at 1100 Vandiver Drive, along with the 12.72-acre property it sits on, is on sale for $5.5 million. The 189-room hotel is owned by First Hospitality Group, a national hospitality and development company based in Rosemont, Ill.

Wal-Mart Supercenter gets final go-ahead

Plans for the construction of a shopping complex that will include a Wal-Mart Supercenter on West Broadway received the go-ahead after a unanimous vote by the City Council on Monday. The commercial development plan consists of a 173,190-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter with adjoining retail space totaling 17,000 square feet. The site will also include two additional retail areas, a 15,000-square-foot building at the southwest corner, and a 14,250 square-foot building at the southeast corner.

Shelter Insurance plans to build office buildings

A towering white ash, its burly trunk thicker than two men, stands in an empty lot at West Broadway and Stadium Boulevard. Nearby, the star-shaped leaves of a sweet gum shake 20 feet above the ground as a fat gray squirrel hops from branch to branch. Shelter Insurance hopes the 5.3-acre lot where the trees now stand will soon become home to three office buildings.

Abortion-seeking inmate prevails case case

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Corrections Department announced Monday that it will transport a female prisoner to receive an abortion despite Missouri law prohibiting taxpayers to cover the cost of such a trip. The announcement came after the U.S. Supreme Court lifted a temporary stay that denied the inmate access to transportation in order to receive an abortion. The announcement backed up the U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple’s ruling that said the Missouri policy violates the prisoner’s rights. Justice Clarence Thomas put the temporary stay on Whipple’s ruling Friday, but it now carries no weight.

Heating costs to rise less than expected

The average mid-Missouri customer would pay $21.86 a month more than last winter for natural gas under a rate adjustment filing by Ameren UE. But the company says the 17.7 percent increase would be significantly less than projections by the federal Energy Information Administration. Under Ameren’s new projection, the average residential customer would pay $17 to $38 more per month compared to last winter. However, if this winter turns out to be colder than normal, the increase could be greater because of higher use.

Ballot initiatives give voters voice over legislators

JEFFERSON CITY ­— Missouri’s legislature will find itself left out in the cold if the state’s health care industry succeeds with two ballot issues to amend Missouri’s constitution. A proposal for an 80-cent cigarette tax increase and a measure to protect stem cell research have both skipped the General Assembly in favor of constitutional ballot initiatives.

Defibrillators to be placed in schools

Five Columbia public schools will get automated external defibrillators in an effort to cut reaction time, by at least half, to people experiencing cardiac arrest. The schools are Hickman and Rock Bridge high schools and Jefferson, Oakland and West junior high schools.