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8th-graders receive pins at graduation

Ripples of laughter filled the sanctuary at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church as teachers at Columbia Catholic School paid tribute to graduating students.

On Wednesday, 49 eighth-graders were honored in a pinning ceremony. Before students were pinned, teachers gave short speeches in their honor. Each teacher chose a few students and then shared humorous stories and anecdotes about their years at the Catholic grade school.

Gunfire exchange results in arrest

Two Columbia men were arrested Tuesday night after police said they exchanged gunfire in a northwest Columbia neighborhood, but charges against one of the men were dropped after further investigation by police.

Columbia police arrested Rodrecus Holmes, 26, and Michael D. McClain, 25, late Tuesday night after police said the two men fired shots at each other on the 200 block of Lincoln Drive. Holmes, of 4304 Bethany Drive, and McClain, of 408 W. Ash St., were arrested on suspicion of first-degree assault and armed criminal action. Police said no one was injured in the shootings.

Playground opens at Children’s Hospital

When Sylvie Carpentier’s daughter, Pascale White, was treated for leukemia at Children’s Hospital, nurses would hide a wheelchair for her so that she could sneak Pascale outside for fresh air. Thanks to the work of Carpentier, now patients at the hospital can enjoy the benefits of being outdoors without violating doctor’s orders.

University Hospital unveiled its first outdoor playground Wednesday afternoon for use by patients of the Children’s Hospital and their families. The playground was funded by the volunteer organization Pascale’s Pals. The group was created by Carpentier in 1997 after Pascale was successfully treated for cancer.

Aging with grace

For the past three months, George Boyle has increased his overall fitness and endurance level through flexibility and balance exercises at The Health Connection.

After falling twice from side effects of medication he was taking to treat pneumonia and a cat bite, the 78-year-old retired MU employee said his doctor suggested taking fitness classes to improve his balance and prevent further injury.

Plans for Catholic school proceed

Columbia Catholics are planning the construction of a school that could open as soon as fall 2008 on 22.6 acres of land within the former Phillips farm, now known as the Bristol Lake Development.

A tri-parish committee, created by Sacred Heart, Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Thomas More Newman Center, recommended last month that the building serve as an interim facility for grades six through eight, and that higher grades be added over three successive years.

Strike upsets beer delivery

ST. LOUIS — Union-backed workers for a St. Louis-based beer wholesaler have gone on strike as the Memorial Day weekend approaches, disrupting deliveries of Anheuser-Busch beers to retailers, taverns and Busch Stadium in the brewer’s hometown.

Lohr Distributing Co. workers — about 25 full-time and about a dozen who work as needed — began their strike Sunday night, having worked without a contract since February, said Dan McCay, president of International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 600.

Officer disciplined

Columbia police have taken disciplinary action against an officer who police said provided information that led to an unjustified break-up of a party in the 1000 block of Rogers Street on Feb. 12. But on Tuesday, Police Chief Randy Boehm denied allegations by some of the partygoers that officers used unnecessary force to make arrests, bringing a birthday party to an abrupt and disturbing halt.

Boehm said the disciplinary action stemmed from Columbia police Officer Alan Mitchell’s “improper conduct.” He refused to say whether the action against Mitchell was connected to partygoers’ complaints, citing the disciplinary action as a “personnel issue.”

Panel unsure of city curfew

A panel of government officials and community leaders made little progress Tuesday on a proposed city curfew, but participants did agree that such a law still would not solve the broader problem of juvenile crime.

“We don’t see (a curfew) as a cure-all,” said Columbia police Chief Randy Boehm, who supports the measure. “It would be an additional tool to remove young people from an unfavorable situation.”

Tasting success in Hallsville

Donna Martz is well-acquainted with the work of Hallsville cakemaker Edith Hall. After all, Hall made the cakes for the weddings of three of Martz’s five children. “She does a terrific job in making them,” Martz, of Columbia, said. “I would say she’s an artist in cake decorating.” Hall has made and sold wedding cakes since 1984 and this week receives national recognition for her talents as a cake decorator. One of her cakes is on display through Thursday at Grand Central Station in New York City, as part of a gallery sponsored by Brides magazine. “I feel very honored,” ...

More than beauty

As Aimee Wehmeier adjusts the seat of her wheelchair, it makes a “zzt” when it goes up and a “zzt” when it goes down — like a Lexus owner getting comfortable behind the wheel.

“The accessories keep getting better and better,” she said.

UM to drop asset manager

The University of Missouri System is expected to terminate its contract with one of its investment managers Thursday at a meeting of the UM Board of Curators.

DKR Capital Inc., an asset management firm in Stamford, Conn., has managed UM money since 2002 and is one of many investment managers for the system, according to documents prepared for the curators’ meeting at MU.

Dialogue helps bridge religious and cultural divides

It’s Wednesday night at the local mosque on the corner of Locust and Fifth Street.

Upstairs, in the prayer room, about 40 men of all ages stand next to each other in elbow-rubbing distance — all facing east toward Mecca, the holy city of Islam. They bend over, kneel, then prostrate, a process repeated several times. The women do the same in a separate room. When prayer ends, I shake hands with most of those present — a sign of respect and friendship.

Challenging God’s Existence

It is a mild Saturday morning in February when we meet at Hasan Askari’s Columbia home to talk about Islam. He is over 6 feet tall, lean, almost like a stick figure, with salt-and-pepper hair and a trim beard. He wears light brown slacks and a black collarless button-down shirt wrapped tight around his neck. The shadows under his eyes betray the few — if any — hours of sleep. He flew in late from Bethesda, Md., where he does research on strokes at the National Institutes of Health. He commutes about twice a month to spend the weekend with his family.

He sketches the world’s religions in my notebook.

Women planned to speak against Rios

Three women who came forward after former Columbia police Officer Steven Rios was implicated in the murder of 23-year-old MU student Jesse Valencia were prepared to testify in court that Rios sexually propositioned them while on duty.

Columbia Police Chief Randy Boehm said the three women came forward after police had identified Rios, 28, as a “person of interest” in the Valencia homicide investigation.

Protesters gain access to air show

Demonstrators plan to hand out yellow bookmarks printed with the Bill of Rights along with other leaflets at this weekend’s Memorial Day air show after a U.S. District Court ruling described by plaintiffs as a victory for the right to free speech.

“The opportunity for people to exercise their First Amendment rights at this event is going to be much greater,” said Columbia attorney Dan Viets.

The great curfew debate

For more than two years, Columbia officials, activists and parents have debated whether the city needs a curfew to help keep teenagers out of trouble, particularly during the summer months.

The Columbia City Council and Columbia Police Department strongly support a curfew, which was first proposed by First Ward Councilwoman Almeta Crayton in 1993. But the Columbia branch of the NAACP, which cites staunch opposition among central-city residents, has managed to keep the proposed ordinance off the books.

Teens offer curfew thoughts

Here’s what some teens who participate in after-school programs at the Columbia Boys & Girls Club think about the possibility of a citywide curfew.

Polls show cities split on curfews

Columbia is not the only Missouri city that has debated the effectiveness of curfews in recent years. Independence has a curfew ordinance and was featured in a national poll about curfews that was released last year.

The poll, by the National League of Cities, reported that Independence officials think parental ambivalence and lack of enforcement make their curfew ineffective.

Hazards of payday loans addressed

Dorothy Thomas said her sister was living paycheck-to-paycheck when rising heating bills prompted her to take out a payday loan.

The loan was attractive because it seemed “easy to borrow at the time,” Thomas said. When her sister’s financial situation worsened, it strained her ability to pay back the loan.

Marijuana operation alleged in Columbia

Columbia police discovered a marijuana-growing operation in a northeast Columbia house Sunday after being tipped off by a Columbia woman who said she’d been assaulted by a man who was growing marijuana, Columbia police Capt. Michael Martin said on Monday.

The 21-year-old woman said the man wouldn’t let her leave after she spurned his sexual advances at his home at 1901 Lovejoy Lane, Martin said. She escaped and ran to a neighbor’s house. The neighbor called police to report a trespassing after the woman refused to leave the house.

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