Variability could produce better corn

More than 6,000 years ago, settlers in the Americas began to domesticate teosinte — the ancient ancestor of corn. Recently a team of scientists from three universities collaborated and now better understand the link between the grass-like teosinte, which is inedible by today’s standards, and its delectable modern-day offspring.

Native farmers and plant breeders have long improved teosinte, which grows naturally in Mexico and Central America, and corn by finding plants with desirable traits, such as a particular size or resistance to disease, said Michael McMullen, research geneticist with the agricultural research service of the USDA and an adjunct associate professor of plant sciences at MU. The seeds from such plants are then used to create the next crop.

Sentencing in Heitholt case postponed

The sentencing for a 20-year-old Columbia man who has pleaded guilty to killing Kent Heitholt, the former sports editor at Columbia Daily Tribune, will be postponed until after the October trial of his suspected accomplice, Ryan Ferguson, Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Crane said Wednesday.

Charles Erickson was to be sentenced on Monday for second-degree murder, first-degree robbery and armed criminal action in connection with Heitholt’s 2001 homicide. He pleaded guilty to the charges in November and accepted a plea agreement.

MU council to take up e-mail privacy issues

As university faculty, staff and students do more and more work electronically, the possible invasion of privacy has become an issue.

This afternoon, the MU Faculty Council will discuss what can be done about keeping e-mails private.

Hearts healed through art

Russel Hughes says his multiple disabilities used to make him something of a recluse. But that all changed six years ago when he was introduced to Tarzie Hart, assistant director of Ramp Art.

“All of a sudden things opened up for me,” Hughes said.

KU students still weighing lawsuit

Three of four University of Kansas students involved in the March 6 altercation at the MU men’s basketball game said they are keeping their options open for filing a lawsuit against MU or MU Police Chief Jack Watring.

Andrew Wymore, Chris Green and Chris Kaufmann are in the process of filing a formal appeal against the university’s investigation into the actions of Watring and said they might proceed further if necessary.

Gift to fund waterfall at Stephens Lake

Mary Nall and her husband, Russ, always enjoyed the outdoors.

“She loved flower gardens,” said Robert Grant of his late sister, who was born and raised with six brothers and sisters in a two-story farmhouse in what is now southwest Columbia. When the couple went on vacation, he said, “they’d go to a national park.”


Mildred Webber, deputy chief of staff for U.S. House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., filed six late disclosure forms in early May for trips she took in 2004. A headline May 31 attributed the late filings to the wrong person.

Fulton woman’s death a homicide

Investigators have ruled a Fulton woman’s death a homicide after police found her body in her home Tuesday morning.

Fulton police found the body of 28-year-old Shawnda Reed in her home shortly after 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Need for marijuana defense falls

Marijuana use brings up issues of freedom and justice, but for criminal-defense attorneys, marijuana users and offenders are part of their business — or recent lack of business.

Several criminal-defense attorneys in Columbia said there has been a decrease in business since the passage of the local marijuana ordinance law in November.

Presenting the past

Boxes of folders filled with postcards, letters and family photographs sit next to documents wrapped in acid-free paper and tied with string. Original city blueprints and architectural drawings lie flat on shelves layered with more acid-free paper or in specialized map tubes. Digital thermometers and hygrometers sit on metal shelves, checked regularly to ensure stable temperature and humidity are maintained for the delicate documents.

Scans of about 75 of these documents and photographs will be featured in a presentation by Bill Stolz tonight at the Columbia Public Library. Stolz is a senior manuscript specialist and head of reference services at the Western Historical Manuscripts Collection.

Sci-fi is next on One Read list

Orson Scott Card uses an invasion of Earth by insects from outer space as a platform to explore ethical issues in his book “Ender’s Game,” the science fiction novel chosen for the Daniel Boone Regional Library’s One Read program.

Nearly 500 residents of Boone and Callaway counties cast their ballots, with 46 percent favoring “Ender’s Game.” The other finalists included Khaled Hosseini’s novel “The Kite Runner” and Tamim Ansary’s memoir “West of Kabul, East of New York: An Afghan American Story.” Each of those received 27 percent of the vote.

Suspect sought in shooting

As the Rev. John Loving sat on the front steps of his home near the corner of LaSalle Place and Allen Street on Tuesday afternoon, he said he was a little tired. He awoke early Tuesday morning to the sound of gunshots.

“I heard a couple of shots — at least three — and then saw a couple of men running,” he said. “The police didn’t catch them, though.”

Interest rates on student loans to rise

The thought of student loans is something that many students put off until they begin repayment. But with an important deadline looming, many in the student loan industry are trying to educate students and their parents about how to save money.

Interest rates for federal educational loans are set to increase on July 1, when the newly adjusted rates go into effect. The rate, announced May 31 by the U.S. Department of Education, will increase almost 2 percentage points for holders of both student and parent loans.

Event to benefit cancer research

At 6 p.m. Friday, Joe Prosperi and a crew of volunteers will be racing around a crowd of about 1,000 Boone County residents before the 11th annual Relay for Life begins, making sure everything is going as planned. Two hundred of his fellow cancer survivors will kick off the event with the first lap around the track.

Prosperi, a representative of the American Cancer Society who is in charge of the event, laughed as he explained what he’ll be wearing that night.

Unleashing bacteria

Brian Barker takes his two Labrador retrievers to Twin Lakes Recreation Area every other day during the summer. Barker, an events coordinator for the MU Center for Literary Arts, said it is a good place for his dogs to come off their leashes, get exercise and swim in the lake.

Twin Lakes is one of five off-leash areas for dogs in Columbia, but it is the only off-leash area that has a large lake.

Deputies get new location

After nearly two years of delays, the Boone County Sheriff’s Department’s northern substation is expected to open at the end of June.

“It’s been a slow, painful process,” said Boone County Sheriff Dwayne Carey.

Rebate to reward energy conservation

A rebate program intended to encourage business and industry to install energy-efficient lighting won the approval of the Columbia City Council on Monday night.

The Water and Light Department’s effort targets primarily large commercial and industrial customers and aims to reduce their lighting energy costs by encouraging them to replace aging light fixtures with modern, energy-efficient technologies.

Death investigated in Fulton

FULTON — Police are investigating a possible homicide in a golf community on the northern edge of town.

Police Maj. Roger Rice said the victim was a woman in her 30s.

Sapp plan closer to vote

The Columbia City Council moved a step closer Monday night to approving what would be the largest voluntary annexation in the city’s history.

The council voted to formally introduce a bill on Billy Sapp’s proposed 805-acre development, paving the way for a final vote on June 20. The vote followed a public hearing that included impassioned calls for funding of road work to improve safety on Route WW, which would connect the proposed development to the rest of the city.

Court bolsters federal pot laws

Columbia’s marijuana ordinances could come under fire from the federal government because of Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on medical marijuana.

In the case Gonzales v. Raich, the court ruled in a 6-3 decision that federal laws prohibiting the use of marijuana under any circumstance override laws that states or cities may have passed.