Freshman programs keep students at MU

A national report says MU has the highest six-year graduation rate of Missouri’s public universities.

The Education Trust issued the report in mid-January based on data compiled from the U.S. Department of Education’s Graduate Rate Survey. The six-year mark is the standard by which the Department of Education measures graduation statistics. Many students in the United States take more than four years to earn bachelor’s degrees because of internships and work experience.

Quake flattens villages in Iran

SARBAGH, Iran — Under a cold, driving rain, survivors wailed over the bodies of the dead and dug through the ruins of mud-brick houses searching for their loved ones after a powerful earthquake flattened villages in central Iran on Tuesday, killing at least 420 people.

The toll was expected to rise because rescue teams did not have a final count from the three most isolated villages in the mountainous region. About 30,000 people were affected, many left homeless when some villages were reduced to piles of dirt and stone by the magnitude-6.4 earthquake. The number of injured was estimated at 900.

Volunteer firefighters start to train

Fifty new volunteers for the Boone County Fire Protection District began training last week to boost the department’s ranks closer to its target of 320 firefighters by the end of 2005.

To meet the goal, the department would have to complete three training programs per year with about 45 volunteers in each program, said Assistant Chief Bruce Piringer, who is in charge of training. The typical turnover rate for a department the size of Boone County is around 15 percent.

Case could carry big fallout for prosecutor

If Cole County Prosecutor Bill Tackett’s law license is temporarily suspended by the Missouri Supreme Court because Tackett resolved his brother’s speeding ticket, the judges should also oust Tackett from his public office because he would be unqualified to serve, the state attorney general’s office contends.

Tackett has said a license suspension — a possible penalty he is fighting at the Supreme Court — wouldn’t force him to give up his job as county prosecutor. He contends that assistant prosecutors could carry out his duties if his license is suspended, as a state judicial ethics panel has recommended to the court.

Media company launched

Woodruff Sweitzer announced Tuesday the launch of a strategic media buying company, True Media.

The company is an independent division of Woodruff Sweitzer that will concentrate on media purchasing, planning, placement and analysis. The business is scheduled to open March 1.

Watershed talk planned

The Bonne Femme Watershed Project is hosting an open house this evening to promote conversation between those living in the watershed and those charged with protecting it. The event will be from 5 to 8 p.m. at Little Bonne Femme Baptist Church, just off U.S. 63 south of Columbia.

Terry Frueh, watershed conservationist for the county planning department, said the purpose is “to hear what people who live in the watershed have to say, and to hear their hopes and concerns for the watershed.

Area Briefly

The environmental impact of widening Interstate 70 will be the subject of a public hearing from 4 to 7 tonight at Knights of Columbus Hall, 2525 N. Stadium Blvd.

The hearing is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Transportation, which will display maps and information but make no formal presentation.

Open mic revisits message of Dr. King

Pauline Hendrix stood high above Columbia’s city lights, arms pressed against her sides, eyes closed softly behind thin rimmed glasses and sang “His Eyes on the Sparrow.”

The Stephens College sophomore was among about a dozen performers Tuesday night at a gathering that referenced spirituality, struggle and song to spread the message of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at the penthouse level of Hugh Stephens Library at Stephens College.

Audiology chief is named at hospital

Laura Jacobs was appointed chief of audiology and speech pathology at the Truman Veterans Hospital. She will replace Jon Deal, who retired in December.

Jacobs’ new duties include managing the entire audiology and speech pathology clinic. She will also manage patient flow and appointments, as well as see patients part-time.

Driver left dead after explosions

An unidentified female died Tuesday in a car explosion, according to a Columbia Police Department news release. The car was heading southbound and stopped at a stop sign at Pannell and Smith streets.

Witnesses say they heard a loud explosion and then noticed that the passenger compartment of the vehicle was on fire. Police say the car continued southbound on Powell St., collided with a utility pole and exploded again.

MSU bill sent to House for vote

JEFFERSON CITY — A highly contentious meeting of the House Higher Education Committee ended Tuesday with a 10-1 vote to send to the full House a bill dropping the regional designation from Southwest Missouri State University’s name.

The bill is now two votes away from the desk of Gov. Matt Blunt, who is eager to sign it into law.

Latest Sapp annexation plan to face petition

Harg-area residents decided Tuesday night to petition against Billy Sapp’s latest 169-acre voluntary annexation proposal.

Members of the Harg Area Residents for Responsible Growth said at a meeting that Sapp’s scaled-down proposal is nothing but a steppingstone to accomplish his initial plan.

Hunters allowed access to tracts

Hunters concerned about losing their right to use land annexed into Columbia got a break Monday night.

The Columbia City Council passed an ordinance at its meeting that will permit hunting on 20-acre tracts of privately owned, newly annexed land.

Agricultural research threatened

Proposed federal budget cuts for agricultural research funding could have a significant effect on MU programs, said Chancellor Brady Deaton Monday.

“Depending on the severity of the cuts, this could have a very pronounced impact,” Deaton said.

Spiritual recentering

The beginning of John Fonville’s new life began with the end of his sister’s.

When Luticha Griffin opened the doors of Shalom Christian Academy on June 9, 2003, she fulfilled her dream of starting a Christian school in Columbia. Two weeks later, however, she died of unknown causes because an autopsy was never done.

City, county leaders train for disasters

A weeklong training exercise in Maryland last week challenged 70 city and county leaders to deal with a scenario in which a tornado whizzed through the community, damaging businesses, historic buildings and public facilities.

The event in Emmitsburg, Md., was facilitated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security. The training also involved two other simulations: a winter weather disaster and the twister’s aftermath.

Politics make trust a thing of the past

The latest scandals concerning radio commentator Armstrong Williams and other journalists accepting money from government agencies and administration officials to promote their issues, I’m sure, comes as no surprise to anyone. In recent years, journalists have become so buddy-buddy with politicians that much of the public is so jaded that they no longer expect fair and objective reporting at the national level. It only takes one read or one listening session to determine with which party the writer or speaker is affiliated. After the what, when and where of a news story, a lot of us are ready to fold the paper or tune the set out because we are unwilling to stick around for the spin. This is one more way our world has changed. Consequently, we are becoming less trusting every day. I agree with a man I spoke to last week who is a former elected official. He said he didn’t like the person he saw himself becoming. He said that in the past, there had always been politicians he liked better than others, but he admitted he had never experienced such active dislike toward certain political viewpoints as he did these days.

Political tolerance does not seem to me to be as easy as it once was. Personally, I have become proficient at changing the subject whenever certain topics of conversation arise. I’ve always been a person who would rather save the friendship than win the argument. And I have been criticized a great deal on that score. Unfortunately, I have found that certain political opinions reflect other character traits that make maintaining some friendships these days undesirable. I have to accept that sharing the same planet will be the full extent of my relationship with some individuals, many of whom consider themselves Christians. Heretofore, we may have been able to discuss our differences with mutual respect. I find that is no longer possible.

Concerns raised on MU proposal

With MU’s development of guidelines for incentive compensation, some faculty fear individuals will be enticed to increase their pay by fee-for-service activities — resulting in less emphasis on their educational mission.

“This is changing the way we do business here,” said Faculty Council member Eddie Adelstein, associate professor of pathology.

Budget scrutiny to begin

JEFFERSON CITY — The General Assembly is in the early innings of this year’s budget season, and politicians are swinging away.

While Gov. Matt Blunt is batting a thousand for his young career — the Springfield Republican has never lost an election — the 34-year-old rookie governor faces a new test in his first budget.

Aiming to make a thin mint

More than 100 vehicles were loaded with highly addictive sweets and sent into the community this weekend. Eight thousand cases, with 12 boxes of goodies per case, left the Fry Wagner warehouse headed for Columbia’s neighborhoods. The operation has been almost a year in the making and could stop at your door soon.

Columbians, your cookies are coming.