Inmates’ education takes a cut

Inmates at several maximum security prisons can no longer participate in education classes or substance abuse treatment due to recent budget cuts.

The Department of Corrections has closed education programs at three of the state’s five maximum-security prisons — Cameron, Potosi and Jefferson City — and eliminated the substance abuse treatment program in the Jefferson City prison, the only program of its kind at a maximum-security facility. The programs being eliminated served approximately 657 inmates at those three prisons in fiscal 2005.

Task Force 1 heads home after Dennis

Missouri Task Force 1, an urban search and rescue team, is returning to Boone County early after Hurricane Dennis left minimal damage and no deaths when it hit the Gulf Coast over the weekend.

The task force received deployment orders Friday and left at 11:15 a.m. Saturday for Meridian, Miss., said Boone County Fire Protection District Captain Gale Blomenkamp. They were given orders Sunday to move to Hattiesburg, Miss. On Monday at 1 p.m., the task force receive demobilization orders and expects to return by noon today.

Nursing homes guide revised, tested locally

For the past 10 years, MU nursing professor Marilyn Rantz has worked to create a way to help people measure the quality of care provided by nursing homes for their loved ones.

“I’ve always had a real interest in wanting to understand what quality care is in nursing homes and how to improve it in nursing homes,” said Rantz, who worked in a nursing home for 12 years.

It's time to quit wasting my time

It seems I barely got on Missouri’s “No Call” list just in time before all the unsolicited e-mails began to pour in. Otherwise, the time I would have spent answering annoying telephone calls, plus the time I spend deleting unwanted e-mails, would have equaled the time I spend sleeping. One can only wonder at the miracles that might take place if these marketers would devote as much time trying to improve the status quo as they do in creating ways to make nuisances of themselves.

I often think about how people of my mother’s generation seemed to have so much leisure time, in spite of the fact that they had so few labor-saving devices. In our house, there was only a wringer-style washer for the laundry and our clothes had to dry on the line. The only work-saver I recall was a vacuum cleaner. Clothing and linen had to be ironed because there were no permanent press fabrics. Nevertheless, my mother always had time to read books and teach us girls the fine points of sewing, embroidery, knitting and crochet. And more important, there were always those memorable hours spent in conversations, which were great adventures in learning. There was no end to new topics to discuss, intriguing theories to investigate and introductions to other cultures that needed to be explored.

MU football player dies after collapsing at practice

Aaron O'Neal, a redshirt freshman on MU's football team, died Tuesday after collapsing at a voluntary practice.

University Hospital Public Relations Manager Mary Jenkins confirmed the death of O'Neal. She would not release the cause of death, but did confirm that O'Neal was brought to the hospital.

Dori Burke, a death investigator for the Boone County Medical Examiner's office, said that O'Neal died at 4:05 p.m. in the emergency room of the hospital. An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday morning.

Christian Basi, a spokesman for MU said that the university is currently focusing on O'Neal's family. It is trying to make accommodations for them and any needs that they might have when they arrive from O'Neal's hometown of Creve Coeur, a suburb of St. Louis. The university is also trying to make counselors available to O'Neal's teammates and friends.

O'Neal, 19, was a sophomore at MU and redshirted his freshman year. O'Neal was a four-sport standout at Parkway North High School in St. Louis County.

He rushed for 1,562 yards and 19 touchdowns his senior year, earning Class 5A all-state honors. He also excelled in basketball, track, and baseball.

O'Neal, a 6'3" 220-pound middle linebacker, was third on MU's preseason depth chart.

MU's football team is scheduled to begin official practices on August 8.

The football team held a short meeting at the Student Resource Center Tuesday night. Players left without comment.

Players reached by phone by the Missourian refused to comment.

Bob Bunton coached O'Neal at Parkway North.

"That's all the kid wanted to do, was play for Missouri," Bunton said to the Associated Press. ""He was so happy and doing so well. I just feel bad for his family.

"Aaron had always been a picture of health. It was something he really took pride in."

Dennis rips through two states

PENSACOLA — Hurricane Dennis roared quickly through the Florida Panhandle and Alabama coast Sunday with a 120-mph bluster of blinding squalls and crashing waves, but shell-shocked residents emerged to find far less damage than when Hurricane Ivan took nearly the same path 10 months ago.

The tightly wound Dennis, which had been a Category 4, 145-mph monster as it marched up the Gulf of Mexico, weakened just before it struck less than 50 miles east of Ivan’s landfall. And despite downed power lines and outages to 200,000, early reports indicated no deaths and relatively modest structural damage.

Life on the line

Forty feet above the Wendy’s on Clark Lane, Charles Schouten slides the bucket of a utility truck beneath a pair of 13,000-volt wires. He’s careful to stay well below the lines, knowing what would happen if he made contact.

A few weeks before, Schouten was in Independence, helping repair storm damage with a crew of Columbia Water and Light Department linemen. On the morning of June 10, the boom of a nearby truck made contact with overhead wires. The shock was enough to send Schouten to the hospital. His partner, fellow Columbia lineman Steve Ebert, was killed.

Going where the wind blows

It starts with a knock on your door about suppertime. A slit in the window blinds shows a cargo van idling in your driveway. It’s white with tinted windows and a dented rear-lift gate. A man in aviator sunglasses and a tie-dyed shirt smiles as you open the door.

First, he introduces himself: James Tucker Smith, Sunshine Daydream Hot Air Balloon Team. Then, he asks to use your large front lawn as a launch pad.

Hey mom, college can wait

It was hardly the average teenager’s idea of a good time. Gerrit Lansing spent his days shoveling out a ‘barn and crushing grapes under the hot Mediterranean sun.

But Lansing calls the year he took off before college one of the best things he ever did. Burned-out and aimless after high school, he spent part of the year in Greece working on a farm in the mornings, then taking afternoon classes that helped him develop a love of classical poetry.

Local rescue crew travels to meet Dennis

Missouri Task Force 1, an urban search-and-rescue team based in Boone County, was deployed Saturday to assist emergency workers in the Gulf Coast area.

The team will wait in Meridian, Miss., about 100 miles inland, until Hurricane Dennis moves through the area.

Dennis may bring rain to Columbia

Hurricane Dennis continues to hold the promise of delivering rain to central Missouri.

“Columbia should see an inch starting (today) through Wednesday,” said Butch Dwe, a forecaster at the National Weather Service office in St. Louis.

PedNet blazes urban walking trail

The PedNet Coalition, along with teens from Columbia Art Related Experience, are crafting a one-mile urban walking trail along the periphery of public housing in downtown Columbia.

The Douglass Neighborhood Urban Walking Trail began taking shape after PedNet director Ian Thomas heard from First Ward Councilwoman Almeta Crayton that she and her friends would be more likely to participate in a walking program if there was a route with distance markers.

Reverend at center of lawsuit dies

The former Rev. David Finestead died of colon cancer at his home Wednesday in the midst of final proceedings in a $6 million lawsuit centered around his accused rape seven years ago of Teresa Norris, a choir director at Campbell United Methodist Church in Springfield.

Criminal charges were never filed against Finestead, who was suspended from the United Methodist Church and became a Baptist minister in Kansas.

Police union asks for raises

A recent survey by the Columbia Police Officers Association revealed frustration among officers about low wages and feelings of low morale throughout the police department.

Sterling Infield, president of the police officers association, administered the survey after hearing numerous complaints from officers about salaries and a recent spike in crime.

Bus ride chronicles

Maps of the 2004 presidential election show the ideological divide between different parts of the country. The blue states won by Democrats in the Northeast and West bracket a vast red Republican middle.

Sean McCann, a sports reporter for the South Jersey Courier-Post, had an interesting idea after the election: Find out what people in red America were really thinking.

Dennis raises hopes for much-needed rain

Hurricane Dennis continues to provide some hope for much-needed rain in parts of Missouri.

There is a 30 percent chance of rain in the Columbia area from Tuesday morning to Wednesday night as the storm tracks up the Mississippi River Valley. Jon Carney, a forecaster at the National Weather Service office in St. Louis, said Saturday afternoon there was still uncertainty about the rainfall coverage and amounts.

Cold Stone recalls ‘cake batter’ flavor

Cold Stone Creamery has voluntarily recalled “cake batter” ice cream from its stores nationwide after being notified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that the popular flavor might be contaminated with salmonella.

There have been 14 cases of salmonella typhimurium infection associated with the “cake batter” ice cream, according to the FDA Web site. The illnesses occurred in Minnesota, Washington state, Oregon and Ohio.

Columbia provides sister city with relief

Efforts to help Columbia’s sister city in the Republic of Georgia repackage bulk shipments of iodized salt will be one step closer to completion when two salt repackaging machines are shipped Monday.

The locally designed machines are part of an effort to help the city of Kutaisi combat iodine deficiency in children. Since 2001, Columbians have been asked to donate boxes of iodized salt, but the hope is that Kutaisi will now be able to repackage its own imported salt.

Packing the past, facing the future

Marie Gonzalez couldn’t sleep the night after her parents left for Costa Rica to avoid deportation.

The longest the 19-year-old had been away from her mother and father was one week. Now she faces the possibility of six years without them by her side.

How I quit cigarettes ... this time

I have been writing this column for more than five years, and seldom do I get as many e-mails as I have in the past month. Apparently two columns I wrote hit home. The one on smoking cessation garnered almost two dozen responses, and the comments about improper word usage are still coming in. So I decided to update the “still smokers” this week, and then I’ll tackle the abuse of the English language next week.

The same day the column was published, I received a call from a man with a bit of advice. I had written that I had been smoke-free for three months. He told me to stop counting. He said I was setting myself up for failure.