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Tests show U.S. math skills behind curve

WASHINGTON — Fifteen-year-olds in the United States don’t have the math skills to match up to peers in other industrialized nations, test scores released Monday show.

The latest international comparison also underscores an achievement gap in America: White U.S. students scored above the average, while blacks and Hispanics scored below it.

Blunt considering Medicaid overhaul

JEFFERSON CITY — A reorganization of Missouri’s Medicaid system must be seriously considered given recent reports criticizing its management, a spokesman for Gov.-elect Matt Blunt said Monday.

While no specific proposals have been developed, Blunt spokesman Paul Sloca said Blunt’s transition team has been looking at ways to improve Missouri’s government, including overhauling Medicaid.

Kindness of a few can better society

I reminded myself first thing this morning. It’s time to begin accepting the reality that within a few days we will be welcoming a new year. For some of us, a brief but painful glance across the shoulder will reveal in intricate detail all the promises we made to ourselves this time last year, facing us now, unfulfilled. Personally, I’m going to offer a huge sigh, a weary shrug of the shoulders and the profound reminder that, well, that’s life. So, OK, it will give me a foundation to build on for 2005.

One new reality I’m having a hard time adjusting to is that it’s difficult for me to focus on national news. I’ve never been one to embrace denial as a method of facing the future. Perhaps, the majority of Americans feel the need to believe that denying gays the right to marry and overthrowing Roe vs. Wade will restore the nation to the status intended by the founding fathers. Meanwhile, there seems to be a whole boxcar load of troublesome problems which are being ignored.

Hitting the jackpot

Sitting comfortably in his office in Boonville’s new 5,000-square-foot police station, Chief Joel Gholson remembers when the police force operated out of the basement of City Hall.

“It was awful,” he said. “We had all 20 of us coming in and out of the same door.”

Rural vote evens out Boone County

The splatters of the blues and reds on a map of November’s U.S. presidential election plainly show the political differences between urban and rural geographies. Big blue bursts of dense, Democratic, urban islands contrast sharply against sprawling red seas of suburban and rural Republicans.

The mix of blues and reds in Boone County is no different, with election results showing a particularly strong Republican edge outside of Columbia. However, a few observers see a blending of colors in the works.

Gatekeepers battle suicide, get help for those at risk

After a suicide, there are often those who blame themselves.

They saw something wrong. They didn’t know what to say. They didn’t know how or where to get help.

Healthy interaction

In September, Christine Gardner moved in to an independent retirement community on Bluff Creek Drive.

Along with several of her belongings, Gardner brought with her Ophelia, her cat and faithful companion of eight years.

Local UCC supports barred ad

Amanda Helm came to Columbia looking for a church she could agree with. At Columbia United Church of Christ, she found the inclusiveness she was seeking.

The Columbia church is now one of 6,000 United Church of Christ congregations nationwide enmeshed in a battle with NBC and CBS over the church’s ad campaign.

City considers reduced-cost rec services

The Columbia City Council will receive a report at its meeting tonight proposing a pilot program that would give financial assistance to low-income adults using Columbia Parks and Recreation facilities, including the Activity and Recreation Center.

Parks and Recreation director Mike Hood said his department has received many inquires from low-income adults looking for aid.

Agencies brace for budget cuts

State social service and education officials are expected to have to cut or reduce programs next year, when millions of dollars are redirected to pay for transportation and road projects.

More than three-quarters of Missouri voters approved Amendment 3 last month, which amends the state constitution to redistribute General Fund revenue from vehicle and fuels sales taxes.

Lost, then...Found

You are snaking along your daily route, eyes gliding across the familiar scenery of flickering traffic lights, cars, passers-by, buildings and trees. For a second, bored by the predictable imagery, you look down and find a tattered note. You pick it up and straighten it, gently shaking off the dirt. It’s scribbled in a hurry, but it’s readable. You fall in love with it before you can make out the words. You have found a shred of human communication. It’s raw and honest, and you can relate to it. You stuff it in your pocket gently, grinning at the thought of owning a piece of someone else’s life.

With or without words

The world of found items looms larger than notes and photographs. It includes mismatched gloves, broken headlights, animal skeletons, “lost pet” posters and mattress tags. The things around us are transient documents of human life, says Ron Stegall of the Ephemera Society of America.

They are a window to the people who made them and the time when they were produced. The society is a gathering of people, most of whom don’t scour sidewalks for “finds.” They are collectors who buy at auctions or antiques stores to complete an inventory of old transit system maps, Victorian Valentines, early newspapers or shipping invoices. The society, which has a Web site at www.ephemerasociety.org, holds annual gatherings and has published books on collecting.

Preserving your finds

Thinking of collecting stuff? Here are a few tips from Jenny Dowd, an MU graduate art student who is doing her thesis on collections:

Collecting is an individual process, and the possibilities and approaches to collecting are endless. I organize, label and store objects differently depending on what they are and what they represent to me.

Passionate about finding? Join the club

Davy Rothbart, 29, raps, writes and is a contributor to “This American Life,” a radio show on National Public Radio that tells the stories of ordinary people. Rothbart’s curiosity is a blend of his father’s tendency to ask questions and his mom’s spirituality — she channels an ancient spirit named Aaron who has been living in the Rothbart home for many years. Rothbart grew up snooping around other people’s lives, learning about their problems while signing for his deaf mother, who is a counselor.

The nature of air

Something old, something new

Allen Antholz stands in the muddy ground of a Hallsville construction site, hunched over while hammering nails into a large set of wood trusses.

The nail gun is not aligned correctly, so Allen and his co-worker Aaron Hopke have to finish hammering the rest of the nails old-fashioned way.

Community Sketchbook

Massage therapy gaining acceptance

Massage therapy has become a popular alternative not just for relaxation and pampering but also as a health treatment. Whether they choose a room scented by incense with soothing music playing in the background or a traditional medical setting, more people are turning to massage as an alternative treatment.

“There’s been a general growth and awareness about the value of massage therapy,” said Diane La Mar, owner of Columbia Massage Care.

Son irritatingly successful with impulses

I have written many times about our seven children. All of them are pretty normal except one — our middle son. I don’t know how to describe him other than he is unique. I don’t use that word lightly because it means one of a kind, and very few things in life fit that definition. My son does.

He was delivered while I was under hypnosis, and I don’t think he’s ever come out of the spell.

East meets West

Students gather inside a dimly lit room at Gold’s Gym downtown. Thirteen pairs of fit arms stretch far in front. Their limber bodies kneel, pushing every muscle into blue, padded mats.

Suddenly, the rhythm picks up. Without hesitation, the students swiftly stretch from one position into the next. The college- and middle-aged crowd begins to break a sweat, meticulously switching from downward dog to plank to cobra — yoga lingo that may as well be Greek even to some of the more devout students.

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