Telling an immigrant’s story

Dear Reader,

I first met Xu Liping and Yang Lei entirely by chance when a craving for some good Chinese food led me to their Columbia-area restaurant. When I ordered in Mandarin, rather than English, their faces brightened, and soon they were sharing with me their family’s story of illegal immigration to the United States, and the decade of hardship, separation and suffering that followed.

Easy Riders

Every Saturday, a group of extraterrestrials meets to cruise the roads of Boone County. They are a peculiar sort: their heads shaped like eggs, their clothes marked in green neon, their eyes shaded and oval-shaped.

Their traveling machines are similarly odd: vast networks of tubes and cables, powered by circular gearing systems and two spinning gyros.

Super-sized purses create big problems

I’ve written before about the various differences between the two sexes. Women have much more of the burden to bear throughout life. One of the many examples that life is lopsided is the age-old tradition of the woman carrying a purse.

I watched my husband get ready for work this morning — such a simple ritual. He buttons his shirt, zips up his pants and then places his “necessities” into his pockets. His billfold goes in his back left pocket. A nail clipper and tiny pocket knife (for warding off any attackers) go into one side pocket; the other is reserved for loose change and paper money. That’s it!

Sustaining a GROWING congregation

One evening a few months ago, tears welled in Darcie Putnam’s eyes as she watched fellow members of The Crossing Church drop envelopes into a basket.

She and her husband were among about 200 families enjoying a night of prayer and celebration in a conference room at Stoney Creek Inn. The lights were low and soft music played as, one by one, members of the evangelical Presbyterian congregation walked slowly to the front of the room and made their contributions toward The Crossing’s first church building.

Filming a story of survival

After six years teaching English to Bosnian refugees in Columbia, Kerri Yost took what, for her, was the next logical step: making a film about them. And then another film. And then one more.

The second of Yost’s trilogy is a four-minute documentary entitled “Waiting for Adnan,” which will be screened Sunday at the Missouri Theatre as part of the True/False Film Festival.

UM system payments deferred

JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Matt Blunt has decided to defer payments totaling $100 million to the University of Missouri system and five other state universities, a Blunt spokesman said Thursday.

During a conference call on Wednesday night with presidents from each school, Blunt received unanimous consent to defer the payments. From March until May, the schools will receive a distributed amount of $14 million per month as opposed to the $47 million usually allotted.

Police: No ‘white van’ reports filed

Columbia police said on Thursday they had no reason to believe there is a connection between two reports — circulated all over town via e-mail — of a man stalking women in a white van.

The e-mail was sent Wednesday morning and warned of a man in a white van who followed one woman last Monday and another woman on Tuesday. Contrary to the claim in the e-mail, police said they had not received any reports of people being harassed by a man in a white van, Capt. Mike Martin said.

Passengers improve after crash

Five of the 17 Mexican migrant workers involved in Tuesday’s fatal accident on eastbound I-70 were in fair condition on Thursday, according to a University Hospital spokeswoman.

The spokeswoman said the five are expected to be released by the end of the week.

Council weighs holiday options

Three times a year, the simple act of going to class becomes an inner conflict of faith for MU junior Courtney Jakul.

“I would go to really important classes on religious holidays, and it made me feel really guilty,” Jakul said. “I grew up in a traditional family where we didn’t go to work or do anything on religious holidays except go to services.”

MU panel debates plus/minus grades

MU’s grading system came under scrutiny at Thursday’s Faculty Council meeting, as some schools disagreed with language in the Faculty Handbook that suggests professors must award grades on a plus/minus scale.

The Faculty Handbook says faculty are “expected” to use the plus/minus system, and this wording has been interpreted as saying the system is required.

State’s flu cases on the rise

More than halfway through the flu season, the number of cases reported statewide is significantly lower than last year’s flu reports. But health officials said the number of cases reported in the last week was up 41 percent from the previous week — and that sometimes signifies the beginning of a peak.

Influenza reports statewide increased by 712 cases, from 1,015 the week of Jan. 30-Feb. 5, to 1,727 the week of Feb. 6-12, according to the state Department of Health and Senior Services Web site.

Changes to bill limits worker lawsuits

JEFFERSON CITY — A House committee’s changes to a Senate bill tightening eligibility requirements for workers’ compensation prompted one lawmaker to warn Missourians: “Don’t get hurt. Don’t get hurt. Do not get hurt.”

Rep. Tom George, D-St. Louis County, said the House version of the bill would increase the involvement of lawyers while politicizing the role of the judges who hear worker’s compensation cases.

Identity confirmed in Tuesday car death

The identity of a woman who was found dead after a Tuesday evening car explosion was discovered through dental records on Thursday.

Columbia resident Autumn J. Cox, 41, lit her Jeep Grand Cherokee on fire and crashed it into a utility pole to take her own life in the 1100 block of Pannell Street on Tuesday, fire officials said Wednesday.

House GOP erases Senate compromises on workers' comp

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri House of Representatives Republicans want it their way on workers’ compensation.

By introducing a substitute bill that erases compromises made in the Senate and inserting several changes desired by business interests, Republicans reasserted their control over workers’ compensation legislation at a hearing Wednesday.

Clerk opposes absentee voting changes

Since mid-January, both Gov. Matt Blunt and Secretary of State Robin Carnahan have announced no-excuse absentee voting proposals. The pending legislation is intended to give all voters — not just those who are unable to get to the polls on Election Day — six weeks to cast their ballots.

Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren, who administers elections locally, doesn’t support either plan. Her reasons are simple: She thinks local governments will bear increased costs, which will be high, mailed ballots are less efficient and accurate than voting in-person and components of the federal Help America Vote Act that must be implemented by Jan. 1 are not on track.

First Steps funds pass initial vote

JEFFERSON CITY — House lawmakers overwhelmingly supported a measure Wednesday to set aside $1 million for funding the First Steps program from interest earned on state investments.

The 157-1 vote for the proposal highlighted a commitment from House Republicans and Democrats to save the program, which serves developmentally disabled children up to age 3.

Sex shop tax bill in Senate

JEFFERSON CITY — Describing Missouri as a “hotbed” for pornography, a Republican senator from Jackson County is pushing for new taxes on the industry.

But another Republican senator from the same county says the bill is less of an attempt to generate new revenue than it is a move to shut down these adult businesses.

Shields works to fix school funding

While aides for Sen. Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, scramble to complete work on a plan to fix the state’s funding formula for public schools, freshman Rep. Ed Robb, R-Columbia, has been relegated from the role of leading man to supporting actor.

Robb has at times been the lone advocate for an overhaul of the school funding system and has pushed for a formula that replaces property taxes with a statewide income tax. Shields, meanwhile, has recommended only tweaking the formula and wants to use much of the work he completed last session as leader of a committee that wrestled with the same issue.

Costa Rican family fights to stay in U.S.

JEFFERSON CITY — Any hour, any day, immigration officials could determine the fate of the Gonzalez family, who after 14 years of living in the United States is in the thick of deportation proceedings.

The family, along with more than 150 supporters, marched to Gov. Matt Blunt’s office Wednesday afternoon to seek his support regarding their immigration status.

School practices MAP test

Teachers and administrators at John B. Lange Middle School want students to know what it feels like to take the MAP test — so they recreated the testing environment for a mock exam on Wednesday.