Court debates medical pot use

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court questioned whether state medical-marijuana laws might be abused by people who aren’t really sick as it debated on Monday whether the federal government can prosecute patients who smoke pot on doctors’ orders.

Watching the argument was Angel Raich, an Oakland, Calif., mother of two who said she tried dozens of prescription medicines to ease the pain of a brain tumor and other illnesses before she turned to marijuana. She and another ill woman, Diane Monson, filed a lawsuit to protect their access to the drug after federal agents confiscated marijuana plants from Monson’s yard.

Hindman: No need to rush vote on tax

Columbia officials are worried they’re running out of time to place initiatives on the April 5 ballot that, if approved, would increase taxes to pay for millions of dollars in road work.

A group of developers, government officials and other community leaders, known as the Transportation Finance Committee, are tasked with recommending ways the city could raise $10 million a year in new taxes for the next 25 years to pay for road work.

Columbia schools given top honor

High marks for MAP scores, ACT scores and attendance helped the Columbia Public School District earn its place on a list of 158 districts in the state that earned the Distinction in Performance honor.

The district was recognized by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education on Monday for its efforts to improve academic achievement among its students.

Money talks if you choose to listen

We’ve heard the saying that the golden rule means that he who has the gold rules. Lots of us, who have fought against accepting this idea for most of our lives, have finally had to cave in. It’s true; money talks.

But now that we have come to the understanding that things really are that way, we need to define how this philosophy works in our lives by examining what money can and cannot buy.

If walls could talk

Today’s families might despair in the situation faced by the pioneers on the plains. Maybe families of the late 1800s did too, but they found a solution.

They used the material that was most abundant to them — sod.

Bush can expect a battle on Social Security

WASHINGTON — If President Bush wants to push his plan to overhaul Social Security through Congress during his second term, he will probably have to do something he rarely did during his first term: get his hands dirty.

To revamp the politically popular retirement program, many allies say, Bush will have to offer detailed proposals to Congress and engage in a broad public campaign to justify the change and its cost. That would be a big change in the way Bush deals with Congress. Typically, Bush has conveyed only broad goals and principles and left it to Congress’ Republican leaders to work out details. Social Security will be different, Republicans say, because Bush’s heart is unquestionably in the issue. He has made clear that it is his top domestic priority. At issue is the long-term financial stability of Social Security, the retirement program funded through payroll taxes, which will be strained when the Baby Boom begins to retire. As soon as 2019, the program will pay out more in benefits than it collects in taxes. By 2052, the program’s trust fund is projected to have exhausted its surplus.

Concerns grow over cell-phone infections

WASHINGTON — Early this month, Web sites began offering software promising ring tones and screen savers for certain cell phones. But those who downloaded the software found that it turned every icon on their cell phones’ screens into a skull and crossbones and disabled their phones so they could no longer access text messages, contact lists or calendars.

Security experts dubbed the virus Skulls and consider it an early warning of the damage hackers could do as they turn their malevolent talents from computers to cell phones.

Suicide bombers recruited in Iran

TEHRAN, Iran- The 300 men filling out forms in the offices of an Iranian aid group were offered three choices: Train for suicide attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq, train for suicide attacks against Israelis or assassinate British author Salman Rushdie.

It looked at first glance like a gathering on the fringes of a society divided between moderates who want better relations with the world and hard-line Muslim militants hostile toward the United States and Israel.

Terror group claims Iraqi killings

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Iraq’s most feared terror group claimed responsibility Sunday for slaughtering members of the Iraqi security forces in Mosul, where dozens of bodies have been found. The claim raises fears the terror group has expanded to the north after the loss of its purported base in Fallujah.

Meanwhile, insurgents attacked U.S. and Iraqi targets in Baghdad and in Sunni Arab areas, underscoring the risks of holding national elections Jan. 30.

With vote, facility becomes ‘Mizzou Arena’

The athletic department will shoulder the estimated $30,000 to $40,000 it will cost to change the name of MU’s new arena, after UM system curators voted on Friday to change the name from Paige Sports Arena to Mizzou Arena.

The name change is effective immediately, but Chad Moeller, MU Manager of Sports Information, said there is no definite timetable for changing the name at the arena itself.

More flu vaccinations available from county

Local health officials are hoping to vaccinate more elderly people, children under 2 and other high-risk individuals before the peak of the flu season arrives.

Thanks to the arrival last week of 1,200 additional doses of the vaccine, the Columbia/Boone County Health Department will host a clinic Wednesday at the department’s offices at 1005 West Worley.

Making a new home

When Irfan Haque emigrated from Pakistan in 2000, he knew he wouldn’t be going back. For someone from Haque’s culture, there’s no question — you live where your children are.

“In old age, I have to be here,” Haque says.

Advent begins today

Every year there are those who complain that our society begins preparing for Christmas too far in advance. Most department stores raise Christmas trees in their shop windows the weekend after Halloween, and carols playing over the loudspeakers at supermarkets aren’t far behind.

In the Christian church, the preparation for Christmas officially begins four Sundays before Dec. 25. Advent, which begins today, also marks the first Sunday of the church new year.

Missouri foods are getting gift-wrapped

SPRINGFIELD — Gourmet jelly, organic soy nuts, honey and chili mix are among the gourmet items offered in a gift box from small Missouri specialty food producers who hope to woo customers from across the country.

Eleven companies are part of “Taste the Best of Missouri,” a box shaped like the Show-Me state and colored black and gold — a nod to MU. The companies hope the gift box will bring exposure and marketing opportunities for their products.

Snapshot of a tragedy

Even though Bud Wiest still keeps the film negatives in his dresser drawer, the photographs he shot of the Sept. 27, 2003, sunset over the Missouri River will never be used as his wife intended.

He remembers shooting the pictures of Phyllis, 45, holding their 18-month-old daughter, Katherine, standing on the Isabell train trestle that spans Big Loose Creek near Frankenstein.

All that jazz

Tom Andes’ fingers dance up and down the keys of the piano. Wearing a crooked smile, his eyes half shut in concentration, Andes is oblivious to the steady murmur of conversation in the crowded room.

It’s Saturday night at Murry’s, and as Andes and his trio finish up a jazz standard, few people seem to notice. Other than the people at a handful of tables and three enthusiasts at the bar, everyone else in the restaurant seems to have delegated the music to background noise.

Naturally inspired

Sometimes, during a walk in the woods, a leaf is all it takes to inspire fiber artist Vicki Smith. At other times, it’s the walk itself.

For Smith, life is interconnected with nature, and so is her art. Smith, 54, creates handmade paper bowls and collages from plant material and found objects. She says her pieces tend to develop themselves.

A place for the heart

A brightly lit, bushy Christmas tree stands in a corner of Heart to Heart Christian Supply, draped in gold ribbon and adorned with ornaments strategically placed upon its branches.

Couches sit on either side of the tree — overstuffed invitations to patrons to relax and read. Small tables and chairs, available for customers to sip a cup of coffee and chat, complete the scene.

Cardiac concerns

Marilyn Petersen hurries into University Hospital’s Fit for Life center, pulling a T-shirt over her head and lacing her sneakers in preparation for her new routine.

A freshly minted health nut at 62, Petersen boasts that she’s the picture of wellness. With her intense daily regimen of walking, biking and weight lifting, it’s hard to argue.

Getting under the skin

Holograms — 3-D images created by lasers — have been around for about 30 years. But it is only recently that scientists, including an MU physicist, have started to think about using the technology to photograph live tissues as a way to detect diseases.

Though his work is still in initial laboratory stages, Sunder Balasubramanian, a post-doctoral fellow in the MU Department of Physics and Astronomy, hopes it could lead to one of the first noninvasive methods to screen for skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in the United States.