School grant fuels cornucopia

Six-year-old Dreisha Brown scrunched up her face and wiped her hands on her shirt after touching pig lungs wrapped in plastic wrap. The Eugene Field Elementary School kindergartner said the lungs felt “gooey.”

Once the children had their chance to touch the lungs, their instructor turned the organs around to show them where the heart had been connected. The whole room cried out in unison, “Eeewww.”

Public works director retiring

Columbia Public Works Director Lowell Patterson will retire after serving 19 years as director of the city’s largest department and presiding over a period of tremendous growth.

City Manager Ray Beck announced Patterson’s retirement on Thursday. Patterson will remain in the position until May 11. He turns 62 this month.

New home featured on reality show

Sherry Hampton threw open the door of her 884-square-foot Habitat for Humanity home, finding a host of friends and neighbors gathered to congratulate her on the front lawn. She then went back inside and did it again. And again. And again.

Only in the world of reality TV would Hampton have to reenact this scene for cameras, appearing surprised every time. For this shot, the tenth time was the charm.

Proposal aims to relax farm notifications

JEFFERSON CITY — Rural Missourians could be surprised to see chicken or pig barns being built next door under legislation endorsed on Thursday by the Senate. The bill would lessen public notification requirements for all but the largest livestock producers.

The bill also would prohibit counties from enacting local ordinances that surpass the state’s restrictions on animal feeding operations.

Hotel robbery suspect arrested at gas station

A Columbia man suspected of robbing a hotel late Wednesday evening was arrested just minutes later while getting gas. The suspect, Jerry L. Williamson, 57, was charged with first-degree robbery, police said on Thursday in a release.

Williamson was also arrested in 1999 on suspicion of robbing the same Ramada Inn, said Columbia police Capt. Zim Schwartze, the East District commander.

House tackles spam charge

Some state legislators want to permanently delete spam from Missourians’ e-mail in-boxes.

A bill presented to the House Utilities Committee on Wednesday would outlaw the transmission of “deceptive and unsolicited” commercial e-mail. The bill would make it a felony for anyone sending e-mail to put misleading information in the subject or sender fields of a message. Repeat offenders would potentially face prison time.

Former Ecuadorean chief criticizes U.S. policies

Former Ecuadorean President Rodrigo Borja expressed pessimism about Latin America’s future and criticized U.S. policies toward the countries to the south in a discussion at MU on Wednesday.

The Spanish-language palaver with a dozen students, faculty and Columbia residents was the first event in Borja’s two-day visit to MU. Borja, who was president from 1988 to 1992, affirmed his support for forgiveness of international foreign debt and characterized military support for Colombia’s war on drugs as futile.

Stretch of Nifong to close

The Missouri Department of Transportation will permanently close Nifong Boulevard between Grindstone Parkway and Ponderosa Street at noon today, creating a cul-de-sac. This closure will prevent access to Ponderosa Street from the east side of Nifong Boulevard.

Transportation Department crews will shut down the route unless severe weather makes the area unsafe. Although message boards will be in place to alert drivers and residents, customer support from the Transportation Department will be available at 888-275-6636 for further assistance.

Probe targets MU police chief

Complaints filed by University of Kansas students against MU Police Department Chief Jack Watring after Sunday’s basketball game in Mizzou Arena have led to an independent investigation by the MU Office of Administrative Affairs.

KU student Chris Kaufman filed a police report Sunday that said Watring grabbed him by the shirt and shoved him during an argument at the men’s basketball game. Watring was off-duty and out of uniform at the game.

Backlogged files hinder background checking

Capt. Timothy McGrail pulled a fingerprint card file from one of the bulging gray boxes, which have piled up in his work space in a division at the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

“November 12th,” he said, matter-of-factly.

Robb offers school funding strategy

It was a short debut for a plan to overhaul the formula for funding public education, but the idea probably will get a curtain call.

The plan, designed by Rep. Ed Robb, R-Columbia, would eliminate property taxes in favor of an income tax as the engine for funding public schools.

RFK Jr. talks green policy, blasts Bush

Attorney and activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. spared no words about environmental ethics when he spoke to a full house at Columbia College on Wednesday night.

Kennedy’s speech, “Our Environmental and Ethical Destiny,” covered the effects of coal-burning plants, the faults of the Bush administration and the protection of the environmental infrastructure.

Scientist profiles embryo history

A group of academics spoke about embryos and stem cell research Wednesday night in MU’s Monsanto Auditorium, and despite the potentially controversial topics, the discussion was anything but heated.

Jane Maienschein, regent’s professor of philosophy and biology and director of the Center for Biology and Society at Arizona State University, presented ideas from her book “Whose View of Life?: Embryos, Cloning, and Stem Cells.” Moving beyond what has often become, she said, a science versus morality debate, Maienschein presented some of the historical, biological and political issues pertaining to embryos.

Group discusses U.S. Patriot Act

Hickman High School students heard various opinions about the U.S. Patriot Act in an open forum Wednesday night.

Teachers, parents and about 50 students gathered in the high school’s commons to hear speakers talk about the act and related issues, such as racial profiling, national security and the infringement of basic civil liberties.

30-year-old park to get face-lift

Developed in the 1970s, Paquin Park is now showing its age.

A washed-out wooden privacy fence partially encases the small, little-known park on Waugh Street, tucked between Paquin Tower and Lee Elementary School. Directly across from the wooden gazebo, which is damaged from the impact of a partially fallen tree, are aging shuffleboard courts with painted white stripes so faded that they’re nearly indistinguishable.

Underage abortions targeted

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri’s House gave first-round approval Tuesday to a bill that would make it a crime to transport minors to other states for abortions without parental consent.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jane Cunningham, R-St. Louis County, told the House that minors in Missouri are going to abortion clinics in Illinois that don’t require parental consent. Missouri law requires anyone younger than 18 to get consent from a parent, guardian or court before having an abortion.

Rehab programs face cuts

Local mental health care providers said Tuesday that their clients could be severely harmed by proposed budget cuts to the Department of Mental Health. Agency directors said hundreds of Boone County residents would lose services if Gov. Matt Blunt’s budget proposal is accepted in its current form.

About 80 people crowded into a news conference at the Roger B. Wilson County Government Center commission chambers to listen to local providers and a former drug addict speak about the likely repercussions of the proposed cuts and the benefits the agencies provide to people within the community. After the speakers finished, several people in the crowd also spoke, including a few residents of the Phoenix House, an outpatient substance abuse program.

New commission eyes efficiency

JEFFERSON CITY — It took a half hour and several tries before the commission, hand-picked by Gov. Matt Blunt to increase the efficiency of state government, could choose its next meeting date.

The commission has 20 members, many of whom have held posts in state government. The creation of the panel was a major plank in Blunt’s campaign platform and a goal he reaffirmed during his State of the State address.

Indonesian honoree questioned

Security personnel at Columbia Regional Airport questioned a recent Missouri honor medalist Saturday after they thought they found explosive material on a cake wrapper in his luggage.

Goenawan Mohamad, a founding editor of Tempo, a weekly Indonesian news magazine, and Bambang Harymurti, Tempo’s editor in chief, received a 2004 Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism on Thursday.

Bill would fix flawed fee system

JEFFERSON CITY — Opponents of concealed guns joined with supporters Tuesday as the House endorsed legislation that attempts to fix a flaw in a law identified by the state Supreme Court.

In a ruling a year ago, the court upheld the legality of concealed guns but said a 2003 law authorizing concealed weapons could unconstitutionally impose new costs on county sheriffs who process the applications.