Looking for laughs

Comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory mixed social commentary and humor at a speech Monday night as part of MU’s Black History Month celebration.

“I never expected white folks to give us a whole month,” he said to a crowd of more than 150 people.

Study: Seat belt law would save lives

More than 10,000 deaths and injuries could be prevented over three years if a proposed seat belt law is put into effect.

That is the contention of researcher Lilliard Richardson, whose study for MU’s Truman School for Public Affairs found that stricter seat belt laws could reduce the rate of traffic fatalities by 5.9 percent and traffic injuries by 4.9 percent, affecting 3,400 people per year in Missouri. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that stricter laws could save Missourians up to $133 million per year in medical, legal, rehabilitation and workplace costs.

SMSU name change ripe for House vote

JEFFERSON CITY — House lawmakers are poised to vote on a bill renaming Southwest Missouri State University.

A vote on the measure, which would dub the school Missouri State University, could come today when the time scheduled for debate is set to expire.

Fund raises more than $107,000 since Bowden shooting

More than $107,000 has been raised and donated to the Officer Down Fund in the wake of the shooting of Columbia police Officer Molly Bowden.

The fund was organized within days of the shooting “in response to public questions of ‘What can we do to help?’” said Columbia attorney Dan Atwill, treasurer of the Columbia Police Foundation.

Step by Step

Gov. Matt Blunt wants to curb the increasing costs of the First Steps program by placing its financial responsibility into the hands of private insurance providers, he said during a visit to Columbia and three other Missouri cities on Monday.

First Steps provides in-home therapy and services to children younger than 3 who have developmental disabilities. The program could lose much of its state funding to Medicaid and budget cuts that Blunt has proposed.

Home for more than 300 with disabilities faces closure

JEFFERSON CITY — Protest signs created a backdrop Monday for those who oppose the impending closure of Bellefontaine Habilitation Center.

Bellefontaine, home to more than 300 mentally and physically disabled citizens, is located in St. Louis. It would be closed by Gov. Matt Blunt’s proposed budget cuts.

Immigration policy a sensitive subject

Need a fast conversation starter? Try the word “immigration.” Before you know it, you’ll be buried under an avalanche of words. This is a subject on which everyone seems to have an opinion. For a long time, most people seemed to be for it. These days, some are still for it, but...

I was visiting with a group last week that was discussing the mass immigration that had taken place in the last few years.

Film festival big business for downtown

The True/False Film Festival proved to be an economic boon for some downtown businesses. Sales increased to as much as double their averages at certain locations.

“Saturday we did what was normal for about two days, at least, and we had two more people working” said Ali Brown of Main Squeeze. “Every time a movie lets out, there’s a line out the door.” Brown expected Sunday to be about the same.

Praying for the pope

On the first Sunday in 26 years that the pope has failed to bestow his traditional weekly blessing, members of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish remembered him in their prayers.

The congregation of hundreds sang in a soft melody, “Oh Lord, hear our prayer,” in response to a request “for those who exercise authority in the church and the sick, especially Pope John Paul II.”

Harvard speech sparks gender debate in sciences

Think about how your life would change if you woke up tomorrow as a member of the opposite sex.

Virginia Peterson, an associate biochemistry professor at MU, does this exercise in diversity with students. It’s meant to get people thinking and talking about how gender shapes our world.

Filmmakers serve up marriage with a twist

In 1950, the U.S. government produced a documentary on the campuses of MU and Stephens College and the surrounding countryside. The 20-minute film, titled “This Charming Couple,” aimed to curb the rising divorce rate in post-World War II America.

The film was originally about a young, happy couple whose marriage quickly disintegrates because of unresolved personal differences, but local filmmakers were given the chance to make the film about whatever they wanted.

Film director will be at MU screening

Kimberlee Acquaro, co-director of the documentary “God Sleeps in Rwanda,” will be on hand to talk with audience members after a screening of the film from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. today in MU’s Jesse Wrench Auditorium. The film depicts the lives of women who survived the Rwandan genocide.

Acquaro, a photojournalist and filmmaker, will be joined by genocide survivor Norah Bagirinka in a panel discussion following the film.

High-tech boards raise excitement over ABCs

Students in Emily Bloomfield’s first-grade class at Two Mile Prairie Elementary School can hardly sit in their seats when it comes time to work on their reading.

Seven-year-old Michael Harrington couldn’t wait to write the morning message on the classroom’s Smart Board.

‘Model’ schools also suing for funds

JEFFERSON CITY — As state lawmakers work on a new way to fund public schools, they are basing their method on what “successful” school districts spend to educate their students.

But among those being used as a model for the new formula are some districts that have sued the state to get more money.

Viewers come from all over state to see film festival

One ticket to the Missouri Theatre on Saturday afternoon gave you access to a country music show — complete with washboard and gut-bucket — and a Czechoslovakian filmmaker’s commentary on capitalism.

Jamie Barrier, lead singer and guitarist for the Pine Hill Haints, who performed at the theater before some screenings, said he was excited to come to Columbia from Alabama to take part in the True/False Film Festival.

Pursuing the American Dream

When Yang Lei paid black market smugglers to take him from his native village in China’s Fujian province to America in 1992, he wasn’t looking for fame or fortune. He was just looking to be left alone. As part owner in a brick-making cooperative and the father of two young sons in a country that only allowed one, Yang felt harassed by financial pressures, social pressures and political pressures.

Documentaries hit downtown

David Redmon’s best friend while filming “Director of Mardi Gras: Made in China” was a dictionary.

“Making the film was really difficult because I was working alone and didn’t have any kind of crew,” Redmon said. “I didn’t have a translator, so I was communicating through a dictionary.”

Facing a tough cut

By 2003, John Pepper had abused drugs and alcohol for 41 years and spent 25 years in prison for a variety of crimes, from drug-dealing to burglary.

Pepper, 58, said he had struck bottom.

Children’s shelter gets boost in funding

At a ceremony Friday morning, Columbia resident Wes Stricker presented the Boys and Girls Town of Missouri with a check for $100,000, the largest donation yet for a new and more secure facility being built on Bearfield Road.

“The challenge here is to help with the buildings here,” Stricker said.

Consultants submit public housing plans

The Columbia Housing Authority has received proposals from two consulting firms for redevelopment of public housing along Park Avenue, according to Rick Hess, the Housing Authority’s director of asset management. A consultant would guide the redevelopment project and apply for federal funding.

“It’s been discussed for a few years, and it’s exciting that it’s moving forward,” Hess said.