A dizzying ride down spin alley

ST. LOUIS — As the lights dimmed and Sen. John Kerry and President George W. Bush wound their way out of the Washington University debate hall Friday night, a political three-ring circus was escalating in the gymnasium down the hall.

Hyper-caffeinated journalists from around the world who were starving for action after being cloistered in the gymnasium during the entire debate swarmed around mobile placards bearing the names of Madeleine Albright, Karl Rove, Sen. Hillary Clinton and other political figures.

Debates disappoint 3rd-party supporters

With a nation polarized by the coming presidential election, some third-party supporters say their voices aren’t being heard.

That was part of the discussion Friday night when a small group of Columbia residents met to watch the second televised debate between President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry.

Presidential debate tackles issues in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS Friday night’s presidential debate in St. Louis opened up the dialogue to issues like health care, imported drugs and the environment. But the discussion started right where the last debate left off, with the war in Iraq.

Opening the debate, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., attacked Republican President George W. Bush for using his campaign as a “weapon of mass deception,” in painting the Senator as wishy-washy on the Iraq war.

Local art gallery nationally ranked in trade magazine

A downtown Columbia art gallery has been ranked among America’s top 100 for the second year in a row.

Poppy, which sells contemporary art and gifts at 914 E. Broadway, made it to Niche magazine’s list of the Top 100 Retailers of American Craft for 2004. Blue Stem Missouri Crafts, 13 S. Ninth St., made the 2003 list.

Farmland rezoning gets nod from P&Z

Columbia’s Planning and Zoning Commission narrowly recommended approval of a permanent zoning request Thursday for 160 acres of farmland east of the city limits that is scheduled to be annexed Nov. 1. In the same meeting, the commission voted unanimously to recommend denial of a request to rezone the property at Providence Road and Third Avenue for commercial use.

The commission voted 4 to 3 to recommend approval of the farmland rezoning plan. Owner Gary Evans has requested permanent, open residential zoning for the land, which would give the city less oversight over future development than if it were not open zoning. The land is currently zoned for residential and agricultural use by Boone County.

Graham questions Ditmore’s ‘pro-life’ rating

Chuck Graham, the Democratic candidate for the 19th District seat in the Missouri Senate, called on Republican candidate Mike Ditmore to release to the public a questionnaire from Missouri Right to Life that led the group to give Ditmore a 100 percent “pro-life” rating.

The rating appeared in the organization’s General Election Endorsement Guide. Graham, however, took issue with the group’s assessment of Ditmore.

Bus tour makes stop to oppose war in Iraq

Peace activists with Wheels of Justice demonstrated Thursday at Speaker’s Circle on the MU campus, speaking in opposition of U.S. military operations in Iraq. The event was co-sponsored at MU by Students for Progressive Action and the Muslim Students Organization.

Wheels of Justice activists visit universities throughout the school year, giving students eyewitness accounts of their experiences in Iraq.

British media torn over hostage coverage

LONDON — In a country where anti-war sentiment is rapidly growing, the British press is facing a daily dilemma: how to cover a British hostage crisis in Iraq amid a torrent of criticism over the country’s role in the global war on terror.

British engineer Ken Bigley was kidnapped on Sept. 16 along with Americans Jack Hensley and Eugene Armstrong. Four days later, members of the Tawhid and Jihad militant group beheaded Armstrong. Hensley, too, was killed within days.

Citizens to participate in debate

ST. LOUIS — After choosing between flank steak and chicken with prosciutto, the citizen questioners will take their seats on the risers surrounding the stage and the tall swivel chairs that President Bush and Sen. John Kerry will occupy. The questioners will have a chance to practice speaking into a microphone, but only the moderator will know what they will ask if given the chance.

Secrecy about the questions is one essential rule among many for what is expected to be the least predictable of the three presidential debates. Rather than a journalist designing questions, Friday night’s town hall session will be turned over to the worries and musings of prospective voters.

Catching hold of history

Representatives from Union Pacific and Osage Construction Co., along with three Boonville residents, took a tour of the Boonville Railroad Bridge on Tuesday. The group toured the aging bridge, slated for demolition later this fall, to find out what parts could be salvaged as historical memorabilia.

Candle fires a growing hazard

Retailers sell almost $2 billion worth of candles each year in the United States, according to the National Fire Prevention Association, but the growing popularity of candles has an expensive and sometimes deadly downside.

In 2001, candles were to blame for an estimated 18,000 fires, 190 deaths and $265 million in property damage in the United States, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Alumna: ‘Race does matter’

MU alumna Velma McBride Murry had a clear message when she spoke Thursday afternoon in MU’s Jesse Wrench Auditorium.

“Race does matter,” she said.

Homecoming parade canceled

After 32 years of doing an annual parade together, Hickman and Rock Bridge high schools are headed for a homecoming break-up.

Scheduling conflicts forced Rock Bridge and Hickman to forgo their joint homecoming parade this year.

City Council OKs annexation, residential zoning off Route K

Despite opposition, the Columbia City Council unanimously approved R-1 residential zoning and annexation for an 88-acre plot south of Route K.

The land, owned by John Sam and Susan Williamson, came before the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission in late August. At that meeting, the commission voted 6-3 to oppose giving the land an R-1 designation. The commission favored a designation of planned-unit development.

Democrats lose voters in rural areas

Members of both major political parties agree Democrats have lost ground in rural Missouri over the past few years due to wedge issues such as guns, abortion and gay marriage, and Republicans are poised to strengthen their majority grip in the state Senate in the Nov. 2 election after regaining control two years ago.

The backlash against Democrats surrounding wedge issues was a contributing factor in Republicans’ ability to win control of the Senate two years ago. It was the first time Republicans had control of the Senate since 1948.

Farmer pledges to aid small businesses

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Nancy Farmer chose a tiny hair salon called Unlimited Editions at the Parkade Center on Wednesday to talk about her vision for small businesses.

The candidate said she chose Unlimited Editions, owned by Debra and Alvin Harris, because their business was “such a success story.”

Inspector: No proof Iraq had stockpiles

WASHINGTON — Contradicting the main argument for a war that has cost more than 1,000 American lives, the top U.S. arms inspector said Wednesday he found no evidence Iraq produced weapons of mass destruction after 1991. He also concluded Saddam Hussein’s ability to develop such weapons had dimmed — not grown — during a dozen years of sanctions before last year’s U.S.-led invasion.

Contrary to prewar statements by President Bush, Saddam did not have chemical and biological stockpiles when the war began and his nuclear capabilities were deteriorating, not advancing, said Charles Duelfer, head of the Iraq Survey Group.

Newly registered voters often don’t show up

It’s hard enough to register a new voter, but now that Missouri’s registration deadline has passed, getting that person to vote is a whole other challenge.

“Everyone should vote,” said Paul Sloca, spokesman for the Missouri Republican Party. “We have soldiers in Iraq and others who have fought in world wars to protect our right to vote. It’s one of the cornerstones in our democracy. … Voting is a very important responsibility.”

Iraqis, activists differ on war

Two groups visiting Columbia on Wednesday presented opposing perspectives on the war in Iraq. While two activists criticized the war, two Iraqi citizens told reporters U.S. involvement improved living conditions in their country.

Michael Birmingham, an Irish peace activist, and Tom Sager, a retired University of Missouri-Rolla professor, gave speeches as part of the Wheels of Justice Bus Tour.

GOP looks to claim wins in Boone County

The Missouri Republican Party is enjoying the first majority it has held in the General Assembly in more than 50 years, but victory in Boone County has remained elusive. The GOP, however, has high hopes that will change in November.

Although Republican optimism suffered a blow last month with the withdrawal of GOP candidate Joel Jeffries from the 25th District House race, the party remains hopeful in the 24th District, where Republican Ed Robb is taking on Democrat Travis Ballenger. And in the 19th District state Senate race, Republican Mike Ditmore is mounting a challenge to Democrat Chuck Graham, who seeks a promotion after eight years in the House.