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Safety in neighbors

The residents of small-town mid-Missouri insist on telling you this again and again: Despite rumors to the contrary, they do lock their doors at night, if for no other reason than they’d rather you not encourage people to make unwelcome visits.

After all, beneath the veneer of that homespun cliché, their reality isn’t much different from people in Columbia. One morning in March, USA Today told us that even if only 11 percent of people in rural areas have been touched by violent crime, that’s just 2 percent less than in so-called suburban areas.

Effect changes by taking a stand

As a former member of Communication Workers of America, I was proud of the fact that this group went on strike to protest the outsourcing of American jobs by SBC. As far as I’m concerned this represents one of the few efforts designed to address government trade policies that are putting people out of work. Too often these days the country’s leaders behave as if they are an autonomous body who have to be accountable to no one and too many citizens behave as if they are powerless children who have no choice but to obey their “head honchos.”

The labor culture, like everything else, has changed dramatically since I belonged to a labor union. The “all for one and one for all” attitude inherent within the process of collective bargaining hardly seems to appeal anymore since employees, nowadays, believe that their personal skills and talents will entitle them to the best wage and benefits companies have to offer. I guess one has to arrive at a certain maturity and have accumulated years of experience in the labor market before one learns how vulnerable the individual employee is against a barrage of company “brass.”

Big Oil tightens grip on federal leases

WASHINGTON — A single New Mexico family and a dozen big oil companies, including one once headed by Commerce Secretary Don Evans, now control one-quarter of all federal lands leased for oil and gas development in the continental United States despite a law intended to prevent such concentration, federal records show.

Since 1997, mainly as a result of mergers and acquisitions, six companies have exceeded the legal limit of 246,080 acres in lease holdings on public lands in states other than Alaska. But the Bureau of Land Management, in charge of enforcing the 1920 law, has chosen to extend compliance deadlines for years.

Iraq war revives Memorial Day meaning

LOS ANGELES — On Memorial Day, Stacy Menusa will head to a cemetery with her 4-year-old son Joshua, who thinks every American flag waves for his father, just like the one that was draped over his coffin.

Menusa’s husband, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Menusa, was killed in an ambush on March 27, 2003, the day his battalion arrived in Iraq. She hopes one day she will be able to explain the war to Joshua.

Back to the 1800s

When a wooden keelboat with 11 men pulled in near Bonnots Mill on Friday afternoon, locals who witnessed the arrival were a bit confused. The expedition wasn’t scheduled to stop there, but had to make the unplanned landing because of debris in the Missouri River.

The crowd at River Ratz Beer and Burgers on the Osage River became impromptu overnight hosts to half of the Lewis and Clark expedition — or at least their 21st-century equivalent.

Few cell users opt to switch numbers

Wanda Northway is looking to change her cell phone service. She has done so twice in the past. Each time she picked a different provider, she had to surrender her previous phone number. Northway, co-owner of House of Brokers Realty, has never listed her cell number on business cards as she saw it as a hassle to get her new numbers out to the people who needed them.

“The ones I very much wanted to know, I called immediately,” Northway said. “The others were informed as the opportunity provided itself.”

Tire waste removal to end as bills die in committee

For more than 13 years, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources Waste Tire Unit has been cleaning up illegal tire dumps that serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes. But, the cancellation early this year of the 50-cent fee on each tire purchased in Missouri might have put an end to funding for the unit.

Since 1990, the tire fee has brought in $1.7 to $2.5 million annually, which was used in a multitude of ways to clean up between 1.5 and 2 million tires each year.

Look out below

Thousands of spectators in their lawn chairs squinted up at the sky and erupted into cheers when Canada’s Master Cpl. Brad Gaiger jumped out of a helicopter and displayed the American flag as he descended to a grassy landing area.

Despite recent rainy weather, an estimated 20,000 people showed up at Columbia Regional Airport on Saturday to watch the demonstration by Gaiger and the rest of The Canadian Forces Parachute Team — The Skyhawks — as well as the other avionic displays during the Salute to Veterans Memorial Weekend Air Show.

Bond pushes for highway support

With the roar of traffic from U.S. 63 behind him, U.S. Sen. Kit Bond offered his gratitude to supporters of the highway reauthorization bill Friday at the State Highway Shed.

Bond said the bill would provide the state with $1.5 billion more over the next six years to improve Missouri roads, highways and bridges, which he said are the third worst in the country.

Four die in head-on collision on U.S. 63

Four people were killed when two cars collided early Saturday morning on U.S. 63 just north of Stadium Boulevard, Columbia police said Saturday.

The driver of the first vehicle was traveling south in the northbound lanes of U.S. 63, police said, and the vehicle struck the second vehicle head-on just before 2 a.m. As of Saturday, police said the southbound driver was 40 years old but had not released the name.

Small towns, full lives

Trace a 200-mile long loop around Columbia. You’ll find your finger running through a lot of small towns.

Moberly: The pharmacy’s been serving Coke floats and ham sandwiches for 93 years. Centralia: The state-championship football team boosts not just student pride but that of an entire community. Mexico: The local general practitioner has moved from downtown to the medical park, but after 40 years, the same patients keep coming. Fulton: The Civil War, the Cold War and the current war come together here, with men from Churchill to Cheney, Clinton to Kerry making worldwide news in the same county that dared to secede from the Union. California: On any given Sunday, Oak Street’s churches – big churches, one after another – are packed. Boonville: High Street’s neighbors have left this beautiful street overlooking the Missouri River, traveled from Denver to the Deutschland, and come home again. Fayette: Neither a microburst, a fire or a building collapse, all coming within a few years, has killed downtown’s spirit or regeneration.

Ministry on the beat

ASHLAND — As an Ashland police officer brings an intoxicated woman into jail, he is shadowed by a new member of the department — only this man isn’t wearing an officer’s uniform or carrying a gun. He’s the Rev. Jeff Anderson, part of a new chaplaincy program in the Ashland Police Department.

As the woman is turned over to other authorities, Anderson drops a card into her hand and invites her to call him if she needs anything.

Serving up specials

It’s a typical late spring day — the sun is shining, it is warming up — and people from different walks of Centralia life stop for lunch at the Allen Street Diner.

The diner is divided more or less in half. On one side, four men in button-down shirts with cell phones clipped to their belt loops finish their meal at one of the 10 tables. Their plates, atop a pink plastic tablecloth, are mostly empty as they take their last sips of soda. Off to one side is a heavy glass ashtray and vase of fake roses that match the tablecloth.

Pilot smashed glass ceiling

Mary Burch Nirmaier wasn’t satisfied with her job as a secretary for the War Production Board in Washington, D.C. She wanted a job that was substantial, one that would serve an important purpose.

A friend told her about a new women’s organization, one that would help their country during a time of need. Nirmaier signed up and became an integral part of women’s history.

Missouri abortion law upheld

JEFFERSON CITY — A federal appeals court panel on Thursday allowed a challenged Missouri law to take effect requiring a 24-hour wait for women seeking abortions.

The order by a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis dissolved a temporary restraining order that had been in place against the law since Oct. 10.

Data: Blacks at higher risk to be stopped

Ebony McTye said she doesn’t need to see statistics on racial profiling to convince her that it exists in Columbia.

Over three months, McTye said she was stopped and searched by members of the Columbia Police Department six times. Each time, she said, the officer found nothing.

Few penalties for delaying racial data

Missouri’s laws on collecting racial profiling data are among the most comprehensive in the country, yet the penalties for noncompliance are almost nonexistent.

The state has the power to withhold funds from law enforcement agencies that do not file their data on time.

Olympic efforts

Michael Myers, 22, walked away with a fifth-place ribbon on Thursday in the softball throw at the 2004 Special Olympics Missouri Summer State Games, but he was just as pleased as if he had won a gold medal.

“Michael competes because he loves to compete,” his mother, Darla Myers, said, “It’s more about the fun. Michael does the best he can.”

Equestrian rides to fulfill a dream

Nelly Owen and Tom Bass have two things in common: Both love horses, and both have overcome the odds to become successful.

During today’s Tom Bass Classic, named for the famous Missouri horse trainer who had to overcome racial adversity, Owen, who is disabled, will be competing in the United Professional Horseman’s Association’s exceptionally challenged riders class at the horse show.

Douglass senior credits teachers for his success

In first grade, Anthony Johnson started playing basketball at recess and never looked back.

“It was just natural to me,” Johnson said.

In his senior year at Douglass High School, Johnson had 90 blocks and 99 assists in 24 games, attracting the attention of college recruiters.

Johnson, 18, said it wasn’t until he transferred to Douglass as a sophomore that he began to get serious about his grades and his future.

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