Jobless rate in Missouri rises to 5.8%

Joe Speichinger isn’t worried about crowded parking lots or long lines at airport security this holiday season. He just wants

to eat.

Webcam unites soldier with family for Christmas Day

With leaves rustling in the wind, Catherine Guilford hurries across the back lawn, across the small metal bridge crossing the creek, through a clearing and into her beloved woods. She holds a phone to her ear, listening as her husband’s voice help her re-create the memory of their walks together.

“Walk me through the woods,” he tells her. “Have you reached our tree yet?”

Monks peddle prize-winning fruitcake

Some people believe the only uses for fruitcake are those that deal with feeding birds or with weighing something down.

Others think like Johnny Carson, who once joked: “The worst gift is a fruitcake. There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other.”

Raking in the pot

People can watch practically anyone gamble on TV, from professional poker players to celebrities to Hollywood film stars. In the last week there were 39 poker shows on nine TV stations, according to

Columbia, like other parts of the country, has apparently succumbed to the poker craze.

Children’s agencies unite to seek funds

Fifty children’s advocacy groups and the state Department of Social Services have joined in an effort to increase financial support for some of Missouri’s neediest citizens.

The state Department of Social Services has teamed with the Missouri Coalition of Children’s Agencies to determine how much money is needed to keep these programs running and to develop innovative ways of getting that money.

Slaying suspect being moved to Missouri custody

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A woman accused of killing an expectant mother and cutting the baby from her womb waived her right to a preliminary hearing in Kansas on Thursday and is being moved to federal custody in Missouri.

Federal prosecutors in Missouri charged Lisa Montgomery, 36, of Melvern, Kan., with kidnapping resulting in death. She is accused of strangling 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett, who was eight months pregnant, in her Skidmore, Mo., home on Dec. 16, then cutting her baby from her womb.

Brightening our hearts

Each year between Thanksgiving and the first Sunday of Advent, Bob and Sharon Emery begin the laborious process of decorating their yard, which can be seen from blocks away. The strands of lights and glowing displays announce the coming of Christmas.

Although the couple placed first in this year’s Holiday Lighting Contest, sponsored by the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department and Westlake Ace Hardware, their true reward, as Sharon said, is the pleasure of seeing so many people enjoy the decorations.

Bill would cut summer school funds

An early proposal in the Missouri General Assembly would reduce state funding to school districts that hire outside, for-profit agencies to organize summer school programs.

That means Columbia Public Schools could lose money if the bill passes because the district contracts with Newton Learning Program to run summer schools.

Crowds at arena smallest in years

Mizzou Arena is bigger, newer and fancier than the Hearnes Center but still attracts smaller crowds.

Although the $75 million arena was heralded during its construction as a fresh start for an embattled men’s basketball program, turnout so far this season has been lower than any of the past five seasons played at the Hearnes Center. Average per-game attendance for the first 10 men’s basketball games of the 2003-04 season was 11,058. This year, it’s down to 8,827, the lowest average in six years.

Research groups join to fend off stem-cell ban

The leaders of four Missouri research institutions, including the University of Missouri system, are asking legislators to reject bills that would criminalize stem-cell research.

They said a ban on nuclear transfer — one type of stem-cell research — would undermine efforts to create economic growth based on life sciences, as well as limit Missourians’ access to first-rate health care.

State Farm’s consolidation works for one mobile family

Chris Coon’s family has moved eight times in the last 13 years, enough to deter most people from ever moving again. Yet, when the State Farm auto claims manager and his clan were offered a chance last summer to relocate to Columbia, they jumped all over it.

“Out of the offices in the central zone I don’t think State Farm could have picked a more family-oriented and culturally diverse and interesting place than Columbia,” Chris Coon said. “There is just something about this town.”

Go get ’em

Glenn Garrett walks down a moonlit path through the woods of Three Creeks Conservation Area, calming his dogs as he searches for the best spot to set them loose.

Once unleashed, the two redbone coonhounds bound into the darkness. Storm, 6, is a veteran. Her younger counterpart, Snuff, is also female and just 18 months old. For Snuff, this will be only her second season hunting raccoon.

City lists more roads for improvements

Additional proposals for road improvements in Columbia will be submitted to the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission for approval when it meets on Jan. 14, said Jay Bestgen, planning engineer for District 5.

The proposals include work on Missouri 740, 163 and 763 and the I-70 Business Loop.

Engineering nets $1 million

The Ameren UE will donate $1 million to MU’s College of Engineering, it announced Wednesday.

“It strengthens education and helps ensure a new group of professionals will be ready and qualified to fill the positions required to keep Missouri in a leadership position among states,” Ameren spokeswoman Susan Gallagher said at the company’s St. Louis headquarters.

Way off target

Mel Chandler didn’t expect a huge demand for concealed-weapons permits after the state law took effect in March, and the numbers indicate he was right.

“They thought there’d be a lot of people applying for permits, but they thought there’d be gun fights in the streets, too,” said Chandler, who owns Second Amendment Gun Shop in Columbia. “And that didn’t happen, either.”

UM mum on SMSU changing its name

At least publicly, the University of Missouri system has stayed on the sidelines when it comes to changing names at state colleges and universities.

As Southwest Missouri State University tries once again to drop the “Southwest” from its name, UM system President Elson Floyd and the UM Board of Curators keep restating they have no official stance.

Caregivers: Alzheimer’s calls for flexibility

Be generous with hugs and be flexible. That’s the advice of experts for families who have loved ones with Alzheimer’s and dementia this season.

Although each person’s situation is unique, there are some general approaches to use that will help make the holidays more enjoyable for everyone.

Skidmore funeral draws crowd

MARYVILLE — Hundreds of mourners gathered Tuesday in this small northwestern Missouri farming community to bury a young woman who was strangled and whose baby was cut from her womb.

Bobbie Jo Stinnett, 23, of Skidmore was found by her mother Thursday in a pool of blood in her small home, her baby missing. A woman Stinnett knew from breeding and showing rat terrier dogs made a first court appearance Monday on a charge of kidnapping resulting in death.

Heat elements to melt snow from library steps

Ice and snow the past two winters made the Columbia Public Library’s main entrance steps slippery and dangerous. Beginning today, however, visitors will be able to use the steps worry-free.

Work began earlier this month to install a heat-element snow-melting system in the steps. Karl West, a construction worker for KCI Construction of St. Louis, expects the work to be done today.

Two ballfields to be built at fairgrounds

A $76,000 matching grant from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources will help create two baseball fields on the Boone County Fairgrounds.

Boone County will pitch in $50,000 from the fairgrounds’ insurance proceeds, and baseball organizations have pledged funds and labor to help build the fields. The total monetary amount that will go into the project is $146,000, and other groups plan to volunteer labor, Northern District Commissioner Skip Elkin said Tuesday.