Tort reform key issue in Senate race

When Mike Ditmore started practicing neurosurgery in 1980, trial attorneys almost immediately began to seek the doctor’s advice in medical malpractice cases. Over the past two decades, Ditmore served as an expert witness in several trials from Missouri to Tennessee to Florida, for which he earned $1,000 to $2,000 a day.

As an expert witness, Ditmore saw firsthand how his testimony could affect a jury’s verdict. What he said on the stand helped decide a doctor’s guilt or innocence and how much compensation a malpractice victim might receive.

Missouri Gubernatorial Race

JEFFERSON CITY – Political and life experience have emerged as a central theme of a gubernatorial contest between Democrat Claire McCaskill and Republican Matt Blunt that’s growing increasingly negative as Election Day nears.

“In case you haven’t noticed, I’m running against a very young man,” McCaskill said of her opponent at a recent fund-raiser in St. Louis’ Central West-End neighborhood.

Giuliani visits in support of Blunt

In a close gubernatorial race, Republican Matt Blunt tried to re-emphasize his message of leadership, campaigning with the man who literally wrote the book on it: former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Giuliani campaigned for Blunt on Wednesday in Columbia, as the Republican challenger for Missouri governor tried to distance himself from his Democratic opponent, Claire McCaskill.

Mo. House candidate proposes flat tax

Ed Robb, an economics expert, is the only candidate for state representative in Boone County this election who is making an issue of Missouri’s complicated tax structure.

With simplification as his ultimate goal, Robb, the Republican candidate for state representative in the 24th District, suggests several changes to the state tax code.

Education tops forum

Education was star of the show Tuesday night as a small but energetic crowd gathered at the NAACP’s last political forum to hear candidates for Missouri representative and Senate seats make their final pledges this election season.

Mary Ratliff, president of Columbia’s NAACP branch, said school funding and quality of learning are issues of particular importance to African Americans.

A cure for flu fears

After a bad case of the flu a few years back, Helen Givens, 68, wanted to be sure she got vaccinated this year. On Tuesday, after weeks of trying amid a nationwide vaccine shortage, she finally got her chance.

Givens joined more than 300 other seniors, pregnant women and other high-risk patients at Columbia’s first flu clinic of the season at the Health Connection, a branch of MU Healthcare.

Med school rumor resurfaces

Although the possibility of the MU School of Medicine being moved to Kansas City was dismissed by curators and UM system President Elson Floyd more than a year ago, the topic has risen again in a local campaign.

Chuck Graham, the Democratic candidate for 19th District state senator, typically introduces himself at forums as a candidate who has stood strong against “billion-dollar interests in Kansas City who have tried to steal our medical school.” He promises to “kill” the nomination of any curator who supports the move and to fight against possible future proposals.

Campaign appearances keep candidates busy

After sitting front and center for a Bible-thumping Kansas City church service on the first Sunday in October, Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Bekki Cook was shuttled by a handler to a nearby fast-food restaurant.

They weren’t stopping for hamburgers. It was more like a costume change.

Satellite health clinic proposed for Salisbury

When a community health center closed in Salisbury last year, residents in the rural town 45 miles northwest of Columbia wondered how one doctor would be able to serve 1,726 people.

Now, more than a year later, they might finally get some relief.

Hickman alumnus visits from China

Peter Hessler recalls driving through a blizzard in China: Looking out his car window, he saw truckers trying to thaw out their fuel lines with lighted flares.

“There’s a sense of adventure living in China,” he told an engaged English class at Hickman High School. Hessler, who graduated from Hickman in 1988, spoke at his alma mater on Tuesday about the importance of traveling to learn first-hand about different cultures rather than just reading about foreign lands in textbooks.

Schools observe Red Ribbon Week

Hickman and Rock Bridge High Schools are currently observing Red Ribbon “Reality” Week.

The two schools boast programs all week that encourage responsible behavior, especially among teenagers.

Council gives clerk, city manager raises

City Manager Ray Beck and City Clerk Sheela Amin each received raises Monday night after members of the Columbia City Council gave them high marks in an annual review.

Council members raised Beck’s annual salary by 6.5 percent to $137,425 and Amin’s by 7.5 percent to $43,056, Mayor Darwin Hindman said in a release.

Equipment failure knocks KMIZ off air

A malfunctioning analog transmitter at KMIZ/ABC 17 has left many viewers without a signal since Sunday.

Engineers at KMIZ are working to correct the problem and hope to have it fixed as soon as possible, said Randy Wright, KMIZ-TV vice president and general manager.

Giuliani to stump on Blunt’s behalf

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani will appear at a campaign rally for Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Blunt at 3 p.m. today at the Holiday Inn Select Executive Center, 2200 I-70 Drive S.W.

“I think (Giuliani) is going to talk about strong leadership and how important strong leadership is in managing a large state,” said John Hancock, a spokesman for the Blunt campaign.

Cloudy sky may fog eclipse

Although tonight’s total lunar eclipse will occur at a time when most Missourians will be awake, prospects are dim for watching the moon pass through Earth’s shadow.

The forecast is calling for cloudy skies tonight.

Sheriff’s reserve academy proposed

Truck drivers do it. Brain surgeons do it. Brick layers, retired cops and attorneys do it.

They all have been reserve officers for the Boone County Sheriff’s Department. And if Mick Covington becomes the next Boone County Sheriff, he plans to recruit and train more ordinary citizens to police the county.

Political Translation



Bush inherited a $237 billion surplus that a 2001 report from the Congressional Budget Office projected would total $5 trillion from 2002 through 2011. That course has been reversed.

Shopping for a new look

The Parkade Center looks stripped down without its awnings, and inside, the smell of paints wafts up the stairs from the lower level — all proof of the adage that things usually have to get worse before they get better.

Columbia’s oldest mall is undergoing its first major face-lift since 1990, intended to make it more visible from Business Loop 70 and bring in new retailers and shoppers.

To this fan, Stan’s the man

Martha Spath’s favorite St. Louis Cardinals baseball player is Stan Musial.

Even as her memory fades, Spath, 85, remembers being a young teacher in Alton, Ill., and taking a passenger train with her brother south along the Mississippi River to Sportsman’s Park. Back then, Musial, a Hall of Fame legend of the 1940s and 1950s, led the Cardinals to three World Series titles from 1942 to 1946.

Medicare gap could be costly

If the words “doughnut hole” bring pastry to your mind, your thoughts are sweeter than DeForrest Cline’s. For him, as for many seniors and senior advocates, the phrase refers to a gap in prescription drug coverage left by the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003.

Under the new policy, which will begin in January 2006, low-income Medicare recipients will be reimbursed for part of their prescription drug costs if their spending is under $2,250. At that mark, the coverage will stop until costs exceed $5,100 (equivalent to $3,600 in out-of-pocket spending) and catastrophic coverage will kick in — a mark that could leave an estimated 19,080 Missourians paying full price for prescription medications.