Voters list health care as top priority

Across age groups, communities and genders, the No. 1 issue surfacing among voters in the 19th District state Senate race is health care.

At the Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival last weekend, as kids lined up for face painting, patrons indulged in funnel cakes and apple pie and families searched for the perfect pumpkin, some mid-Missourians talked about the issues important to them in the Senate election.

Raids make Muslims wary of charitable giving

PATERSON, N.J. (AP) — As Muslims prepare for the holy month of Ramadan, a period in which they are supposed to donate to charity, many are finding themselves torn between their faith and their fear of being accused of terrorist ties.

Over the past three years, federal authorities have raided and shut down four Islamic charities, and many American Muslims say the crackdown has them worried that writing a donation check could bring FBI agents to their doors.

Fayette candidates square off in first debate since 2002

FAYETTE – Soon after he was introduced at a candidate forum in the basement of the Commercial Trust Co. building, state Rep. Wes Shoemyer leapt out of his chair and looked toward the back of the crowd.

“Can everyone hear me fine?” he asked.

Senate candidates clash in debate at MU

U.S. Senate candidates from four political parties converged on MU’s Jesse Hall on Tuesday to debate a range of domestic and foreign issues, including education, Missouri River regulation, health care and the war on terrorism.

Well-publicized contenders Kit Bond, the Republican incumbent, and Nancy Farmer, the Democratic challenger and current Missouri state treasurer, traded barbs. Libertarian nominee Kevin Tull and Constitution Party candidate Don Griffin repeatedly stated their desire to limit the power of the federal government.

Afghan cultivates partnership with journalism school

Kazem Ahang has lived through civil war in Afghanistan, the bombing of his university and house arrest by the Taliban. Now, the 70-year-old dean of Kabul University’s journalism school is in Columbia to develop an agreement that would include an exchange between his faculty and journalism professors at MU.

Ahang is interested in the “human exchange” for his faculty and students in Kabul. All of his 18 faculty members want to study at MU’s School of Journalism, he said.

Columbia braces for rise in heat cost

As the price of crude oil hit a record high of $54 a barrel on Tuesday, utility representatives said the price to heat with either natural gas or electricity will go up this winter.

Mike Holman, assistant manager of the Missouri Valley Division of AmerenUE, said he expected an increase next month in the purchase price of natural gas, which is what most Columbians use to heat their homes. He blamed the rise on oil prices and forecasts of a colder-than-normal winter.

Hickman students hear political views

Students got an interactive lesson in “civic discourse” Tuesday evening at a Speak Your Mind forum at Hickman High School.

Four party representatives spoke to almost 200 students about their parties’ presidential platforms and answered questions from students. David Raithel represented the Democratic Party and Ernie Lee represented the Republican Party. Keith Berkhus from the Green Party and Adam Shahid from the Libertarian Party rounded out the forum.

Campaigns assume higher profile in final weeks

In the midst of a heated presidential campaign, local elections can be drowned out in the deafening hullabaloo of partisan squabble. But as Nov. 2 approaches, candidates in the 23rd District state representative race are getting ready to make some noise.

The contest pits Democratic incumbent Jeff Harris against Republican challenger Dan Fischbach. As of early October, neither candidate had distributed typical political paraphernalia such as yard signs and stickers, and campaign Web pages remained under construction.

Agents search local Islamic relief group

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Federal and local law enforcers were searching the Islamic American Relief Agency on Wednesday as part of what the FBI described generically as a criminal investigation.

The search of the Columbia office occurred as the Bush administration accused the Sudan-based Islamic African Relief Agency of helping finance Osama bin Laden and other terrorists.

Turning the tables

There was Meggie Smith, a Rock Bridge High School student who plans to be president of the United States in 2028.

“You’ll laugh at me … (but) I’m not kidding,” she said.

The gate to Hog heaven

They’d been awake for almost 49 hours. Their eyes were glazed over, their bodies were aching, but Michael Jenkins and Mike Hart had dug in for the long haul.

At stake: a brand new Harley-Davidson motorcycle, worth $18,000.

Democrats roll out plans to beat meth

Sen. John Kerry’s presidential campaign on Monday unveiled a nationwide plan to fight methamphetamine use and production, which has plagued Missouri since at least 2001, when the state became the national leader in labs seized.

The plan, announced by Kerry’s running mate, Sen. John Edwards, in a nationwide conference call with reporters, calls for $30 million per year in additional spending on law enforcement, education, lab clean-up and measures to prevent common methamphetamine ingredients from falling into the hands of potential “cooks.”

MU’s blood drive gets personal

At first glance, Lindsey Meglio doesn’t appear unlike the other college volunteers at MU’s annual Homecoming blood drive.

That is, until the 46-foot tractor trailer adorned with her face and four others pulls into the Hearnes Center parking lot. Inside the trailer is an array of high-tech equipment, including a virtual tour and an inside look at Meglio’s life.

School receives mentors grant

West Boulevard Elementary School has received a $525,000 federal grant from the U.S. Department of Elementary Education, a school official announced.

The grant will fund a mentor program for students at West Boulevard titled “Stand By Me: Sharing the Journey,” said Phyllis Chase, superintendent of Columbia Schools, at a Board of Education meeting Monday night.

Art, history live on in ragtime musician

Sometimes the good guys do finish first. And that’s exactly what happened a couple of weeks ago when the young, black, ragtime composer, Reginald Robinson of Chicago won a $500,000 MacArthur “genius award.”

Columbians who attended last June’s ragtime festivities had an opportunity to see and hear Robinson perform. The 31-year-old composer and pianist first heard ragtime at school when he was 13 and began trying to play the syncopated music. He has been devoted to ragtime, to researching, writing and performing it ever since.

Voters evaluate river, health care, education issues

As the Nov. 2 general election nears, voters who live in Boone County’s 24th House District are evaluating the issues they want the state government to address.

While many of their concerns mirror the top issues advanced by candidates Travis Ballenger and Ed Robb, the voters also have some extra challenges for prospective legislators to consider.

Bruins shaving heads for AIDS

At Rock Bridge High School, students are trying to create awareness of global issues by shaving a teacher’s head.

In its first year at Rock Bridge, the Global Issues Club is trying to raise $5,000 for organizations fighting the AIDS epidemic.

Lectures to examine Bingham’s Missouri life

George Caleb Bingham, the realist painter famous for his portrayals of Missouri frontier life, will be the subject of a lecture series in April by Paul C. Nagel, a former University of Missouri administrator.

The Missouri Folklore Society received a $2,500 grant from the Missouri Humanities Council for the program. “George Caleb Bingham and His Missouri” is a biographical study of the artist’s life, artwork and politics and will feature reproductions of his work from museums in Missouri, New York, Connecticut and Washington, D.C.

Mizzou sticks it to campaigns using its name

Democrats and Republicans attempting to rally support for their presidential picks last week found themselves in a sticky situation.

MU’s licensing office said bumper stickers reading “Mizzou is Bush Country” and lapel stickers that read “Mizzou for Kerry” distributed on campus and at university events violated trademark laws. The licensing office ordered the end of their production and distribution.

Aiming to thin city’s herd

Mary Nirmaier has seen the nuisance deer can pose to road safety if allowed to run amok. She lives off Rock Quarry Road in Columbia, a meandering stretch of asphalt notorious for its hairpin curves and plentiful deer.

“Not long ago, a driver struck a deer, flipped over and ended up in my yard,” she said. “These deer have gotten out of hand. That wreck was the third of its kind in the last two years. I’ve warned the City Council that if something isn’t done soon I’m afraid that one of these accidents will result in someone being killed.”