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Group allots funds

The Columbia Human Rights Commission held a public hearing Tuesday night regarding funding recommendations for its human rights enhancement program.

The program grants money to organizations that promote diversity, tolerance and education. The commission finalized its decision on how to distribute the program’s $4,650.

Free-trade draft certified by delegates

MIAMI — Trade negotiators approved a draft text Wednesday outlining the world’s largest free-trade region, adopting a buffet-style version that allows countries to opt out of the more controversial clauses of the agreement.

The draft, pushed by Brazil and the United States, will be handed over to trade ministers from the 34 nations in the Americas, excluding Cuba. The ministers will start two days of meetings today to finish the text, which speaks in generalities and does not specify which parts of the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement countries could opt out of.

The ones left behind

When Jonathan Wilk’s college fund went dry, he joined the Army National Guard in January to help pay for his tuition to MU. He took a leave of absence from the university when he was transferred to the Wisconsin National Guard.

He moved back to Columbia in September and recently enrolled for next semester’s classes.

Now, instead of taking economics and statistics, the 19-year-old private second class might be going to war.

City to hear housing plans

Affordable housing has been a contentious issue in Columbia. Earlier this year, the Missouri Housing Development Commission denied a loan to the Wyatt Lane Acres affordable housing project in northeast Columbia after nearby residents objected.

Two new proposals for affordable housing projects in Columbia, the subject of a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. today in the Holiday Inn Select Executive Center, have the unanimous support of the City Council.

Appeals court to hear local cases

Three judges from the Missouri Court of Appeals are in Columbia today to hear oral arguments in four cases that originated in Boone County.

Court clerk Terence Lord said the traveling docket is part of an effort by the court, which usually convenes in Kansas City, to educate the public on the appeals process. Lord said the judges also recognize that Kansas City is not always convenient for lawyers and petitioners from elsewhere in the state.

Suspect served time in prison

The man accused of killing MU student Charles Blondis had recently finished serving time in a Kansas prison and was on probation when he came to Columbia, according to Wyandotte County, Kan., court records.

Taron Crawford, 20, of Kansas City, Kan., pleaded guilty to two charges of automobile burglary on March 26 in a Kansas court. Crawford was sentenced in May to seven months in prison and 12 months probation, according to court records. He had already served 28 days before his sentencing.

Hutton says he’ll seek re-election to council

Columbia Third Ward Councilman Bob Hutton has taken the first step toward putting his name up for re-election on the April ballot.

Hutton filed a petition Monday with the city clerk to run again for City Council. The petition, which must contain at least 50 signatures from registered voters in his ward, will be forwarded to the Boone County clerk and should be verified in the next couple of days.

$90 million in car tax goes unpaid

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri drivers who avoid paying sales taxes on automobiles have driven down state revenue by $90 million, Revenue Director Carol Fisher said Monday. One proposed way to counter that funding leak has met with mixed reviews, Fisher said.

Some Missouri drivers have eluded sales taxes by stealing license plates from other drivers who have proper tags, Fisher said. Others drive with expired tags.

Bloc worries Missouri workers

For 16 years, Hiroko Roberts proudly sewed the top stitches in Stride Rite shoes. One of the top-paid workers in the Fulton factory, Roberts made $14.26 an hour in a job she enjoyed. But in 1995, the factory closed and Roberts was devastated.

Work on pedway to begin

Construction is set to begin on a $4 million pedestrian walkway across College Avenue that will connect MU’s Bingham Group residence halls to the Virginia Avenue housing and dining development.

A groundbreaking ceremony, hosted by MU Residential Life and Campus Dining Facilities, will be at 3 p.m. today, starting in the Bingham Connection Dining Facility. Official groundbreaking will happen across from the Schurz Hall entry drive.

New evidence surfaces in kidnapping case

FULTON — A Bible school teacher and convicted pornographer suspected of killing a missing Skidmore man performed “gender nullification” procedures on other men and admitted in an online chat room to killing several men, according to an affidavit.

AmerenUE seeks bill increases

There is a $10.55 difference of opinion between state regulators and AmerenUE on how much to increase monthly bills for natural gas.

The utility wants to raise rates to increase the average gas bill by $16.26, but the staff of the state’s Public Service Commission recommends an increase that would make the average customer’s bill only $5.71 more each month.

Governor, speaker spar over schools

So it wasn’t a classic showdown at high noon, with dust and tumbleweeds a-blowin’.

But as afternoon clouds dumped rain on Columbia, House Speaker Catherine Hanaway, R-St. Louis County, and Gov. Bob Holden squared off across Missouri and hailed on each other.

Downtown buildings get reprieve from demolition

For at least the next six months, no building in downtown Columbia will be demolished to make room for a parking lot.

The Columbia City Council on Monday night approved 7-0 a moratorium on demolishing buildings within the Special Business District. That ban will last until May 17 to allow the Planning and Zoning Commission time to work with interested downtown parties to create a long-term solution for regulating future development and demolition.

The strong and the tasteless

It wasn’t his matted hair, or even his decades-old faded red-and-white plaid suit, that made local recruiter Traci Scardina recall her experience interviewing this man with a gasp of horror. It was, to borrow a phrase from the recruiting industry, the whole package.

Scardina’s first warning sign came from her nose, which detected a body odor so repugnant that she had to make an excuse of the weather to open her office window during the interview. Scardina said that she could not work in her office for an hour after the interview because of the offensive smell the man left behind.

Growth of city’s center gets increased scrutiny

As city and county planners struggle to get a handle on growth in the urban fringe, another type of growth is getting increasing attention.

A thriving downtown is a goal of Columbia’s Metro 2020 plan, but how to accomplish that is a source of debate.

Corps releases Missouri River plan

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would keep more water in upper Missouri River reservoirs during extreme drought under a plan proposed Monday.

But the corps, which manages dams and reservoirs along the 2,341-mile river, does not plan to make the seasonal changes to the river’s depth that cause the spring rises and summer lows that conservationists contend are needed to protect endangered fish and bird species.

Teacher awaiting spring to peddle her frozen treats

Virginia Muller cannot sit still. So having free time during the summer did not go over well with the MU composition teacher.

Two years ago, she decided to fill her schedule by opening up what she calls a “microbusiness.” In search of a type of business that would give her freedom to go where she wanted and talk to whom she wanted, Muller bought a tricycle from a company in New York City and decided to sell ice cream to Columbians from the bike.

Housing for all

Take a drive through neighborhoods near the center of Columbia, and you’ll notice most of the houses were built decades ago.

“There’s a lack of housing that’s decent and affordable in the inner city,” said the Rev. William Young, president and CEO of Columbia Enterlight Ministries. “Most of the homes were built before ’75.”

Holiday lights to bathe downtown

Select downtown facades will be illuminated in holiday colors and display shimmering snowflakes of light beginning Thursday at 6 p.m.

The 35,000-watt lighting project was designed by MU theatre graduate Chris Howe, who bathed Memorial Union in pink during Breast Cancer Awareness Week and illuminated the Boone County Courthouse for the annual First Night event last New Year’s Eve. His latest endeavor downtown will be the largest outdoor lighting project of his career.

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