Taming the black walnut

Many mid-Missourians know the Eastern black walnut by those large, green balls with a slightly pungent aroma that litter lawns and sidewalks this time of year. Encased in their protective husks is an inner shell that makes even the heartiest squirrel think twice, giving this cousin of the more popular English walnut the reputation of being a tough nut to crack.

Researchers at MU’s Horticulture and Agroforestry Research Center in New Franklin are hoping to change this. While black walnut connoisseurs are willing to put in the extra effort to get at the fruit’s strong, flavorful nutmeat, researchers at the center hope to boost the black walnut’s commercial prospects by improving the characteristics of Missouri’s state tree nut.

Columbia Mall to get new look

General Growth Properties, Inc., announced plans this morning to redesign Columbia Mall's food court. The food court's current design has been in place since 1985.

The construction plan, which has been in the works for a couple of years, includes expanding the window wall of the Cafe Court into a rotunda shape and giving the indoor atmosphere a "streetscape design."

Fans, troops to connect

A halftime show of a different kind is in store for fans Saturday at MU’s football game against Texas A&M. A live feed from Baghdad will connect deployed Missouri Guardsmen with the fans at Memorial Stadium.

With a potential attendance of more than 60,000 people, this could be the largest videoconference in history, according to Lt. Col. Thomas Smith.

Families prepare for deployment

Half of the 128th National Guard unit based in Columbia — 248 members — is preparing to leave for Fort Sill, Okla., on Tuesday. Members of the artillery unit must report to the Armory north of Columbia on Sunday.

As the one-year mark for mass troop deployment to Iraq approaches, the U.S. government is preparing to relieve soldiers who will soon complete their tour of duty.

State to question tax credits

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Attorney General’s office said Wednesday it is investigating allegations that taxpayer dollars are paying for equipment for businesses that exist only on paper.

“We will investigate this matter without fear or favor,” said Ted Ardini of the Attorney General’s office. He made the announcement to the Joint Committee on Tax Policy. The investigation of these “phantom” businesses is focused on the Rebuilding Communities Tax Credit Program, which offers tax credits for Missouri companies purchasing technical equipment such as computers and medical devices. The program provides tax credits for up to 40 percent of the equipment costs for eligible businesses. The program is designed to attract high-tech companies to poor communities.

The buck stops here

Deer hunter Ray Parsons hopes to harvest as many does as he can this firearms deer season. Parsons bought two bonus tags for himself and his grandson Chris Snell on Tuesday at the Wal-Mart Supercenter. If he fills those, he said, he’ll come back and buy more.

“I buy all the tags I can get, and I usually fill them,” said Parsons, one of many hunters browsing Wal-Mart’s hunting section in advance of the 11-day deer season that begins Saturday morning.

Role reversal

In the Adams family, everyone is learning tae kwon do at Hockman’s ATA Black Belt Academy on Buttonwood Drive.

The children — Jordan, 13, Jackson, 12, Taylor, 11, and Becca, 8 — started classes about three years ago. Their father, John, has taken lessons for a little more than a year; their mother, Krista, for 2 1/2 years.

Scientist gets in close to her animal work

Temple Grandin has been known to get down on hands and knees to see why pigs and cattle balk at going up a ramp before they’re slaughtered. To understand what the animals are thinking, she puts herself in their place. “For a pig’s-eye view, you’ve got to get down really low,” she said.

One-third of all cattle slaughter plants in the United States use equipment designed by Grandin, an animal science professor at Colorado State University who has made a career out of making slaughter plants more humane. The United States processes 100,000 cattle every day.

Garth Avenue sparks safe crossing debate

Every school day for the past seven years, Charlie Knipp has stood on the northwest corner of Parkade Boulevard and Garth Avenue in front of Parkade Elementary School.

With a friendly greeting and a warm smile, he shuttles kids back and forth across both streets on their way to and from school. Cars honk as they pass; he waves.

State provides warmth for low-income families

JEFFERSON CITY — Loretta Roarke prefers not to rely on others. When her grandson offered, “Grandma, I’m going to get you a wheelchair,” she shot back, “Oh no you ain’t!”

However, when it comes to paying her utilities, Roarke has little choice but to accept help. She relies on Central Missouri Counties’ Human Development Corporation to pay her light and gas bill.

Mayor hopes new timers will help holiday shoppers

Downtown will soon see an increase of new crosswalk timers just in time for the influx of pedestrians that comes with the holiday shopping season.

The timers count down the time pedestrians have left to cross the street when the light is red. Mayor Darwin Hindman, who spearheaded the effort, said theywould help improve downtown’s image as friendly for walking.

Mayor weighs election

Fourth Ward Councilman Jim Loveless has decided he will run for re-election in April, but Mayor Darwin Hindman and Third Ward Councilman Bob Hutton, whose terms also expire next year, have yet to decide whether to run again.

Loveless, who filed the paperwork for his candidacy Nov. 3, said the city’s continuing traffic problems prompted him to run again.

Mathletes in action

Find the sum of the solutions to 2x + 6x + 50.

This is not the usual question running through a high school student’s head at 8:30 a.m. on a Saturday. But 44 students from four different high schools sat with legs shaking and pencils tapping, scratching their heads as they answered questions like this during a day of competition at the regional level of the Great Plains Math League High School Contest held on the MU campus on Nov. 1.

Called to Duty

After today, Grant Elementary School will be one staff member short.

Calvin Miles, home/school communicator at the school, has been called to duty and will head to Fort Leonard Wood for military police training Sunday. After that, he’ll be deployed to Germany, but Miles doesn’t know where he’ll end up or how long he’ll be gone.

Guardsmen from Hallsville being deployed

For one family in Hallsville, the war in Iraq could soon become a father-daughter affair.

Hallsville’s 23-year-old Roberta Howell, a member of the 1139th National Guard unit based in Moberly, is serving as a military police officer in Baghdad. Her 56-year-old father, Tom Howell, is preparing to report for duty Sunday as part of the 128th National Guard reserves in Columbia.

Fate of gun law rests on wording

It’s a matter of interpretation.

The fate of concealed guns in Missouri might come down to the meaning of one word.

Missouri gains funds to fight meth

In a sign that Missouri’s growing methamphetamine problem is an issue of national concern, the federal government has awarded more than $3 million in grants to state law enforcement agencies to fight production of the drug.

The money will be divided among 60 sheriff’s departments and drug task forces across the state and used primarily to purchase equipment and to pay existing personnel for additional hours spent fighting meth production.

Shots fired in Cosmo Park; none injured

No one was injured amid gunfire Monday afternoon at Cosmopolitan Park, but police have arrested two and issued summons for several more.

On Tuesday, Columbia Police arrested Charles Julian Ayers, 17, of Columbia while he was in class at 10:35 a.m. at Rock Bridge High School. He was arrested on suspicion of armed criminal action and first-degree assault.

Monument honors former MU chancellor

In the early 1980s, Barbara Uehling pushed for MU’s first master plan for campus beautification.

The former chancellor reigned during $135 million in projects that gave the university its good looks.

University Hospital considers new ambulance

Because of long response times and a growing population in southern Boone County, ambulance officials at University Hospital want to add an emergency ambulance to cover the region.

University Hospital ambulance coordinator Jim Gwinner has submitted a plan to hospital administrators to put the Medic 22 ambulance into emergency service, probably near Ashland.