Enjoy all holiday treats in moderation

Here’s some scary food for thought: To gain five pounds from now to the end of January, all a person needs to do is eat an average of 300 calories more per day than normal. Even scarier: During the holiday months, everyone is apt to fall victim to overindulgence.

Lunch hours and evening will inevitably be spent shopping and running errands, without the actual physical motion of running.

Mercury advisories are rising

If you live near a lake or river in Missouri, chances are good that body of water is under a mercury advisory. Between May 2000 and 2002, mercury advisories for Missouri lakes and rivers increased from zero to 288, 315 acres.

The issue of mercury levels, and how quickly they should be reduced, has become a hot topic of debate since President Bush proposed his “Clear Skies Initiative” in 2002. The initiative, which is currently being heard by committees in both the U.S. House and Senate, is designed to significantly reduce emissions from sources of pollution, especially coal-fired power plants. Under the plan, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury would all be gradually reduced over next several decades.

Senators criticize sales tax proposal

JEFFERSON CITY — A proposal to automatically raise Missouri sales taxes when state revenue falls has been taken to task by leading Republicans.

The petition initiative, brought to Secretary of State Matt Blunt’s office this week by a team of lobbyists, ignores needed policy reforms, said Senate Majority Leader Michael Gibbons, R-Kirkwood. Changes to the taxing system need to be addressed before the state seeks new revenue sources, said Gibbons, who is chairman of the Joint Committee on Tax Policy.

Revisions to Philips plan filed

A contentious zoning proposal that would allow developers to build a mix of homes, offices and stores on the Philips farm — a 489-acre property southwest of Columbia — is back on the table after three months of behind-the-scenes analysis and planning.

Developer Elvin Sapp, who withdrew the proposal in September, resubmitted it Nov. 13 with a handful of restrictions and clarifications addressing concerns of residents and city staff. Sapp’s next step is the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission, It will hold the first formal public hearing on the proposal Dec. 18.

Al Franken was here, and that’s no lie

Al Franken — author, political humorist and former “Saturday Night Live” cast member and writer — brought his humor and insight to Columbia on Wednesday night. The satirist signed copies of his books at MU’s University Bookstore before delivering a lecture at Jesse Auditorium. He was promoting his recent book “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.”

“He’s one of the most talented satirists on the left or the right. What differentiates him from others is his ability to substantiate himself with facts,” said MU student Angad Nagra.

Free versus fair

In a small maroon picture album, Ron Dunkle keeps blurry pictures of a rain soaked crowd on a dark Seattle street and lines of men in blue parkas standing determined behind a fence lined with riot police.

The images document Dunkle’s trip in November 1999 when he and Carl Roberts traveled to Seattle to represent the concerns of mid-Missouri’s United Steelworkers of America Local 790 and protest the policies of the World Trade Organization. The Perry and Mexico natives traveled more than 2,000 miles because the workers at their firebrick plants feared free trade policies would shift their jobs to cheaper labor markets.

Tuned in

The sharp tap of snare drums surrounds Tim Baker every morning while ringing bells follow him the rest of the day. As drumline instructor and math teacher in two different schools for students who he says are very similar, Baker is followed by music wherever he goes.

Every morning through marching band season, Baker can be found out on the practice field at Rock Bridge High School, teaching and restraining the friendly and boisterous drumline. The drummers call him “Tim” and regard him as a friend with the power to tell them to shut up. And every morning, Tim drives across town to Douglass High School to be Mr. Baker, the only in-residence math teacher.

Former superintendent in new role

Jim Ritter, former superintendent for the Columbia Public School District, has been elected chairman of the board of directors for Columbia’s new Health Adventure Center.

“Columbia is known for two things: health and education,” Ritter said. “We’re the health center for much of the state, and education has always had a great emphasis. This center is an excellent fit for the community.”

Mix and match

Third-, fourth- and fifth-graders at Derby Ridge Elementary School found themselves in new seats next to new people during lunch Wednesday.

“It was a quieter cafeteria time than usual,” said Kim Freese, an art teacher and coordinator of the change of pace.

Highway department gets support

JEFFERSON CITY — The road to gaining respect is a long one for the Missouri Highways and Transportation Department.

On Wednesday, director Henry Hungerbeeler reported the department’s situation before the Joint Committee on Transportation Oversight. Several legislators on the committee said that the department is on the right track.

Widening meeting planned

The Improve I-70 Advisory Group will meet at 4 p.m. today at the Columbia Activity and Recreation Center to continue discussion of the widening of Interstate-70 through the Columbia area.

The advisory group comprises community members and government officials who provide community input about widening a six-mile stretch of the interstate that goes through Columbia to eight lanes.

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.