Caucus turnout sparse

The way Democrats begin selecting delegates for its national convention is similar to the way a coach recruits players. But the legislative district caucuses held statewide Thursday night were lacking one key ingredient: warm bodies.

In Boone County, not enough Democrats turned out to fill the party’s roster, turning almost every caucus attendee into a de facto delegate. Caucus organizers said they were hardly surprised, especially considering the largely ceremonial role delegates have come to play in the presidential selection process.

Wherever it is, Missouri mirrors U.S.

In this presidential election cycle, where each state gets a primary spotlight, Missouri stands out because it’s average.

“As Missouri goes, so goes the vote for the national presidency,” said Walter Schroeder, a former MU geography professor who calls the state America’s bellwether. “No other state comes that close to being the nation’s average.”

Study: I-70 options hamper businesses

Plans to widen Interstate 70 to eight lanes through Columbia could cause many businesses to relocate and those that stay to lose significant numbers of customers, according to a consultant’s study.

The report by CH2MHill, a consulting company, described the potential impact of the I-70 project on Columbia businesses.

Experimenting with ecstasy

One little pill.

It is about the size of an aspirin and comes in a range of colors, including baby blue, frog green, canary yellow and plain white.

Experts predict a cougar comeback

Cougars are listed on Missouri’s endangered and protected species list, but new DNA evidence suggests the cats might be making a comeback. “An increase in trends leads us to believe the population will increase,” said Dave Hamilton, research biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation.

A preliminary necropsy done on a cougar killed last August in Callaway County indicated it had migrated to central Missouri from the West. DNA tests received last week from Central Michigan University provided more evidence that confirms the cat came from the wild in North America.

A nurse by heart

An African woman gives birth at a maternal HIV clinic in Cape Town, South Africa. Foreign doctors sweep her newborn away, and return shortly to tell her that her baby has died.

The mother accepts the news and hurries home to care for her four other children. She knows she must make the most of the time she has left — she has AIDS and no treatment is available.

Ambulance fleet grows with demand

University Hospital unveiled one of its two new emergency response vehicles Thursday.

The new ambulances, which are larger than the hospital’s existing vehicles and painted a different color, were received by the hospital Feb. 13 and are expected to be in use beginning next month.

High-level learning

Students involved in the Young Astronauts Club at Benton Elementary School finally found out what effects space would have on everyday materials when they visited the headquarters of the Columbia Aeronautic and Space Association on Thursday.

CASA is a student-run program completing its 16th annual aerospace simulation at Hickman High School. Thursday’s visit was the result of an exchange between the Young Astronauts and CASA students and involved a simulation of an actual experiment NASA launched in July 2001.

Boone County sheriff to hold off for now as ruling causes confusion

Despite Thursday’s ruling that upholds the constitutionality of Missouri’s conceal-and-carry law, Boone County Sheriff Ted Boehm said he will hold off on issuing permits.

Boehm said he will follow the advice of Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon, who suggested in the wake of Thursday’s ruling by the state Supreme Court that sheriffs should wait until lawmakers address whether the law imposes unfunded mandates on Missouri counties before issuing permits.

Faithful crowd supports ‘Passion’

On Ash Wednesday, as the sun beamed down on her open black-and-flowered umbrella, Carolyn Marshall stood in front of the Hollywood Stadium 14 Theaters and handed out free tickets to the 2 p.m. showing of “The Passion of The Christ.”

Marshall, a member of the Evangelical Free Church and a volunteer for the International Friends ministries, bought 64 tickets to the film in order “to share the Gospel” with interested international students, her acquaintances and any of their friends. She was among thousands of Columbians who attended opening-day showings, many of them sold out, of director Mel Gibson’s film.

Bill to ban racy billboards triggers debate

JEFFERSON CITY — State lawmakers are a step closer to taking sex off Missouri’s roadsides. A Senate ban on adult billboards cleared for final passage Wednesday.

Supporters say citizens are saddened by what has happened on Missouri’s roadways.

Bill to update Sunshine Law

JEFFERSON CITY — Under a new bill proposed by Rep. Jeff Harris, D-Columbia, any public governmental meeting conducted through electronic communication — conference call, video conference, Internet chat or Internet message board — would have to be made accessible to the public.

Missouri’s open meetings and access to public records laws constitute what is known as the Sunshine Law. Harris’ bill aims at broadening the Sunshine Law.

Holden defends non-union fees

JEFFERSON CITY— Gov. Bob Holden vetoed legislation Wednesday that sought to block the collection of union bargaining fees from state employees who do not belong to unions.

The Democratic governor and Republican legislative leaders have been sparring over unions’ role in state government since Holden signed an executive order granting collective bargaining rights to thousands of state workers in June 2001.

Entertaining imagination

The stage is set for children in this town — Columbia is rich with performing arts groups and classes for young people. The number of adults and children dedicated to furthering theater education hints that theater’s effect extends well beyond the curtain call.

Columbia’s new performing arts group, Performing Arts in Children’s Education, translates theater experiences into lessons that permanently influence a child’s personality and identity. Children, parents and child psychologists are lauding these groups for their positive lessons for participants.

Son says murder planned

Dressed in a white turtleneck, his shaggy brown hair grazing his eyes, 14-year-old Jeremiah Robertson looked as though he’d rather be playing video games, talking with friends, even doing homework — anywhere but on a witness stand in the Boone County courthouse testifying against his mother.

Lucille Faith Duncan, Robertson’s mother, is on trial for first-degree murder in connection with the July 5 shooting death of her ex-boyfriend, James Pruitt. Duncan’s brother, Gerald Alan Duncan, is also charged in the case. And Robertson, who spent the July 4 holiday with his mother and uncle, testified Wednesday that he saw the whole thing.

Soybean prices still climbing

Analysts were surprised last week when the price of soybeans jumped to $8.69 per bushel, the highest price since 1997 for the No. 1 cash crop in Missouri. They’re even more surprised this week.

Lower-than-expected yields in South America, where it’s harvest season, helped push the U.S. soybean price to $9.33 a bushel on Wednesday.

Boone County caucuses tonight

Boone County Democrats will gather for caucuses at various sites at 7 p.m. today to nominate delegates they hope will eventually attend the Democratic National Convention in Boston this July.

At each of the five caucus meetings, participants will be asked to split into groups based on their presidential candidate of choice.

Intelligent design bill irks faculty

MU’s Faculty Council today will consider a resolution that would ask the Missouri General Assembly to reject House Bill 911, which would require that theories of intelligent design and evolution be taught equally in public school classrooms.

The resolution says the theory of intelligent design — the idea that life was created by an intelligent being or beings — does not represent science in any form.

Sales tax extension sought

Although the city’s quarter-cent sales tax for capital improvements won’t expire for nearly two years, city staff and the Columbia City Council are gearing up to ask voters to extend it and perhaps to make half of it permanent.

The sales tax, which will raise a projected $3.91 million for the city this fiscal year, is scheduled to expire Dec. 31, 2005. Proceeds of the tax cover major capital expenses such as street and sidewalk construction, new buildings, fire trucks and other public safety equipment.

DNR eyes park land

Half of the Crane land might become part of Rock Bridge Memorial State Park.

Mayor Darwin Hindman said Tuesday that the Missouri Department of Natural Resources has talked with the city about the possibility of the DNR buying about half the estimated 317-acre property from Sue Crane. The land lies just southeast of Columbia and the 489-acre Philips farm. Such a purchase would have the potential to extend Rock Bridge State Park and create a buffer around environmentally sensitive Gans Creek.