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MU professor makes career of researching piping plovers

It was 20 years ago when The Nature Conservancy first approached Mark Ryan to gather information on piping plovers. At the time, there was little information on the birds, which were under consideration as an addition to the federal endangered species list.

Ryan, who had just finished his doctorate in animal ecology, embraced the opportunity.

Study prompts skepticism

An MU researcher is skeptical of a recent study that says two birds at the center of the debate about how to manage flows on the Missouri River are doing better than they were 200 years ago.

The study by Missouri River Keepers, an Iowa-based nonprofit group that includes shippers and farmers, said the endangered piping plover and threatened least tern are doing quite well.

There are benefits of boxed trees

When my husband and I were first married I remember jumping out of bed the day after Thanksgiving, getting dressed in warm clothes and heading to the woods with all the children in tow to select the perfect tree. That’s the problem with memories, we sugarcoat them. Actually, we only took the kids with us once and it was a disaster. The older ones were bored and the younger ones just wanted to run around. The youngest started crying when we told him we get only get one tree (back then, our house was barely big enough for a table tree.)

Since that year’s fiasco, my husband and I would sneak out alone to do the tree shopping. We would go to a tree farm just outside of town and wander around for a suitable pine. I always wanted the tallest tree in the forest. We’d tromp around until I had inspected every tree taller than seven feet. After I made my selection, we’d throw it in the back of the truck and haul it home.

Searching for his place

Standing in a pool of bloody water, John McBride pulls his knife blade, back and forth, over a 10-inch steel sharpener. He wears protective knit gloves and an apron spotted with red. It’s only noon, and he knows he still has seven more hours to go.

As one truck after another pulls up with a bed full of deer, McBride stays busy. He unloads the cargo, snaps off the lower half of the legs, strips off the skin using a winch and hangs the carcasses for refrigeration. It’s a repetitive process, but he prefers that to standing around.

Peace disturbed

Hundreds of years ago, they lived and died on the vast, open plains of the Midwest. But today the remains of more than 3,000 Native Americans are stored in boxes, packed away like forgotten objects, inside a concrete warehouse on Rock Quarry Road.

The assortment of bones and funerary objects were unearthed more than a decade ago during road-building operations conducted by the Missouri Department of Transportation. The fact that the remains have yet to be returned to their tribal descendants for a proper burial is an affront to many Native Americans, says Don Hart, a Cherokee who owns Best of the West, a downtown shop that sells Native American artifacts.

Tobacco payments diverted

Since 2001, Missouri has received more than $500 million from the settlement of litigation against tobacco companies over smoking-related health care costs. Meanwhile, the General Assembly has given state health officials only $500,000 to help deter Missourians from smoking.

Deborah Markenson of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said her department had planned to start several prevention programs last year. However, tobacco revenue earmarked for the programs was redirected to make up for the state’s budget shortfall.

Charity’s soldiers

Stepping into the office of Major George Windham, a visitor is immediately confronted by the fierce gaze of eagles – 297 eagles, to be exact. The office is full of them: ceramic, pewter and wood, painted, drawn and woven, eagles adorn almost every flat surface. Many of the birds are swathed in, perched on, or otherwise associated with the Stars and Stripes. The eagles and flags are not the only martial trappings in Windham’s office. The gleaming insignia on his uniform collar match an ornate crest on the wall. A closer look at the crest reveals the words “Fire and Blood” emblazoned across a red, yellow and blue shield, topped with a crown and superimposed over crossed swords.

But Windham is no Rambo. He rests his hands on an ample belly as he leans back behind his desk, and the grin that creases his ruddy face can only be described as jolly. For Windham, the word “fire” on the wall is Hell’s fire, and the word “blood” means Christ’s. Windham is most certainly a warrior — in the Salvation Army.

Heifer helps feed needy

Growing up with almost nothing sometimes teaches a person to give everything.

At least that’s how Bob and Muriel Leach see things. While lots of folks will be out hunting for bargains and gifts on Friday, Bob and Muriel won't be part of the mad dash on the opening day of the Christmas retail season.

Governor wants to update SenioRx plan

JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Bob Holden on Wednesday tried to reassure senior citizens that their prescription drug needs will be provided for between state and federal programs.

Speaking during lunch hour at a senior center, Holden said that, in light of the Medicare reform bill that Congress passed Tuesday, some changes should be made to the state program, called SenioRx.

Opening historic homes

Dressed in Spandex bike-riding gear and still wearing helmets, Carol and Irl Don clomped up worn steps and peered into an attic guest room at the Katy O’Neil, one of three bed and breakfasts in Rocheport.

“Charming,” they crooned as they surveyed the claw-foot bathtub separated from the bedroom by an old-fashioned dressing screen.

Greenbacks vs. Green Space

Landowner Bob Smith said he just wanted to harvest some trees.

Last fall, Smith and fellow landowner Hugh Stephenson hired a logger to chop down and sell a substantial number of trees on 53 acres along Grindstone Parkway. That land has since been approved by the Columbia City Council as the site of a new Wal-Mart Supercenter for south Columbia.

New committee to examine cable TV issues in Columbia

A seven-member cable television task force has been appointed by Mayor Darwin Hindman to look at issues involved in the cable television franchises in Columbia.

Hindman said he is “not sure what the issues may be; that is what the committee is looking into.”

Officials work to update Sunshine Law

The Missouri Sunshine Law may soon include provisions to make the decades-old regulations applicable in today’s world of e-mail and teleconferencing.

Attorney General Jay Nixon worked with state Rep. Jeff Harris, D-Columbia, to add these provisions in an amendment called the Sunshine Upgrade Act. They announced the act Tuesday in Columbia and expect it to be debated in Missouri’s next legislative session, which begins in January.

Research to focus on plant medicine

Before American doctors ever developed Tylenol or radiation, alternative medicines, like those from plant extracts, were used by cultures across the globe to treat diseases ranging from the flu to cancer.

With 29 percent of Americans and more than 80 percent of the African population using alternative medicines, plant extracts might offer real medical benefits. Now a $275,400 grant will help MU researchers study the effects of these plants on AIDS and cancer and discover ways to combine indigenous medicines with more conventional drugs.

City discusses road widening, donation of land

In the latest of a series of proposals to alleviate traffic congestion at the intersection of Stadium Boulevard and Interstate 70, the Columbia City Council heard a proposal Tuesday night to widen Scott Boulevard. Ronald L. Schikevitz, civil/transportation manager for Burns and McDonnell in Kansas City, described the details involved in widening the road from two lanes to four and possibly adding a median. Funding would be shared by the city, the county and the Missouri Department of Transportation, but a department official said it did not expect to have money available for five years. The City Council also heard from County Commissioner Skip Elkin in regards to 80 acres of land given by a family. It discussed turning this plot, which is adjacent to the Boone County Fairgrounds, into a park to provide ball fields for youth. The group did not decide whether the Columbia or Boone County would do the project, but it did discuss a third option of a joint venture with joint ownership.

Cranberries, charity and community

Fifty pounds of potatoes, 20-someboxes of turkey stuffing, six turkeys over 20 pounds each and about 15 pecan and pumpkin pies filled three Gerbes shopping carts as Almeta Crayton and Cindy Mustard shopped for the “Everyone Eats” Thanksgiving dinner.

“It’s trying to get away, Cindy,” Crayton said as she almost dropped one of the large turkeys. Crayton, the First Ward councilwoman, has been host for the dinner at Lou’s Palace for the past five years.

Mattresses, menus and money

MU’s hotel and restaurant management program is enjoying a boom in growth, and part of the credit belongs to new recruiting strategies and area businesses, advocates of the program say.

Sylvia Gaiko, director of undergraduate programs and industry relations, said undergraduate enrollment grew 31 percent this year — up from an 18 percent increase the year before.

Fixes sought for Ashland’s power woes

The city of Ashland continues to search for a solution to electricity problems that have resulted in 10 power outages since 1998 and have ranged from 42 minutes to nearly 10 hours in length.

Since a 10-hour outage on Nov. 4, the city has been supplied with electricity routed through a transformer on the back of a large flatbed truck near New Bloomfield in Callaway County. While there haven’t been any outages with the temporary system being used by AmerenUE energy company, some Ashland residents are using the opportunity to call the utility’s attention to smaller but more frequent problems.

Students use more majors to self-market

Some college students who hope to stand out in the job market are shouldering more than one major to showcase their abilities and potential.

“Multiple majors make students more marketable,” said Terry Smith, vice president and dean of academic affairs at Columbia College.

Fulton redevelopment to begin in spring

The destruction of two Fulton buildings will pave the way for a redevelopment project that includes a movie theater, retail center and grocery store on the city’s south side.

Residents are anxious for the demolition of the empty Wal-Mart and Apple Market buildings on the site along Business 54, Fulton Mayor Robert Craghead said.

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