Mo. woman awarded Bronze Star

After serving four months in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Sgt. 1st Class Stephanie Leonard returned safely home to her life in St. Louis as a systems manager for Washington University.

Although she has been home for months, she cannot forget the soldiers she served with, especially the 35 who were injured in a mortar attack that hit the Corps Support Command on Wednesday. During her time in Iraq, Leonard, along with Maj. Douglas L. Gifford and Sgt. Brett Slaughter, were in charge of tracking the movements and combat of the Third Corps Support Command.

Aiming for the last word

A silence falls over the gymnasium filled with students seated on the carpeted floor at Midway Heights Elementary School. The first contestant steps up to the microphone. The word is “bond,” and the speller slowly delivers the letters one by one.

“That is correct,” said Wende Geitz, the media specialist and spelling bee coordinator at Midway Heights.

Dentists look to spot signs of abuse

Dentists, like all health care professionals in Missouri, are required by law to report evidence of abuse or neglect of their young patients.

Now, some dentists want to strengthen a program that teaches oral-health professionals how to diagnose and report potential abuse situations. The Prevent Abuse and Neglect through Dental Awareness program was started in 1992 by Lyn Mouden, a Weston, Mo., dentist.

Heat funds run low as requests increase

More than 120,000 people in Missouri depended on heating assistance programs last winter, but Community Action Agencies and the Missouri Public Service Commission fear they will run out of money to help this year.

The nationwide Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program helps people living below or just above the poverty level pay their heating bills.

Green light, green thumb

Hoop houses aren’t exactly a phenomenon of modern science. They’re merely a cheap version of the conventional greenhouse and have been around for decades.

Yet these simple structures are proving an effective way of growing crops at odd times of the year in an organic environment.

Keeping the habit

Jeff Pitts can’t remember how many times he’s tried to quit smoking. At 25 years old, the Columbia native says he has been a heavy smoker for a decade.

In the past six months alone, Pitts has made “two or three” failed attempts to kick the habit.

Session’s first day marked by quarrels

JEFFERSON CITY — Words of bipartisanship and compromise quickly gave way to criticism and demands on the opening day of Missouri’s 2004 legislative session.

In her opening remarks, House Speaker Catherine Hanaway, R-St. Louis County, offered her hand to the governor in apology and cooperation.

181 jobs to be lost as call center closes

A telemarketing center at Parkade Center will close March 1, cutting 181 jobs, according to a company official. About half of the 181 jobs are full-time positions.

Jeffrey Johnson, human resources manager at the Columbia call center operated by Americall Group Inc. — formerly Business Response Inc. — said the decision to close was related, in part, to industry fallout from no-call lists.

Columbia burgers shed the bread

It isn’t quite like Jimmy Buffett’s cheeseburger in paradise, but it could be heaven for an Atkins dieter.

With low-carb diets sweeping the nation, fast-food chains are tinkering with that great American tradition, the hamburger.

Mayor to announce whether he’ll run

Mayor Darwin Hindman will announce this morning whether he will run for re-election when his term expires in April. He has served three terms and has been in office since 1995. He is holding a news conference at 9:30 a.m. at his Walnut Street law office. “As far as I’m concerned, things have been going pretty well,” Hindman said. — Blythe Terrell

Outwit. Outplay. Out-audition.

In the age of reality television with shows ranging from temptations on a deserted island to painting zebra stripes on your neighbor’s wall, Americans can get their 15 minutes of fame in more ways than ever. Patricia Tolentino knows exactly where she wants to get hers.

Tolentino, 21, brought a guitar to the Columbia Mall on Wednesday and hoped to stand out among other “Survivor” contestants with a song she had written the night before. Her song demonstrated her love for “Survivor” over other reality shows.

Airport drops in safety ratings

For the first time in 10 years, the Federal Aviation Administration found problems at Columbia Regional Airport that need attention.

The four problems discovered during the FAA annual inspection on Dec. 9 were...

Columbia detective awarded

Columbia Police Detective Emerson “Skip” McGuire, the father of two young children, says working with abused children has deeply affected him.

McGuire has been an officer with the Columbia Police Department since 1983. For the past six years, he’s investigated child abuse and sex crimes — about 130 cases a year — as part of the department’s Family Services Unit. He also instructs officers throughout the state on how to interview children and trains officers in his own department on how to deal with child abuse.

Weather balloon initially creates scare

A northwest Boone County resident found a small package attached to an orange parachute in her yard Tuesday evening, but a bomb squad and firefighters determined that the device was a harmless weather balloon.

The resident, identified by the Boone County Fire District as Connie Coil, notified an off-duty sheriff’s deputy after she found the item about 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Hindman to run for 4th term

With a "Hindman for Mayor" yard sign propped up behind him, Mayor Darwin Hindman announced Thursday he will run for re-election.

"I'm proud to have served three terms as mayor and would be proud to be re-elected," he said.

From tropical to arctic

When temperatures slid from 70 degrees to 4 degrees in a matter of days, outdoor workers had some adjusting to do.

Temperatures topped out at 71 degrees on Friday and dipped down to 4 on Monday. Both numbers are far outside the average temperature of 20 degrees for January in Columbia.

No easy way to walk away from meth

Teenage girlfriends share lots of things: clothes, makeup, secrets.

Leslie Roettgen and Stacey Norris shared alcohol and drugs.

State revenue collections still in dispute

JEFFERSON CITY — On the eve of Missouri’s 2004 General Assembly session, legislative leaders and the governor’s office still are in dispute about how much money the state will have this year.

Meanwhile, the Revenue Department released figures showing the state’s revenue collections for the first half of the current budget year were 7.9 percent higher than last year. When $95.1 million of one-time federal aid is excluded, general revenue is up 4.8 percent as of December 2003.

Education funds top agenda

JEFFERSON CITY — As legislators trickled into their offices to prepare for Wednesday’s start of the 2004 session, they came in dragging behind them last year’s biggest challenge — the budget.

Republicans cite education funding and transportation as being among the biggest issues to be faced by the General Assembly during this session. Democrats say, however, that their highest priority will be riding out an even greater budget crisis than last year.

Area duck hunters bag record numbers

Duck hunters at the Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area bagged a record number of waterfowl this year — 5,754 ducks, 963 more than last year.

This year more than 2,700 hunters visited the wetlands, a managed area in the Missouri River bottoms south of Columbia. Hunters killed an average of 2.11 ducks each, said Jim Loveless of the Missouri Department of Conservation, which manages Eagle Bluffs.