Panama Canal expansion could impact Missouri ports

MODOT officials say the widened canal will open more freight shipment opportunities to Missouri.

Franklin School construction proceeds as planned

The $10 million project is being constructed next to the old school. It will open for the 2012 school year.

Dino's Pizza damaged by fire

The Cape Girardeau Fire Department estimates $250,000 in damages, but the building is not a total loss.

Mississippi River Basin nitrate pollution remains high

Nitrates flowing from the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico contribute to the formation of areas known as dead zones.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Fine particles of coal ash may be used in concrete

A professor at Missouri University S&T is looking to pave the way to stronger concrete while simultaneously keeping fly ash out of landfills.

Fly ash is the smallest particle found in coal ash. It is a byproduct of coal-burning power plants and has been used in concrete since the construction of Hoover Dam. But Dr. Jeffery Volz is developing a formula that will double the amount of fly ash used in concrete.

Although this will decrease carbon dioxide in the air, there is concern for heavy metals leaching out of the concrete into the water supply.

“When we put it in concrete, the chemistry is actually altered and if there are any trace elements, heavy metals, mercury, things like that they are all bound into the concrete. They don’t leach out of the concrete so it’s even better than putting it in a landfill plus we’re using a waste product which is going to cut down on cost which is going to cut down cost to Missouri residents,” Volz said.

Volz says adding fly ash to concrete would decrease the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. For every one pound of cement produced, one pound of carbon dioxide is also released.

“The roads we drive on, the buildings we live in, the bridges we drive over, the dams that hold back the water, the distribution systems for getting us water; all built out of concrete so it’s very much a staple in our civilization and if we can find a way to make it greener then it’s just going to make it that much better,” Volz said.

Volz is still developing the best formula and type of fly ash to use in concrete. The Missouri Department of Transportation has expressed an interest in using the newly developed recipe.

Katie Long, KRCU

Missouri tops meth list

Missouri ranks first again for the number of methamphetamine laboratory seizures, according to a release from the Missouri Highway Patrol.

Missouri has the highest number of meth labs, despite efforts by law enforcement agents. Missouri had 1,960 lab seizures in 2010, a 10 percent increase from 2009 and a 53 percent increase from 2007.

Captain Tim Hull says Missouri is enticing to meth creators because of its many rural areas, which are located right outside of major cities like Kansas City and St. Louis.

New regulations by municipalities that require a prescription to buy pseudoephedrine will curb the ability of people to produce meth, Hull said. Pseudoephedrine is the key ingredient in meth.

"All those are just tools in our toolbox to fight that particular problem of meth. It's a continual battle and it's just going to have to continually change," Hull said.

Jefferson County had the highest number of meth lab seizures, followed by Franklin County.

Rachel Weatherford, KRCU

MDC offers e-permits

Your trip to your favorite fishing hole or deer stand can now start at your computer.

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) will begin issuing E-Permits on March 1. Instead of visiting a hunting or fishing permit vendor, anglers and hunters may now buy and print permits at home.

The MDC’s Jim Low says that the new E-Permit system was adopted in response to demand, as well as a desire to cut costs. Still, traditional options will remain in place for those who wish to avoid online purchases.

“Permit vendors will have the option to continue being vendors if they want to do that. They’ll just need to have some sort of laptop or PC or whatever in their business to print out permits,” Low said.

Vendors will continue to print permits on the old material until July 2012. The old permits will be phased out between July 2012 and July 2013.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Cape Central students selected as National Merit Finalists

Three Cape Central High School seniors have been selected as National Merit Finalists.

Lessley Dennington, Blake Kidd, and Noor Wadi have all been honored with the distinction.

The National Merit Scholarship Program is an annual academic competition for recognition and scholarships. It is open to all U.S. high school students who meet certain entry requirements and demonstrate exceptional ability and achievement in critical reading, mathematics and writing.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

More rain saturates Cape Girardeau

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Cape Girardeau braced for more flash floods as more rain saturated the community.

The city has been offering a limited supply of sandbags as well as a Red Cross shelter for flood victims at the Osage Center.

Residents have been warned to avoid roads that have standing water, something that Cape Girardeau Emergency Management Coordinator Mark Hasheider says can be a serious problem.

"You know, one that we continue to express to the general public is to not drive through flooded roads," Hasheider said.

Residents can contact the fire department for local road closings and the Missouri Department of Transportation’s website for an interactive map of highway and interstate closings.

Matthew Caldwell, KRCU

Friday, February 25, 2011

Redistricting does not favor Russ Carnahan

Image courtesy of Missouri Secretary of State.

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Due to a slower rate of population growth than other states, Missouri will lose one of its nine Congressional seats. All indications point to the elimination of the 3rd Congressional District, currently held by Democrat Russ Carnahan.
The 3rd District covers southern St. Louis, parts of southern St. Louis county, and Jefferson and Ste. Genevieve Counties.
The Republican-controlled General Assembly will redraw the Congressional districts, and it is highly unlikely that the GOP will exclude one of their own party members, according to Southeast Missouri State University political science professor Jeremy Walling.
Carnahan is one of three Democratic Missouri Congressmen. The other two are Emanuel Cleaver from Kansas City in the 5th District and Lacy Clay from St. Louis in the 1st District. Eliminating Carnahan’s seat would results in clearly drawn partisan lines amongst Missouri’s districts, Walling says.
"The Republicans aren’t going to be too sad about ensuring that the Missouri 1st and 5th Districts stay Democrat because they are going to be Democrat anyway," Walling said. "So I can see them wanting to split up the Russ Carnahan district and divvy those votes up and make the Missouri 1st an even stronger Democrat district in the process."
The result would be eight congressional districts with well-entrenched incumbents. The only exception would be freshman representative Vicky Hartzler’s seat in western Missouri, which Walling says may come in to play.
Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Menards coming to Cape Girardeau

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - A new retail store is building a future in Cape Girardeau.

Menards expects to invest about $8 million to open its newest home improvement retail store on Cape's west side.

The Wisconsin-based retailer brings numerous benefits, according to Ken Eftink, the assistant city manager and director of development services.

"Menard's is like any other store. The more opportunities you give to people, the more people will stay here and shop locally. It's another opportunity to shop here in Cape Girardeau."

Menards will bring jobs for about 150 people. About 60 of the available jobs will be full-time and the rest will be part-time. The site will include 16 acres and 162,000 square feet.

They are still in the initial process of examining the site and the possibility for parking. Menards is considering the southwest corner of Siemer Drive and Bloomfield Road.
Rachel Weatherford, KRCU

Alex Lopez tagged as regional guest juror

Image courtesy of the SIUC School of Art and Design.

Each year Southeast Missouri State University’s Art Department holds a Student Showcase. Regional guest artists are selected by Southeast faculty to jury the show.

This year’s juror is Alex Lopez, Assistant Professor of Sculpture at SIU Carbondale.

Southeast art professor Emily Denlinger says she chose Lopez because his work sets a good model for students.

"In the Digital Arts program we are interested in the cross pollination of multiple media, and how student can incorporate digital technologies with the more traditional media they are using, such as printmaking and ceramics," Denlinger says. "I believe bringing Alex Lopez to SEMO sets a tone for the students and expands their ideas about the possibilities of art."

As a benefit to the juror, he or she is allowed to display personal work in the River Campus Gallery prior to the Student Show. Lopez’s installation is titled “Indelible History of Things Past, Present, and Future”. The show runs from February 28th to March 23rd.

Ryan Paluczak, KRCU

Earthquake preparedness event to be held in Malden

An earthquake awareness and preparedness program will be held on Saturday, February 26th from 10 AM to 2PM at the Bootheel Youth Museum in Malden.

The program is being held in honor of the bicentennial of the New Madrid earthquakes that occurred in 1811 & 1812.

The event will feature presentations from a geologist and a representative from the Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium, Brian Blake.

Blake will be presenting on the Great Central U.S. ShakeOut, a region-wide earthquake drill that will take place on April 28th.

"We want to teach people what to do when there's an earthquake and have them know how to react because when a big earthquake comes along you only have a few seconds to react and sometimes you don't have even that," Blake said.

This is the first year that the Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium will hold a ShakeOut drill. 800,000 people have already registered to participate.

Katie Long, KRCU

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Proposal would replace Mo. income tax with sales tax

KANSAS CITY, MO (KCUR) - A proposal to eliminate Missouri's income tax has captured the fancy of a House committee in Jefferson City. But a budget watchdog group says it would be a risky move, and costly to most Missourians.

The proposal aims to eliminate income tax and replace it with a simple sales tax of 7 percent, not quite twice the present rate. But Amy Blouin of the Missouri Budget Project is concerned that a House committee has endorsed a constitutional amendment to do that.

She says it would take a 12 percent sales tax to maintain state services, even if the tax extends to services including medical care. And it would reduce total taxes paid only for the wealthiest 5 percent.

"95 percent of Missourians would pay more," Blouin says. "We could have severe cuts to education, health care and other services."

Blouin contends that the proposed sales tax is not like the present Missouri sales tax because it applies to services as well as to goods.

“The truth is that this is unlike any sales tax that has ever existed in any state. No state subjects all services to the sales tax like Missouri would under this proposal," Blouin said.

The proposals allow the legislature to exempt some services, but those services are not specified. Blouin says if passed the new sales tax could apply to medical and child care services.

Since it's framed as a constitutional amendment, the proposal would have to be passed by the legislature and be approved by Missouri voters. Petitions for a very similar voter initiative version are also being circulated, reportedly backed by St. Louis millionaire Rex Sinquefield.

Steve Bell, KCUR

New foundation will manage Reynolds House

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - When Earl Norman talks about the Reynold’s House, he does so with a smile on his face.

Norman owns the property which was built in 1857 and it just happens to be on the doorstep of the Isle of Capri Casino. He smiles for good reason.

Norman has recently teamed up with the casino and the Historic Preservation program at Southeast to create a non-profit organization that will govern the future of the house.

"I think where we are headed now is a not for profit foundation that would involve the university and their program of historic preservation, the community, plus the casino revenues to help restore the building and maintain it long term," Norman said.

Students at the university are currently working to create plans that will find a functional use for the house, as well as providing steps for remediation.

Matthew Caldwell, KRCU

Burris donates papers to SIU

CARBONDALE, IL (WSIU) - Former U.S. Senator Roland Burris is giving back to his alma mater.

Burris is donating his collection of political papers to Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. The papers document his public service career, including his time as a U.S. Senator, Illinois Comptroller, and Illinois Attorney General. Burris holds the distinction of being the first black elected to a statewide office in Illinois.

Burris says the papers include correspondence, minutes, reports, and proposed bills. He says he believes some papers will attract more attention than others.

"I would think that the senatorial papers, the speeches that I made on the floor, the bills that I sponsored, the bills that I co-sponsored, I think that they would have the most, how should I say, appeal to the students because of the national implications," Burris said.

Burris says his long political career is now officially over, saying that "the political sun has set on the career of Roland Burris."

The papers that Burris donated will be available in the Special Collections Research Center of SIUC's Morris Library.

Matt Howard, WSIU

Missouri census figures should be available today

The results of the 2010 Census are in the mail, so to speak.

The U-S Census Bureau sent state-specific data to Missouri leaders yesterday. The data will be made public this afternoon.

The data will include summaries of population totals, as well as data on race, Hispanic origin and voting age. The data will cover a wide variety of geographic scales, such as census blocks, school districts, and cities.

Anything Goes at the River Campus

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Southeast Missouri State University actors are currently showing their newest rendition of Anything Goes at the River Campus. The romantic comedy is filled with quirky plot twists and catchy tunes, accompanied by tap dance. Zak McMahon elaborated on his role in the production.

“I have a very small role in it, but I’m multiple characters. My main role is Ching, which is an Asian, and I part Joe Capstick who is Ling. I’m also a featured tap dancer, and then throughout it I have four costume changes. I’m pretty much just a dancer and a chorus member.”

Billy Crocker falls in love with Hope Harcourt when the two share a taxi. They are later reunited on an ocean liner sailing from New York to London. Much to his dismay she is engaged to another man. Through his antics he tries to win her heart, but along the way emotions and actions are misconstrued into comedic madness.

The show is playing through Sunday, February 27th at the Bedell Performance Hall on Southeast’s River Campus.

Ryan Paluczak, KRCU

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Coal ash landfill controversy continues in Franklin County

LABADIE, MO (ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO) - In the small Franklin County town of Labadie, Missouri, about 35 miles west of St. Louis, a debate is raging over what to do with millions of tons of coal ash.

The dispute is pitting area residents against the utility company Ameren – and putting Franklin County’s commissioners in the middle of the fight.

It all started with the Labadie ladies book club.

“Well, we don’t really have a name,” says long-time Franklin County resident Kay Genovese.

It was the summer of 2009. “Everybody was just gathering, and somebody kind of off-handedly said, oh, did you all hear that so-and-so just sold his bottom ground. And nobody had heard about that, and she said, yeah, I heard he sold it to Ameren.”

Bottom ground – that’s land in the floodplain of the Missouri River. Genovese says at book club the next month, they found out another farmer had sold his land.

“And we were like, oh, to Ameren again?” Genovese said. “Three months in a row, we kept hearing about these different farmers selling their ground to Ameren.”

The book club ladies started asking questions. They found out that Ameren was planning to build a 400-acre coal ash landfill in the floodplain, next door to its massive power plant in Labadie.

Ameren’s Labadie Power Plant

Shift supervisor Jim Dean says with its four huge turbines, Labadie can generate enough power to supply electricity to almost half a million homes. To do it, the place burns coal by the train load.

“Each train has about 130 cars in it,” Dean said. “Each car holds 100 tons of coal. And we’ll burn one car, 100 tons of coal, in about four minutes with all four units at full load.”

At two coal trains a day, that works out to about 10 million tons of coal a year. Approximately seven percent of that – over half a million tons – is left over as coal ash.

Ameren recycles more than half of it.

The rest gets mixed with water, and sluiced out to two open ponds next to the plant. The coal ash settles out to the bottom, and the remaining water gets discharged, untreated, into the Missouri River.

Running Out of Room

But Ameren’s Vice President of Environmental Services, Mike Menne, says those ponds are running out of room. At 400 acres, the new landfill would be big enough to replace them both and take ash from Ameren’s Meramec and Rush Island plants, too.

Menne says the new landfill would have protection systems the current ponds lack. It would be double-lined to protect groundwater and have a berm around it — about as high as a two-story building — to keep floodwaters out.

“And then it has what’s referred to as a leachate collection system which is a water collection system,” Menne added. “Any water that would percolate through the material is collected and sent back to the plant to be used for process water.”

Local Impact

Even with all the new safety precautions, many area residents are worried about all that ash and what’s in it: toxic elements like arsenic, chromium, and lead, which can cause cancer, developmental problems, and other serious health issues.

They’re afraid those hazardous substances could wind up in groundwater or the Missouri River and contaminate area drinking water supplies. They’re also concerned about property values and increased truck traffic.

Remember those Labadie book club ladies, who first found out about Ameren’s landfill plans? Well, they got organized, and gave themselves a name: the Labadie Environmental Organization now has close to 400 members.

One of them is Franklin County resident Petra Haynes. She hopes Ameren will — as she puts it — “do the right thing” and not build a landfill in the floodplain.

“We really firmly believe that there has to be a better, safer location,” Haynes said. “We would like Ameren to really consider the safety and well-being of their customers, rather than the bottom line.”

“We Have to Put It Somewhere”

Haynes and other area residents have been voicing their concerns at public hearings with the Franklin County board of commissioners. The board is trying to decide whether to change county zoning regulations to allow utility waste landfills like Ameren’s.

Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer says he understands why people don’t want a landfill in the floodplain.

“But the bottom line is we have to put it somewhere,” Griesheimer said. “To be opposed to it and have an alternative is one thing, but to be just opposed to it without giving us another option here, that’s another matter, and that’s what’s hard for everybody to do.”

Griesheimer says a final decision on the county’s landfill regulations is still months away.

Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

Washington U. finds collection of Jefferson's books

Washington University has discovered a collection of Thomas Jefferson’s private books. The university didn’t realize it had been sitting on the rare collection for 131 years.

Washington University officials learned from two scholars at Monticello that the 74 volumes may already be in its library system. When the books were donated to the university way back in 1880, the donor did not indicate that they had belonged to the third president.

Anne Posega is the head of Special Collections at "Wash U."

"They had been able to track down that these books, which had been purchased by Jefferson’s granddaughter, Ellen Coolidge, had been donated by her son-in-law to Washington University," Posega said.

Posega says some of the books are on history and architecture, and some include Jefferson’s handwritten notes on the pages.

"A lot of them are classics, and many of them in Greek," Poseda notes. "There’s a number of French books as well; there are books in Italian, Latin and English."

The collection becomes the third largest of Jefferson’s books, after the Library of Congress and the University of Virginia.

Jennifer Moore, KWMU

Bootheel ag company pays $55K in EPA fines

KENNETT, MO (KRCU) - A Southeast Missouri farm supply retailer agreed to pay nearly $54,922 in fines to the Environmental Protection Agency.

ADI Agronomy’s Ag Distribution facility in Kennett was in violation of eight risk management regulations under the Clean Air Act.

As part of its settlement with EPA, ADI Agronomy has certified that the Ag Distributors facility in Kennett is now in compliance with the chemical Risk Management Program regulations.

Thorngate plan approved, Commander Premier must pay rent

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - The Cape Girardeau City Council voted Tuesday night to approve the Thorngate Redevelopment Plan which will allow Blair Industries to expand operations to the currently empty building at 1507 Independence Street.

Blair Industries currently operates within the area and their expansion is something that mayor Harry Rediger believes is important.

“History has proven that the majority of new development and new jobs are created by our friends; existing businesses, existing industries, and existing manufacturers,” Rediger said.

The city will grant the business’s owner a real-estate tax abatement for 10 years as incentive to help alleviate start up costs of their expansion. The majority of the abatement will be from the school system, something that Rediger says will be outweighed by new jobs and new residents brought to the community.

The redevelopment should create more than 30 new jobs in Cape Girardeau.

It also appears that Commander Premier’s days at the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport could be numbered. City Manager Scott Meyer explained that the city has given the struggling aircraft manufacturer 60 days to pay the $1.2 million it owes the city in rent. Commander Premier has not made a rent payment for over three years. Failure to pay the rent will lead to eviction.

In other business, the council scheduled a sound experiment which will help them construct a new noise ordinance in downtown Cape Girardeau. Members of the council will review noise levels by placing sound systems in several downtown businesses to help decide the size and scale of the new ordinance.

The noise test will take place on the evening of March 8 in the downtown area.

Matthew Caldwell, KRCU

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Emerson says 'No' to Senate campaign

The list of Claire McCaskill’s potential GOP opponents shrank on Tuesday.

Jo Ann Emerson decided against a bid for the Senate, citing her belief that she could do more in her current position chairing a House Appropriations Subcommittee than as a junior Senator.

Missouri GOP executive director Lloyd Smith spoke with Emerson regularly about her potential candidacy. He advised her that a Senate run would require a massive time commitment for fundraising, campaigning, and grassroots organization.

"I told her I thought she could do all of those things, but it would be difficult in her role as a new subcommittee chair and do all those things well and do her subcommittee chairmanship as well," Smith said.

"It would stretch her very thin," he continued. "And I think being in the majority now, or being in the majority again, having this particular position is going to give her an opportunity to define some policy decisions and re-define policy decisions that have been made by the Obama administration and the Democrats that were in control of the House."

Former state treasurer Sarah Steelman and attorney Ed Martin are the only two declared Republican candidates.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Mo. House bill would require English driver's license tests

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Republican legislators in Missouri have proposed a bill that may soon require all driving examinations to be conducted in English.

Currently, Missouri residents can take the exam in 12 languages and hire a state-approved translator at their expense, to assist with the driving test if needed.

Under the proposed law, applicants must take the written test in English or have it read to them.

Those in favor of the law say it is an issue of safety.

One of the bill’s supporters is State Representative Wayne Wallingford, who serves Cape Girardeau. He believes that drivers need to be able to understand all road signs, not just the ones on the test.

“You see a lot of signs, like the flashing digital ones, that talk about icy conditions and road hazards and things like that and none of them are in any other languages. So that could really be a safety issue as well,” Wallingford says.

Opponents argue that it will impede on immigrants’ ability to participate fully in society.

Zahir Ahmed, Executive Director of International Education and Services at Southeast Missouri State University, believes that this will affect those brought in to the U.S. to do specific, highly specialized jobs.

“This country not only brings international students, but also hires, brings warrants to get the top researchers and top people from other countries to come and work in the U.S for the betterment of the country,” Ahmed said.

Ahmed said many of these workers bring their families with them and the change in law will initially make it more difficult for them to carry on their daily lives.

Ahmed went on to say that most of the international students on campus come here with enough fluency of the language to take the test in English.

Matthew Caldwell, KRCU

Dahiya receives lifetime achievement award

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Southeast Missouri State University professor Jai Dahiya recently won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Economic Growth Society of India.

Dahiya has gone to India each December for the past 10 years to speak at the Indian Science Congress conference in Chennai. This December he was surprised to learn that they awarded him the Lifetime Achievement Award and 400 dollars.

"I was totally shaken by that. It was the biggest surprise of my life that these people were keeping," Dahiya said.
He later found out he was chosen because of his involvement in the India Science Congress and due to his membership in many executive committees in India. Over 27 years at Southeast, Dahiya has brought 62 students to Southeast.

He is the associate dean of the College of Science and Mathematics and professor of physics at Southeast Missouri State University.

Rachel Weatherford, KRCU

Campbell to receive "Friend of the University" award

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Harryette Campbell of Sikeston will receive the 2011 “Friend of the University” Award from the Southeast Missouri State University Foundation.

Campbell has made numerous gifts to the university. More than 30 students have received scholarships that she has established.

The H. B. Campbell Memorial Scholarship, in memory of her father, is awarded to female students majoring in agriculture at Southeast’s Sikeston campus.

Campbell has a lifelong interest in archaeology, and she has made numerous gifts to the Department of Foreign Language and Anthropology. The Beckwith Collection’s visible storage area in the River Campus Museum bears Campbell’s name.

Harryette Campbell has also made contributions to the William Shakespeare Circle and the Theatre and Dance Guild.

Campbell will receive the Friend of the University award at an event on February 25 in Bedell Performance Hall.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Initiative petition calls to abolish Missouri's income tax

An initiative petition that would abolish the income tax in Missouri met standards for circulation. Secretary of State Robin Carnahan’s office says that the initiative would eliminate income, earnings, and the current sales tax. They would be replaced by an expanded sales tax. The initiative petition would also establish tax rebates for low income individuals to purchase certain items and prohibit tax credits.

A constitutional chance petition must receive enough signatures to equal eight percent of the total votes cast in the 2008 governor’s election in six of Missouri’s congressional districts.

McCaskill calls for Congressional reform

ST. LOUIS, MO (KRCU) - Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill says Congress needs to play by the same rules as everyone else.

Speaking at her St. Louis office on Sunday, the Democratic Senator unveiled a package of reforms she says will help bring transparency and accountability to Congress.

McCaskill called for creating an independent watchdog for the Senate, and for disclosing details of Congressional foreign travel.

"What is the justification for the travel, what are the costs associated with the travel, who traveled on the trip, what was the itinerary in terms of the purpose of the trip, and how does it relate back to the work of an individual member of Congress or an individual member of Senate," McCaskill said.

McCaskill also called for members of Congress to give 10 percent of their office budgets back to the U.S. Treasury, to help pay down the deficit.

"As we are looking at cuts that should happen in the federal budget, and as we try to squeeze out all the waste and fraud and abuse that we have in the federal government, we need to look at our own offices and see if we can't save money," she said.

Over the past 4 years, McCaskill says her office has returned over 1.6 million dollars.

Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Public forum yields strong emotions towards "Puppy Mill" law

State Senator Jason Crowell addresses constituent concerns about the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act.

JACKSON, MO (KRCU) - Emotions and concerns ran high at a public forum held Friday evening regarding the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act. 
Over 40 people attended the public forum held Friday evening at the MU Extension Office in Jackson.
Representative Donna Lichtenegger and Senator Jason Crowell hosted the forum to allow concerned citizens from both sides of the issue to come forward, ask questions, and voice their opinions.

Aside from hearing comments and concerns from alarmed citizens, the legislators also used the forum to highlight several bills that have been proposed to amend the law. Nine laws have been introduced during the 2011 legislative session regarding the law. They range from a complete repeal to minimal modifications.

The wording and terminology of the law were the main focus of the forum.

Senator Crowell discussed the big issue of what the word “domesticated” covers as it is written in the law.

“As soon as you put a cow in a fence, is that cow domesticated? As soon as you put a pig in a fence, is that pig domesticated? As soon as you put a horse in a fence, is that horse domesticated?,” Crowell rhetorically asked. “Wild versus domesticated. And that term that was in Prop B has caused the alarm of, is this greater than just dog breeders or is it all livestock?”

This terminology will be challenged further as the law is currently being looked at by both the Senate and the House in hopes of amending it before the law goes into effect on November 2nd of this year.

Crowell voiced his opinion that he is in favor of a complete repeal but was open to some compromise.

“I’m willing to look at some help to really focus on the bad actors, I just think Prop B was focused on the legitimate, honest, hard working Missourians out there that happen to be dog breeders,” Crowell said.

Lawmakers are hoping to have amendments in place before the law goes into effect on November 2nd of this year.

The Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act passed as a ballot initiative last November. It sets limits on the number of breeding females that a dog breeder can have at any given time and establishes standards of care for dogs in breeding facilities.

Katie Long, KRCU

Friday, February 18, 2011

Operation Jump Start receives $154K DRA grant; Governor visits Jackson High School

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Missouri Governor Jay Nixon paid a visit to Southeast Missouri on Friday … and brought with him some good news for entrepreneurs and students.

The governor visited Southeast Missouri State University in the morning to announce a new Delta Regional Authority grant for the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s Operation Jump Start program. The grant totals $154,000.

Operation Jump Start is a training program for aspiring entrepreneurs. Since its inception in 2006, the program has provided training for 550 individuals and created 200 small businesses and 350 jobs, according to Southeast Missouri State University.

At the press conference, Governor Nixon lauded the program’s results and encouraged entrepreneurs to seek Operation Jump Start training.

“Operation Jump Start has provided an irreplaceable bridge to entrepreneurship and successful businesses and we’re going to continue to do what we can to continue to use this as a model not only here but in our entire region, and in the entire Delta area and in the state of Missouri,” Nixon said.

The Delta Regional Authority grant will be used to start new training programs in Marble Hill, Ironton, Sikeston, and one still-to-be-decided Bootheel region.

Dr. James Stapleton, the executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, says that Operation Jump Start was created as a way to help disadvantaged, low income, and unemployed individuals develop their own businesses.

All participants prepare a business model, and through a competitive process, the best plans win up to $5000 in start-up grants.

Since its beginning, graduates have gone on to start a wide range of small business ventures.

“We recently talked to a graduate from four years ago that started a car war company that actually manufactures or builds the car washes that we see oftentimes in our neighborhoods. Now they are going statewide,” Stapleton said.” And then there are lots of very small businesses as well. Day cares, salons, and just about every retail business you could think about.”

Stacey Gallaher graduated from Operation Jump Start in 2006. She now owns MB Medical Reimbursement, providing medical billing services for physicians’ office. Gallaher’s business is housed in the small business incubator. She now has three employees now working for her.

“I knew how to do the billing, but I wasn’t aware of what all went in to payroll taxes or a business plan or what banks look at whenever you’re getting a loan for starting up a business. It gave me a lot of confidence and knowledge in that,” Gallaher said.

Asked if she could ever work for a boss again, Gallaher firmly responded, “No.”

“I don’t think I would. I don’t think I could do it. Me and the girls joke about that a lot,” Gallaher said. “I don’t think I could do it.”

The governor later went to Jackson to applaud the school for becoming an A+ school and to lay out his plan for an overhaul of A+ scholarship program.

The governor’s proposal would make A+ scholarships available to student who meet certain requirement yet do not attend A+ schools. At the onset, Nixon wants to target students from families who earn less than $55,000 per year.

“While we continue to push all the schools to get A+, we want to start especially with the students who are in very challenged environments, who have very challenged economic status, and take that sliver. If those students are able to perform at the A+ level in those schools while they are attempting to get that certification, it’s my view that they should be eligible to get that A+ program during that time frame,” Nixon said.

Nixon has already set aside $1 million in his budget for the proposal, so he claims that funding should not be an issue if it successfully navigates the General Assembly.

“That investment, our statistics show, will allow us to expand access to more than 700 high achieving students next year. And that will be a tremendous return on investment for students that couldn’t afford to move forward but for that help,” the governor said.

School requirements for the A+ program include satisfactory grades, attendance of 95 percent, excellent citizenship, and at least 50 hours of tutoring or mentoring.

Jackson was certified as an A+ school at the end of the last school year.

Jacob McCleland, Katie Long, and Rachel Weatherford - KRCU

Opposition to "puppy mill" law remains strong

JACKSON, MO (KRCU) - The debate over the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act is not quite over. Even though Missouri voters narrowly approved the proposition last November, lawmakers are scurrying to introduce bills to repeal or amend the law.

Representative Donna Lichtenegger thinks that the proposition campaign was deceptive and that voters confused the Humane Society of the United States with the local animal shelters that bear the same name. Lichtenegger says that the Humane Society of the United States is an extremist outside group that is dedicated to changing animal agriculture.

“There have been indications that they are going to come out against other farm animals within our state. And we are one of the top ag states in the country. We’re fighting for our rights here,” Lichtenegger said.

The Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act sets limits on the number of breeding females that a dog breeder can have at any given time and establishes standards of care for dogs in breeding facilities.

Lichtenegger will hold a town hall meeting about the law tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the University of Missouri Extension in Jackson.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Hospitals continue to work towards electronic records

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Both of Southeast Missouri's largest hospitals are working to complete their conversions to electronic medical record.

St. Francis Medical Center's $11.8 million conversion is expected to enter the final phase by 2012. Despite government incentives, the center expects to lose approximately $4.6 million.

Diane Smith, director of Information Systems, says St. Francis is initiating a program called Healthy Connect to safeguard privacy. It provides an information exchange between healthcare providers. It also allows for private communication. Healthy Connect is powered by a central server, unlike public email.

"It adds another layer of protection and security that patients will receive some comfort in so far as thinking that their records will be public and out on the Internet," Smith said.

Patients won’t have to list off their medical history each visit. Instead it will be available to other healthcare providers through the system.

Southeast HEALTH has been making the switch for several years as well.

The estimated cost for the entire project is around $15 million. While several physician’s offices have already gone electronic, the hospital expects to be completely electronic by mid-2013.

Southeast Health is addressing concerns by providing safety measures for patients, according to Jay McGuire, director of Information Systems at Southeast HEALTH.

“We’ve instituted a very robust auditing system so we can find out who accessed a record, date and time they did, so we can backtrack and find out should there be a breech," McGuire said.

The process will allow staff quicker access to medical records, and eventually provide a patient portal. McGuire says the system is more efficient and will help ease the storage crunch caused by paper records.

Rachel Weatherford, KRCU

Thursday, February 17, 2011

No contract extension for Pujols and Cardinals

First basemen Albert Pujols is entering his eleventh season as a St. Louis Cardinal … and now, it’s looking like it could be his last. 

The Cardinals and Pujols failed to come to terms for a contract extension, clearing the way for Pujols to become a free agent at the end of the year.

But, might there still be time to reach a deal?

Matthew Leach writes about the Cardinals for He says that Cardinals ownership may be waiting for Pujols to reach free agency in order to let the market establish itself.

"The team has been very tight-lipped and they haven’t actually divulged what their strategy is," Leach said. "But sort of reading tea leaves and sort of putting two and two together and trying to get a read on what’s going on here, I think there’s a distinct possibility that to some extent they are calling a bluff here. And they’re saying, 'If that’s what you think you can get, tell you what, find out if that’s what you can get.'"

Pujols, who is 31 years old, is reportedly looking for a 10-year deal that would make him the game’s highest-paid player. The Cardinals are leery of a contract that would keep Pujols through his 41st birthday. Few players in the testing era continue to perform at a high level after their mid-thirties.

Adam Allington, St. Louis Public Radio

Senator Blunt will vote “No” on Essential Air Amendment

Senator Roy Blunt announced on Wednesday that he will not vote for the Essential Air Service Amendment proposed by Senator John McCain.

The Essential Air Service program currently provides a guarantee to rural areas that at least a minimal level of scheduled air services will be provided, regardless of whether it is profitable or not.

If passed, the amendment will cut most of the $200 million program and effectively eliminate most small rural airports.

Senator Blunt voiced his concerns regarding the effect such cuts could have on local airports and jobs.

"It’s actually one of the few areas where some government money produces lots of private sector jobs," Blunt said. "It makes the difference in whether jobs at airports in Joplin, Kirksville, Cape Girardeau, and Columbia have air service or not."

The bill was approved by a House committee on Wednesday but has not been voted on by the Senate.

Katie Long, KRCU

McCaskill sounds off on budget cuts, Egypt

In a telephone conference call Thursday, Senator Claire McCaskill stated that larger budget cuts need to be utilized for large corporations, such as the oil industry, in order to ease the financial strain on taxpayers.

The Senator also commented positively on the uprisings in Egypt,

"I think it is always good when people want to rise up and feel that incredible lift that freedom gives, and I think that's what happened in Egypt," McCaskill said. "This was a rising up. Good old fashioned people saying 'we want to speak freely and we want to be able to elect our leaders.'"

McCaskill stated that the strong relationship between U.S. and Egyptian militaries is helping U.S. knowledge of overseas events. But it is important for the U.S. military to not intervene, in order to maintain respect for other nations.

Daniel Rohr, KRCU

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cape Girardeau Airport looks at 60 acre expansion and 6 daily flights

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - The Cape Girardeau Airport Advisory Board held a monthly board meeting last night to address several current issues regarding the growing facility.

If approved, 60 acres of land will be added to the northwest portion of the property and the parking lot will undergo construction to accommodate expansion.

With all this growth, national budget cuts could plague the regional airport’s plans. Furthermore, Cape Girardeau Regional Airport manager Bruce Loy still has to convince to FAA to increase the number of daily flights.

"Right now they are showing a budget for us for four round trips a day, but our contention has been that Marion and Quincey are seeing six round trips a day, and we just simply think it's unfair that Cape's not seeing six as well," Loy said.

Air transportation into Cape Girardeau is very important for all aspects of the city's economy, Loy says.

In other matters, board members began planning for the air show in 2012.

Ryan Paluczak, KRCU

EPA responses to Blunt criticism

EPA Regional Administrator Karl Brooks says the government’s lawsuit against Ameren for Clean Air Act violations is justified.

Last month, the EPA sued Ameren Missouri for violations at its Rush Island power plant in Jefferson County.

Senator Roy Blunt was quick to defend the company, charging the EPA with a campaign to penalize all coal-fired power plants.

EPA Regional Administrator Karl Brooks says Ameren made major modifications to its plant without obtaining the necessary permits or adding required pollution controls.

"The government is confident that there were violations of the Clean Air Act and that’s why we initiated the enforcement case against Ameren," Brooks said.

Ameren denies any wrongdoing, saying the modifications were routine maintenance projects that did not increase emissions.

Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

Community Development Block Grant cuts would reverberate at local level

DEXTER, MO (KRCU) - President Barack Obama’s proposed federal budget includes a cut for Community Development Block Grants, or CDBGs. The flexible grants are used to help cities and towns with infrastructure projects, economic development, and safety net programs.

The 7.5% decrease would amount to a reduction of $300 million nationwide. A Republican proposal has included complete elimination of the $4.5 billion Community Development Fund, most of which goes to CDBG grants.

Steve Duke is the executive director for the Bootheel Regional Planning and Economic Development Commission, based in Dexter, Missouri. He says that CDBGs make up about half of his funding formula for projects … ranging from industrial development to waste water treatment to drainage systems. Without them and Rural Development grants, he says he would have few alternatives.

"There’s really no other avenue for funding except for coming out of the city or county treasury. And as we all know, they don’t have a lot reserves built up either," Duke says. "So it basically either stops development or significantly slows it down, anyway."

CDBG funding cuts are also raising concerns in urban areas. St. Louis mayor Francis Slay wrote on his blog that losing CDBG would be “terrible news” for his city.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Musial given President Medal of Freedom

At the White House today, former St. Louis Cardinal great Stan Musial was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama.

The Hall-of-Fame outfielder and first baseman was among 15 recipients of the award, which is the highest national honor that can be bestowed on a civilian. President Obama highlighted Musial’s achievements, calling “Stan the Man” brilliantly talented as well as humble.

“He was the first player to make, get this, $100,000. Even more shocking, he asked for a pay cut when he didn’t perform up to his own expectations. You can imagine that happening today,” Obama said.

“Stan remains to this day an icon, untarnished and a beloved pillar of the community, a gentlemen you’d want your kids to emulate. ‘I hope I’ve given baseball nearly as much as I’ve gotten from it,’ Stan wrote in his memoirs, knocking it out of the park one more time.”

Musial, who turned 90 years old last year, wore his trademark Cardinal red blazer for the ceremony. It was his 14th trip to the White House as guest of a U.S. President.

Among the other recipients of the Medal of Freedom today was poet and author Maya Angelou, who was born in St. Louis.

Bill Raack, St. Louis Public Radio

Historic Preservation students disassemble casino zone homes for class project

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Southeast Historic Preservation students got a rare treat yesterday when they were given the opportunity by Isle of Capri to remove parts of the buildings that are slated for demolition.

Dave Hearns, teacher's assistant for the class, stated the primary focus of this project is to remove windows and sashes for students to take part in a window workshop later on in the semester. Students learned how to properly remove windows and will then be able to work with these windows during the workshop.

"We were able to take the frames we have now and clean the frames and remove the old glazing and points, repoint and reglaze the windows and basically teach them how to work with wooden frame windows," Hearns said.

Hearns and fellow students were allowed to remove not only windows, but flooring, trim, and door frames before the house was to be torn down.

The casino purchased 63 properties in downtown Cape Girardeau that will be torn down this month. The casino has allowed for the buildings to be used in a learning capacity for University students, as well as the local police and fire departments.

Matthew Caldwell, KRCU

Blood supplies low after winter storms

The massive winter storms that pummeled much of country had a devastating effect on Red Cross blood collection efforts. Nationally, 850 blood drives were cancelled and over 32,000 pints of blood were not collected. In the Missouri-Illinois region alone, 73 blood drives were put on hold and 3,400 pints of blood were not donated.

The Red Cross’s Lori Nehring says that January collection numbers were so bad that it set records for futility.

"We hadn’t seen this low of a donation period in any given January in the last 10 years," Nehring says. "So we’re hoping that now that the weather has broke that people are going to start coming out and we’re going to get back to where we need to be regarding our blood supply."
Nehring says that blood drives and donation centers are staying open for extra hours to accommodate more people to give blood throughout the region.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Powell wins OVC Newcomer of the Week award

Photo courtesy of Southeast Missouri State University Athletics
Leon Powell keeps racking up the awards for Southeast Missouri State University’s men’s basketball team. The junior forward from St. Louis won the Ohio Valley Conference Newcomer of the Week Award for the second straight week and for the fourth time this year. 

Powell leads the Redhawks in both scoring and rebounds. He ranks second in the OVC in rebounds per game, and is tied for third in the conference in points per game.

Conservation agents struggle with over-zealous fishing at Rotary Lake

JACKSON, MO (KRCU) - Conservation agents are dealing with anglers who take far more than their fair share of trout from Rotary Lake in Jackson.

The Missouri Department of Conservation and the city of Jackson jointly stock the lake with 1800 trout in November. Trout season began on February 1st.

Agent supervisor Russell Duckworth says that on February 8, an angler was caught with what he calls “a massive over-limit” of trout.

"This is something that goes on fairly frequently at the lake by a few individuals. We’re not exactly sure who that is. But we do get complaints from other anglers that are trying to do the right thing and stay within their limit," Duckworth said. "But they will see people catch and keep more than they are supposed to."

Licensed anglers may keep four trout per day. Even at that rate, the population is greatly diminished within four to six weeks of the beginning of trout season.

Those who pull out more than four fish per day receive a one-hundred dollar fine for the first over-limit fish, plus 15 dollars more for each additional fish, as well as court costs.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Monday, February 14, 2011

FEMA head stresses the importance of earthquake preparedness

Some scientists say risks of another major earthquake from the New Madrid fault are minimal.

But FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate insists the threat to Missouri is real.

Administrator Fugate was a featured speaker at a conference on earthquake preparedness for business and industry last week at Saint Louis University.

Fugate said that getting ready for earthquakes isn’t just government’s responsibility.

“A major player in this is the private sector, and how prepared they are, to get their facilities up and running, to begin those operations again and provide those critical services that will be needed by everybody in the days after an earthquake,” Fugate said.

Fugate said businesses like gas stations, grocery stores, pharmacies, and utility and cell phone companies must be ready to provide services following a disaster.

Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

Friday, February 11, 2011

Report shows low enrollment in science, education, and foreign languages across Missouri

The Missouri Department of Higher Education released a report on academic program reviews. All Missouri universities and colleges conducted reviews of their academic programs

73 programs were deleted from academic programs at four-year universities, including one from Southeast Missouri State University.

The MDHE noted statewide low enrollment in certain education programs, such as Art Education or French Education. MDHE suggests that a statewide assessment of education programs may be in order. But Southeast Missouri State University President Ken Dobbins feels that cutting education programs would be counter-productive.

"It really doesn’t cost us any more to offer a major in Secondary Education: French. So if we eliminate it, the only thing we do is that we might have fewer French teachers in high schools in Southeast Missouri," Dobbins said.

The report suggested that high-priority programs need to improve productivity and attract more students. The MDHE considers science, technology, engineering, mathematics, education, and foreign language training as high priority, but found a pattern of low enrollment in such departments throughout the state.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Roy Blunt speaks to Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce

Senator Roy Blunt is on a tour of Southeast Missouri Chambers of Commerce, including a stop Thursday night in Cape Girardeau. He focused much of the evening slamming the national budget deficit. 

Blunt criticized the federal government for running up an additional 3 trillion dollars in debt in just the last two years, and voiced his concern at this pattern of government spending.

"It's only the government from the local school board to the capital of the United States where you don't care as much as you did the year before because you didn't spend as much money as you did last year. Nobody else feels that way," Blunt said.

Senator Blunt says that he hopes to come up with some budget cuts to help ease deficit spending. He made no specific recommendations except to return spending levels to those that existed in 2008.

Katie Long, KRCU

Ameren's coal-fired plants are a major source of mercury pollution

A new report released today by Environment Missouri suggests coal-fired power plants in Illinois and Missouri are among the largest sources of mercury pollution in the country.

Mercury can cause serious health problems for both wildlife and people who eat contaminated fish.

State advocate for Environment Missouri, Ted Mathys, says four out of five of the top mercury-emitting plants in Missouri belong to Ameren.

"The Ameren Labadie power plant alone emitted 1,297 pounds, ranking it first among Missouri’s plants, and 15th among all 451 power plants analyzed nationally," Mathys says.

In a written statement, Ameren Missouri said it has been "studying mercury control methods" in anticipation of new federal rules.

Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

Thursday, February 10, 2011

New Madrid Seismic Zone may have passed its energy on to other faults

Mian Liu on the site of May 2008 Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan.
A new study suggests that the New Madrid Seismic Zone may not be as active as previously thought.

The study looked at 2,000 years of documented earthquakes in Northern China. Northern China is similar to the Midwest because it sits far from a plate boundary, yet still experiences frequent earthquakes.

It turns out that none of the Northern Chinese fault lines produced more than one earthquake during the 2,000 year period. According to one of the study’s co-authors, Mian Liu, a University of Missouri geosciences professor, the energy seems to move from one fault zone to another to another.

"The faults communicated with each other. Rather than looking at only one fault zone such as the New Madrid Fault Zone just because it produced an earthquake in the past, because if there is anything that we can learn from the Chinese data it’s that the large earthquakes in mid-continent migrate," Mian Liu said.

Following an earthquake, the study suggests that a mid-continental fault zone may pass through an extended period of inactivity. Meanwhile, another fault zone, perhaps 600 or 700 miles away, builds up the energy that produces the next big quake.

The study was published in the journal Lithosphere.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU
Photo courtesy of the University of Missouri

District Judge throws out atheist's case against Bald Knob Cross of Peace

A U.S. district judge has thrown out the lawsuit from Chicago-area atheist Rob Sherman against the Bald Knob Cross of Peace in Alto Pass, Illinois.

Sherman alleged that a state grant to the cross was unconstitutional and violated the separation of church and state. The judge ruled that the state's economic development agency has discretion into how it passes out its money.

Newly appointed cross board president D.W. Presley says they are now waiting to see what Mr. Sherman's next move will be.

"The legal process will allow for Mr. Sherman, just like anybody else, to make an appeal. And we'll wait to see if he does that," Presley said.

Sherman says he does plan to take the case to a federal appellate court.

Presley will preside over the newly appointed cross board that was seated Tuesday night. They replace the outgoing court-appointed board that has overseen the cross for the last two years. Presley's grandfather was one of the founding members of the cross.

Presley says the board already has their first project planned out. 
"The Bald Knob Cross board of directors will continue to work to move the cross forward. Our first plan is to work on getting the funding for the purchase and installation of new lighting for the cross," Presley said.

Ross Wece, WSIU

Southeast students engaged in fate of Reynolds House

Southeast Missouri State University Historic Preservation students are helping decide the fate of the Reynolds House at 623 N. Main Street in Cape Girardeau, which was built in 1857. 

The future of the house, owned by Earl Norman, is currently undecided and students are developing a strategic plan, a historic structure report, and a furnishing plan that may guide the future of the house.

Dr. Joel Rhodes is leading the class, which he believes will strengthen their skills and potentially help not only the students, but Cape Girardeau as well.

"It’s critical to get our students out there and get their hands dirty. It not only puts more tools in their tool box for their future careers, but there are a lot of projects in Cape Girardeau that could really, really use their expertise and the Reynolds House is a perfect storm of circumstances," Rhodes said.

The Isle of Capri casino is set to begin construction across the street from the Reynolds House and have already agreed to help protect the house from demolition.

Dr. Rhodes and fellow faculty member Dr. Steven Hoffman will meet with the design team from the casino on Friday to discuss the future of the historic structure.

The casino is scheduled to open on January 1, 2012.

Matthew Caldwell, KRCU

Roy Blunt concerned about conditions at St. Louis VA hospital

Senator Roy Blunt joined fellow Senators Dick Durbin, Mark Kirk, and Claire McCaskill in signing a letter stating that the latest issues at the John Cochran VA Hospital in St. Louis had seriously concerned them.

The letter came in response to the hospital canceling all surgeries last week after staff found operating equipment with possible contamination.

"I intend to continue to be engaged there. It's amazing to me that this has gone on that long with that many recurring problems. I'm going to be very interested in seeing if we can't get this facility operating the way the veterans deserve for it to be operated," Blunt said.

Representative Russ Carnahan will meet with VA Secretary, Eric Shinseki, this week in hopes of finding a solution to the hospitals problems.

Katie Long, KRCU

U.S. corn reserves at lowest level since 1996

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is reporting that reserves of corn have hit their lowest level in over 15 years. The high demand for corn could put upward pressure on food prices in 2011.

The USDA says demand for corn in the ethanol industry is up 50 million bushels after record-high production in December and January. That has left the United States with the lowest surplus of corn since 1996.

Scott Gerlt is a Crop Analyst with the University of Missouri. He says high corn prices could increase the cost on everything from ethanol to food and feed.

“The corn market is definitely a changing market. With ethanol policy we have a lot more demand and so we are going to have a lot more pressure on prices. Because even though we have a lot of supply there’s just so much demand a lot of that supply is getting used up and we’re just not left with much at the end of the day,” Gerlt says.

Corn prices have already doubled in the last six months, rising from $3.50 a bushel to more than $7 a bushel.

Adam Allington, St. Louis Public Radio

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Link executed in Bonne Terre; death penalty opponents hold vigil in Jackson

47-year old Martin Link was executed this morning in Bonne Terre for the ​the 1991 murder of Elissa Self. Self, just age 11 at the time, went missing after walking to the bus stop. Her body was later found along the banks of the St. Francis River. 

The Interfaith South East Moratorium on Executions held a candlelight vigil at the Cape County Courthouse last night. 

Courtney Kennedy attended the vigil and said, "We just feel that two wrongs don't make a right. We don't want to see two families suffer from the loss of a loved one, although we feel horrible for the Self family, who lost their daughter, Elyssa. We feel that Martin Link's family will be feeling the same pain from what's supposed to happen tonight."

The group has held three vigils, including one for Richard Clay, whose death sentence was commuted to life in prison at the last minute by Governor Jay Nixon. The group says that they are keeping the victims' families in their thoughts.

Ryan Paluczak, KRCU

Chris Koster undecided on health care lawsuit

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster says he should decide within the next two weeks whether or not to join a multi-state lawsuit against last year’s overhaul of the nation’s health care system.

"We continue to work on that. As you know, there are a lot of moving pieces in this and so the research continues," Koster said.

Both the state House and Senate have passed non-binding resolutions asking Koster to follow the wishes of Missouri residents and challenge the constitutionality of the law. A symbolic statewide ballot measure to reject the overhaul passed in August with more than 70 percent of the vote.

Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Francis finishes ER renovation

St. Francis Medical Center welcomed a new addition yesterday -- the second and final phase of its ER renovation expansion that tripled the size of their emergency and trauma center.

Marilyn Curtis, Vice-President of Professional Services, said the hospital needed to build this because they serve around 650,000 people in five states. St. Francis Medical Center is the only designated trauma center between St. Louis and Memphis.

"To be able to provide emergency trauma care to such a large region is very important to St. Francis because we want to meet the needs of the people that we serve," said Curtis.

The number of people the ER can accomadate fluctuates depending on how many people arrive for care, but with the completion of Phase Two they now have 32 treatment rooms for patient care and 30,000 square feet of space.

Work began on the $12 million project in August 2008.

Rachel Weatherford, KRCU

Missouri AG unveils plan to counter domestic violence

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has unveiled his plans to strengthen domestic violence laws in the state.

The 12 recommendations include moving prosecution of repeat abusers to state, rather than municipal courts and giving judges more options for orders of protection.

The changes are budget-neutral, says Colleen Coble , the CEO of the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. And she says they may help relieve the financial burden on social service agencies.

“If we expand the types of protection, we expand those offenses that are arrestable, we will actually have I believe a lesser demand on the need for emergency safe shelter, so we can meet our goal which is, you get to stay safely in your home,” Coble said.

Koster drafted the recommendations based on a series of task force meetings last year. If the General Assembly approves Koster’s proposals, it would be the first update to the laws in 30 years.

Rachel Lippman, St. Louis Public Radio

Treasurer Zweifel announces reduction in MOST administrative fees

Missouri Treasurer Clint Zweifel visited Missouri campuses on Tuesday touting a large reduction in administrative fees for the state's college savings program, known as MOST. 

At his stop at UMKC, Zweifel rattled off the big numbers, percentage points and statistics, emphasizing that the fees would be reduced by 44 percent. But he called for staff help when asked how much that would benefit an individual saver.

"The individual saver will save about 25 basic points," Zweifel said. "It comes to $25 for every ... ten thousand dollars."

Zweiful was focused on the big picture – $18.5 million in savings spread among 113,00 savers – plus a half-million-dollar assistance package... the details of which will be announced at a future Zweifel news conference.

Zweifel was scheduled to appear at a news conference at Southeast Missouri State University today, but ended up canceling his visit to Cape Girardeau.

Steve Bell, KCUR Kansas City

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Secretary of State approves five initiative petitions

Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan announced yesterday that five initiative petitions met criteria for circulation.

One petition would allow for more early voting options, instead of relying purely on absentee ballot voting. It would amend the Missouri Revised Statutes.

Two similar petitions for a constitutional amendment would facilitate early voting and change election procedures by including, “certain procedures relating to voter identification affidavits, voting address updates, and provisional ballots.” All the early voting initiatives were submitted by Matt Cologna of Springfield.

Two petitions would shrink the size of the Missouri House of Representatives from 163 seats to 103 beginning in 2023. According to the petition language, reducing the house by 60 representatives would yield $4.7 million in savings for the state government. The petitions were submitted by Russell Purvis of Kansas City.

In order for constitutional changes to make it to a ballot, they must contain signatures equal to 8% of the number of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election in 6 of Missouri’s Congressional districts. Statutory changes require 5%.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Missouri Land Reclamation Commission grants one hearing, denies the other

The Missouri Land Reclamation Commission made a decision Monday regarding formal hearings for two quarry companies, Strack Excavating and Heartland Materials, who are trying to obtain permits to put quarries in Fruitland.

The Commission granted a formal hearing regarding the permit proposal for Strack Excavating but denied a hearing for the Heartland Materials proposal.

Heartland Materials will now be able to move forward and obtain a mining permit from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Strack Excavating will now have to go through a formal hearing which will mean more in-depth testimony from both Strack and the people of Fruitland.
The decision to grant a hearing for the Strack Excavating quarry proposal came as a response to concerns about proximity to Saxony Lutheran High School and the lack of a buffering zone along the property line of the high school.

The hearing officer can also take into account the company's two notices of violation and two letters of warning that the company has received in the last 10 years. These violations include emissions violations and a failure to submit paperwork.

The hearing will take place in front of an independent hearing officer appointed by Missouri's Administrative Hearing Commission.

Katie Long, KRCU