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.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Nixon visits Nordenia USA, lauds job expansion

JACKSON, MO (KRCU) - Nordenia USA will expand its current plant on Highway 177, as well as build a new manufacturing facility at the Jackson Industrial Park.

Nordenia will hire 50 new employers over three years.

Governor Jay Nixon was at Nordenia on Thursday to make the announcement. He counted the reasons why Nordenia has grown in a competitive environment.

"First of all, our transportation network, here on highway 55, our products can be moved in and out very quickly. Number two is our good business environment. By getting rid of the Franchise Tax it’s lowered the stress, financial stress, the double-taxation there. And I think by the coordinated effort of our state, our city and our county folks working together makes a difference. And finally, the workforce is strong. I mean, Missourians show up early and they stay late," Nixon said.

Nordenia began manufacturing packaging materials 21 years ago with 5 employees. That number has grown to over 400 today.

The expansion will result in $2 million in capital investment.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Union County to get new courthouse

JONESBORO, IL (KRCU) - The years finally caught up with the old Union County Courthouse in Jonesboro, Illinois. After 150 years of service the courthouse is being replaced.

Project manager Mike Smith said that renovating the courthouse would have cost nearly as much as constructing a new building.

"What we find out was that the cost was someplace between $7 and $9 million. That's just for the refurbishment and still wouldn’t necessarily contain all of the ADA requirements," Smith said.

The new courthouse has a construction budget of a little less then $10.5 million. Like its predecessor, it is intended to serve the county for at least one hundred years.

The new three story building will house the new sheriff’s office, four clerks’ offices, a public meeting room, two courtrooms and offices for a judge and the state’s attorney. The new courthouse will be erected right next to the old one.

Smith says the site presents unique design challenges.

"We have an unusual site to deal with, the topography, it’s a steep slope to the north. And there’s four old houses, the old jail, and the old building itself," Smith said.

Construction will begin in September.

Tim Filla, KRCU

Nixon expects results from special session

JACKSON, MO (KRCU) - Governor Jay Nixon says that he is confident that the Missouri General Assembly will accomplish a long list of overdue business when it reconvenes for a special session in September.

The legislature will take up an economic development bill and a bill to invest in scientific and high-tech industries.

Nixon said that the General Assembly will also work on natural disaster relief and moving Missouri’s Presidential primary date.

He thinks that these items should all pass during the special session.

"Most of these measures, other than the disaster stuff, have been worked on by the legislature for a couple of years. The Science Reinvestment Act bill has been worked on for a couple of years. I think it’s now in a place that it can pass. Most of them have had votes in either the House or the Senate. So we’re not talking about starting over. And I think that’s one of the advantages we have," Nixon said.

Nixon described the special session’s legislative agenda as items “that didn’t quite get done at the end of the last session.”

No date is set for the September session.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Cape neighborhoods prepare themselves with "Nuisance Party" law

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - School is drawing near and some Cape Girardeau residents are bracing themselves for the return of college parties.

They are hoping a new ordinance will help keep the parties in check.

Lieutenant Rick Price of the Cape Girardeau Police Department helped facilitate an informational meeting Thursday night. He hopes the law will help create better neighbors and better neighborhoods.

"They are actually living in fear, these older people that they may have a house next to, it becomes vacant somebody buys it and turns it into rental property. And then several people move-in and have wild parties, and these people can’t sleep. And hopefully this will take care of it to where the college students and the community of Cape Girardeau can live in harmony," Lt. Price said.

Among other things it allows the police to cite party hosts if parties are not dispersed after they are ordered to so.

Despite working feverishly for two year to get the ordinance passed, Dr. Linda Heitman hopes the ordinance will not be needed.

"We are hoping it does not, were hoping it will serve a purpose and it will never have to be used because people will behave appropriately and will respect the people of their neighborhoods," Dr. Heitman said.

Thursday's meeting was intended to help people better understand how to file a nuisance party complaint.

The ordinance, dubbed the "Nuisance Party Ordinance," was passed on June 20 by the City Council.

Tim Filla, KRCU

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Musician Dan Peek dies in Farmington

One of the founding members of the 1970’s group America has died.

Dan Peek passed away this Sunday morning at his home in Farmington. He was 60 years old.

Peek rose to stardom as one of the vocalists and multi-instrumentalists in the band America, which scored big hits with songs like “Horse With No Name,” “Sister Golden Hair” and “Ventura Highway.” Peek left the group in 1977 and moved to Farmington, where he had briefly lived during his childhood. There, he embarked on a career in the growing contemporary Christian music scene.

Peek’s funeral will be Monday at the Farmington Presbyterian Church.

McCaskill and Blunt look for compromise on debt

Both of Missouri’s Senators view compromise as the only viable solution to the debt ceiling debate.

Republican Senator Roy Blunt says that Republicans will raise the debt limit but Democrats and the President need to accept substantial long term cuts in spending.

Nevertheless he feels that the Republicans will not get the amount of spending cuts they hope for.

"We are not in an environment, not in a moment where one political party is going to get to have the solution that they would most like," Blunt said. "The President is not going to get tax increases, Republicans aren’t going to get spending cuts back to the level of 30 months ago."

Fellow Missouri Senator, Democrat Claire McCaskill, also champions compromise. But she feels that Republicans are not serious about a deal.

"Nobody wants to give up any of the money," McCaskill said. "Everybody wants us to cut spending, my conference room is full everyday of people coming from Missouri saying, ‘don’t cut me’ And that’s were we have got to have some discipline, we’ve got to learn to say no, we’ve go to learn… and if we cant start with the low hanging fruit, which has to be big oil, how serious can take these guys."

Tim Filla, KRCU

Former museum director Marjorie Thompson dies

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Cape Girardeau lost a leader in historic preservation on Monday.

Marjorie Thompson passed away Thursday morning at her home in Cape Girardeau. She was 86 years old.

Thompson worked tirelessly both as the director of the Cape River Heritage Museum as well as on its board and a volunteer. In addition, she was engaged a multitude of civic organizations.

She also restored and gave tours of her family’s home, known as the Longview House.

Friend and Museum Board member Bonnie Stepanoff says that Marge Thompson’s energy and passion was contagious. She also brought keen business sense.

"Sometimes people are interested in museums but they don’t really have a sense of how to pay the bills and bring in funds. Marge came from a business background she worked with her husband on their business. So she had a good sense of how to do that," Stepanoff said. "But she never let that take over. It was always fun. It was always about having fun and laughing and joking."

There will be a visitation service for Marge Thompson on Thursday at Ford and Sons Mount Auburn Chapel from 4:00 to 6:00. Her funeral will be Friday at Lorimer Cemetery.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Blunt and McCaskill concerned over Post Office closings

The U.S. Postal Service is scrutinizing 3700 post offices for possible closure. 167 are in Missouri … and many are located in small, rural towns. This action concerns Missouri’s Senate delegation.

Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill and Republican Senator Roy Blunt both say they do not fully understand the Postal Service’s process to determine which offices will close.

McCaskill said the Senators composed a letter requesting more details.

“We’re going to work very hard to make sure this is fair, and that it doesn’t harm these small communities,” McCaskill said.

Senator Blunt said that a post office provides small towns with a civic focal point.

“Many of those communities, the post office is the last identity they have,” Blunt said.

The U.S. Postal Service is examining several Southeast Missouri post offices including Blodgett, Brownwood, Daisy, Dutchtown, Gipsy, Old Appleton, Perkins, Sturdivant, Vanduser and Whitewater.

Tim Filla, KRCU

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sikeston entrepreneur enters race for Mo. House

SIKESTON, MO (KRCU) - A Sikeston entrepreneur entered the ring to take Ellen Brandom’s place in the Missouri House of Representatives. Holly Rehder will seek the Republican nomination in Missouri’s 160th District, which covers New Madrid, Scott and parts of Cape Girardeau County.

Rehder owns and runs Integrity Communication with her husband in Sikeston. She thinks her business experience will be an asset in the General Assembly.

"We all know that small business is the engine of our economy and right now the economy is what needs to be focused on," Rehder said. "And when we have, you know, certain lawmakers who don’t mind putting more regulation and more regulation on the back of small businesses, it’s just crushing us. And I think we need more people who have more skin in the game who don’t mind to stand there and fight and hold the line."

Rehder has also served as a staffer for Jo Ann Emerson. She says that she holds Emerson and Ellen Brandom as political models and mentors.

Brandom is seeking to replace Jason Crowell in Missouri Senate. Crowell cannot run again due to term limits, though he is considering a run for state-wide office.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Mineral Area College to host Ag Energy Conference

PARK HILLS, MO (KRCU) - Mineral Area College will host a free Agriculture Energy Day on Thursday, August 4.

The field day will focus on energy production, opportunity and savings.

Topics will include energy efficiency on livestock farms, grant and loan opportunities, and sustainable wood energy using cottonwood and willow.

Conference organizer Van Ayers from the University of Missouri Extention in Bloomfield says the conference should appeal to a wide variety of interests.

“Farmers, entrepreneurs, people that are interested in policy I think should attend, especially those that are interested in energy policy would have an interest in attending this field day. Definitely people such as myself, you know, that are involved in education. I think it would be a good place to pick up some additional information,” Ayers said.

Mineral Area College’s facilities for its new Renewable Energy Technology program will also be on display. These include biomass production plots, a wind turbine, a solar power array and an ethanol production system.

Registration is available at the Mineral Area College website.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

U.S. Postal Service looks at closing 167 Missouri offices

The U.S. Postal Service released a list Tuesday of nearly 3,700 post offices across the nation that will be studied to determine whether they should be closed. 167 Missouri offices are on the chopping block. Most are offices in small towns.

Spokeswoman for the postal service's St. Louis District Valerie Welsch says the move aims to help the Postal Service grow and adapt to the changing times.

"The postal service wants to be everywhere so our customers can be anywhere," Welsch said. "With technology today customers have a variety of choices and the postal services wants to be there, be one of those choices, so we can continue to provide service to Americans."

Welsch says the study will, among other things, examine revenues and impact to communities. She says the communities that lose their post offices will likely have the option of getting a “village post office,” at a grocery store or other business, where stamps could be sold and mail could be dropped off.

In the meantime, postmasters at some of the local offices on the list, whose jobs may be at stake, directed all comments to Welsch.

Southeast Missouri post offices under examination are Blodgett, Brownwood, Daisy, Dutchtown, Gipsy, Old Appleton, Perkins, Sturdivant, Vanduser and Whitewater.

Ryan Famuliner, KBIA and Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cape Girardeau unveils Shawnee Sports Complex Expansion

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Cape Girardeau’s Parks and Recreation Department unveiled the $2.4 million expansion to its Shawnee Sports Complex Monday morning.

The expansion boasts two new fields for soccer and football, three additional fields for baseball and softball, and two new concession stands.

The new facilities will expand the complex capacity by 50%.

The project is the last in a series of Parks and Recreation improvements that were approved and funded by voters in 2008 in the form of a park and storm water tax.

Recreation Division Manager Scott Williams says that the city anticipated that it would take 5 years to complete all the projects. Instead they finished two years ahead of schedule.

"As we got in to it, we were having better success moving forward," Williams said. "More people wanted their projects done so as long as time and effort was there and as long as we could do it the right way we were fine with that and we just went ahead and did it and we were very happy with how it’s turned out."

Williams says the city now has the capacity to attract state and national sporting tournaments.

Convention and Visitor’s Bureau executive director Chuck Martin says that sports tournaments reverberate throughout the community.

"Anytime you hold a tournament, it typically fills our hotels. Those folks are eating in our restaurants, they’re shopping in our shops. They’re filling up their cars with gasoline while in the community," Martin said. "So it definitely has a very dramatic economic impact."

Cape Girardeau already scheduled a pair of high school championships. The Missouri State High School Activities Association will hold its high school volleyball championship in Cape Girardeau's Show Me Center for four years straight beginning next year. Additionally, Dalhousie will host the Missouri High School Golf Championship.

Martin adds that these Missouri State High School Activities Association championships are the first in southeast Missouri in 75 years.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Southeast Missouri roads buckle from heat

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - The Missouri Department of Transportation, or MODOT, is reporting 30 to 35 cases of road buckling due to sweltering heat in its Southeast region.

The damage, known as blow-ups, is caused by the expansion of concrete in the intense summer heat.

Maintenance superintendent Keith Gentry says his crews are working to fix the problems.

“They can still pass over it unless they get real rough or something like that. We’ll go in and push some jackhammers and bust it up. We’ll put some coal mix in there for a temporary patch and then we’ll come back and fix it later on then with a permanent repair,” Gentry said.

Gentry says blow-ups have been pretty widespread throughout the region. Some have occurred on the Interstates and on Highways 60 and 25.

He says this summer has not brought more buckled roads than an average summer.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

SLU conference investigates criminal deaths, forensic science

ST. LOUIS, MO (ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO) - Saint Louis University is hosting a conference this week on advances in criminal death investigation and forensic science.

Conference organizer and SLU pathologist Dr. Mary Case is the chief medical examiner for St. Charles, Jefferson, and Franklin counties. Case says that this year, the biennial event has drawn about 200 participants from across the country.

She says they’re here to learn about the latest methods for investigating homicides and other suspicious deaths. “These are people primarily that work in medical examiner and coroner offices, as what we call death investigators. We have some doctors, we have some lawyers, we have some nurses…”

The four-day conference will cover how to carry out death investigations in a wide range of circumstances, including cases of child abuse, drug overdose, and battlefield fatalities.

Case says one popular conference speaker is poison expert John Trestrail. She says these days, cases are of criminal poisoning are rare, but they do happen.

“And he’s going to talk to us about what kinds of poisons are used, how those cases are detected, and how they’ve been handled in the court. Sometimes he actually brings along a little sample box that has a bunch of very deadly kinds of poisons and he kind of passes it around.”

Case adds that those poisons are safely contained in small, tightly-sealed vials.

Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

Monday, July 25, 2011

Slight reprieve from the heat

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Somewhat cooler temperatures are in store for us this week, though it’s pretty safe to say that we can keep the ear muffs and mittens in mothballs for the time being.

Meteorologist Chris Noles with the National Weather Service in Paducah says that the upper level high that has resulted in extreme heat and humidity throughout the region has moved to the west.

“So we’re getting a little bit of a reprieve from the heat and humidity, although it’s not saying much because we’ll still have highs for the next couple of days in the lower 90s and heat index values will still push 100. But thankfully we won’t see values as high as 110, 115 like we experienced last week,” Noles said.

The region is no longer under the heat dome, according to Noles. However, he cautions that we will return to the heat dome by mid-week … and more Extreme Heat Advisories are possible.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Missouri has 4th highest Amish population growth rate

Missouri’s Amish population grew by nearly 15% between 2009 and 2011. That makes Missouri one of the fastest growing Amish states in the country.

Missouri may not be Pennsylvania, Ohio or Indiana … but the Amish growth rate here far outpaces any of those traditional Amish hotspots.

The reason, is real estate. It can cost two and half million dollars for a young Amish family to buy a farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, according to Dr. Donald Kraybill, at Elizabethtown College.

"It’s a lot easier to go into small business and make a much smaller investment. Or go to Missouri and maybe you can buy two or three farms for a million and a half," Kraybill said.

The population jumped from 8700 Amish to over 10,000 in just two years. And Kraybill says that number will continue to grow.

"The Amish are coming," Kraybill jokes. "You better go into the horse business and buy and sell horse. Anyway, they are on their way."

Missouri’s Amish growth rate is the 4th highest in the United States.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Teachers brings nature into the classroom

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Educators spent two days at the Cape Girardeau Nature Center last week to learn about incorporating nature into the curriculum.

The program is part of the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Discover Nature program.

Education Consultant Bridget Jackson says that one of the project’s goals is to teach students about Missouri’s different habitats.

“Another goal that is equally important is to get the kids outside. These curriculums are designed in such a way that teachers are taking kids outdoors to learn,” Jackson said.

The program is designed for elementary, junior high and high school classes. Ten teachers took part in last week’s workshop, coming from Southeast Missouri and the St. Louis area.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

SLU to study effects of air pollution on pregnant women in China

ST. LOUIS, MO (ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO) - The Saint Louis University School of Public Health is launching a study to look at the effects of urban air pollution on pregnant women in China.

SLU epidemiologist Zhengmin Qian says the research will track the pregnancies of 100,000 women in Wuhan, a city of nine million people in central China.

“We are going to look at the health effects at different pollution levels, from no pollution [to] high pollution,” Qian said.

The goal is to find out whether women exposed to high levels of ozone, particulate matter and other air pollutants during pregnancy are more likely to have babies born prematurely or underweight.

Qian says most research on the health effects of air pollution has been done in the U.S. or Europe, not in developing countries where urban air pollution levels are typically much higher.

The study is being funded by the Chinese government and by the Health Effects Institute, a U.S. non-profit.

Locally, SLU is also participating in the National Children’s Study, which is investigating the effects of pollution on the health of children in the United States.

Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

Friday, July 22, 2011

Nice and cool at Cape Splash; not so much at Farmers Market

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Temperatures peaked in the upper 90’s Thursday and the heat index value soared to 105. That left a lot of people looking for a way to beat the heat.

A popular place to stay cool is Cape Splash. Tyler Propst is a concession manager there. He says weekdays have been much busier at the water park since temperatures spiked into the upper 90's, and people stay right up until 7:00 when the park closes.

"The only thing we've really done differently now is set up soaker hoses on the concrete to the cool people's feet off so people aren't getting blisters and stuff while walking down from the slide or the lazy river to the splash pad and stuff," Propst said.

Wendy Rieger has become a regular at Cape Splash. She has taken her two sons, Jackson and Griffin, to the water each day this week.

"It seems like it would be too hot to come, but it's actually pretty nice," Rieger said. "When you get out here and the wind is blowing and you can get in the shade and get in the water, it's actually quite nice."

Seven-year old Jackson Rieger doesn't seem to be bothered by the heat. He and his five-year old brother Griffin has been keeping cool and enjoying the summer.

"If we don't go to the water park, we usually go somewhere inside. Like maybe we stay at home. Or sometimes we might go to Le Bounce," Jackson said.

"Sometimes since it's the summer, we get to play Wii more at our house, too," according to Griffin.

It's less cool at Cape Girardeau's Farmers Market at Town Plaza on Independence Street. Vendors can bring their own shade in the form of canopies, but the parking lot still absorbs the sun's blistering heat.

But all-in-all, the heat done didn't scare shoppers away from the weekly market, according to Jeanne Brumleve from Cobden. She keeps busy selling her peaches, tomatoes, green beans, cantaloupes, and other fruits and vegetables. Brumleve says that the key to beating the heat is planning ahead.

"A lot of it is you pick early in the morning. As early as you can just so you can get out of the brunt of the summer noon-time heat. And try to stay hydrated, yourself and the vegetables and fruits," she said.

During hot times, Brumeleve says that customers tend to come earlier so they can get their chores done and head back home.

Today isn't going to bring any change. The scorching heat will continue as high temperatures reach 97 degrees and the heat index blasts off to 107.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Express Scripts and Medco Health Solutions announce merger

ST. LOUIS, MO (ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO) - St. Louis-based Express Scripts is buying one of its rivals in the prescription benefit management world.

If approved by shareholders and regulators, the merger with New Jersey-based Medco Health Solutions would create the largest such company in the United States.

Express Scripts’ chief spokesman, Larry Zarin, says size would gives the new firm an edge on reducing health care costs, which he called a priority of the nation and the company.

“Where we are with health care costs, where we are with health care reform, the size of that challenge and the absolute call for new innovate solutions, both structurally and tactically, and we’re going to take on both,” Zarin said.

The companies say they have identified one billion in savings from the merger. Zarin refused to discuss the possibility of layoffs.

Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Heat continues to wilt southeast Missouri

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Stifling hot conditions will continue across the Midwest, making life hard on farmers.

Michael Aide chairs Southeast Missouri State University’s Agriculture Department. He says that hot nights are taking a toll on corn.

"The night times are so warm that we’re losing the photosynthesis we make out during the day," Aide said.

Aide has noticed slower growth in rice and corn. But grain sorghum is thriving.

The wet spring - combined with this summer’s prolonged heat - is a double-whammy for farmers. Many farmers were late to get their crops in the ground, and now the plants are not as developed as they should be.

"Whenever the soils are very wet, when the plants are emerging and beginning to grow, they won’t put down deep roots," Aide said. "They’ll say shallow-rooted. Because of that, we’re paying the price now. The roots systems aren’t as deep as they ought to be and therefore they’re not looking for the deepoer water that might be underneath that root system."

Meteorologist Chris Noles at the National Weather Service says the spring’s floods are partially to blame for the so-called "heat dome’s" misery. Moist soils exacerbate the heat index by keeping humidity high.

"We have a lot of evapotranspiration going on, unlike last year when we were facing more drought-like conditions," Noles said. "This year’s its greener and we’re having more of this evapotranspiration going on. That’s bringing the humidity up."

Hot conditions and heat index readings north of 100 will continue through Sunday. Noles says that Sunday and Monday may cool down a bit … but only in relative terms.

"We have a frontal system that’s forecast to come in to the area Monday morning, and ahead of it during the day Sunday and again Monday we’ll have more clouds and a chance of showers and thunderstorms. That should bring the temperature down a few degrees."

The National Weather Service continues to run its Excessive Heat Warning through Saturday.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Historic Preservation Committee recommends tradition on Broadway

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - The Broadway Corridor Enhancement Project was presented to Cape Girardeau’s Historic Preservation Committee Wednesday in a public session. It marked another step on the road towards a more beautiful route to downtown Cape Giraradeau.

While the vibe was overwhelmingly positive, issues such as safety and sustainability were still raised by the committee and citizens in attendance such.

David Goncher says the project needs to take into account traffic flow … not only down Broadway but also across it.

However he is still excited about what the project could mean for the downtown district.

"It would approve the aesthetics obviously, but hopefully it will bring small business owners back to Broadway, and give it some, give Broadway some life again," Goncher said.

As for the committee, members were very supportive of the project and they recommend the plan feature more traditional design elements in order to keep in line with Broadway’s many historic buildings.

For KRCU, I’m Tim Filla

McCaskill says "Gang of Six" plan makes sense

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill says the bipartisan “Gang of Six” plan to steer the government away from a first-ever default on its financial obligations makes sense because it helps the deficit and lowers corporate and personal tax rates.

The Democratic Senator attended the meeting on Capitol Hill Tuesday where some 50 senators from both parties were briefed on the plan. McCaskill says most of the senators are excited about the compromise that was presented.

"Now the question is: can we adopt some of those provisions that are in the Gang of Six plan quickly enough to deal with the debt crisis," McCaskill said. "Can we integrate that into, whatever we pass as it relates to the debt crisis, in a way that will reassure enough members that we are gonna get to our debt deficit."

The Gang of Six plan promises almost $4 trillion in deficit cuts, including an immediate 10-year, 500-billion dollar down payment that would come as Congress sets caps on the agency budgets it passes each year.

It also requires an additional $500 billion in cost curbs on federal health care programs, cuts to federal employee pensions, curbs in the growth of military heath care and retirement costs.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said the plan is too complicated to advance before the August 2nd deadline.

Julie Bierach, St. Louis Public Radio

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Homeowners, city officials consider on-street parking restrictions

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Citizens gathered at city hall Tuesday night to give their two-cents about possible changes to on-street parking near the university. Daytime parking restrictions are looking more and more likely.

The streets addressed at the meeting were Normal Avenue from Henderson to West End; Park Avenue; and the stretch of West End from Broadway to Highland Drive.

A parking permit system which requires decals gained traction with citizens. But the city council rejected the idea because it would restrict access to a public thoroughfare.

Those who wanted parking limitations settled on a daytime restriction from around 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

But homeowner Paul Giebler of Park Avenue is weary of such restrictions.

"Well I’ve gotten two tickets because I’ve had people come in to work on my house that are in the drive way and I had to park my car on the street, policemen comes by and I get two parking tickets just like that," Giebler said.

While many seemed to favor daytime limitations, others were upset with people leaving cars overnight.

While the proposals are not final, city manager Scott Meyer says he wants to complete something before classes begin in the end of August.

Tim Filla, KRCU

Southeast Biology professors published in Science

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Two biology professors at Southeast Missouri State University are co-authors of a new article that will appear in this month’s edition of Science.

Allen Gathman and Walt Lilly contributed to the study by figuring out what genes in the genome code for proteases enzymes in a fungus called Serpula lacrymans.

The fungus is common in Europe, where it is causes millions of dollars in damage through wood rot in buildings.

Allen Gathman says the study is important for controlling the fungus and it opens the door for practical applications.

"By looking at the genes, if you can figure out what the enzymes are that are responsible for degrading cellulose ... degrading the important structural components of the wood ... then you might be able to come up with ways to control or reduce the ability of the fungus to produce those enzymes," Gathman said. "You might come up with ways to control them."

Walt Lilly says that the fungus is unique because it can transport materials for several meters across its body.

"The thing is, if you can figure out a way to control that transport, if you can figure out a way to control the growth of the organism, you can figure out a way to stop the decay that it causes," Lilly said.

Due to its wood-decaying properties, the fungus could be useful in producing biofuels.

Lilly and Gathman are two of the article’s 48 authors.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Cape Girardeau won't participate in tax holiday

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Missouri’s annual Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday will take place August 5 through August 7. Several local communities will not participate this year, including Cape Girardeau.

The holiday exempts sales tax on many back-to-school items, such as clothing, computers and school supplies.

Chamber of Commerce Director John Mehner says that consumers will be faced with the choice of buying in Cape Girardeau or purchasing items elsewhere.

"Cape is certainly going to have a ton of options and a ton of places to shop within the city, so there are going to be an awful lot of offerings there regionally that you can’t get some other places," Mehner said. "But for those that are strictly trying to look at dollar amounts, it can make a 3 or 4 percent difference, which if you are buying a computer, that can make a difference."

Cape Girardeau City Council voted not to participate in 2009.

City Attorney Eric Cunningham says it comes down to economics.

"Approximately $60,000 would be lost the City of Cape Girardeau if the city decided to participate in the Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday. And the City Council did not want, in these economic times, to lose that kind of money," Cunningham said.

Even though some communities will not participate, the state’s 4.225% sales tax will still be waived during the Back-to-School Tax Holliday.

Other Southeast Missouri communities chose to opt out, including Farmington, Ironton, Malden, New Madrid and Ste. Genevieve.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cape Girardeau pumps finally shut off

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - The Mississippi River’s water level is finally going down around Cape Girardeau, allowing the city to rest their overworked pumps.

And the people working those pumps are also in need of some desperately needed down time.

Monday afternoon marked the first time in ninety days that the city’s pumping stations on the Mississippi were not running.

According to the city, the pumps did the equivalent work of driving a new car from Cape to New York and back sixty two-times.

City Manager Scott Meyer says that public work officials were forced to prioritize tasks in order to keep flood waters from backing-up into sewers near the river.

“Well for our dedicated employees it’s a great break, they finally get to go home, on their regular shifts and spend time with their families, so it’s a great thing,” Meyer said.

With the pumps off-line, the city will finally have time to perform maintenance on stressed pumps, as well as play catch-up on mowing some public properties and maintenance of several water detention areas.

Tim Filla, KRCU

No correlation between casino and liquor proliferation, Kinnison says

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - A Cape Girardeau Police Department study shows no correlation between the arrival of a casino and the proliferation of businesses selling liquor.

The study looked at three communities with casinos: St. Charles, Booneville and St. Joseph. It also examined Poplar Bluff, which limits the number of its liquor licenses.

Cape Girardeau Police Chief Carl Kinnison says the study’s finding were clear.

“Just because the casino opened within the three communities that we talked to, they did not see a proliferation or growth of other liquor establishments, whether it be a tavern or bar or packaged liquor,” Kinnison said.

Poplar Bluff may even lift its liquor license cap, according to Kinnison.

Councilwoman Deb Tracy requested the Cape PD conduct the study because she was concerned the casino would prompt more businesses to apply for liquor licenses.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Monday, July 18, 2011

No relief from heat this week

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Stifling heat will suffocate the region for the entire week.

The National Weather Service has issued an Excessive Heat Warning through Friday evening for much of the northern KRCU listening area, such as St. Francois, Iron, Ste. Genevieve, and Madison counties. The rest of the KRCU area is in an Excessive Heat Watch.

High temperatures will soar into the mid- to upper- nineties each day this week. Heat indices will shoot towards 110, according to meteorologist Robin Smith with the National Weather Service in Paducah.

“There’s just his huge high pressure system sitting right in the middle of the Midwest. And it’s not going to allow for any significant frontal system or storm system to move over and even get a brief relief to the hot air,” Smith said.

Smith says that an extended period with heat index readings near 110 degrees can take a toll on susceptible individuals such as young children, the elderly, and those that work outside.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Nixon out raises Kinder in 2011's second quarter

(KRCU) - Governor Jay Nixon raised more money during 2011’s second quarter than his most likely Republican rival.

Nixon raised more than $1.4 million between May and June 2011.

Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder brought in $970 thousand during the same time period.

Kinder, a Republican from Cape Girardeau, has not yet announced his candidacy for the governorship, though he is widely expected to run in the 2012 election.

Last week, Republican House Speaker Steve Tilley announced he is running to take Kinder’s spot as the Lieutenant Governor, saying that Kinder is most certainly not going to seek re-election for this current post.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

New project aims to decrease breast cancer deaths in north St. Louis

ST. LOUIS, MO (ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO) - A new project in north St. Louis aims to lower breast cancer death rates for women of color.

Washington University sociologist Sarah Gehlert says even though nationwide, white women are more likely to get breast cancer, black women are about 35 percent more likely to die of the disease.

She says in St. Louis, that number is closer to 60 percent.

Gehlert says she and her project partners want to find out why low-income women in north St. Louis aren't getting the treatment they need - and then do something about it.

"So we're going to first present our findings at town hall meetings on the north side with open microphones for community feedback, and with our partners, try to turn our findings into improvements in the system, so that we can reduce the excess deaths among black women in St. Louis," Gehlert said.

Washington University will work with community organizations and healthcare providers in north St. Louis to develop and implement the project.

Mark Sanford is the executive vice president of the People’s Health Center, one of the north St. Louis healthcare providers working with Wash U on the breast cancer project.

He says researchers will ask women what happened after they were diagnosed with breast cancer, and whether they were able to get treatment.

"It brings the women into it themselves, so the women themselves will let us know that this works, this does not work," Sanford said. "Then we will be able to take that information and roll it up into a cohesive plan that says OK, this is what women are telling us, and this is where change needs to be done."

Sanford believes the project will make it easier for women of color in St. Louis to get the treatment they need.

Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

Friday, July 15, 2011

Harry Potter's last chapter comes to theatres

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Harry Potter fans lined up for hours last night to see the boy wizard’s final movie.

Ten screens brought Harry Potter to over 1200 viewers at the Cape West 14 Cine's midnight screening Friday morning. But getting a ticket was tough; the theatre sold out on Wednesday.

Kate Wayman was among those who stayed up late to get a first glimpse of the last chapter.

"I vividly remember the midnight of Book 4 at Barnes & Noble. We were in line, everybody was like ‘Oh my God, here’s the book!’ and we were like ‘What do you do?’ So we read it and then I think it was after that … it just exploded. The magical explosion of reading and literature. I loved books before, but this was generation changing," Wayman said.

Wehrenberg Vice President of Marketing Kelly Hoskins says that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 will be an unparalleled experience for movie-goers this summer.

"It’s definitely an event," Hoskins said. I can’t say it’s just a film because the people who see Harry Potter and who will see this one, because it’s the last installment of the books, they’ll see it over and over and over again on the big screen, because it’s something you need to experience on the big screen and it’s in 3D."

Critics are praising the film. Metacritic.com gives the final installment of Harry Potter a score of 87 out of 100. Rottentomatoes.com calculates a generous 97 out of 100.

Jonathan Atwood and Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Tilley announces candidacy for Lieutenant Governor

A Southeast Missouri politician announced his candidacy for state-wide office Thursday.

Missouri House Speaker Steve Tilley says he wants to the next Lieutenant Governor.

Tilley, a Republican from Perry County, has served in the Missouri House since 2004. He already has raised over one million dollars for his election campaign.

He says that he has some ideas for how he would like to use the office.

“Some states use their Lieutenant Governor as kind of like an ombudsman for economic development, and I can see myself, if elected, that’s willing to travel out of the state to visit with companies that are thinking about expanding or relocating and explaining why Missouri would be a good choice for them,” Tilley said.

Current Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder, who is also a Republican, is widely expected to run run for Governor in 2012. He has not yet made an official announcement.

“He’s informed me that he’s not going to be running for Lieutenant Governor. You know, most people feel that he’ll be a great candidate for Governor, but that’s a decision he’ll make on his own timetable. And if he does, I’ll certainly be supportive,” Tilley said.

The only Democrat in the race thus far is Becky Plattner from Marshall.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Humane Society takes custody of 70 dogs


ST. LOUIS, MO (ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO) - The Humane Society of Missouri has officially taken custody of more than 70 dogs from a breeder in southwest Missouri. 
Attorney General Chris Koster filed suit against the breeder, Linda Brisco, in June. The dogs, which arrived in St. Louis Thursday, are the first seized under Missouri’s new Canine Cruelty Prevention Act.

Koster says he will prosecute Brisco for the new crime of canine cruelty.

“But we are very pleased that the defendant in question was willing to sign a consent judgment to give the Humane Society the authority to bring these dogs to provide them with the kind of veterinary care, the safe haven that they deserve,” Koster said.

Koster says Brisco was not providing adequate food and water for the dogs, and would routinely use gunshots as a method of euthanasia.

There are currently 12 active investigations into violations of the new law, and Koster says a lawsuit should be filed in one of them next week.

Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio
Photo: Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster (left) with rescued puppies.

Planned Parenthood reacts to new Mo. abortion law

ST. LOUIS, MO (ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO) - Planned Parenthood officials in St. Louis say they’re disappointed with the governor’s decision to allow a bill on late-term abortion to become law.

The legislation, sponsored by Republican lawmakers, prohibits doctors from performing abortions after a fetus is 20 weeks unless the mother’s health is at serious risk.

Paula Gianino is president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri. She says the law will affect women whose pregnancies are in crisis.

“These are wanted pregnancies that have gone wrong, and women deserve to know that their physicians can act fully and freely within the law without any confusion, without any hesitancy,” Gianino said.

Gianino says lawmakers should have focused on prevention and family planning instead of further restricting abortion.

Governor Nixon is allowing the bill to become law without his signature.

The sponsor of the House version, GOP Floor Leader Tim Jones, is happy the bill is becoming law but he says he's disappointed the governor didn't actually sign it.

He added that if he were a Democrat, he would be angered that Nixon, "chose not to take a side."

Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio

Thursday, July 14, 2011

St. Louis plumber sues Ameren

A St. Louis County plumber is taking the utility company Ameren to court. Bob Bishop alleges Ameren terminated his contract after he told the company it was violating environmental laws.

Ken Chackes, a lawyer for the plaintiff, says Bishop has worked as a contractor for Ameren since 2003.

“His contract was terminated because he was reporting to the high officials in the company that Ameren was violating environmental laws and not using licensed plumbers to perform a lot of jobs and essentially was causing dangerous pollutants to get into the environment, endangering Ameren employees and the public” Chackes said.

Chackes says Bishop was working almost exclusively for Ameren when his contract was terminated, and that he is seeking financial compensation.

An Ameren spokesperson said the company cannot comment on pending litigation.

Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

Koster files suit against Joplin landlord for price gouging

JOPLIN, MO (KMSU) - The Missouri Attorney General’s office continues to go after those trying to take advantage of victims of the tornado that tore through Joplin on May 22nd.

Attorney General Chris Koster says his office has filed suit in the Jasper County Circuit Court against a Joplin landlord for price gouging and other violations in the aftermath of the tornado.

Thirteen renters at two apartment complexes owned by David Box Jr. complained that their rent was being increased and that they were given only three days to either pay the difference or be evicted.

Koster says it appears the price increases were directly related to the storm...

"The primary reason that we're here today has to do with significant price increases that appear to us by all indications to have no bearing in his cost structure and are completely related to the storm, and, as long as the governor has the city of Joplin under an emergency declaration, that is considered price gouging by the legislature and by the governor's office," Koster said.

Koster says his office has received around 260 complaints following the Joplin tornado.

Michele Skalicky, KSMU

McCaskill criticizes McConnell's "purely political" plan

ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO - As budget talks continue in Washington, Senator Claire McCaskill is accusing GOP leadership of playing politics during negotiations with the president.

Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, is proposing to give President Obama sweeping power to, in effect, unilaterally increase the nation’s debt limit to avoid a first-ever default on U.S. obligations.

McCaskill, a Democrat, says McConnell’s plan is purely political.

“It is so ridiculous. It is so transparently political that all Mitch McConnell is worried about is whether or not the Republicans can win the Senate next year. And I think it’s unfortunate. It’s very unfortunate.”

Under McConnell’s plan, Obama could request increases of up to 2-point-5 trillion dollars in borrowing authority in three installments over the next year, as long as he simultaneously proposed spending cuts of greater size.

Julie Bierach, St. Louis Public Radio

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Groups look over modern and traditional designs for Broadway

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Various concepts were unveiled at the second public forum for the Broadway Corridor Enhancement Project in Cape Girardeau.

Citizens were presented with two competing designs … one traditional, and one modern.

The first concept features more classic design elements and on street parking along both sides of Broadway stretching from Pacific to Water Street.

Brain Langlois likes the more traditional design elements incorporated in the concept.

“I like the idea of a more traditional historic looking area. If you have it too modern, in ten or fifteen years it’s just going to be passé and dated,” Langlois said.

The second concept features more modern design elements and parking only on the southern side of the avenue. Meanwhile, the northern side would have a large, eighteen foot wide sidewalk.

Galen Smith is one of the many who feel that a larger sidewalk would create a more festive feeling on Broadway.

"Well it looks good overall, I like both options but I like option two the best," Smith said. "I think it just would enhance the walking and pedestrian aspects."

Project Manager Kasey Brunke says that neither of the two concepts are so much designs in themselves but are more concepts grouped together and that everything at the forum was up for change and tweaking.

Tim Filla, KRCU

Heat leaves many seeking relief

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - The high temperature in Cape Girardeau, Missouri tickled 100 degrees Tuesday and oppressive humidity shot the heat index value to 115.

That turns a lot of people into early birds … like Marcus Janzow, who owns a landscaping business.

“It definitely changes your schedule around. Getting out to the job site earlier, it’s still warm, but the sun’s not directly overhead and you can avoid the hottest part of the day,” Janzow said.

John Johnson owns a roofing company here. On days like this, he pulls his workers off the roof between 11:00 a.m. and 2:30 in the afternoon.

"We don’t try to push anybody in the heat. I shut them down," Johnson said. "At 115 heat index … I don’t like my guys working."

But relief is in sight. High temperatures are expected to dip into the lower 90's today.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Blunt hopeful about Missouri River working group

Missouri Senator Roy Blunt is optimistic that the first meeting of the Missouri River working group will bring common ground for both the northern and southern basins of the Missouri river.

The group is spearheaded by Missouri Senators Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt and North Dakota Senators Kent Conrad and John Hoeven.

While Senator Blunt says he is not positive any new plans will come out of the first meeting, he is hopeful the meeting will illustrate a newly formed common ground deposited by the unprecedented flooding.

“And you know, this working group is to see how much work we can do together. And I’m optimistic that will be a significantly different discussion, than the discussions of the past decade of so, on the river,” Blunt said.

Senator Blunt says historically there has been little to no consensus between those states in the northern and southern basins of the river.

However, he is now hopeful the unprecedented flooding in the northern basin will allow them to understand the problems the southern basin incurs every year.

Tim Filla, KRCU

Nixon signs package of legislation impacting disabled Missourians

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has signed into law a package of legislation impacting disabled residents of the state.

The governor calls the measures monumental.

Among other changes, the bills require more accessible parking in new or re-striped lots, including spots for lift vans.

State statutes will be scrubbed of the words mentally retarded and handicapped.

And parents with disabilities can no longer lose custody of their children unless officials can prove that the disability puts the child at risk.

Freshman Republican representative Thomas Long, from the Springfield area, fought for that provision.

"We are better as a state when you fully participate," Long said. "And we need everyone in this state participating to the fullest that they can."

Gov. Nixon signed the measures at the headquarters of Paraquad, which is one of the largest organizations dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities live independently.

Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Army Corps of Engineers diverts funds for Mississippi River system repairs

Unless more funding comes their way, the Army Corps of Engineers will have to divert resources away from some projects in order to rebuild the Mississippi River flood control system.

The Corps is currently in the process of prioritizing its projects following this year’s devastating floods.

One of the Corps’ priorities is maintaining the river channel at Kentucky Bend … that western-most parcel of Kentucky that is separated from the rest of the state by the Mississippi River.

Corps spokesperson Bob Anderson says that the river tried to change course there by ripping out a large chunk of the river bank that includes concrete revetment.

"If the river were to change course at that location you would have many millions of dollars worth of navigation improvements that would be lost because the river had changed course," Anderson said. "That would be pretty costly to the American taxpayer and the folks who need a reliable navigation channel."

Other high priority projects include the reconstruction of the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway and multiple repairs at Cairo, Illinois.

The Corps estimates that repairs will cost between one and one-and-half billion dollars.

At this point, 52 million dollars have been transferred from surplus budgets of other projects … but Anderson notes that additional transfers are likely.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Mosquitoes will be annoyance, not public health concern

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Missourians who live near flooded rivers will have to tolerate a bumper crop of mosquitoes throughout the summer. But the mosquitoes will mainly be a nuisance and not a public health concern, according to Dr. Christina Frazier at Southeast Missouri State University.

Pest mosquitoes such as Aedes vexans, or floodwater mosquitoes, lay their eggs at the water’s edge, according to Dr. Frazier.

"And they might sit there for years before they get wetted again," she said. "But then the next time a flood comes along then it will wet every set of eggs that it covers and if you haven’t had flooding for a while and they come along flooding, it will hatch eggs from several years and you’ll get this big bloom of mosquitoes."

They are vicious biters, but they do not transmit disease to humans.

There’s also been a population boom among disease-carrying vector mosquitoes, such as the common house mosquito.

St. Louis County health officials are trapping over a thousand of these little rascals in a single night, and sending them to Dr. Frazier for testing.

She has identified six individual mosquitoes with West Nile Virus, but none with St. Louis encephalitis.

Frazier says … that’s pretty good.

"I’m not overly concerned that we’re going to have a lot of disease this summer. I don’t think people should worry or panic. But there’s difference between worrying and being wise," Dr. Frazier said.

Frazier encourages folks to protect themselves by cleaning up anything that can collect water, wearing insect repellent and avoiding being outside at dusk.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Nixon sign Farm-to-Table bill into law

Missouri cafeterias may soon have more local produce on the menu.

Governor Jay Nixon approved a bill that establishes a Farm-to-Table Advisory Board. The Advisory Board will identify obstacles to marketing locally-grown produce to large facilities such as schools, hospitals, nursing homes and prisons.

Representative Casey Guernsey sponsored the bill in the Missouri House. He says that government regulations should not prevent farmers from placing their food in local facilities.

"That’s just ridiculous in my opinion," Guernsey said. "We all know that fresh grown products and produce are the best and the most nutritious. We shouldn’t be in a situation where we are preventing the people who need this food oftentimes the most from being able to have access to it."

Guernsey says that the current movement that advocates locally grown produce is a great opportunity for rural communities.

"It’s pretty exciting and it also makes sense for smaller producers to be able to market some of their products to an even greater place, but they are just simply unable to do so right now," he said.

The Advisory Board will consist of at least one representative from the University of Missouri Extension, and members of the Departments of Agriculture, Corrections, Economic Development, and Elementary and Secondary Education, as well as the Office of Administration.

The Advisory Board will present their finding to the General Assembly.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Monday, July 11, 2011

Electric car convention planned for Cape Girardeau

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - An electric car convention is coming to the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport between September 21 through September 25.

The convention is geared towards individuals who are converting their standard cars into 100% electric vehicles.

Brian Noto and Jack Rickard are organizing the convention. They convert cars in their shop on Morgan Oak Street in Cape Girardeau and produce online videos to help other conversion enthusiasts.

Jack Rickard says that the convention is all about the do-it-yourself guy in his garage.

“Now these are cars that people are building. This is not a Tesla, or a Leaf, or a Volt. This is like a 1966 Karmann Ghia, a 1960 Bug Eye Sprite,” Rickard said.

Rickard says that improvements in battery technology have allowed him to build electric cars that drive and handle like a standard automobile. Most of the cars in their garage can go about 100 miles on a charge and go from 0 to 60 in 6 seconds.

Rickard and Noto expect about 450 people and 100 electric cars. They will also host electric car motocross and drag races.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

ST. LOUIS, MO (ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO) - The Missouri River Working Group is holding its first meeting on Wednesday to come up with a policy on flood control.

Missouri Senators Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill launched the group with senators from North Dakota to look for ways to improve flood control along the Missouri River.

Senator Blunt says in the past, states in the upper Missouri River basin like North Dakota haven't had much flooding, but after this year, he expects all states along the river to make flood control a top priority.

"I would expect a good attendance from the Senators from Montana right down to Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas, all of whom have been impacted this year by the flooding conditions of the river," Blunt said.

Senators Blunt and McCaskill have also joined Senator John Thune of South Dakota and others to request a hearing on Missouri River flood management with the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Paul Johnston of the Corps' Omaha District says the Corps is open to working with the senators, but that this year's need for flood water storage was unprecedented.

"We got an extraordinary amount of rain in the end of May, followed by the highest runoff in a hundred years, in June," Johnston said. "And that essentially filled the reservoirs and took away our flexibility."

Johnston says to get reservoir levels back down the Corps has had to release record amounts of water down the Missouri River, leading to flooding.

Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri ranks 11th in adult obesity

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - A new study reveals that Missouri now has the 11th highest adult obesity rate in the country.

The report by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust for America’s Health shows that Missouri’s obesity rate struck 30.3%.

Georganne Syler is a registered dietitian and professor at Southeast Missouri State University.

Syler says that Missouri’s increasing belt line is caused by inexpensive high-calorie foods, large serving sizes, and a lack of exercise.

“When I say exercise I don’t mean going to the gym. I mean we don’t walk. We drive through a window to get a soda that might then give us 500 calories rather than even getting out of the car to walk into the store,” Syler says.

Missouri’s children are less likely to be obese. The childhood obesity rate is 13.6%, which ranks 31st in the country.

The report details the growth of obesity rates in the United States over time. Twenty years ago, all states had obesity rates under 15%. Fast forward to 2011 and the lowest obesity rate in the country belongs to Colorado at 19% … which would have ranked as the highest in the country in 1995.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Friday, July 8, 2011

Lawsuit filed against Missouri voter ID initiative

ST. LOUIS, MO (ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO) - A voter ID ballot initiative certified for the November 2012 ballot has sparked a lawsuit from several civil rights groups.

The measure passed the Missouri General Assembly this session and is scheduled to go before voters in November 2012.

It would ask voters to amend the state Constitution and allow lawmakers to enact early voting laws and photo ID requirements.

Denise Lieberman with the Advancement Project, one of the groups bringing the suit, says the summary language does not make that clear.

"While the legislature claims that this measure stands to protect voters, it does just the opposite, it in fact weakens the constitutional protection that’s afforded to the right to vote that’s in our constitution and never advises the voter of that," Lieberman says.

But Senator Bill Stouffer who sponsored the legislation, disagrees.

"It allows voters to decide whether the Missouri legislature can set the guidelines for early voting and photo ID in order to vote. And it’s simple and straightforward in my mind," Stouffer said.

Stouffer, a Republican, says photo IDs are required in many situations like getting on a plane or reserving a hotel room.

The Advancement Project argues it will disenfranchise many voters.

Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio

EPA announces new air pollution limits for coal-fired plants

ST. LOUIS, MO (ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO) - The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced new limits on air pollution from coal-fired power plants.

The rule aims to lower emissions from power plants in 27 states including Missouri and Illinois.

The new rule requires states to reduce power plant emissions that produce soot and smog leading to asthma, heart attacks, and other health problems and improve air quality downwind.

Ameren spokesperson Susan Gallagher says the company is still figuring out what the new regulation means for its eleven coal-fired power plants in Missouri and Illinois.

But she says some Ameren plants have already installed air pollution controls.

"We would believe that we’re at a good baseline to minimize the impact of this rule, but it’s a little different from the proposed rule in that it appears that the EPA has made the final rule more difficult for power plants to comply," Gallagher said.

Missouri Coalition for the Environment director Kathleen Logan Smith says the regulation will keep power plants from exporting their air pollution out of state.

"Because the approach for power plants for decades was if you wanted your pollution to go away you just made your stack taller, so it went further away to the next guy downwind, Logan Smith said. "This is going to address that issue, this is going to help stop that."

According to the EPA, air pollution from Missouri and Illinois can travel as far as Pennsylvania and Texas.

Power plants will need to comply with the new pollution limits starting in January.

Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Liquor license cap not on tap

CAPE GIRARDEA, MO (KRCU) - Cape Girardeau city officials are looking at new ways to issue liquor licenses … but a mandatory cap is not on tap.

Currently, businesses must undergo a background check and maintain a neat and orderly facility.

But assistant city manager Heather Brook says that city council wants a more stringent process.

"The impression I have is most of the City Council seem to be a little hesitant to try to restrict the number or to have to much government interference," Brook said. "But they did seem to really want to look into a way of setting the bar a little bit higher for the impacts that some of these establishments could have on their neighbors and to do a little more research into that."

The topic was brought up at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Council extends Old Town Cape's contract

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Cape Girardeau’s City Council renewed its contract with Old Town Cape.

Old Town Cape is a non-profit organization that works to revitalize the downtown area through historic preservation and economic development.

Executive director Marla Mills says that the new contract has more specific objectives for the coming year.

“Instead of just working on the strategic plan and on the task on that plan, we are going to better prioritize which ones we might work on and identify those that seem the most likely to work on over the next year,” Mills said.

Mills says that those goals will include already-begun plans … such as the Broadway redevelopment project … and continuous plans, such as the development of a community improvement district.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

McCaskill and Blunt on federal debt

Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill is heralding compromise as the solution to the nation’s debt crises.

Senator McCaskill, feels that too many in Congress are attempting to fix the problem with only one method.

She also says that more politicians need to focus more on their work and less on elections and appeasing the “far ends of the political spectrum.”

“There is a very important goal that we are working towards and it is called compromise. I think that way too many people are focused on elections and not focused on solving the problems,” McCaskill said.

Senator McCaskill also stressed the importance of reducing tax breaks allotted to wealthy companies and individuals as part of the solution for the nation’s financial woes.

On the other side of the aisle, Senator Roy Blunt feels that the focus needs to be less upon cooperation and more upon reducing government expenditure.

He believes that the citizens as a whole are paying as much tax as they are willing to and that it is up to the government to cut spending and meet them halfway.

Senator Blunt also says that he is not only opposed to raising tax rates, but that raising rates would not increase funds for the government.

“And I think that the best way to create revenue is to create more tax payers. We ought to be talking about how we can create more private sector jobs, how we can establish and create an environment. Where private sector job creators want to create more tax payers, that’s how you raise revenue,” Blunt said.

Both senators will be members of a senatorial group meeting later this week that will look into and possibly make changes to the current plan of action for dealing with the waters of the Missouri River.

McCaskill says hopefully the states will be able to agree on a policy that makes flood control the Army Corps of Engineers’ main priority.

“It’s not navigation, it’s not irrigation, it’s not wildlife habitation. It is in fact flood control. And we’ve got to make sure that that becomes crystal clear after the difficulties that everyone has faced this year,” McCaskill said.

Historic rainfall and high levels of snowmelt have forced the Army Corps to release record levels of water down the Missouri River causing heavy flooding.

Hydrologists expect the river to remain at flood stage until at least August.

Tim Filla, KRCU and Julie Bierach, St. Louis Public Radio

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cape PD reports few crimes over July 4 weekend

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Cape Girardeau city police officials say that the July 4th holiday did not bring a spike in crime reports.

Between June 27 to July 5, the public filed 99 fireworks complaints to the Cape P-D. 42 of those reported violations came on Independence Day, according to police spokesperson Darin Hickey. In many cases, the individuals using fireworks were doing nothing wrong.

“I would say that’s pretty typical of a Fourth of July weekend and pretty consistent with things we’ve seen in the past,” Hickey said.

In addition, the Cape Girardeau police did not make any alcohol-related arrest during the Fourth of July holiday.

“We definitely don’t want to read too much into the numbers, but it definitely appears to be that it was a good weekend,” Hickey said.

The Cape Girardeau Fire Department also reports no major holiday-related incidents over the weekend.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Missouri revenue up 6% in FY2011

Missouri general revenue collections were up in Fiscal Year 2011, which ended on June 30.

The state took in nearly 6% more in collections as compared to Fiscal Year 2010.

Revenue decreased during each of the previous two fiscal years.

State budget director Linda Luebbering says that much of the uptick is a result of fewer taxpayer refunds.

“Largely people were losing money in the stock market, in simple terms. And as a result of that, they would have owed lower taxes. And so if they paid their taxes based on not taking that into account, we would end up refunding them money because they would have paid more taxes than they needed to,” Luebbering said.

Overall, the state brought in $401 million more than in FY 2010.

Luebbering notes that $150 million of that growth will go towards disaster recovery in Joplin and to flood victims on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Illinois Migrant Council to receive $1.4 million from Dept. of Labor

ANNA, IL (KRCU) - The Illinois Migrant Council will receive 1.4 million dollars from the U.S. Department of Labor for job training and other services.

Pat Sawyer from the Council’s southern and southwest Illinois office in Anna says that the funding will help provide services that enhance migrants’ career opportunities.

“We can provide the training here at the office or we can refer to a college. We take care of the tuition, books, and things like. Whatever is needed so that they can go through their training programs at the college.”

Sawyer says that she serves fewer migrant workers than in the past because many large farm now participate in the H-2A guest worker program.

She says that her work now focuses primarily on youth.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Food prices continue to rise

MURRAY, KY (WKMS) - Kentucky Farm Bureau’s Marketbasket survey shows food costs at an all-time high for the 2nd quarter of 2011.

Each quarter the survey sends volunteers with a list of 40 grocery items around the state to collect price data. The aggregated data provides the average price of food during that quarter.

The new data shows a price increase of 2.2 percent over the same list of items reported in the first quarter of 2011.

Farm Bureau Director of Public Relations Dan Smaldone says that while the rise in costs is complex the price of energy is important.

“The higher prices for gasoline and energy are fueling higher food costs, unfortunately not the other way around. Food is not driving energy costs, energy is driving food costs,” Smaldone said.

Smaldone says in the four decades of this research this marks the highest costs of food that has ever been recorded in the state. USDA forecasts call for a continued rise in costs for the coming quarters.

Chad Lampe, KWMS

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Southeast Missouri State University to defer admissions

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Southeast Missouri State University will defer admission for applicants living outside a 50-mile radius of Cape Girardeau and applying for fall 2011. The admissions deferrals will begin on July 11.

The deferral was announced in light of a larger than anticipated beginning freshman class. On-campus housing is already near capacity.

Assistant vice president for enrollment management/director of admissions Dr. Debbie Below said that while it was not a decision made lightly, it was a decision that had to be made.

“They have beds, and that was the importance of this, making sure that we are meeting the housing requirements and needs and have a good comfortable living environment for those who already have contracts in place,” Dr. Below said.

Students who are not required to live on-campus may continue to apply for the fall semester.

Tim Filla, KRCU

Red Desert, Green Prairie, Blue Sky

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - A new exhibit of western photography will open today at the Rosemary Berkel and Harry L. Crisp the Second Museum at Southeast Missouri State University’s River Campus.

“Red Desert, Green Prairie, Blue Sky: Photographing the West” features landscapes from the Red Desert of Wyoming, the prairie of Central Kansas, and the Llano Estacado of northwest Texas and eastern New Mexico.

Museum director Peter Nguyen says that he was attracted to the exhibit because he thought that it would resonate with people in this area.

“These are newer photographs. Texas Tech actually commissioned six photographers to document the impact of history, culture, and geography of those areas. Basically what they are doing is recording the impact of human settlement on these large, mainly untouched landscapes,” Nguyen said.

The exhibit will be on display through August 14.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Frog hunting season in full swing

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Frog hunting season is now in full swing, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation.

The season began on June 30. It runs through October 30th.

Angela Pierce, a naturalist at the Missouri Department of Conservation, says that there are wide variety of methods for harvesting frogs. These include with a fishing rod, an atalatl, a .22-caliber or smaller rimfire rifle or pistol, or by hand.

Pierce prefers frog gigging.

“You shine a light in their eyes and it dazes them and they stay still and then you can spear them as they are blinded by the light,” Pierce said.

Each hunter is allowed a quota of eight green frogs or bull frogs.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Monday, July 4, 2011

Illinois abolishes death penalty

CARBONDALE, IL (WSIU) - A new law took effect Friday that abolished the death penalty in Illinois.

Southern Illinois attorney Tim Capps of Carbondale was one of the first to join an elite group of trial lawyers in the state who were judged competent to handle death cases.

He says the new law will have a financial impact because the cost of trying murder cases will now fall on individual counties instead of the Capital Litigation Trust Fund.

Capps says it might be a good idea for the state to establish another fund to help counties pay for the cost of these cases.

“In order to have the best and most fair possible, you still have to have experts, you still have to have qualified attorneys. Now all of those safeguards that we been put in to place to protect innocent people from getting on death row … those aren’t going to be available to people who are facing non-death murder cases, which will be everyone who is charged with murder from here on out,”Capps said.

Capps says the average cost of a capital murder case ranges from $500 to $700 thousand, with some costing over a million dollars. He says judges will not allow murder cases to go that high now because counties will have to foot the bill.

The $420 thousand left in the capital litigation trust fund is supposed to go toward counseling for families of murder victims.

Brad Palmer, WSIU

First MLB Latino player debuted 100 years ago

Today is the 100th anniversary of a Latino baseball milestone.

In 1911, Cubans Armando Marsans and Rafael Almeida became the first Latino players for the Cincinnati Reds.

The two are sometimes called the first Latino players in the major leagues, but that depends on how major league is defined. Two other Latino men played professional baseball prior to 1911, but the precise founding date of today’s Major League Baseball is disputed.

In the years before playing for the Reds, Almeida and Marsans played on an all-Cuban team in the Negro Baseball League. Almedia ended his career two years after his debut with the Reds, while Marsans went on to play with three other teams, before ending his career with the New York Yankees. Both players are in the Cuban baseball hall of fame.

Dalton Main, WEKU

St. Joseph officials concerned over flood's economic impact

ST. JOSEPH (KXCV) - Northwest Missouri’s largest city dealing with rising Missouri River flood water is struggling with policy versus potential economic impact.

St. Joseph officials have plans in place for both voluntary and mandatory evacuations but are concerned about clearing out its south-side industrial park area.

City spokeswoman Mary Robertson says forced evacuations of businesses will be case-by-case.

"Given the duration of this long-term event, if we rise to 31 and a half feet, we could stay there for 60 days," Robertson said.

"You might have a business in the south side that is not inundated by water - is not effected by river levels and we want to have them be able to sustain their operations and would want to work. But we would insist they have their own preparations- their own plan- in place, would work with the city, and make sure the city is very comfortable with their plans."

Missouri River levels at St. Joseph are forecast to drop slightly until Tuesday morning.

Kirk Wayman, KXCV

Friday, July 1, 2011

Iowa levee breach helps communities downstream

ROCK PORT, MO (KXCV) - Thursday morning’s levee breach at Percival, Iowa has actually helped flooded communities downstream.

Mark Manchester is the deputy emergency manager at Atchison County in Rock Port, Missouri- about 30 miles south of the levee failure.

He says several communities south of the breach have noticed flood waters dropping.

"The gauge at Nebraska City has dropped 6 to 8 inches in approximately 5 hours and the Brownville gauge hasn’t dropped near that much but you can see it looked like it was starting to turn down a little bit so it’s not going to be a huge break for us but anything that we can get we’ll take right now," Manchester said.

Baring any unexpected rain, flood levels on the Missouri are expected to remain lower than they have been for the next 4 or 5 days.

Kirk Wayman, KXCV

Ground-level ozone standards up in the air

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - The Missouri Department of Natural Resources is awaiting new rules from the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, that will set new standards for ozone emissions.

The EPA standards are currently at 75 parts per billion.

It may now be reduced to anywhere between 65 and 70 parts per billion.

While St. Louis is already non-compliant, the tougher regulations could make a big difference for Missouri counties that are straddling the fence between compliance and non-compliance according to the DNR’s Air Pollution Control Program interim director, Kyra Moore.

“If the standard is lowered to 65 and brings in, I’m just speculating, 10 to 15 other counties, these are people that have never had to deal with this before. And so it would take a lot of outreach by the Department to explain what they need to do, what they can do to help with ozone levels,” Moore said.

Ground-level ozone is a component of smog and affects people with respiratory problems such as asthma. It is caused automobiles, power plants, and factories.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Nixon announced expansion of Partnership for Hope

Governor Jay Nixon announced on Thursday that he plans to expand the Partnership for Hope program to 10 additional Missouri counties.

The program provides assistance for families who have family members with developmental disabilities. The idea is to keep these individuals out of assisted care facilities … and stay at home with loved ones.

Qualified families can receive up to twelve thousand dollars per year in assistance.

Nixon’s spokesperson, Scott Holste, says that Partnership for Hope helps alleviate long waiting lists.

“And often, because of these waiting lists, the services may not be able to be provided or could not be provided until we reach a crisis point and maybe that family member then had to leave home and stay in a state facility for a while,” Holste said.

Through the expansion, Partnership for Hope will be available in Perry, Reynolds, Ste. Genevieve, and Wayne Counties in Southeast Missouri. 300 additional families will be served.

Partnership for Hope is funded at the Federal, State, and County level. Each county’s contribution is matched by the state. The federal portion equals three times that of the county. State funds come from the Missouri Department of Mental Health.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Southeast to defer admissions

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Southeast Missouri State University will defer admission for applicants living outside a 50-mile radius of Cape Girardeau and applying for fall 2011.

Admission deferrals will begin on July 11.

The deferral was announced in light of a larger than anticipated beginning freshman class. On-campus housing is already near capacity.

Students who are not required to live on-campus may continue to apply for the fall semester.

President declares state of emergency in Missouri

President Barack Obama declared that an emergency exists in the State of Missouri on Thursday.

He ordered Federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts in the regions struck by the flooding that has swamped the state since June 1.

The action authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, to coordinate all disaster relief efforts.

Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency.

Emergency protective measures, limited to direct Federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent Federal funding.