Friday, April 29, 2005

Leggett & Platt, the Carthage-based Fortune 500 company bought Foamex International's rubber and felt carpet cushion businesses for $38.5 million, according to wire servicess. Leggett is buying Foamex's rubber manufacturing facility in Cape Girardeau and some of its Newton, N. C. felt manufacturing plant.
La-Z-Boy Incorporated sold its Contract unit to the Lange family, owners of Best Home Furnishings, Inc., for Ferdinand, Ind., according to a filing today with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
La-Z-Boy Contract, founded in 1971, sells seating products for office and health care use, according to the filing.
In a news release, La-Z-Boy CEO Kurt L. Darrow said, “Our expertise, as well as our business model, is centered on providing comfortable and stylish furnishings for the home. We have made a number of changes over the past year to better align ourselves with that model. Our contract business did not have the market position compared to the major office furniture players and was not a large enough component of our overall business to justify our continued corporate focus and resources. This sale enables us to concentrate our efforts more solely on home furnishings which have substantially different dynamics than contract furniture, as well as provide our contract furniture unit and its employees the opportunity to join an organization that is committed to invest and grow this business.”
La-Z-Boy Contract products are mainly manufactured in Leland, Miss. plant. Under terms of the sale, the La-Z-Boy name will continue to be used, according to the news release.
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Empire District Electric Company's Kansas customers will soon see rate increases if the Kansas Corporation Commission approves an annual increase proposal submitted by the company. The increase asked for is 24.64 percent, according to a company news release, or nearly $4.2 million. If approved, the news release said, a residential customer using 750 kilowatt-hours of electricity would pay an additional $15.16.
I am going to go out on a limb and predict that perennial candidate Martin Lindstedt's lawsuit against Missouri Governor Matt Blunt will soon be thrown out of federal court.
Judge Richard Dorr already threatened to throw it out, giving Lindstedt 20 days to show case why the case should not be dismissed.
"Plaintiff is tickled pink to do so," Lindstedt said in documents filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
Lindstedt seemed more than slightly irritated that Judge Dorr removed Blunt as a defendant and replaced him with current Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan. Lindstedt had sued Blunt because he would not allow Lindstedt's nickname, "Mad Dog," to be placed on the gubernatorial primary ballot, and because he would not put a link to Lindstedt website on the state elections webpage.
Lindstedt probably did not curry the court's favor when he repeated a phrase he used in a Nov. 29, 2004, filing in which he said Blunt and his counsel Assistant Attorney General Trevor Bossert "had already screwed the syphilitic whore called Democracy and that they wanted this federal court to have sloppy thirds."
Lindstedt accused Judge Dorr of taking sides and said Dorr had "anointed Blunt's cause with an unholy mixture of judicial Crisco oil and Jergens Lotion.
Racist doctrine found its way into Lindstedt's lawsuit as he wrote that he was fighting on behalf of the "Dual-Seedline-Christian Identity fighting faith and of White Nationalism, far better to simply wage revolutionary civil warfare against the Zionist Occupation Government and its masses of herd animals in order to bring this mighty evil empire, this Babylon, to its knees and chop off its head by means of violence and terrorism."
The Lindstedt railed on about Latino immigrants and Muslims and said "whites (are) becoming second-class citizens in their own country.
Lindstedt asked Judge Dorr to remove Governor Blunt from office, and to replaced him with either State Auditor Claire McCaskill or former Governor Bob Holden.
A 9 a.m. June 15 preliminary hearing in McDonald County Circuit Court is scheduled for Melanie Feagens, who is charged with stealing in connection with the theft of money from the Neosho PTO. The case is being heard in McDonald County on a change of venue from Newton County.
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It didn't take long for new WMBH owner James Hardman to make big changes at WMBH, 1560 AM in Joplin.
I don't know when it changed over, but when I checked out the station on the way home from school today, the ESPN Sports had been replaced by standards. I heard music from Count Basie, Pat Boone, and the Lettermen as I drove home.
That type of format has worked well for AM 1490 in Carthage, but it remains to be seen if the area has enough room for two such stations. (Maybe one of them could try something new and switch to country. No one's doing that.)
Hardman bought the station last week for $1, according to Radio and Records.
Gary Duncan, CEO of Freeman Hospitals, was named Outstanding Citizen of the Year at the annual Joplin Chamber of Commerce Banquet Thursday night at the John Q. Hammons Convention Center.
Other winners at the banquet included:
Small Business of the Year, 1-10 employees- Michael R. LaFerla, D.D.S.
Small Business of the Year, 11-50 employees- Zimmer Radio Group
Small Business of the Year, not-for-profit- Ronald McDonald House
Edmund Albert Bliedung Award- Grace Energy Corporation, PRO 100 Inc. Realtors
Small Industry- Creative Works
Golden Apple K-2- Connie Souza, Martin Luther School
Golden Apple 3-5- David Culbertson, Cecil Floyd Elementary
Golden Apple 6-8- Linda Norwood, Memorial Middle School
Golden Apple- 9-12- Jean Miller, College Heights Christian School
Former Joplin Assistant City Manager Harold McCoy, who recently retired after serving the city for 46 years, was recognized by the Chamber. McCoy said the improvements in Joplin had been a result of a team effort. "It was my privilege to be a part of that."
Bill Gipson ended his year as the Chamber's chairman of the board and handed the gavel over to Karen Lawson who will serve for 2005-2006.
***
One complaint many readers and viewers have about news organizations is that they do stories, then they move on to the next stories, never looking back to see if any changes or improvements have been made, or finding out what happened to the people they wrote about earlier.
That is why last night's KOAM report by Lisa Olliges on a bullying Montgomery County, Kan., judge was especially appreciated. The February report apparently made some changes in the Montgomery County system though, of course, county officials won't admit that any of the changes came because the media spotlight was focused on the outrages.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Though different news organizations have differing thoughts about the advisability of naming rape victims, nearly all of them refrain from doing so in order to protect the victim from any further emotional trauma.
Apparently, this is not the policy at The Lamar Democrat, which, in an article written by Editor Rayma Bekebrock Davis, named a rape victim in a story Wednesday about the conviction of rapist William Bradley King of Lamar in a Kansas trial. Hopefully, this was just an aberration and is not something the Democrat plans on doing on a regular basis.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

This morning's Globe features an editorial against drunk driving, inspired by Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin legislation to increase penalties for drunk drivers charged with manslaughter. The Globe quite rightly points out: "Society needs not only to hold the feet of elected representatives and senators to the political fires over this issue, but also look long and hard at the record of judges and prosecutors who handle DWI cases and sentencing."
Hopefully, the Joplin Globe will do the same thing. The Globe has done some excellent investigative reporting, after the fact, on cases such as that of Neley Milner, the Carterville man who plowed into the Phipps family of Lamar in July 1995, killing their eight-year-old daughter and causing permanent mental and physical damage to two other family members.
In that investigation, the Globe turned up information that Milner had stopped about a dozen times for drunk-driving related offenses, yet was still driving. Milner is behind bars for 40 years, but has anything really changed?
If The Globe is serious, and I have no reason to believe it isn't, it should go through the voting records of state legislators on any issue concerning alcohol. It should also check Missouri Ethics Commission (as well as the equivalent in the other states the newspaper covers) records and find out what legislators have received from alcohol lobbyists.
And check the sentences that are being handed out to habitual drunk drivers. How many deals are being cut with drunk drivers? Readers would like to know.
Why is it that the Globe has never run a story on the Jasper County judge who has restored driving privileges to several people who were charged with drunk-driving related offenses and has had his decisions reversed by the appellate courts...but not until these people have been legally back on the road for months?
Since the readership of this blog has increased about 500 percent since Sept. 29, 2004, I will rerun an item I ran that day, which as far as I know has never been looked into by representatives of any other media source.
(From the Sept. 29, 2004 Turner Report)
The Missouri Court of Appeals for the Southern District ordered the revocation of a Jasper County woman's driving privileges Tuesday, reversing a decision by Jasper County Associate Circuit Court Judge Richard Copeland that gave the woman back her license on a technicality after she refused to take a blood alcohol test.
In the state of Missouri, refusal to take a breath test is automatic grounds for license revocation. This is at least the sixth time over the last several years and the second time in the last eight days that a high court has had to reverse Copeland's decisions to give people who had been arrested for alcohol-related traffic offenses the opportunity to do it again.
The five other sitting Jasper County judges, William Carl Crawford, Jon Dermott, David Dally, Steve Carlton, and Joe Schoeberl, have combined for one such decision. That one was made by Judge Dermott, who only made his decision after it became apparent that it wasn't clear who was driving a car the night in question.
In Missouri, the decision to revoke a driver's license is an administrative decision made by the Department of Revenue. The decision may then be appealed in a civil action at the circuit court level.
The most recent decision revolved around an incident which occurred on May 2, 2003, in Carterville, according to court records. Carterville police officer Ronnie Houdyshell was called to the corner of Main and Hatcher, where residents had said they had seen "an intoxicated person pull up in a vehicle and then slump over."
According to court records, Houdyshell found Ms. Spry sitting on the passenger side of the car, apparently asleep. After another officer arrived, Houdyshell woke the woman up, though it took a while. When Ms. Spry opened the passenger-side of the car, Houdyshell "observed a half-empty bottle of vodka and a beer bottle. Spry appeared to be extremely intoxicated," according to the court decision. Houdyshell had not seen her driving and couldn't tell if the engine was warm, but he saw nothing suggesting there had been another person driving. He asked Ms. Spry how she had gotten there. "She simply replied, 'Me.' "
She was taken to the Carterville Police Department for sobriety tests. According to the court records, she said she had been drinking earlier in the evening, but she did not say how much she had to drink. After the field tests, Houdyshell determined she was drunk and asked her to take a breath test. She was told that refusal to take the test could mean revocation of her license for one year. According to the court record, she started to take the test, but did not give enough of a sample. She tried again, but she "just quit blowing." Houdyshell explained once more what refusal to take the test could mean. "She just quit," Houdyshell said. Houdyshell told Judge Copeland the same information at the revocation hearing, according to the court opinion. Ms. Spry's attorney called no witnesses, but asked Judge Copeland for a directed verdict in Ms. Spry's favor. That's exactly what happened.
In his ruling, Judge Copeland said there was "no probable cause to believe Defendant was driving while intoxicated." As mentioned earlier, this is not the first time the appeals court has had to reverse one of Judge Copeland's decisions. Just eight days ago, the court rejected another of Judge Copeland's decisions.
The Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals Monday backed the Department of Revenue's appeal to Copeland's decision that put Sara Ruth back on the streets.Ms. Ruth's license was revoked for one year after she refused to take a breathalyzer test following a DWI arrest. Ms. Ruth had appealed the Department of Revenue's decision, and after a hearing, Copeland determined that she had been arrested for driving while intoxicated, but had not refused the breathalyzer test and ordered her driving privileges reinstated even though the record clearly contradicted his judgment.
The record, as noted last week in The Turner Report, said that on the evening of May 29, 2003, Captain Jason Wright and Officer Wanda Hembree were on patrol in Joplin. While they were stopped at a traffic light, they saw a Ford Ranger stopped in the right hand lane in front of them. The passenger door was open and someone was leaning out of the car. The officers pulled up behind the car. According to their report, the officer smelled alcohol. They asked the driver if anything was wrong. She said "her friend had too much to drink and was sick." Wright saw vomit inside the car. Wright asked Ms. Ruth if she had been drinking. She said she had been drinking a couple of hours earlier. Wright detected a smell of alcohol coming from Ms. Ruth and wrote that Ms. Ruth's eyes were "watery, bloodshot, and glassy; she was wobbling and staggering; and her speech was slurred." Ms. Ruth had no problem with an eyetracking test, but failed the walk-and-turn test, the report said. A preliminary breath test indicated she was drunk, according to the report, so she was arrested for driving while intoxicated.
When they arrived at the Joplin Police Station, Ms. Ruth was given her Miranda rights, answered some questions, then she said she did not want to answer any more."The records show she was asked to submit to a chemical test of her breath. Hembree determined (Ms. Ruth) refused to submit to the test and noted the refusal" on the report.
At her trial, Ms. Ruth testified that since she had already been given the breathalyzer during the stop, she had asked if she could "have time to think about it" when the second request was made. She said she was never asked and that the officer simply said on the report that she had refused. Based on that testimony, Copeland restored Ms. Ruth's driving privileges. In the appeal, the Department of Revenue said Copeland's decision was wrong because there were reasonable grounds for arresting Ms. Ruth for driving while intoxicated and the record showed she had refused the breathalyzer test.
Under Missouri law, all persons who drive on state highways are "deemed to have consented to a chemical test of their breath."According to the appellate court ruling, "The evidence presented at trial unequivocally shows that (Ms. Ruth) initially refused to submit to the breath test."The appellate court ordered Copeland to reinstate the one-year revocation of Ms. Ruth's license.
On Aug. 29, 2000, Judge Copeland made a similar decision in the case of Paul Riggin, 48, Joplin. According to the court record, in the early morning hours of Dec. 13, 1998, outside a Joplin nightclub, an officer tried to approach Riggin as he got into his car. Riggin waved him off, got into the car, and drove off. When he was stopped, the court opinion said, Riggin "had a strong odor of alcohol," admitted to having had four or five drinks and he failed three field sobriety tests. He also tested positive on a breath test given at the scene.No witnesses were presented at the revocation hearing, only the officer's written report. Judge Copeland ruled that the Director of Revenue had failed to prove the case and restored Riggin's driving privileges.
On July 7, 2000, Judge Copeland restored the driving privileges of Paul Sutton, 59, Joplin. Sutton had been involved in an accident on Dec. 19, 1998, according to court records. Sutton "admitted to ingesting two beers just before the accident." He failed several field sobriety tests and a preliminary breath test indicated "a high level of alcohol was present in his blood."
Riggin consented to another breath test at the station but "failed to give an adequate sample." Despite the officer's testimony, Judge Copeland ruled there was no evidence that Sutton had refused to take the test and put Sutton back on the streets.
The appellate court also overruled Judge Copeland in its Jan. 22, 1999, decision to revoke the driving privileges of Michael S. Delzell. According to court records. on April 6, 1997, a Joplin restaurant manager noticed "a man sitting in the driver's seat of a car in the restaurant parking lot with the engine running." The car had not been there a few minutes earlier, the manager said. It turned out the man had come to the restaurant to pick up his wife, who was a restaurant employee. The only trouble was she had left two hours earlier. The officer who investigated noticed that Delzell appeared to be intoxicated. Delzell failed field sobriety tests. He admitted he had been drinking and driving. When he was taken to the police station, he failed a breath test. But since neither the officer nor the restaurant manager had actually seen Delzell driving, Judge Copeland restored Delzell's driving privileges.
Judge Copeland also restored the driving privileges of Jeffrey Lasley, a decision which was reversed by the appellate court on Oct. 21, 1997. Even though Lasley had failed field sobriety tests and a breath test indicated he had a blood alcohol content of 1.2, Judge Copeland gave Delzell back his license, indicating that the arresting officer had no probable cause to stop Delzell.
Only one time over the past several years has the appellate court backed Judge Copeland in his decision to restore driving privileges. According to court records, the panel on March 6, 2003, allowed Alexandre Kisselev to keep his driver's license. Kisselev, who had only been in the United States since 1997 or 1998, was not "fluent in the English language" according to the court's opinion and may not have understood how to properly take a breath test.
A little commentary on the subject: If the cases in which Judge Copeland restored driving privileges were the only ones in the state, the situation might not be so bad, but as I reported in a series done by The Carthage Press in December 1998, there are other judges in Missouri who make the same kinds of decisions, even under the scrutiny of organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. One St. Louis area judge alone had been reversed 25 times by higher courts for putting drunk drivers back on the streets.If there was a way these judges could be bypassed on drunk driving cases, the situation might not be so bad. Unfortunately, Missouri lawyers know who they are and steer their clients into those oh-so-friendly courtrooms.It doesn't matter how many tough drunk driving laws are passed, or how many tough judges are put on the bench, as long as there are a few who are willing to ignore basic evidence and play Russian roulette with people's lives.
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It should also be mentioned that Judge Copeland has, far and away, the worst record on restoring driving privileges to these type of offenders of any judge in the entire Southern region of Missouri, according to court opinions readily available from the Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals.
Those records are available to representatives of any other media outlet, as well as to members of the general public.
This is information the people need to know.
Missouri Governor Matt Blunt's sister has registered as a lobbyist, according to KYTV-3 in Springfield.
Amy Blunt has registered with the Missouri Ethics Commission to represent Diagnostic Imaging Centers of Kansas City. Brother Andy is also a lobbyist, representing a number of companies, including Phillip Morris and Southwestern Bell (SBC).
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The hit-and-run accident that killed Joplin High School student Jamison Alexander received considerable publicity at the time it happened, and rightfully so. This blog has made every effort to keep up with developments in the case. Earlier today, the results of Travis Wyrick's preliminary hearing were featured. Obviously, I had no detail of what happened in the court. I fully expected to read that in the Thursday morning Joplin Globe.
Apparently, judging from the brief article that will be in the Thursday Globe, Globe editors were either caught off guard by the hearing and didn't know it had taken place until after the fact, or they did not think it was important enough to assign a reporter.
The bare-bones story indicates the Globe information came from the same source I used, the Jasper County Circuit Court information on case.net, plus information from previous Globe stories.
Readers have the right to expect more.
The Webb City businessman facing a federal arson charge in connection with the fire that destroyed his business April 15, will undergo a mental evaluation.
During a hearing today in U. S. District Court in Springfield, Judge James England ordered that Keith McBride, 50, undergo a mental evaluation and recommended that it take place at the United States Center for Medical Prisoners in Springfield.
McBride was arrested after allegedly burning Coin-Op and his Duquesne home. He indicated to officers that he had intended to kill himself, but the gun jammed, according to court records.
Travis Wyrick, 18, Joplin, will stand trial for the hit-and-run accident that ended the life of Joplin High School senior Jamison Alexander in January.
Following a preliminary hearing today in Jasper County Circuit Court, Judge Richard Copeland ruled there was enough evidence to have Wyrick bound over for trial.
Wyrick's next court appearance is scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday, May 2.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Today's Neosho Daily News featured a bombshell...Randy Cope is stepping aside as publisher of the Neosho Daily News and has put former Carthage Press editor Rick Rogers in his place.
Rogers worked with me twice...in 1995 as a part time sports writer, then again beginning in August 1998 as sports editor. The news staff we had during my last 10 months at The Press was the best small newspaper staff I have ever seen. In addition to Rick and me, the staff featured photographer/staff writer Ron Graber, city/courthouse reporter Jo Ellis, formerly of the Joplin Globe, and the best spot news reporter around, John Hacker. (I suppose I shouldn't leave out our young intern Jana Blankenship of Webb City, who did a fine job doing some lifestyles and teen reporting.)
I had already been lucky enough to have two excellent sports editors during my first five years as Press managing editor, in Randee Kaiser and Brian Webster, but Rick took the sports pages to a different level, not only with a literate writing style that meshed pretty well with my own forays at sports writing, but with probably the best sports page layout this area has seen.
Rick and Ron Graber immediately began working on a redesign of the paper, which we unveiled in October 1998 with the issue immediately following the crowning of Kacey Baugh as Carthage Maple Leaf queen.
That staff was responsible for what was probably the greatest accomplishment of any small paper in Missouri in the past 10 years. In the Missouri Press Association's annual Better Newspaper Contest, newspapers compete for the Gold Cup Award. No, we didn't win it, but The Press, with 26 larger newspapers in the daily category, finished third, its highest finish ever, trailing only the Kansas City Star and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Rick picked up awards for sports section and sports writing, but also shared in the first place awards we won in the categories of investigative reporting and community service for our series on drunk driving. Rick not only did the layouts for every part of that week-long series, but also wrote an excellent feature on Scott Hettinger, a Carthage Senior High School graduate, who lost the use of his legs in a drunk driving accident.
I have no idea how Rick will fare on the business end of running the Daily, but Daily readers can expect some major differences in the near future. I would guess Rick will make sure there is a redesign of the Daily, and most likely will make efforts to improve the paper's photography, which has been a weak point.
I would imagine the local sports section will be vastly improved, both in layout and content. I expect that will also apply to page one, and hopefully to the editorial page, which has had problems for a long time.
I eagerly anticipate seeing what changes Rick makes to the Neosho Daily News. If someone of Rick's caliber had been at the helm a few years back, the Neosho Post would never have been able to get off the ground, much less succeed at carving a chunk out of the Daily's readership base.
Joplin attorney Daniel Whitworth has signed on to represent accused arsonist Keith McBride, according to documents filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
Whitworth's first challenge will be arranging bond for his client. U. S. Attorney Todd Graves filed another motion today asking that McBride be held without bail.
More information on the McBride case is featured in the April 25 Turner Report.
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Just because you're governor of a state doesn't mean you can't have a social life.
Newly-minted Missouri Governor Matt Blunt will be attending the hottest pre-Kentucky Derby party in Louisville, according to today's Louisville Courier-Journal.
The event is the 17th annual Barnstable Brown Gala, named for its hosts, Tricia Barnstable Brown and her twin sister, Priscilla Barnstable, better known at one time as the Doublemint Twins in chewing gum commercials.
According to the article, the Blunts will mingle with such party guests as Kid Rock, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, Oscar-winning actor Cuba Gooding Jr., Big Boi from the group Outkast, Super Bowl-winning quarterback Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, Victoria Gotti, daughter of mobster John Gotti, country stars Travis Tritt and Sammy Kershaw, Buffalo Bills cornerback Lawyer Milloy, and syndicated radio host Delilah, among others.
Blunt won't be the only non-Kentucky politician at the shindig, which sells tickets for $1,200.
Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher is bringing Blunt and five other governors, according to the article. The other governors are Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, Sonny Perdue of Georgia, Dirk Kempthorne of Idaho, John Haeven of North Dakota, and Bob Taft of Ohio.
Among the musicians scheduled to perform are: Meatloaf, Michael McDonald of Doobie Brothers fame, Ann Wilson of Heart and Joey Fatone of NSYNC.
Hopefully, Governor Blunt will be able to convince some of the high rollers at this event to invest in Missouri and bring more jobs to the state. I assume that is the only possible reason why he would be attending such an event.
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A third citation of Renewable Environmental Solutions of Carthage for odor emissions says something for the apparently more aggressive regulation enforcement by new Missouri Department of Natural Resources Director Doyle Childers.
It may also be saying something about a different side to the pro-business administration of Governor Matt Blunt.
It was Blunt, you may recall, who made sure Childers and his team came to Carthage to take care of the situation. And, of course, there could be political rewards for taking care of some of his supporters in this highly-Republican area, but there is nothing wrong with that. Listening to constituents, then taking action is the way politics is supposed to work.
The big test for Blunt and Childers will come with Mo-Ark's expansion request in Neosho. How that situation is handled will say
a great deal about the leadership abilities of both men.
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It should be mentioned that the first newspaper to carry information about the citation was The Carthage Press, which had an article in its Saturday edition. The Joplin Globe ran an article today, three days later.
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State Representative Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, in his weekly column, continues to write about the pro-business legislation that he and his fellow Republicans are pushing through the General Assembly.
Not that there's anything wrong with helping business and bringing jobs to Missouri, but sometimes you have to wonder if we have to sacrifice everything else in order to do it.
There appears to be nothing alarming in Rep. Wilson's column, but I am mildly concerned about HB 863 that according to Wilson, "creates tax incentives for municipalities to promote redevelopment in blighted downtown areas." At one time, I would have had no qualms about that whatsoever, but since the city of Joplin declared a portion of Rangeline as a blighted area, I have developed a sense of skepticism. Hopefully, Rangeline-type areas are not included in this legislation.
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I missed it on the evening newscast, but KOAM this morning carried a brief item quoting Webb City R-7 Superintendent Ron Lankford as saying that the school district's policy on controversial t-shirts will not be changing.
Lankford told KOAM, these situations will be judged on a case-by-case basis. While I am not sure what was carried on the evening newscast, it would have been nice to have heard someone point out that the district is saying something that appears on the face of it to be totally different in its filings in the federal First Amendment lawsuit brought by sophomore LaStaysha Myers.
As was noted in yesterday's Turner Report, school officials indicated nothing would change until the end of the school year, then these shirts would be all right again when the 2005-2006 school year begins.
District officials also pointed out, for the first time, in their April 21 filings in the lawsuit, that Brad Mathewson, the student who originally sued the school after he was not allowed to wear Gay Pride t-shirts, was actually allowed to wear those shirts, until they created a disturbance. As far as I can recall, this had never been mentioned before at any phase of this ongoing story.
This morning's Joplin Globe carries an article on the situation, complete with quotes from school officials and American Civil Liberties Union representatives.
***
The Globe also has an article about the Joplin R-8 School District's consideration of a drug testing policy. For obvious reasons, I don't intend to hit hard on this issue, since it would be a definite conflict of interest, but my stance on student drug testing has not changed.
I still look at it as a quick-fix solution that has not proven to be effective and may drive people away from the very activities that could prevent them from getting into drug problems. I have more problems with drug testing as a violation of civil liberties. The Joplin R-8 system currently has a voluntary drug testing system in place for students and apparently, many students are signed up for that. I have no problem with that.
The new policy being considered would not only be for athletes, but would require random drug testing for students participating in all extracurricular activities.

Monday, April 25, 2005

When tempers calm, Webb City R-7 School District officials said, the restrictions against Gay Pride t-shirts will end. That could come as early as the end of the current school year in about four weeks, according to documents filed Friday in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
In addition to that revelation, the filing was highlighted by some new information. R-7 officials claim that Brad Mathewson was allowed to wear his gay pride t-shirts on numerous occasions before the incident which triggered first his lawsuit, and now the lawsuit filed by 15-year-old sophomore LaStaysha Myers against the school district.
The new information was included in affidavits filed by Superintendent Ron Lankford and High School Principal Steven Gollhofer. Lankford said, "It is important to note, however, that Student A (which is how every item in the district's response refers to Mathewson.) wore these t-shirts without incident or restriction on previous occasions, and the district's restriction did not occur prior to disruptive conduct."
Gollhofer said, "It is important to note, however, that Student A wore these t-shirts without incident or restriction on previous occasions, and the district's restriction did not occur prior to disruptive conduct."
Apparently, the district's attorneys did not get the word that all responses were supposed to be word for word the same. In their April 21 response to Ms. Myers' First Amendment lawsuit, they said, "It is significant to note that Student A (Mathewson) wore the same t-shirts on prior occasions without restriction because there were no accompanying disruptions."
The disruptions were caused by Mathewson himself, district officials said. "Specifically, students complained that (he) was showing, and forcing in some instances, inappropriate photographs to students which depicted (him) and another male lying on top of one another, and the other male kissing (his) neck. Students complained about (Mathewson's) t-shirts and informed the administration that the t-shirts were inappropriate, as well as distracting."
The district officials' response continued, "Additionally, another student reported that (Mathewson) grabbed his groin area while researching in the library, and frequently 'hit on' or 'flirted' with him." The student filed a complaint with the Webb City Police Department, according to the response.
The district had already fielded threats of violence against Mathewson, the response indicates.
It was Mathewson's actions that led to the request that he stop wearing gay pride t-shirts, the response says. "Student A's later conduct caused, and district personnel also reasonably forecasted, a continuing and escalating substantial disruption to the district's educational environment. In fact, this controversy spurred picketing and protests by both anti-homosexual and pro-homosexual rights groups (some coming from out of state) directly adjacent to school property while students arrived at school to commence their school day."
With the picketers carrying signs and yelling at each other, and the media in tow, district administrators made the decision to prevent any potential "volatile situations" from occurring.
That was what led to the decision to prevent Ms. Myers and others students from wearing t-shirts supporting Mathewson, the response said. Ms. Myers, a heterosexual, wore the shirt as a show of support for her friend Mathewson. Mathewson's initial lawsuit, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, was dismissed after he dropped out of school. The ACLU is now backing the lawsuit filed by Ms. Myers, who was asked to change the shirt by Assistant Principal Jeff Thornberry, a defendant in the lawsuit.
"I was the principal who initially discovered LaStaysha's wearing of said t-shirts," Thornberry said in his affidavit. "I instructed LaStaysha to either change her shirt or turn it inside out."
A dozen students, including LaStaysha, were told to change their shirts, Thornberry said."My actions and other actions of other administrators were taken in efforts to direct students' attention to the classroom."
Thornberry said he thought the controversy was nearly over when Ms. Myers' lawsuit was filed. "It is my hope that the summer will allow these issues to completely die and allow for our restrictions to be lifted prior to the 2005-2006 school year."
Gollhofer expressed the same sentiments, in fact, in the same words. "It is my hope that the summer will allow these issues to completely die and allow for our restrictions to be lifted prior to the 2005-2006 school year."
Lankford's affidavit phrased it a little differently. "There are currently only 20 days left in the regular school year. Unless there are further incidents or factors which cause this incident to continue to disrupt our school's academic mission, I anticipate these issues and corresponding restrictions to dissipate and thereby no longer require the district's restriction in the 2005-2006 school year."
Lankford said administrators handled the situation the way it should have been handled. "In my opinion as a professional educator, the handling of this heated controversy by the district's administration was wholly appropriate."
A federal judge has ordered that Carrie Ann Shafer stop preparing tax returns.
In a decision issued today, Judge Gary Fenner said the Oronogo woman is permanently prevented from preparing any tax returns or tax forms or representing anyone in any way before the Internal Revenue Service. The decision was reached after government attorneys said Ms. Shafer was preparing fraudulent returns.
After she is served with this order, Ms. Shafer has 11 days to turn over to the government all records which identify names, addresses, e-mail addresses, telephone numbers and Social Security numbers of all persons for whom she has prepared tax returns.
Fenner said the court will maintain jurisdiction over this case to keep an eye on Ms. Shafer and to "guard the public interest."
All of her customers will receive the following notice, according to court records:
"The United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri has entered an order called a permanent injunction against Carrie Ann Shafer, who does business under the name 'TC's Taxes and More.' A copy of the permanent injunction is enclosed. You are receiving this notice because Ms. Shafer has identified you as one of her customers.
"In the permanent injunction, the court ordered Ms. Shafer not to prepare any more federal tax returns for anyone. The court has also ordered Ms. Shafer to give the government a list of her customers, which includes you. Ms. Shafer is also not permitted to accompany her customers to meetings at IRS office or submit documents to the IRS on behalf of her customers.
"The Court has found that Ms. Shafer has been preparing fraudulent federal tax returns that claim fictitious or overstated itemized deductions. If Ms. Shafer prepared a tax return for you that did not correctly report your itemized deductions or your tax liability, you may be subject to civil or criminal tax penalties, or both. You may wish to contact a licensed attorney or certified public accountant to determine whether any tax returns that Ms. Shafer prepared for you were improper and what you should do to correct any false or inaccurate returns.
"If you have any questions about this permanent injunction, you should contact Gregory Van Hoey, trial attorney, U. S. Department of Justice, Tax Division, at 202-307-6391."
According to court documents, Ms. Shafer has been preparing tax returns full-time since 2002, with most of her customers living in Missouri, though she has some in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.
"Since at least September 2003, Shafer has been preparing original and amended federal income tax returns for tax years 2000-2003 that claim fictitious or inflated itemized deductions for various expenses, including medical and dental expenses, charitable contributions, and unreimbursed employee business expenses."
With one customers, court documents said, "Shafer also claimed an inflated child-care expense credit based on child-care services that Shafer knew had never actually been provided to, or paid for by, the customer."
Because of these and other machinations, court documents indicate, Ms. Shafer's customers received tax refunds to which they were not entitled.
"In addition to preparing fraudulent tax returns,l Shafer has encouraged at least one of her customers to provide false information to the IRS at an examination meeting," the court documents said.
The federal government's urgency to have this resolved, court documents said, was because Ms. Shafer was still doing 2004 tax returns for her customers.
Federal authorities are asking that Webb City businessman Keith McBride be held without bond while awaiting his trial on arson charges.
In a motion filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Deputy U. S. Attorney Michael A. Jones pointed out the violent nature of the crime, what happened as a result of the crime which injured three firemen, and McBride's alleged threats.
These, Jones said, show McBride "to be a danger to community and others, as well as himself."
McBride has been charged with felony arson in connection with the April 15 burning of his business, Coin-Op, a charge that could land him in prison for a much as 40 years if he is convicted. "Defendant has admitted to this offense," Jones said in his motion. "Moreover, defendant has admitted also to intentionally setting fire to his residence on the same day. And (he) has admitted to contemplating suicide and to being armed with a loaded handgun."
The only reason McBride did not use the gun, according to documents filed in U. S. District Court last week, was that it jammed. Jones also noted that McBride said, and McBride's mother confirmed, that he has other weapons, even though at this point the authorities have not found the weapons.
Concluding his case for locking up McBride without bail, Jones said, "Finally, when arrested, defendant was in the mental health unit of the St. John's Hospital in Joplin, by virtue of a 96-hour commitment."
Jones said that in United States v. Salermo, the Supreme Court held that pretrial detention of a defendant "based solely on risk of danger to the community does not violate due process or the Eighth Amendment."
This, he said, is because the goal of "protecting the community may outweigh individual liberty interests."
McBride's lawyers have until May 10 to respond to the motion. McBride's arraignment is scheduled for Wednesday, April 27, in Springfield.
A pre-trial conference has been scheduled for 10 a.m. May 23 in the stealing and forgery case against former Southwest City Clerk Dehonna Shields.
Ms. Shields' attorney, Charles R. Rhoades, Neosho, filed a motion to dismiss and a motion for continuance because of a conflict in his schedule, according to court records. Her arraignment had been scheduled for Monday.
Ms. Shields was arrested after a state audit indicated funds had been stolen from the city.
Newton County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Perigo is the new judge in the case of alleged internet pervert Gary Reed Blankenship.
A new judge was needed after Judge Kevin Selby recused himself from the case last week, shortly after Blankenship's lawyer, Dee Wampler of Springfield, filed a motion for change of judge.
Blankenship, a former O'Sullivan Industries executive, faces charges of possession of child pornography, promoting obscenity, and enticement of a child.
***
A change of judge was also granted in the case against former Carthage R-9 Board of Education member and Carthage police officer Michael Lloyd Wells, who is charged with violating a protection order.
Wells' arraignment will be held 1:30 p.m. May 10 in front of Judge Stephen Carlton.
***
Ethics charges against former State Representative Bubs Hohulin, R-Lamar, were dismissed April 21 by the Missouri Ethics Commission.
State Democrats had alleged that Hohulin should not have received a contract from Governor Matt Blunt to operate the license fee office in Lamar, since he already receives $62,000 a year working for State Sen. Carl Vogel.
Two charges against Blunt were also dismissed, as well as two charges against Trish Vincent, the woman Blunt put in charge of the Department of Revenue.
Webb City R-7 School District officials will permit Gay Pride t-shirts to be worn during the 2005-2006 school year.
In their motion to dismiss Webb City High School sophomore LaStaysha Myers' First Amendment civil suit against Superintendent Ron Lankford, Principal Steven Gollhofer and Assistant Principal Jeff Thornberry, the district officials said she was not entitled to a preliminary injunction because only 20 days are left in the school year and "barring any further disruptions, the district anticipates lifting limitations on such t-shirts for the 2005-2006 school year."
District officials said Miss Myers waiting six months to file her cause "undermines any contentions of irreparable harm."
They said their position in the t-shirt controversy has nothing to do with opinions on homosexuality, but that Miss Myers' beliefs "are outweighed by the district's responsibility to maintain a safe and orderly educational environment."
***
Diagnosis Murder fans can breathe easier.
Pax TV officials say they will not be going to an all-infomercial format as reported in various publications last week. The network will no longer produce original programming, but will continue to show reruns, according to today's Radio and TV Broadcasting Report.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

I hope The Joplin Globe and the area television stations will continue efforts to find out about the license fee offices that Missouri Governor Matt Blunt awarded to his supporters recently.
The Kansas City Star ran an article today about the offices, pointing out a connection in some instances between people who donated large sums to Blunt's gubernatorial campaign and who later ended up in charge of fee offices.
The governor has said that all of those who were awarded offices had to submit business plans. When one local news outlet attempted to get those business plans through a Freedom of Information request, it was told those were not available.
Apparently, though they have been submitted, according to the Star article. It quotes Mike Smith, Jackson County Sports Authority chairman, who was selected to run the Lee's Summit office as saying he submitted a business plan which estimated a profit of $84,000 in 2006. He said he has since adjusted that estimate to $25,000. Incidentally, Smith, his relatives, and companies in which he holds a major interest donated $10,000 to Blunt's campaign, according to the article.
I am still curious about the business plan submitted by former Republican legislator Bubs Hohulin for the Lamar fee office. That plan should be available and open to inspection by the public. I hope our local news outlets are as interested in seeing the plan as I am. I am sure Turner Report readers in Lamar would also be interested in seeing that plan.
In their zest to do everything they can to promote business interests, Missouri's legislators are proposing laws that will trample on everyone's rights.
Fresh from their victories on workmen's compensation and medical malpractice lawsuits, Missouri Republicans are taking aim at discrimination lawsuits. According to today's Kansas City Star, HB 628, sponsored by Rep. Richard Byrd, R-St. Louis County, would change the definition of an employer in racial and sexual discrimination lawsuits and would set a limit on damages.
Supervisors would no longer be considered employers under Byrd's bill, allowing company owners to evade responsibility for the acts committed by the people whom they have placed in charge.
Only the company itself could be sued, which according to the article, would move nearly all cases to federal courts since so many companies are incorporated out of state.
As they have with every bit of pro-business legislation they have proposed this session, Byrd and other House Republicans claim this bill is necessary to keep businesses and jobs in Missouri and to make Missouri more attractive to new businesses.
***
Michael Orr, the first of the Newell Rubbermaid expatriates to leave O'Sullivan Industries, has a new position, but the brief biography published on his new company's website makes no mention of his time with O'Sullivan.
Orr is the new senior vice president, logistics/operations for S. P.. Richards Company, a subsidiary of the Genuine Parts Company. According to S. P. Richards' website, Orr will "oversee the company's warehouse, distribution and quality control initiatives."
The company news release announcing Orr's position mentions his background at Newell Rubbermaid and Allied Signal.
As noted in the Feb. 25 Turner Report, Orr resigned his position at O'Sullivan effective March 4. The company's filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission said he was leaving to take a position with another company.
Diamond R-4 Superintendent Mark Mayo entered a not guilty plea April 7 in Lawrence County Circuit Court to a misdemeanor speeding charge.
Court records indicate Mayo, who in addition to being a school superintendent is a lawyer, was stopped March 29 and charged with going between 10 and 15 miles over the speed limit.
After the not guilty plea, the case was transferred to the Lawrence County prosecuting attorney's office for further action.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

State Representative Ed Emery, R-Lamar, is listed as a co-sponsor on HB 918 which would require anyone convicted of a sex offense to have the words "Sex Offender" added to their license plates.
The words would be printed across the top of the license plate, according to the bill, which has been sent to the House's Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee. No hearing for the bill has been scheduled.
Nexstar Broadcasting's gamble on pulling its programming from cable outlets seems to have paid off in San Angelo, Texas.
Though Nexstar's KODE (allegedly a Mission Broadcasting station, but come on) finished a distant second to KOAM in the Joplin market, KLST, Nexstar's CBS affiliate in San Angelo topped the February sweeps, according to an article written by John Boyd in the April 2 San Angelo Times-Standard.
That doesn't mean that the station isn't bleeding viewers. Apparently, KLST had a sizable margin over its competitors, which it retained in spite of losing approximately one third of its viewers.
"The sky didn't fall," the article quotes Nexstar chief operating officer Duane Lammers as saying.
What is unusual about the Nielsen ratings is that they indicate that many of the Nexstar station's defectors are headed toward KSAN...the NBC affiliate owned by Mission Broadcasting, Nexstar's doppelganger.
According to the article, "The two stations share a general manager, news director, and (as of) April 11, a newsroom." Apparently, one thing the two stations did not share was a retransmission rights deadline. Apparently, KSAN is still operating on Cox Communications cable in San Angelo. KLST was removed from Cox when Cox refused to pay for retransmission rights, the same as the situation in Joplin, where KODE and KSNF were removed from Cable One.
As always, Lammers was modest about the stations' accomplishment. ''If you want to use television advertising in San Angelo, we're still the two people to talk to," Lammers told the Times-Standard.
The article indicates advertisers are still taking a wait-and-see attitude and are not totally willing to commit money to the Nexstar station.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Joplin city officials want to continue their long legal battle against Ozark Airlines.
The city filed a motion today to remove the case from the dismissal docket.
The city filed the action against Ozark on March 13, 2001, five days after Ozark discontinued its service to Joplin. Bringing the company here had been the crown jewel in the city's efforts to add service to the airport.Ozark began its flights out of Joplin on May 22, 2000, giving the city a guarantee that it would provide service here for two years. To entice Ozark to offer services in Joplin, the city gave the company $200,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds. Of that amount, $150,000 went toward an incentive for the airline to offer flights to Chicago and Dallas. The other $50,000 established an Ozark station the Joplin Airport.Ozark's commitment to the city ended less than a year after service began. The company cited lack of money and passengers as its reasons for ending the service.Not much has happened in the lawsuit during the past couple of years. A complicating factor was Ozark's February 2004 bankruptcy.
Motions in the second robbery trial for Gary Saucy, 47, Joplin, will be held May 20 in Jasper County Circuit Court.
Saucy was sentenced to 17 years in prison on June 8, 2004, after being found guilty by a Jasper County jury. The Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals tossed out the verdict and sent the case back to be retried, saying the prosecution should not have combined charges of two different robberies against Saucy. Saucy was convicted of the July 12, 2001, robbery of B. J.'s Liquor Store in Joplin, but a mistrial was declared on the count which charged him with the July 6, 2001, robbery of the Dollar General Store.
During the Dollar General Store robbery, according to the appellate court opinion, an African-American man held a box knife to the neck of an employee and demanded that the employee give him his key. The employee was cut on the chin by the box knife. The employee and an assistant manager were forced to lay face-down on the floor and the robber left the store with approximately $400 in cash.
The employee could not identify the robber, according to the opinion. A third employee identified someone other than Saucy, even though the man who was identified turned out to have been in jail at the time.
Six days after the Dollar General robbery, B. J.'s was robbed at about 9 p.m. According to the opinion, an African American man bought two cigars and, after receiving his change, pulled out an object covered with white cloth and asked the clerk to hand over the money. "The clerk opened the cash register and then was told to lay face-down on the floor and surrender his wallet."
Oddly, the robber did not take the wallet, but left the store with $247 from the cash drawer. A surveillance camera recorded the crime. After the video was televised, the police received tips implicating Saucy. When Saucy was arrested, police found a box knife. They put Saucy's mug shot in a photo lineup, and he was identified by the clerk from B. J.'s Liquor.
A notice of a hearing to establish rules, case management, and administrative procedures in the Chapter 11 bankruptcy of EaglePicher Holdings has been scheduled for 10 a.m. May 18 before Judge J. Vincent Aug in the U. S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Ohio, in Cincinnati.
Future Missouri high school students may not appreciate the recommendations issued by a task force today. If the recommendations are approved by the State Board of Education, students will soon have exit tests to get out of high school and will have to take more units of core classes.
The High School Task Force, appointed last year by Commissioner of Education Kent King presented its findings to the State Board of Education today, according to a news release from the State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Among the task force's recommendations:
-Increase minimum graduation requirements from 22 to 24 credits, including 4 units of English, and three units each of math, science, and social studies. Even though some schools already have some of those amounts in place, at the present time, all that is required is three units of English, and two each in the other core areas.
-Develop a new exit test to take the place of the MAP tests. The task force suggested Missouri students should take a test such as the ACT or SAT with an added area to address Missouri academic standards.
-Adopt a two-tiered diploma for public high schools. Students who complete the 24 credits would be eligible for the standard diploma, while those who reach a specified score on the exit tests would receive an advanced diploma.
Another suggestion, which fell short of a recommendation from the task force would call for a state requirement that all students take a course in personal finance.
The recommendations and suggestions will be taken up by the State Board of Education when it meets in June.
***
Perhaps Webb City R-7 officials should be grateful that all their school has been hit with are a few T-shirts supporting gay pride.
The Associated Press is reporting today that the American Civil Liberties Union is offering to help two high school students in Winona, Minn., who were disciplined for wearing buttons inspired by the hit off-Broadway play, "The Vagina Monologues."
After the girls were disciplined, more than 100 of their fellow students wore t-shirts supporting them. Girls were reportedly wearing shirts that said, "I Love My Vagina," while boys were wearing buttons that said, "I Support Your Vagina."
The preliminary hearing for accused arsonist Keith McBride, originally scheduled for this morning in U. S. District Court in Springfield, has been rescheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday, April 27, according to court records.
The change in schedule came after a two-minute hearing in which McBride was given more time to hire a lawyer. McBride is charged with the burning of his business Coin-Op in Webb City April 15. He allegedly burned his house the same day. More information about the case can be found in the April 20 and April 21 Turner Reports.
The next hearing in the case of alleged internet pervert Gary Reed Blankenship will take place in front of a new judge.
According to Newton County Circuit Court records, Judge Kevin Selby agreed to remove himself from the case on Thursday. It is not clear if this will affect the date for Blankenship's next hearing, which had been scheduled for May 26.
The former O'Sullivan Industries executive faces charges of possession of child pornography, promoting obscenity, and enticement of a child.
A prominent television news personality in the Joplin market appears to be under serious consideration for a top news job in Tallahassee, Fla.
The city of Carthage is looking for a way to recover the money it costs to test drunk drivers, according to an article in today's edition of H. J. Johnson's newsletter, "The Mornin' Mail."
Police Chief Dennis Veach recommended to the City Council's Public Safety Committee this week that the council pass an ordinance, similar to ordinances already in place in Joplin and Webb City that passes on the cost of breathalyzer tests to the offender if the person is found guilty and is convicted.
This would also cover the cost of blood tests if another drug is suspected or if the suspect refuses a breathalyzer test, according to the article.
The area's sports talk radio station, WMBH, 1650 on the AM Dial, has been sold for $1, according to Radio and Records.
The buyer, Hardman Broadcasting, has no other stations, according to the publication. Its owner is listed as James Hardman and the sale was brokered by the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council.
WMBH had been owned by Petracom of Joplin, but that company is in the middle of bankruptcy proceedings. The sale was finalized after a bankruptcy court order issued control over Petracom stations to Textron Inc.'s FFD Holdings.
The station's sports format has not been successful, if the most recent Arbitron ratings are any indication. WMBH did not receive enough of a sampling from listeners to even be listed.
Carthage-based Fortune 500 company Leggett & Platt reported record first quarter sales today in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Sales were $1.30 billion, 9.6 percent higher during the first quarter of 2004.
Per share earnings increased 16 percent, according to the filing.
In an earlier post, I talked about the cost of installing a drug testing program for the Diamond R-4 School District. The board minutes on www.diamondwildcats.com indicates the testing will cost the district $6,000 next year.
***
Missouri Southern State University's newspaper, The Chart, took home 27 awards at the Missouri College Media Association Convention, held April 8-9 in Lee's Summit.
The newspaper took first in the sweepstakes award, second in special section, third in editorial page and best overall, according to an article in this week's Chart.
Among the reporting awards were an honorable mention for Jessica McIntosh in newswriting, a second place for T. J. Gerlach for editorial writing, third place for Melissa Dunson in feature writing, third place for Monique Jamerson and Chris Heinrich for investigative reporting; and an honorable mention for David Haut for column writing. Ms. Dunson also finished in third place in entertainment review.
Among the non-reporting categories, former Diamond High School student Nate Billings, won first place in advertising design.
A bill sponsored by Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, which would toughen the penalties for drunk drivers, has received preliminary approval in the Senate. If approved on its next vote in the Senate, it will go the House.
Nodler's bill was inspired by the death of James Dodson, 68, Neosho, and his eight-year-old granddaughter Jessica Mann on July 31, 2004, The two were standing in Dodson's driveway, when a car driven by Edward Meerwald, 51, Noel, left Highway 86 left the road and struck them both, killing them. Meerwald eventually pleaded guilty, but could only be sentenced to seven years in prison.
Nodler's bill would toughen sentences for repeat drunk drivers and delay their eligibility for parole. If his bill receives approval on the final vote, it goes to the House, where similar legislation is being sponsored by House Speaker Rod Jetton.
.
The next hearing in a lawsuit filed by a Neosho couple against the Neosho R-5 School District and the 72-year-old bus driver who accidentally ran over their six-year-old son and killed him is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday, April 26, in Newton County Circuit Court.
John and Terri Wright initially filed the lawsuit in Jasper County Circuit Court but it was moved to Newton County in March on a change of venue. Jacob Wright, 6, fell under the wheels of the bus on Dec. 16, 2004. He and his eight-year-old brother had just gotten off the bus when for some reason Jacob went back toward it and fell as the bus pulled away, according to police reports.
The busdriver, Bill Hoover, was not charged.
The arraignment for former Southwest City Clerk Dehonna Shields, who is charged with three felony counts of forgery and two counts of stealing, is scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday, April 25, in McDonald County Circuit Court.
Ms. Shields allegedly forged checks and stole money from the city. She was arrested following information uncovered in a state audit.
A handful of workers at the J. C. Penney stores in Joplin and Pittsburg may soon be losing their jobs.
Thursday's Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports the Plano, Texas-based company is planning to expand, spending over $700 million in the next few years on new stores, refurbishing existing stores, and upgrading technology.
At the same time it is doing all of that, is is also going to trying to pay off debt, buy back stock and restore its credit rating, according to the article. Chief Financial Officer Bob Cavanaugh said The company expects to open 20 stores a year, beginning in 2005, mostly in locations other than malls. At the present time, only 10 J. C. Penney stores are not in malls.
To save on labor costs, Cavanaugh said, the company plans to reorganize existing jobs and schedules, eliminating one or two jobs at each of J. C. Penney's 1,000 plus stores.
***
The local TV stations featured reports Thursday on Jasper County's new video arraignments and how they will save money and increase safety. This advance in technology is all fine and good, but it seems a simpler, more taxpayer-friendly solution was not even considered.
The reports mentioned how much money it would save in gas since the prisoners would no longer have to be taken from the Jasper County Jail in Carthage to the Joplin Courts Building. Have county officials forgotten there is a courthouse in Carthage where these arraignments could be held? That courthouse is only a couple of blocks from the jail.
The video arraignments may save time and money, but they also appear to be eliminating the right of the public to view its judicial system in action.
A protective order designed to prevent secrets about the Weather Channel from becoming public was issued earlier this week in U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in connection with former KODE weather announcer Marny Stanier's age discrimination lawsuit against the channel.
Noting that the lawsuit, which is now in the discovery stage, will involve considerable "review of personnel and employment files" that contain "confidential information," as well as "other potentially confidential materials," the wide-ranging order appears to cover documents that may not even really be confidential, but which might be potentially embarrassing to The Weather Channel.
Each party in the lawsuit is given the option to apply to the court to exclude any document which appears to fall into that category.
No trial date has been set.
The days of Billie Joe Cyrus as a doctor and reruns of Dick Van Dyke's "Diagnosis Murder"series appear to be at an end for viewers of the PAX network, shown here in Joplin on Cable One's channel 11.
Thursday's Broadcast and Cable News indicates the company is ceasing its original programming like Cyrus' medical show, plus reruns of shows like "Diagnosis Murder" and "Early Edition" to go to all infomercial programming.
This move reportedly is strongly disliked by NBC Universal, which owns a 32 percent stake in the fledgling network.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Arnold Gabriel will never forget the final words Keith McBride said to him during their telephone conversation 7:40 a.m. April 14.
""I have to go. I hear the fire engines."
The conversation abruptly ended and it was a disturbing conversation. According to court records, McBride, 51, the owner of the Coin-Op business in Webb City, told Gabriel he had burned his business and his home and was ready to kill himself with a .45 caliber pistol.
That likely would have been the result if his handgun hadn't jammed, McBride told ATF Special Agent Dan Fridley. "This all would have ended," he said.
McBride, who was officially charged with arson today in U. S. District Court. The arson charge applies only to Coin-Op and not to McBride's residence, because the business burned affected interstate commerce, according to the criminal complaint.
Gabriel was not the only person McBride reached during his round of farewell messages, according to the probable cause affidavit entered into court records. State Fire Marshal Investigator Randy Sweet told Fridley "Keith McBride had placed several telephone calls to friends and family earlier that same day.
McBride was arrested after Webb City Police found him hiding in a warehouse. The WCPD, with help from the Joplin Police Department, was able to contact McBride. He showed his weapon to the officers and threatened to kill himself. A hostage negotiator tried for several hours to convince McBride to put down the gun and leave the warehouse.
During the ongoing conversation, McBride admitted to "blowing up" his business, according to the probable cause affidavit, and said "he had no reason to go on living."
Finally, he surrendered after police were able to set off tear gas inside the warehouse. At that point, McBride was taken to St. John's Regional Medical Center for mental evaluation.
On April 19, Fridley and Sweet read McBride his Miranda rights, then he agreed to answer questions. He admitted to setting the fires at the business and at his home, the affidavit said. "McBride stated that he was tired and blamed his business and residence for his troubles. McBride stated that he thought if he eliminated the business and his residence, he would eliminate the source of his problems," though he added he didn't think anyone else would understand his reasoning.
On the same day, the Webb City Clerk told Fridley that McBride's business license had been revoked on March 22 by the state of Missouri and Webb City, for failure to pay delinquent sales tax.
McBride made his first court appearance Wednesday afternoon. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Friday, April 22, in Courtroom 2601, at the U. S. Courthouse at 222 North John Q. Hammons Parkway in Springfield.
***
More information about McBride's finances can be found in the April 20 Turner Report.
***
Alleged internet pervert Gary Blankenship is back behind the screen again, eagerly e-mailing missives to his former co-workers at O'Sullivan Industries.
Blankenship, who was one of O'Sullivan's top executives when he allegedly arranged a sexual liaison with a 13-year-old girl he met over the Internet (who turned out to be a middle-aged police officer). He resigned shortly after his arrest, but he has been in touch with former co-workers on more than one occasion. Thanks to the readers who sent me copies of his latest message. It follows in its entirety:
"Hello to all.
"First, I wish to apologize for my actions. Regardless of guilt or innocence,I should never have done anything that would put my coworkers into this situation. For my actions, I am deeply sorry and do apologize.
"Second, I pray that each of you know me well enough to realize that I am not guilty of the charges that have been made. Of the 10 counts made against me, I will officially be arraigned on only one count - the other nine will be dropped.
"Last, I am sending this to each of you requesting your help. Most of you have either been contacted by, or have a message from Betty Jackson, secretary to my lawyer, Dee Wampler. I had to put together a list of character references and I could think of none better than the people I have spent a lot of time with for the past several years.The decision is up to you as to whether you wish to provide any comment regarding my character but I would appreciate your comments.
"I hope things are going well for all of you and the new O'Sullivan is beginning to shape up. I wish all of you health and happiness, and hope to talk with you soon.
"Thanks again for your support."
Gary Blankenship

I omitted the address and phone number, which were placed at the end of the message.
Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Duquesne man accused of burning his business and residence last week following a long string of business difficulties filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Nov. 4, 2002, according to U. S. Bankruptcy Court records.
According to court records, Keith "Skip" McBride declared bankruptcy for his Webb City-based business, Coin-Op. He marked the box for 0 to $50,000 in estimated assets and $100,001 to $500,000 in estimated debts. Only two major creditors were listed on the bankruptcy petition, Jason Higdon of Joplin, and Mercantile Bank of Western Missouri.
The bankruptcy filing took place about the time McBride had been hit by several civil suits in Jasper County Circuit Court.
As Joplin Globe reporters Jeff Lehr and Derek Spellman wrote in a well-researched April 15 article, Firstar Bank of Joplin sued Coin-Op, McBride and his wife Wanda, and their business agent David L. Taylor in February 2001, claiming Coin-Op had defaulted on two loans, still owing the bank more than $240,000.
The Globe also reported that Billiards of Tulsa picked up a $4,649 judgment against Coin-Op in Tulsa County, with a foreign judgment entered in Jasper County.
Two other lawsuits were filed during the same year McBride filed for bankruptcy, the Globe article indicated. Both lawsuits were dismissed at the request of the plaintiffs.
Bankruptcy court records indicate the Missouri Department of Revenue was also after McBride and Coin-op. Attorney General Jay Nixon filed a application asking that overdue tax returns be filed. The document says, "The DOR does not have on file the following tax returns: October 2002 sales tax; September 2002 withholding tax and 2001 corporation income tax
"These tax returns are necessary to complete claims for the DOR so that claims are based on actual rather than estimated figures." Nixon asked for and was granted more time to file a claim against McBride and Coin-Op.
Court records indicate the bankruptcy petition was dismissed on Jan. 27, 2003, for "failure to file schedule and statements."
Nexstar Broadcasting COO Duane Lammers claims that a mass exodus of viewers have left Cable One in Joplin and have switched to satellite dishes.
In the first 100 days after Nexstar pulled KSNF and KODE from Cable One, the cable firm lost 20 percent of its customers, Lammers told Radio and Television Business Review.
"We are working very closely with Dish Network, as they offer local into local in all of our affected markets except San Angelo (and dish delivery of local programming is expected soon there, as well)," Lammers told the Review. "We can confirm a significant jump in satellite conversions in each of the affected markets."
Lammers said Joplin led all of its markets in conversion to satellite.
Former Hollinger International CEO Conrad Black and his partner David Radler resigned from their company, Ravelston, which current Hollinger executives say was used as a tool to loot the company of millions of dollars, according to the Associated Press.
Black and Radler are being investigated by officials in the U. S. and Canada.
Hollinger International at one time owned the Neosho Daily News and The Carthage Press. According to published reports, Black and Radler sold off Hollinger's smaller newspapers, including the Press and the Daily News and forced the buyers to pay unnecessary non-compete fees.
Published reports indicate former Coleman CEO Ronald Perelman testified Tuesday that Morgan Stanley officials told him the future was bright for Sunbeam shortly before he sold Coleman to Sunbeam in exchange for Sunbeam stock.
Shortly after that, Sunbeam filed for bankruptcy.
Perelman is suing Morgan Stanley to recover the money he lost, plus punitive damages.
An East Newton student is among 15 Missouri public high school students who will receive the 2005 Outstanding Achievement in Citizenship Award from the Missouri Legislature.
The award was established by the legislature in 1990 with assistance and financial support from the Missouri Bar.
Ashlee Allphin is the only recipient from this area. She will be honored at noon Friday, April 22, in the governor's mansion.
Alleged internet pervert Gary Blankenship wants someone new in charge of his trial.
According to Newton County Circuit Court records, Blankenship's attorney, Dee Wampler of Springfield, filed a motion today for a change of judge. Kevin Selby is currently the judge in charge of the case.
More information about the case is featured in the item below.
***
A pretrial hearing for former O'Sullivan Industries executive Gary Reed Blankenship on charges of possession of child pornography, promoting obscenity, and enticement of a child is scheduled for May 26. Blankenship was arrested after another of Diamond police officer Jim Murray's Internet stings. Blankenship allegedly thought he was communicating with a 13-year-old girl and not a middle-aged man. He arranged to meet her for sex and was arrested when he showed up in Diamond for the meeting, according to the police.Blankenship apparently is confident that most of the charges against him will be dismissed.
At least that is what he is telling former co-workers at O'Sullivan. I have received two reports this week that Blankenship is back behind a computer again, sending e-mails to O'Sullivan workers telling him that all but one charge against him is going to be dropped. Presumably, he is indicating that he will not serve one day behind bars.
If anyone could forward copies of the Blankenship correspondence to me, it would be much appreciated. As always, my sources will be protected.
***
A former Freeman Neosho employee filed a $10 million plus lawsuit against the hospital Tuesday in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
Charis Seaton, Joplin, claims she was wrongfully fired by Freeman and deserves $10 million in actual and punitive damages, plus an apology.
Ms. Seaton also says Freeman Neosho Chief Operating Officer Janice Walker violated criminal law by obtaining and disclosing patients' health information. The patients to whom Ms. Seaton is referring allegedly "were having sex with the Freeman Hospital physician who was under investigation for allegedly abusing drugs," according to the lawsuit.
The petition also says Ms. Walker used Ms. Seaton's private medical records for her own gain.
Ms. Seaton said she was fired after she brought Ms. Walker's activities to the attention of Alisha Asquith, human resources employee relations manager, and Deborah Chiodo, human resources director. She also told the hospital officials at that time that she had filed a complaint alleging a violation of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).
Initially, the lawsuit indicates, Ms. Seaton was told she would be transferred to Freeman West in Joplin, but then she was called into a meeting with CEO Phillip Willcoxon, Ms. Walker and Ms. Asquith, and was fired. "She was not given a reason," the lawsuit said. "(She) was escorted off the hospital grounds by hospital security. Alisha Asquith pushed against her as (Ms. Seaton) tried to open her desk drawer to remove her money from her desk, telling her to stop taking her possessions because all property was Freeman's except (Ms. Seaton's) purse. (She) was not even allowed to take her State of Missouri Notary seal, stamp, and log."
At that point, she was handed a termination letter, saying the firing was because of "irreparable loss of trust and confidence."
Ms. Seaton went before a Fair Treatment Hearing in September 2004 and was told by Joseph Yust, who is described in the lawsuit as third in command at Freeman Neosho and was told she might be rehired if she dismissed her HIPAA claim against the hospital and any other claims she had.
When Ms. Seaton refused, she was told her firing would stand, according to the lawsuit.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

It's a pretty good bet that the next target of candidate for all positions, winner of none Martin Lindstedt will be U. S. District Court Judge Richard E. Dorr.
It was this Dorr who slammed shut Lindstedt's lawsuit against Governor Matt Blunt. The case wasn't dismissed entirely, though Dorr's displeasure with Lindstedt came through loud and clear in documents filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
If you remember, Lindstedt, who has been a candidate for everything from U. S. Senator to Sheriff to East Newton R-6 Board of Education, sued Blunt, who held the secretary of state's office at that time, because Blunt would not list Lindstedt on the ballot under his pet name Martin "Mad Dog" Lindstedt.
In his lawsuit, he asked that Blunt be listed as Matt "Runt" Blunt on the November ballot. For some reason, that didn't happen. Lindstedt was also displeased that Blunt would not put a link to Lindstedt's website on the state website, as he did for other candidates.
In his initial response to the lawsuit, Blunt was clear about why no link was established. "Plaintiff's website is inundated with racism, anti-Semitism, profanity, and calls for open revolt against the government," Blunt's response said. "Plaintiff refers to himself as 'probably the most clever and ruthless of the Revolutionary Resistance political activists in Missouri,' and 'the only candidate...who is an overt White Nationalist,' as well as 'a genuine racist.' "Blunt said that he could not quote any further from Lindstedt's website. "Respect for the decorum of this court makes it inappropriate for the secretary to extensively quote from (Lindstedt's) website."
Lindstedt said the claims made in Blunt's response were a "farrago of half-truths, outright lies and smarmy witless pleadings." Lindstedt referred to Blunt as a "moral and mental flyweight." Lindstedt defended his racism, saying it "doesn't hold a candle to that of the Founding Fathers, especially George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, etal, who owned entire herds of negro slaves and never thought for an instant that such persons were anything other than property to be disposed of, much less being equal."
In his first ruling issued today, Judge Dorr said that Lindstedt's lawsuit appeared to be against the secretary of state in his official position, "as his complaint challenges conduct in the recent state election." Citing the decision of "Johnson v. Outboard Marine Corp." which says that "in order to sue a public official in his individual capacity, a plaintiff must expressly and unambiguously state so in the pleadings, otherwise it will be assumed that the defendant is being sued only his official capacity."
Applying that decision, Dorr removed Blunt as a defendant and substituted Secretary of State Robin Carnahan.
In his second order, Dorr noted a federal rule that requires that pleadings and motions should not be used for any improper purpose "such as to harass."
He noted that Lindstedt continually referred to criminal acts and said that Blunt should be punished. "Plaintiff also inappropriately refers to defendant as Runt Blunt, not only in the caption of the case, but throughout the filings and engages in other name-calling."
Dorr said Lindstedt also made a number of frivolous comparisons "such as referring to the 'punishment' he wishes for defendant's 'crimes' to be similar to 'a chicken-killing dog forced to wear its dead victims."
Lindstedt also threatened to "do everything in my power to embarrass and humiliate" Blunt.
Dorr gave Lindstedt 20 days to show cause why the case should not be dismissed.
The Carthage Press is about to suffer a big loss. Lifestyles Editor Kaylea Hutson, who has made a big impact in her brief stay at The Press is moving on. She will leave Friday to take a position at Group Publishing in Loveland, Colo, a company which publishes Christian books.
Ms. Hutson, I recall vividly, was good at asking the tough questions even when she was attending Missouri Southern. While I was at The Press, I spoke to one of Chad Stebbins' community journalism classes one night and she grilled me with a number of questions.
One of the questions she asked is why I always had two stories (at least) about any event I covered. The main reason was that when Neil Campbell was managing editor, I found that my stories were cut less if I submitted two short articles, rather than one long one. It worked even better with three.
I really can't recall anything else from that class, except that I believe Todd Higdon, who is now a reporter for the Neosho Daily News was in the class, as well.
Good luck, Kaylea!
***
The First Amendment lawsuit filed by Webb City High School student LaStaysha Myers against Superintendent Ron Lankford, High School Principal Steve Gollhofer, and Assistant Principal Jeff Thornberry has been recommended for submission to an outside mediator, according to documents filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
This is a common practice used to try to keep cases from going to trial.
Ms. Myers claims her First Amendment rights were violated when school officials prevented her from wearing t-shirts supporting her friend, Brad Mathewson, a gay student who was told by school officials that he could not wear gay pride shirts.
Ms. Myers is being represented by American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Kenneth Choe and Joplin attorney William Fleischaker.
I remember clearly when I first heard that the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City had been bombed.
The Carthage Press staff was getting everything ready for the April 19, 1995, newspaper, when Publisher Jim Farley rushed into the newsroom and said the federal building in Oklahoma City had been bombed.
My reaction was nothing to be proud of. I just shrugged my shoulders and said I would make sure we put something about it into the newspaper. Of course, I didn't realize at the time that this was more than a simple bombing, but one which had cost hundreds of lives. Farley quickly set me straight and, if I recall, we had fine coverage, albeit nearly all from the Associated Press on that fateful day.
It seems hard to believe that 10 years have passed.
It didn't take long for me to get the opportunity to make up for my mistake. Less than two weeks later, Carthage was put right in the middle of the bombing story. We were shorthanded on Tuesday, May 2, 1995. City reporter Randee Kaiser was on vacation. The rest of the staff was getting that day's edition ready when word came across that FBI agents had zeroed in on two men who were staying at the Kel-Lake Hotel and might have a connection with the bombing.
I knew that despite his vacation, Randee would want to be involved in this one. When I called his home, he was making repairs on the roof. His wife called him to the phone and when Randee heard what was going on, he said he would be right there.
Randee was on hand when the FBI arrested Robert Jacks and Gary Land. Ron Graber and I were at the Carthage Police Station when the two men were brought in for questioning. Lifestyles Editor Mary Guccione interviewed Carthage residents who were standing outside the police station trying to get a glimpse of two men who they thought might be involved in the largest act of terrorism on American soil (at that point).
That newspaper was one of the best The Press put out during my six and a half years as managing editor. The top headline read "Captured," while the headline on the story at the bottom of page one (which was devoted entirely to the arrest) said, "Bombing suspects caught after signing real names on motel register."
As it turned out, neither man had anything to do with the Oklahoma City bombing, so there was no reason for them not to sign their real names on the register. The two were traveling across the country, mostly following old Route 66, staying in motels, drinking beer, and eating Bigfoot Pizza from Pizza Hut...all on the disability checks one of them was receiving from the federal government.
In the approximately three hours we had to get things together, The Press staff clicked for six bylined stories, two apiece for Kaiser, Mrs. Guccione, and me, and nine photos, taken by Graber, Kaiser and advertising salesman Stewart Johnson. We even scrapped a page we initially had planned and Ron Graber put together a photo page in its place.
Even though it turned out not to be as big a story as we initially thought it was, the capture of Land and Jacks at the Kel-Lake Motel turned out to be one of those days that remind reporters why they got into the business in the first place. We had the chance to thoroughly cover a local story with national significance and the Carthage Press staff made the most of it.
One ironic sidebar to the story, the only member of The Press news staff who was not able to participate in the coverage was our sports editor, who attended classes at Missouri Southern State College during the daytime. That sports editor was a guy named John Hacker, who has since become the best spot news reporter in this area of the state (and maybe in the whole state) working for The Joplin Globe. I would have loved to have seen what John could have contributed to the coverage.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Two people connected with Operation Ice Palace, a meth operation which involved the sale of large quantities of over-the-counter cold medications to meth manufacturers, pleaded guilty in federal court this week, according to a news released issued today by Todd Graves, U. S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri.
Those pleading guilty were Tracy J. VanBibber, 39, Camdenton, who entered his plea this morning to a charge of distributing pseudoephedrine, knowing that it would be used to manufacture methamphetamine, and Gabriel Delossantso, 29, Rogers, Ark., who pleaded last week to conspiracy to distribute pseudoedephrine.
Among others who have already pleaded guilty in Operation Ice Palace is Sherry Woodard, 45, Washburn, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison Jan. 21. According to Graves, Ms. Woodard, owner of Sims General Store in rural McDonald County, was ordering "excessive amounts of generic pseudoedephrine products," which were then being distributed to meth manufacturers.
***
Earlier today, I wrote about the lack of an article about O'Sullivan Industries' 50th anniversary on The Lamar Democrat website.
The article was featured in the print edition on page 6. The Democrat ran verbatim the press release issued by the company, which as I noted last week did not contain any references to the city of Lamar, though Lamar was where the company became a household name.
As a reader pointed out to me, the celebration itself is somewhat bogus since the company began 51 years ago, not 50. Perhaps company officials had the good taste not to celebrate the firm's 50th anniversary during a year in which all members of the founding family were sent packing.
It is amazing the difference that one little letter can make in a statement. Spell check, though it is an incredibly valuable tool, will not pick up something incorrect if it is also a word. Such was the case in The Turner Report article Saturday on Nexstar CEO Perry Sook's comments at last week's Wachtavia Conference.
"If you are moving to Joplin, Missouri, tomorrow...NOW that I would advocate that per se," he said as the investors in the audience chuckled, "you have Cable One and Dish Network." That doesn't sound that bad, does it? Unfortunately, that is not what Sook said.
The actual quote was, "If you are moving to Joplin, Missouri, tomorrow...NOT that I would advocate that per se," means something entirely different.
I will correct that statement in Saturday's blog entry.
Sorry about the mistake.
***
Apparently, O'Sullivan Industries officials did not think enough of the city of Lamar to even contact the local newspaper about the 50th anniversary celebration, if the Democrat website is any indication.
Tom O'Sullivan, his family, and the workers of Lamar were responsible for making O'Sullivan a household name, but...unless this important milestone was mentioned in an advertisement, or in a story that did not make the website...and that is possible, it appears the management, under the direction of million-dollar CEO Bob Parker is doing its best to make Lamar just another city in which O'Sullivan has a plant.
***
As expected, the Diamond R-4 Board of Education Thursday approved drug testing for students who are involved in extracurricular activities.
Anyone who has read this blog on a regular basis knows how I feel about this subject. It is sad that the very people who are responsible for teaching children about their civil liberties are now doing their best to deprive them of those same liberties.
Our government, and schools are the part of our government with which most people deal on a regular basis, has no business becoming involved in searches without cause, and has no right, no matter what federal courts have ruled, to force students to testify against themselves, and that is exactly what random drug testing does.
Remember that this policy applies only to students who participate in extracurricular activities. Undeniably, there are students who are in sports or music or Chess Club, or even Diamond's sacred Cooking Club, who might be tempted to try drugs, but certainly there are more people who are not participating in those activities who are doing so. These are the people who many times end up dropping out of school and becoming problems for society. But so far, thank God (and yes, I am allowed to do that in this country) the courts have not permitted random drug testing of all students.
I have been running a poll for the past several months on the website I set up when I was teaching in the Diamond R-4 School District, www.wildcatcentral.com on whether there should be drug testing in the school. Those voting have favored it by a pretty wide margin. That scares me. Part of that is that the people who vote see a genuine drug problem, not just in the Diamond schools, but in society as a whole. They see this as a way to deal with it. I can understand that.
The problem is some of these people simply cannot see how it flies in the face of everything that this country stands for.
Parents have always had the right to have their children tested. True, many do not have the money for this testing, so maybe some non-governmental group should set up a system through which these parents can receive that kind of funding. The push for drug testing in the schools has been just one more step in the continuing trend of having schools do what parents will not or cannot do.
Drug testing is also a costly and wasteful procedure. I have no idea how much it costs now, but when Carthage was looking into it a few years back, I recall that the estimates were that it would cost approximately $10,000 on an annual basis. I doubt if prices have gone down since that time.
And the tests are not foolproof. There are many kinds of prescription medication that can cause false positives. When those occur, school officials have to get to the bottom of the problem, thus wasting more valuable time.
It appears that this is going to take place. No one in the Diamond R-4 School District, as far as I know, has taken a stand against it.
The presumption of innocence no longer exists in Diamond.
***
On the other hand, wouldn't it be a great time for Superintendent Mark Mayo, High School Principal Jim Cummins and other members of the administration and board to show just how much they believe in random drug testing.
They should agree to submit to drug and alcohol tests on a random basis (no fair studying overnight).
Now that would be leadership.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Can anyone tell me if The Joplin Globe ever got around to mentioning the awards its reporters won in the annual Associated Press Managing Editors' Writing Contest earlier this month?
Though I know a lot of people in the media read this blog and are aware of the awards the Globe reporter won for fine work during the 2004 calendar year, unfortunately the general public at large does not know about it.
Of course, The Globe may have run something and I just didn't notice it.
***
Sorting through some old papers and throwing them away, I noticed an obituary in the April 6 Lamar Democrat for Jake McFarland, who was Lamar High School principal when I was sports editor at the Democrat in 1978. Again, this is one of those deaths that probably should have received notice on page one, even if in just a small area at the bottom of the page. For the better part of a decade, McFarland held a prominent public position in a small town. Proper treatment of stories about death is a key ingredient for success for a small-town newspaper.
I am a little bit late on this, but March 29 marked the 20th anniversary of the return of The Lamar Democrat to local ownership after a number of years in the Boone Newspapers fold and a brief period under the absentee ownership of David Palmer.
What was probably the biggest headline in Democrat history ran in the April 2, 1985, edition. Usually when war is declared, it runs in 72-point type. Under directions of the new owner, Doug Davis, I ran a 144-point headline "Democrat sells," with a 72-point kicker or subhead that said, "Returns to local ownership."
Davis had been publisher of the Democrat since early 1981. In the article, he was quoted as saying, "The only changes which will be made are those of the type which we have been undertaking for the past four years...restoration of the newspaper which this community, and many people in other areas, so dearly loved.
"In seeking to accomplish this, we will need, even more, the support of advertisers and subscribers. The success of your newspaper depends on you."
Though it has been largely forgotten over the past several years, if Davis had not been brought in as a troubleshooter by Boone Newspapers in 1981, the newspaper might not exist today. It had lost a number of advertisers through the mismanagement of Publisher Tommy Wilson and the biased reporting of youthful managing editor Dave Farnham. By ignoring the problem, the Democrat lost the advertising of Lamar Supermarket, and Supermarket owner Dan Arnold brought in Jim Peters to duplicate his highly successful Butler shopper, the XChanger with XChanger2 in Lamar.
Those mistakes by the Wilson-Farnham team ended the days of the Lamar Daily Democrat. Davis attempted to keep the Democrat as a daily with the highly successful "Today in Barton County" series featuring columns written by community members ranging from officeholders to Community Betterment members, Chamber of Commerce members, and most memorably local historian Reba Young, whose contributions continued to be a part of the Democrat long after "Today in Barton County" ended.
Still bleeding from the wounds caused by Wilson and Farnham, the Democrat became a once-a-week publication in early 1982. All the while, Davis had a goal of some day restoring it to a daily, though that never happened.
Nevertheless, he was able to slowly restore confidence from the city leaders and advertisers. His next big move came in November 1982 when he hired a new editor who had been the newspaper's sports editor four years earlier.
With marching orders to build local content, especially in the local schools and sports, I became the Democrat's managing editor. The approach worked and a few months later, the Democrat became a twice-weekly, which it remains to this day.
People who complain about the quality of today's Lamar Democrat, and they have every right to from time to time, should remember that it is far worse for a community not to have a newspaper. Doug Davis kept that from happening.