Friday, February 29, 2008

Today is Valliere's last day on Hometown Today

It's going to be hard for some of us to get used to, but today is Toni Valliere's final day as the co-host of KSNF's Hometown Today.
Next week, Ms. Valliere will take over as co-anchor on the station's 6 and 10 p.m. news, alongside Jim Jackson.
Tiffany Alaniz, who has been the co-anchor, will continue to do the 5 p.m. news and will also be taking over the noon newscast.

Jasper County prosecutor: Memorial Middle School shooter's actions reason for remand to adult court

Memorial Middle School shooter Thomas Gregory White's actions, not the alleged inadequacy of his first attorney Charles Lonardo were what caused the court to put White's case in the adult system, Jasper County assistant prosecutor John Nicholas told the Missouri Supreme Court Thursday:

Attorney John Nicholas, representing the state, argued that the performance of White's trial attorney was secondary to the weight of testimony by school officials, police officers and others.

White is one of the youngest offenders ever to be certified as an adult in Missouri. Three St. Louis girls, two 14-year-olds and one 13-year-old, were tried as adults in a 2004-05 murder case.

White's parents have said that they have been unable to find another school shooting case in which a juvenile was certified to stand trial as an adult when it didn't involve any deaths or injuries.

White has been in jail since the October 2006 incident in which he brought an assault weapon into Memorial Middle School, where he was a 13-year-old seventh grader at the time, fired into the ceiling, then pointed the weapon at Principal Steve Gilbreth, and allegedly tried to fire several times but the weapon jammed.
White is charged with two counts of assault and single counts of armed criminal action, unlawful use of a weapon, and attempted escape.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sixth grader offers information on Joplin's American Idol contestant

Sixth grader Taryn Parker, the youngest member of the South Middle School Journalism Club and a friend of Asia'h Epperson and her family, offers plenty of information about Joplin (and South's) American Idol contestant in an article posted today on Room 210 News:

Memorial Middle School shooter's case argued before Missouri Supreme Court

The Missouri Supreme Court heard arguments today on whether Memorial Middle School shooter Thomas Gregory White's case should be returned to juvenile court. White has been in jail awaiting trial since October 2006 when he took an assault rifle into the school, fired into the ceiling, then pointed the gun at Principal Steve Gilbreth and allegedly tried to fire several times but the gun jammed. White is charged with two counts of assault and single counts of armed criminal action, unlawful use of a weapon, and attempted escape:

Judge Stephen Limbaugh made it clear early in a hearing Thursday of the Missouri Supreme Court that public defender James Egan had his work cut out for him in arguing that Thomas White should not have been certified to stand trial as an adult on charges in connection with an assault-rifle incident at Memorial Middle School in Joplin.

Limbaugh said it was his understanding that the state’s high court agreed to hear the Joplin boy’s case to determine whether the circuit court in Jasper County erred in ordering him to stand trial as an adult on felony offenses allegedly committed with a weapon he took to school at the age of 13.

“Frankly, given the seriousness of the charge, I have a hard time understanding any circuit judge anywhere not certifying this (young) fellow,” Limbaugh said.

But several of the judges, including Limbaugh, showed an interest in Egan’s argument that White, now 15, received ineffective assistance of counsel at his adult-certification hearing in December 2006.

The boy’s case in adult court in Jasper County is on hold pending a ruling by the Missouri Supreme Court on the defense’s writ of prohibition. That decision could take several weeks.

Another study shows educational vouchers are not improving the lot of students

Supporters of educational vouchers have long cited the Milwaukee program as evidence that vouchers will work.

A new study conducted by the School Choice Demonstration Project, part of the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, shows there is little difference on standardized tests between students attending public and private schools according to an article in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

For years, the Milwaukee program has been allowed to exist with private schools not having to take standardized tests to determine how well their students were doing. That changed in 2006, allowing this study to take place:

But the early findings, based on examining standardized test results for voucher students and comparing them to those of a matched set of MPS students, are unlikely to be seen as good news by advocates of the program that was launched in 1990 with hopes of being a powerful step to increase educational success among the city's children.

The Milwaukee program is the largest, oldest and arguably most significant school voucher effort in the United States. As Patrick J. Wolf, the lead researcher in the project, wrote, "When one thinks of school choice, one thinks of Milwaukee."

"We have displayed a rough and limited snapshot of the average performance of Choice (Milwaukee Parental Choice Program) students in certain grades that suggests they tend to perform below national averages but at levels roughly comparable to similarly income-disadvantaged students in MPS," Wolf, a professor at the University of Arkansas, concluded.

At one point in the reports, researchers use the phrase "relative parity" in describing the small differences between the performance of MPS students and voucher students.

They say there is little evidence that voucher schools are "skimming the cream" by taking the best students from MPS, as some critics have claimed. What they conclude is that the performance of both MPS and voucher students is fairly typical for low-income students nationally, pointing at the broader American dilemma of how to achieve widespread educational success among poor children, minority children and children from homes where there is little history of educational success.

KODE reporter says he is for Huckabee

KODE reporter Dustin Lattimer revealed his preference for president during an interview with Pittsburg State University's student newspaper, The Collegio. The article begins:

Dustin Lattimer prides himself on being a conservative Republican and a strong Christian. His choice for the 2008 presidential election, Mike Huckabee, shares these views and according to Lattimer, is just what this country needs.
"I, myself, am a Christian and believe that our nation's leader needs to represent that religion's beliefs and morals," said Lattimer, a junior in communication. "Huckabee is the strongest Christian, from what I've observed, and would make a great leader from a Christian's perspective."

Lattimer explained that Huckabee, who is a former governor of Arkansas, was a preacher before becoming governor. Because of Huckabee's beliefs, Lattimer said, his followers include Christian evangelicals, conservatives and pro-life advocates.

The article about Lattimer, who is also a PSU student, continues:

Lattimer says that although Huckabee's religious views are important, they aren't the only reason that the candidate remains his No. 1 choice.
"There are several issues that make me believe Huckabee is the right man for the job," Lattimer said. "I'm a strong conservative Republican. It's well known that Huckabee is the most conservative candidate on the campaign trail."

Another important issue, Lattimer says, is Huckabee's conservative spending. During his time as governor, Huckabee pushed big tax cuts for residents of his state and enacted a $90 million tax relief package for Arkansas families, Lattimer said.

"I vote not just on the issues that portray my political views, but because of what the conservative candidate believes in and represents," Lattimer said.

Prayer amendment is unnecessary election year posturing

How can you tell it is an election year?

That's an easy one. You take a look at the useless posturing being done by politicians on hot-button issues that really do not have much of an effect on the most serious problems of our times.

One that always comes up is this fiction that there is a vast horde of public schoolteachers and administrators who spend every waking moment watching out for young people who have the audacity to pray at school or carry a Bible.

The tactics that are used are similar to the ones used by those promoting another piece of useless legislation- last year's Castle Doctrine law. You might recall that those pushing that unnecessary bill kept talking about law-abiding Missourians who were sued because they protected their lives or their property from evildoers. Yet to this day no one has shown a single case in which such a thing happened within our borders.

I will concede there have been a few cases of public school administrators going overboard and misinterpreting students' First Amendment rights to pray and to carry the Bible. But that is the point, students (and teachers, too, as long as they do not try to influence students' religious views) already have that right under the U. S. Constitution. We don't need to waste the taxpayers' money on this repetitious legislation. If there is a problem (and if there is one, it is not widespread), have the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education send out a memo, or even a series of memos, to Missouri school administrators, outlining exactly what freedoms students have.

Of course, if we did that, our legislators would not be able to strut about the state during an election year defending God and country from a menace that does not exist.

The subject of students' right to pray and exercise their religion in public schools is not a new one for me to write about. Those who read The Carthage Press during the 1990s will recall I wrote numerous columns about the subject during that decade, following the fight for prayer at football games in Lamar, the battle of a Jasper High School student prayer group to meet on school property, and numerous other incidents.

That was a time in which there were a number of public school officials who were receiving contrary opinions from the courts and state officials about the role of religion in schools. Nearly all of those concerns have now been addressed. Student-led prayer groups have access to school buildings, and students have the freedom to pray and carry their Bibles to school. Education of school officials, and clear decisions by the courts were the key to resolving these issues. Constitutional amendments were not needed...and they are not needed now.

This year's legislation is sponsored by Rep. Cynthia Davis, who talked it in this week's Capitol Report:

Few instances bring people together in prayer quite like tragedy does. We can all remember the scenes of the 9/11 tragedy when acts of prayer and patriotism were respected once again. Just this month, thousands gathered in Kirkwood to honor and pray for those who died after the shooting at Kirkwood City Hall. The right to pray is inherent in our country’s Constitution, and thank God, because we need the power of prayer to get through these trying circumstances.

However, in some environments, students’ first amendment rights are being trampled by school policies that are reflective of an anti-God, anti-Christian bias. The “politically correct” crowds have pushed their agenda so far they have attempted to erase much of the heritage and traditions that give us our moral fiber. Many people feel they must check any religious beliefs at the door. Yet, sadly, this belief is the exact opposite of the grounds upon which our country was founded.

To ensure that every Missourian knows he or she has the right to pray in public places, the legislature recently took a first step. The House passed legislation onto the Senate that will give Missouri citizens the opportunity to vote on a state constitutional amendment to clarify the right to pray in public, House Joint Resolution 55, and which reiterates our freedom of speech in Missouri.

The sponsor of this resolution told a story of students who had been prohibited from even carrying a Bible onto a school bus. While I don’t believe this is indicative of all of Missouri’s school districts, I do think we need to make all districts consistent and make sure Missouri students never have to question their freedom to carry a Bible if they choose. Some of the stories of harassment we have heard would make you wonder in what country we are living.

HJR 55 will ensure our students are not being shamed and silenced while other students with far more outrageous behavior are being encouraged. If given final approval by the General Assembly and the voters of Missouri, the amendment would guarantee a citizen's First Amendment right to pray and worship in all public areas, including schools, as long as the activities are voluntary and subject to the same rules and regulations that apply to all other types of speech.

It also would reaffirm the right of employees and elected officials of the State of Missouri to pray on government premises and public property. Here in the Capitol, we have regular prayer breakfasts and we pray before session begins, but we want to make sure employees in all state buildings have this right clearly stated so they can pray freely without fear of punishment.

This constitutional amendment will not change the law – but it will help define and strengthen the law for the people of Missouri. In a country that has become so politically correct, some of our citizens have real concerns about their rights and one of my jobs as your representative is to make sure basic American rights are being upheld.

Some decisions make one think that the religion of atheism is being promoted above all others. Some people mistakenly think a secular setting is the same as being anti-religious.

One component of the legislation requires that all public schools receiving state funds display the text of the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution in a conspicuous and legible manner. This can serve as a simple and strong reminder of our rights, including religious freedom, which we are guaranteed as U.S. citizens.

Here is the text of the proposed legislation. The bold text is the new language. The normal text is already in our state constitution.

Bill of Rights

Article I, Section 5,Constitution of Missouri

That all men and women have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences; that no human authority can control or interfere with the rights of conscience; that no person shall, on account of his or her religious persuasion or belief, be rendered ineligible to any public office or trust or profit in this state, be disqualified from testifying or serving as a juror, or be molested in his or her person or estate; that to secure a citizen's right to acknowledge Almighty God according to the dictates of personal convictions, neither the state nor any of its political subdivisions shall establish any official religion, but a citizen's right to pray or to express his or her religious beliefs shall not be infringed; that the state shall not compose prayers nor coerce any person to participate in any prayer or other religious activity, but shall ensure public school students their right to free exercise of religious expression without interference, as long as such prayer or other expression is private and voluntary, whether individually or corporately, and in a manner that is not disruptive nor in violation of other policies, rules, or standards, and as long as such prayers or expressions abide within the same parameters placed upon any other free speech under similar circumstances; and, to emphasize the right to free exercise of religious expression, that all free public schools receiving state appropriations shall display, in a conspicuous and legible manner, the text of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States; but this section shall not be construed to excuse acts of licentiousness, nor to justify practices inconsistent with the good order, peace or safety of the state, or with the rights of others.

No trial for Smith until summer in Isle of Capri case

It looks as though Sen. Jeff Smith will not stand trial until sometime this summer in the Isle of Capri case.
The case had originally been scheduled to go to trial Tuesday, according to Cooper County Circuit Court records, but was delayed and it looks as though Smith is fighting the misdemeanor charge tooth and nail.
Court records indicate a motion hearing will be held 2:30 p.m. April 22, with all discovery to be completed by June 10, meaning that no trial will be held for Smith until long after the 2008 legislative session is completed.
The trial apparently will be held sometime in July.

Smith is charged with presenting false identification in order to gamble at the Isle of Capri casino in Boonville during a lobbyist-financed junket on July 31. At the suggestion of lobbyist Lynne Schlosser, he purportedly used the identification of Rep. Joe Aull, D-Kansas City to gamble.

Joplin's Asia'h Epperson to sing another day

Four more contestants were eliminated from the seventh American Idol competition tonight, but Joplin's Asia'h Epperson was not one of them.
Those biting the dust tonight were two female singers, Alaina Whittaker and Alexandrea Lushington, and two male singers, Robbie Carrico and Jason Yeager. The elimination of Yeager, who lives in Branson, left Miss Epperson as the only contestant from southwest Missouri.
The competition continues next week on Tuesday and Wednesday on Fox stations, including Fox 14 in Joplin and KSFX in Springfield.

Freedman, man behind the marketing of Precious Moments figurines, dead at 82

Eugene Freedman, the man who saw a possible marketing bonanza in figurines made from artist Sam Butcher's Precious Moments characters, died Tuesday at age 82:

Mr. Freedman was the longtime chief executive officer of the Enesco Group, now headquartered in Itasca. With the company since the late 1950s, Mr. Freedman would scout out new gift ideas from artists and craftsman and work out licensing deals.

"He'd walk street fairs looking for talent, take the intellectual property into three dimensions and enhance it with clever marketing ideas," Richard Freedman said.

Over the years, he developed a number of successful items, including the Cherished Teddies line of teddy bear figurines. But nothing rivaled the popularity of Precious Moments.

Butcher, who drew the tiny figures for a line of greeting cards, was initially reluctant to license his work, Richard Freedman said. But, according to the Precious Moments Web site, when Butcher saw a prototype figurine "he fell to his knees and wept."

Since then, some 1,500 versions of the figurine have been produced. Models are made for baptisms, birthdays and other life events. "The Lord Bless You and Keep You" model, a tiny bride and groom, has sat atop 2 million wedding cakes, Freedman told the Tribune in 1998.

"My father understood human emotion and he knew what made a product successful," Richard Freedman said. "My dad was just so delighted that these figurines brought such joy to people."

The Precious Members collector's club sponsored by Enesco at one time boasted a half-million members, said Shonnie Bilin, formerly the vice president of collectibles at Enesco. Mr. Freedman traveled widely to promote the line and would happily sign the figurines while mingling with collectors at conventions or on cruises.

"He was extremely customer- and consumer-friendly," said Basil Elliott, Enesco's CEO.

Precious Moments increased Enesco's annual sales from around $20 million a year to about $500 million annually, Elliott said.

The figurines for the last couple of years have been sold by Precious Moments Inc. in Carthage, Mo., where there is a park and chapel for fans.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

JoAnn Turner featured in Neosho Daily News

Mom has hit the big time.

A big thanks to Kay Hively of the Neosho Daily News, whose feature on my mother, JoAnn Turner, ran in today's Neosho Daily News:

In 2007, JoAnn Turner was named “Citizen of the Year,” in Newtonia.

It was a good choice.

JoAnn Turner has lived in Newtonia for most of her married life—and that’s 55 years.
In those 50 or more years, JoAnn has seen many changes in this small Civil War town. She can remember when Newtonia had a grocery store, post office, bank and beauty parlor. And she remembers the sadness when these businesses left town.

“I miss the bank and post office,” she said, “and I hate that my mail goes through Stark City. I can still put Newtonia on my letters, but they still go through Stark City.”

One of the biggest events in Newtonia was the formation of the Newtonia Battlefields Protection Association.

JoAnn was made a member of that board in the beginning and she continues to serve.

“I’m very glad we have the Newtonia Battlefields Protection Association,” JoAnn said. “I think if we get anything going in this town, it will be because of that group.”

The Newtonia Betterment Association is also an important part of the community. JoAnn has been a member of that organization for several years and currently serves as treasurer. This group began as the Loyal Neighbors, a ladies’ social club. Members of the club decided Newtonia could use a community center so they began a drive to purchase a piece of land and build a center.

Today, the Newtonia Community Building is the heart of the town and often is used for meetings, parties and celebrations. JoAnn, along with her husband Bill, takes good care of the building. They do the general cleaning and maintenance, and JoAnn books the building for those who want to rent it.

JoAnn is also on the board of the “old cemetery” in Newtonia. She and Bill have taken the responsibility of marking the graves before funerals. JoAnn also has taken it upon herself to clip and save all the obituaries of Newtonia area residents.

When JoAnn is not working some good cause in her hometown, she likes to walk and do genealogy.

“I try to walk about six miles every day,” she said. “I just walk on the dirt road near my house.”

For many years, she has done genealogy research, hunting the history of both the Turner side of the family and her own family, the Clarks. Her research is done primarily in the Neosho-Newton County Public Library and over the Internet.

“I’m having more problems with the Clarks,” JoAnn said. “As I search, I usually find people who can use my help more than they can help me.”

JoAnn grew up near the small community of Aroma and attended grade school at Granby. Her father was a Granby miner, who died when she was only 8 years old. After her mother remarried, the family moved a couple of times to California but eventually returned permanently to this area.

JoAnn and Bill have two daughters and one son—none of whom have shown any interest at all in JoAnn’s genealogy.

“I don’t think any of them are interested, but I have warned them not to throw it away when I’m gone,” she laughed. “I’ve worked too hard to get all that work done.”

But there may be hope for another generation of family historians since JoAnn has three granddaughters. Perhaps one of them will take an interest in family history and carry on the good works of Today’s Woman—JoAnn Turner.

Link provided to Democratic debate transcript

Those interested in reading the transcript of last night's debate between Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama can do so by following this link.

Lines are open for American Idol for next two hours

Those wanting to cast their votes for Joplin's Asia'h Epperson in this week's American Idol competition can do so by dialing 1-866-IDOLS-10 or text vote 5710.

The results will be announced tomorrow night during a show scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. locally on Fox 14.

Powerful ending for Asiah's version of "All By Myself"

Asia'h Epperson told more than 30 million people just now that she loved her time as a middle school cheerleader, saying "Go Eagles, and did a Joplin Eagles cheer, which should raise the roof at the Joplin American Idol watch party.

Asia'h is performing Eric Carmen's "All By Myself," which I have to admit I have never liked, and it does not appear to be her best performance and she has missed a couple of notes, but she is putting on a show at the end and getting the crowd back into it. And her arrangement of the song is different and powerful. What an ending! She nailed it!

Now for the judges:

Randy Jackson said that Asia'h has been sick. "You did a really good job with it."

Paula Abdul said, "It was great, but the ending is where it counts on this song. You brought it home."

Simon Cowell said, "You have to be one heck of a singer to pull it off and you didn't. You almost got away with it, but the song was too big for you."

The voters are not going to see it that way. Besides, it has been a weak night. Asia'h will be back next week.

Fox 14 to offer coverage of Asia'h Epperson during 9 p.m. newscast

Fox 14 will have a feature on the Joplin Asia'h Epperson American Idol watch party, plus clips from Asia'h's performance and the judges' comments during the 9 p.m. newscast.

Asia'h will perform right after the commercial which is ending now.

Blog back up again...just in time

Blogger has some technical difficulties, which I feared were going to keep me from live-blogging Asia'h Epperson's performance, but for the moment the service is working again.

The eighth and ninth contestants, Alexandrea Lushington and Kady Malloy both fell far short. This has been a weak evening for American Idol contestants.

Now the stage is set for the evening's final performer, Joplin's Asia'h Epperson.

Asia'h will be the last performer

If my math is correct, only three performers are left on tonight's American Idol female singers night and since the next two have been named and neither is Asia'h Epperson, that means she will be the final performer tonight.

It gives her a lot more time to get nervous, but somehow from what I have seen of her during the past few weeks, and from what I hear from those who know her in Joplin, the placement is not going to faze Miss Epperson at all.

Seventeen-year-old channeling Olivia Newton-John

Seventeen-year-old Alaina Whittaker, the youngest contestant and apparently another Fox favorite, is trying to sing Olivia Newton-John's "Hopelessly Devoted" from "Grease."

It may be a bit too much for her. It is not an easy song to do, and Alaina missed some of the early notes, but is closing the song well.

I have no idea how the judges will go on this one.

Not the right song, Randy Jackson said. "It wasn't my favorite for you."

Paula liked it (of course). "I didn't think it was as bad as you did," she said.

Simon Cowell said, "It's almost as if your grandmother prepared you for this audition," describing her as "old fashioned, but also called her "one of the dark horses of the competition."

Amanda Overmyer, good but not great

Janis Joplin wanna-be Amanda Overmyer is singing a powerful version of Kansas' '70s classic, "Carry On, Wayward Son." When she hits the notes, she's great, but she has missed a few. This is a song that works well for her, however.

The lady has energy to spare and she is ending the song with a flourish.

Now for the judges:

Randy Jackson did not like it. "Way too much melody for a bluesy girl."

Paula Abdul enjoyed Amanda's dancing, but did not like the song.

Simon Cowell thought it was contrived.

Again, though it wasn't great, I believe the audience will like it better than the judges. That being said, it will likely fall short of the top two or three tonight.

Supreme Court to hear Memorial Middle School shooter case tomorrow

The Missouri Supreme Court will hear arguments from Memorial Middle School shooter Thomas Gregory White's attorneys tomorrow on why their client should be returned to juvenile court.
White, 15, has been in jail since October 2006, when he took an assault rifle into Memorial Middle School, fired the weapon into the ceiling, then pointed it at Principal Steve Gilbreth. Authorities claim White attempted to pull the trigger several times, but the gun jammed.

White, who was 13 and a seventh grader at Memorial at the time, is charged with two counts of assault and single counts of armed criminal action, unlawful use of a weapon, and attempted escape.

Kristy Lee Cook has stage presence

This is the best performance I have seen from Kristy Lee Cook. She is working the crowd and looks like a professional performer singing Linda Ronstadt's "You're No Good."

It remains to be seen if the judges think her song selection is no good. I have a feeling they are going to like this one.

Randy Jackson said, "That's 100 percent improvement over last week," but felt she fell a bit short.

Paula Abdul agreed. "You're back. It was a good song choice."

Simon Cowell went with his compadres, but warned, "I don't really know what kind of a singer you are," and suggested she go for country music.

Still waiting for Asia'h, Kristy Lee Cook is next

The fifth performer, after the commercial messages, will be Kristy Lee Cook, who has vaulted into the top tier based more on looks than on talent, but then again, are there not a lot of performers who could have that same statement made about them?

It looks like Joplin's (and South Middle School's) Asia'h Epperson will be one of the last singers tonight, which is a positive sign. From what I hear, and I will admit I have never watched American Idol until someone from Joplin was on the show, American Idol's producers like to showcase their favorites (top performers and the ones who have the best stories and will keep the audience tuned in) toward the end of the show. It also keeps the songs fresh in the audience's mind and supposedly increases the number of phone calls for those contestants.

We shall see.

Ramiele Malubay wows them in Idol competition

Ramiele Malubay's choice of a song that mixes balladry with a hard driving rock beat is showcasing all of her talent and is the best performance I have seen from the first four contestants, though I am sure the judges will not agree with me, considering their preference for the "You're So Vain" performer.

Randy Jackson- "This was O.K." The crowd, as usual, was unhappy with that assessment.

Paula Abdul did not like it either. "It's the same notes."

Now for Simon. Of course, he did not like it either.

However, I feel the home audience is going to side with me on this one.

Brooke White's "You're So Vain," a real pain

Forget what I said about Syesha Mercado, Brooke White's rendition of Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" is right at the bottom of the first three singers, though she does appear to be enjoying herself.
She is having a hard time hitting the notes (and believe me, this comes from someone who knows, I have a hard time hitting the notes, too).

Judge Randy Jackson said she had a "Carly Simon vibe". Paula Abdul called it a "perfect song choice. Everyone was digging it. I really loved it."

Simon Cowell "absolutely loved it."

I don't care what they thought. It was terrible.

Syesha murders "Me and Mr. Jones"

Unless it improves quickly, Syesha Mercado's performance of "Me and Mr. Jones," the old Billy Paul song (done with a sex change) appears primed to be one of the worst performances of the evening.
Ms. Mercado is all over the chart on the song. Let's hear what the judges think:

Randy Jackson criticized the song choice. "It goes nowhere for me."

Paula Abdul said Syesha missed her soft notes, but as usual, said she liked it.

Simon Cowell called it indulgent. "The song wasn't written for a girl, so it was a bit indulgent for you to do it."

Singing begins on American Idol girls night

Carly Smithson opened tonight's American Idol girls showdown with a hard-rocking, but uneven version of the Heart classic "Crazy on You," receiving generally positive reviews from the judges, though Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell had some reservations about the overall effectiveness of the performance.
From the introductions, it appears that Joplin's Asia'h Epperson may well be one of the final contestants to perform.

Hearing set to check status of lawsuit against Attorney General Nixon

The status of a civil rights lawsuit against Attorney General Jay Nixon will be assessed during a 10:30 a.m. Monday, March 3, telephone conference, according to a document filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

Three months have passed since court documents were filed indicating that a settlement had been reached in attorney Marla Grothoff's action against Nixon A telephone conference was held today.

As noted in the Nov. 6 Turner Report, the settlement, the details of which have not been made available, was arrived at that day following a session which was attended by Ms. Grothoff and her attorney Daniel Pingelton, and representing Nixon, Karen Mitchell, James McAdams and Gail Vasterling of the attorney general's office.

Ms. Grothoff served as an attorney for the Child Support Enforcement Division of the Division of Social Services from 1988 to 2003. When the decision was made to transfer the legal work for that division to the attorney general's office, most of the lawyers were transferred to the attorney general's office, according to Ms. Grothoff's petition, which was originally filed in Boone County Circuit Court, but not Ms. Grothoff.
In her lawsuit, Ms. Grothoff claimed she was discriminated against because she is a quadriplegic with limited use of her hands.
The attorney general denied Ms. Grothoff's claims.

Live blogging set for tonight's American Idol

Barring any unexpected developments, I will be live blogging tonight as Joplin's Asia'h Epperson competes in American Idol. The program will air locally at 7 p.m. on Fox 14.

A few memories about children's television shows

(The following is my column is my column in this week's Newton County News.)

I can't recall the name of the show, but Ozarks Public Television recently had a program which recalled The Children's Hour, not the adult Lillian Hellman play, but the children's program which ruled southwest Missouri for three decades on KYTV in Springfield.

Aunt Norma Champion, who spent 13 years as the program's host (and who is now a state senator) was interviewed, as was the man who voiced the programs two puppets, Skinny and Rusty.

That brought back plenty of memories, especially of the daily squawking of Rusty (a chicken) to "blow out the candles" when it was time to wish happy birthday to Springfield-area youngsters.

The early 1960s, when I was in the single digits agewise was the time when every local television station had a children's program, with a host, perhaps some puppets, and definitely cartoons.

On KOAM-TV, Channel 7, in Pittsburg, Kan., it was The Fun Club with host Roger Neer and his cohort Slim Andrews, the 49er, who somehow came to Pittsburg from Hollywood where he had appeared in several Westerns in the '40s. I know others were hosts of the show besides Neer, including Andrews himself for a time, but it was the Neer program that I first watched.

The show I remember most, however, was on KODE-TV, Channel 12- The Bar 12 Ranger with Ranger Ed. For a time, I watched the program every day, but that ended when I was about eight years old.

At the time, my dad, Bill Turner, was working for Neosho Nurseries and was doing some landscaping work at KODE, along with my mom's brother, Bob Clark. I wasn't much help to the two of them, so I was pretty much wandering about outside and I even managed to wander away from Dad and slip into the station.

One of the first people I ran into was Jim Lobbey, later the Jasper County Clerk, but at that time an on-air personality at KODE. The only thing I could think of was to say was "You're Jim Lobbey."

Apparently, he already knew that, and walked right on past me without saying anything. I was somewhat disillusioned by my first meeting with a star, but I plowed on ahead. I did not run into any more celebrities so I returned to the Neosho Nurseries truck and was reading when I spotted my hero. Ranger Ed (Ed Wilson) walking out of the station. I was surprised to see him without his cowboy hat and outfit, but I couldn't wait to see him hop on his horse and ride away from the station. Imagine my surprise (and further disillusionment) when he climbed into a little red sports car and sped away from the station.

By this time, I was fed up with all of the fakes in the world of television so I remained in the truck waiting for Dad and my Uncle Bob to finish. A few moments later, I looked up from my book and staring me and smiling through the window was a man I recognized immediately. I didn't have a chance to say anything before he introduced himself. "I'm Gerry Henson," he said. "Would you like to take a look at the station?"
I did and I followed him back in for a brief, but memorable look at what at the time seemed quite glamorous. Gerry Henson, the host of the popular Teen Hop program at the time, talked to me almost as if I was an equal and answered every question I asked (and I had a lot of them).

I don't remember much about Ranger Ed or The Fun Club, or even The Children's Hour, but I do remember that trip to KODE and Gerry Henson. That was the day I learned that the magic of television had nothing to do with cheap, interchangeable programs, but with those TV personalities who remembered the eight-year-olds who watched them from afar.

Ashcroft to testify on no-bid contract

Southwest Missouri's own, former Attorney General John Ashcroft has agreed to testify to Congress about a multi-million dollar no-bid contract that was steered his way by a U. S. attorney in New Jersey, according to an article in the New York Times:

Mr. Ashcroft agreed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee in the face of the committee’s threat to issue a subpoena to compel his testimony. Congressional officials said the committee hoped to schedule the hearing for next month.

Mr. Ashcroft, who left the Justice Department three years ago, had initially declined the committee’s invitation to testify this month about his monitoring contract with the medical-supply company in Indiana, Zimmer Holdings, which agreed to hire an outside monitor in settling accusations that it paid kickbacks to doctors who agreed to use its equipment.

The 18-month monitoring contract, worth $28 million to $52 million, was directed to Mr. Ashcroft’s firm, the Ashcroft Group, by the United States attorney in New Jersey, Christopher J. Christie, without any bidding process.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Clinton on top of her game, but Obama avoids all traps

Sen. Hillary Clinton was on top of her game during what may be turn out to be the final Democratic debate of the 2008 election, but she was unable to score many points against Barack Obama, who has been steadily cutting into their leads in polls in Texas and Ohio.

Mrs. Clinton is a top-notch debater, better than Obama, but Obama has not needed strong debate skills in this campaign. He has effectively used his ability as an orator and his ability to connect with people to his advantage, eschewing the old fashioned politics as played by Mrs. Clinton.

Mrs. Clinton was finally able to put her Iraq vote behind her, with her comment that if she could take back one vote that would be it. She also won points with her criticism of Obama's failure to reject the support of Louis Farakkhan, head of the Nation of Islam and someone who has espoused anti-Semitic views time after time. The pundits seem to think that Obama, who had said he denunciated Farrakhan, managed to deflect Mrs. Clinton's criticism by just saying he did not see a difference in words between denunciate and reject, but if she saw it as a problem, he would reject it, too. That seemed a little weak.

I am beginning to wonder about these all-knowing pundits. Perhaps Saturday Night Live had it right in its opening sketch Saturday night which showed how the media has fawned over Obama. Clinton had the stronger performance tonight, but the pundits are making it appear as if Obama showed nothing but presidential timber tonight.

Incumbents file; opponent files against Ruzicka

Joplin-area representatives lined up for re-election today on the first day of filing.
Incumbents filing included:
-Ed Emery, R-Lamar, 126th District
-Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City, 128th District
-Ron Richard, R-Joplin, 129th District
-Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, 130th District
-Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, 131st District

In the 127th District, which will have no incumbent running since Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, has served the maximum eight years, the only candidate filing was Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage.

The only area race is in the 132nd District, where incumbent Don Ruzicka, R-Mount Vernon, is being challenged by Mark Peters, R-Pierce City.

Big Brother Bartle proposes steroid testing for students

With all of the attention on Roger Clemons, Barry Bonds, and others who have been accused of using steroids in sports, and reports of high school and even middle school athletes who are emulating their professional sports idols to gain an edge in competition, it is not surprising that state legislators are jumping on the bandwagon and proposing testing for student athletes.
Today's Joplin Globe features an article on a proposal by Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee's Summit, to test student athletes for steroids.
Longtime readers of The Turner Report know that I am not in favor of drug testing for students. Well-meaning school administrators and boards of education have taken court rulings that say that those who participate in extracurricular activities can be tested and ran with them. Many of them, rightly concerned about the drug problem in America, would test every student if the courts would allow it.
Several things bother me about drug testing and steroid testing:

-In America, even those who are accused of crimes are offered the presumption of innocence. With this type of invasive testing, all students are considered crininals from the outset.

-Taxpayer money could be used for far better purposes. Regular drug tests cost $10 to $15 per test, while the steroid testing costs more than $50.

-As far as the regular drug testing is concerned, we are taking the chance, and it has proven over and over, that some students who might stay in school if they participate in extracurricular activities, and may well eventually stop bad behavior when surrounded by students who are not taking drugs, do not even participate because of the fear of these tests. In other words, we are failing to save the students who most need to be saved.

And the students, the very ones who should be protesting these invasions of their privacy, are rolling over and begging for more.

We do have drug problems in our society and steroid use has increased, but so far there has been little or no evidence to show that these drug testing programs have had any success.

People naturally want to feel like they are doing something to combat society's ills; who can blame them? Is it necessary, however, that students have to give up their freedoms to make adults feel better?

Corporate farms may be excluded from emission rules

The power of corporate farms, which has been seen in Missouri over the past few years, is also evident on the national level.
Today's Washington Post features an article describing how agricultural lobbyists, representing the factory farms, are successfully pushing to have their clients removed from emission reporting requirements:

Under pressure from agriculture industry lobbyists and lawmakers from agricultural states, the Environmental Protection Agency wants to drop requirements that factory farms report their emissions of toxic gases, despite findings by the agency's scientists that the gases pose a health threat.

The EPA acknowledges that the emissions can pose a threat to people living and working nearby, but it says local emergency responders don't use the reports, making them unnecessary. But local air-quality agencies, environmental groups and lawmakers who oppose the rule change say the reports are one of the few tools rural communities have for holding large livestock operations accountable for the pollution they produce.

Opponents of the rule change say agriculture lobbyists orchestrated a campaign to convince the EPA that the reports are not useful and misrepresented the effort as reflecting the views of local officials. They say the plan to drop the reporting requirement is emblematic of a broader effort by the Bush-era EPA to roll back federal pollution rules.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Joplin's American Idol contender one of only five with no professional experience

American Idol has been tagged as a follow-up to ancient shows like Talent Scouts and Ted Mack's Amateur Hour, but as Boston Herald music columnist Christopher John Treacy notes in a column today, only five of the final 20 contestants, including Joplin's Asia'h Epperson, are true amateurs:

“American Idol” is redefining the concept of a level playing field. Sure, anyone can audition. But most of this year’s final 20 are seasoned performers taking their second and third stabs at stardom. There are few diamonds in the rough in this lot.

Last week it was widely reported that tattooed contestant Carly Smithson had released a major label album in 1999 under the name Hennessy. It flopped, even though MCA poured $2.2 million into promoting it. But Smithson isn’t the only season seven hopeful with professional experience: Only five current contenders - Chikezie Eze, Asia’h Epperson, Jason Yeager, Ramielle Malubay and Danny Noriega - truly qualify as untested talent. One way or another, the rest have already been around the block.

The rest of the column explores the pasts of the American Idol finalists.
Asia'h Epperson will perform again on Wednesday night's show, which will be shown at 7 p.m. in the Joplin area on Fox 14.

Wilson votes against anti-independent bill

Count Kevin Wilson as the only Joplin-area representative who stood up and voted no against Rep. Ted Hoskins' full employment for incumbents bill today.
The bill, which makes it even more difficult for independents, who already face nearl insurmountable barriers, to have an even contest with Democrats or Republicans, was passed by a 96-40 vote, with Wilson, a Neosho Republican, Rep. Jim Viebrock, R-Republic, and Rep. Charlie Norr, D-Springfield, as the only southwest Missouri legislators to vote against the measure.
Among those voting for the bill were: Ron Richard, R-Joplin, Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City, Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, David Sater, R-Cassville, Don Ruzicka, R-Mount Vernon, Sara Lampe, D-Springfield, Ed Emery, R-Lamar, B. J. Marsh, R-Springfield, Mike Parson, R-Bolivar, and Bob Dixon, R-Springfield.
The bill has already had its first reading in the Senate, the chamber in which it originated in 2007, when it was proposed by Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, and co-sponsored by Sen. Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City, both of whom were inconvenienced by challenges from independent candidates in 2006.
The bill forces independent candidates to file for office at the same time as Democrats and Republicans, even though they have no primary elections.

Jetton offers thoughts on what to do to employers who hire illegal immigrants

Speaker of the House Rod Jetton offered more thoughts on illegal immigration during his most recent capitol report. This time, Jetton wrote about the problem of what to do with businesses which hire illegal immigrants:

This whole month I have talked to you about illegal immigration in Missouri. From the very beginning I have stated that it is up to the Federal Government to secure our nation's borders to stop the flow of illegals. However, Missouri can remove the incentives illegal immigrants have for coming to our state. In the House we are working hard to do just that.

Last week I gave you figures that showed the cost of illegal immigration in our state. I already told you about the effort to keep illegals out of Missouri colleges, from collecting public benefits, and finally how we should give law enforcement the tools they need to find the immigration status of possible illegals. The one topic I have not touched on yet has been keeping businesses from employing illegal immigrants.

Now this is a complicated subject because of the nature of contracting and sub-contracting. Many businesses will contract out work to other businesses. Some of those businesses will in turn sub-contract work to other businesses. So if the sub-contractor of the contractor is employing illegal immigrants who should be punished?

This question has been the sticking point for meaningful illegal employer reform in the past. I believe that businesses should only be held accountable for employees they personally and directly hire. Therefore, a sub-contractor should be punished for knowingly hiring illegal immigrants, not the business they sub-contract for.

The whole issue can be complicated, but it is important to remember another facet of the issue. We do not want to make our business leaders and owners into INS agents. We do want to seem them follow the law and not hire illegal immigrants, but we can not ask them to do the job of the government.

I believe our businesses should follow a simple policy, if a person is an illegal immigrant then don't hire them. If you knowingly hire the illegal immigrant then you will be punished by the state government. If you sub-contract work and they knowingly hire an illegal immigrant then the sub-contractor should be punished.

What should that punishment be? It should be heavy enough so as to not encourage businesses to hire illegals again. Right now Committee on Immigration is studying what the punishment for hiring illegals should be and what steps employers should take to verify the immigrant status of a worker should be.
Combating the employment of illegal immigrants is a tough issue. On one hand we do not want to see businesses hire illegals and thus provide an incentive for them to come to Missouri. On the other hand we do not want to turn our businesses into INS agents and stifle their economic growth through increased rules and regulations. My goal has always been to cut the red tape, not to add to it. A balance needs to be reached between employers and their role in checking the status of illegal immigrants.

We also need to remember to encourage legal immigration to Missouri. Our state is growing and our industries have plenty of jobs that need filled by new workers. While I hope for the end of illegal immigration in Missouri I want to see an increase in legal immigration of new workers to help our economy to continue to expand.

By removing the incentive illegal immigrants have to coming to Missouri we can end the flow of undocumented, illegal people from coming into our state. Until the Federal government does their job and protects our borders Missouri will have to take the lead and remove the incentive illegals have for coming to our state.

Governor honors ice storm work of News Talk 1310

Gov. Matt Blunt issued a proclamation last week recognizing NewsTalk 1310 for its wall-to-wall coverage during the December 2007 ice storm.
The station and its parent company, Zimmer Radio, have also been recognized with proclamations from Joplin Mayor Jon Tupper and Carterville Police Chief William Cline for the ice storm coverage.

Smith trial set for Tuesday

Sen. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis, is scheduled to stand trial 2:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Isle of Capri case, according to Cooper County Circuit Court records.
Smith's attorney has asked for reconsideration of his motion to dismiss, which was overruled Jan. 25.
Smith is charged with presenting false identification in order to gamble at the Isle of Capri casino in Boonville during a lobbyist-financed junket on July 31. At the suggestion of lobbyist Lynne Schlosser, he purportedly used the identification of Rep. Joe Aull, D-Kansas City to gamble.
Ms. Schlosser's trial is set for the same time. Cooper County court records indicate Aull had a hearing Friday, but no information is given on what occurred at that hearing and no trial date is listed.

News Leader editorial blasts Shields bill to remove campaign contribution limits

An editorial in today's Springfield News-Leader blasts Sen. Charlie Shields' bill which would remove campaign contribution limits:

First, it smacks Missouri voters in the face and makes it clear they no longer matter to state leaders.

Second, it puts a sign on the Capitol that says, simply: "Open for business, deposit cash here."

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Charlie Shields, once again tosses out the campaign finance limits previously approved by voters and sustained by the state Supreme Court and returns us to the early days of the 2007 rules when elected officials can take any amount they want from donors. You want out-of-state megabucks deciding who the next governor of Missouri is? You got it.

What makes the bill so offensive is the continued argument by Shields and others that this is a bill about transparency in government. It most certainly is not.

No, it is not. It never ceases to amaze me how our elected officials will piously pay lip service to giving the people what they want..unless, of course, it is not what they want.

In this case, they are telling the people that the Rex Sinquefields and special interests are far more important than the large majority of their constituents. If that isn't the height of arrogance, I don't know what is.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Florida family, friends shocked by MSSU pitcher's death

The death of Missouri Southern State University pitcher Danny Sickles, 20, who had been suffering from flu-like symptoms, shocked friends and family at his home in Orlando, Fla., according to an article posted a couple of hours ago on the Orlando Sentinel website:

Family and friends learned the news late Saturday night and early Sunday morning. "If I could say anything to him," said Jason Sickles, one of Danny's two younger brothers, "I'd say, 'I love you and I miss you.' "

George Kirchgassner, Freedom High's baseball coach, had spoken to Danny on Thursday and on Friday, to see if Missouri Southern had a roster spot available for a former player who wanted to transfer to the school.

"He was always looking out for other people," Kirchgassner said. "Danny was an All-American kid: a good athlete, very intelligent, a tremendous sense of humor. Just fun to be around. He'd just make you laugh. He was just full of a life, just a great, great kid."

Kirchgassner always marveled at how smart Sickles was. He recalled how Danny often computed teammates' earned-run averages in his head right there on the diamond during practices.

He was a good pitcher, too. At 6 feet 3 inches, Danny had a fastball that could overpower hitters and a sharp curveball that often dropped straight down as it crossed the plate.

He came from a family of baseball lovers. His mom, Stacey Sickles, learned about the sport from his dad, Brian Sickles, who grew up playing ball on Long Island, N.Y. Brian and Stacey have two other children who, like Danny, are also right-handed pitchers: Jason, a 17-year-old junior at Freedom, and Alex, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at Hunter's Creek Middle School.

Danny was a lifelong New York Yankees fan who wanted to play for a major-league team.

He and his closest friends --- a group that included former Freedom High players Danny Rivera and Adam Whitlow --- shared that dream. Just before New Year's, the three of them met at Orlando's Osprey Park to throw a baseball in preparation for their 2008 seasons.

"When I went home for break, I didn't know it was the last time I was going to see him," said Rivera, an outfielder at Frederick Community College in Frederick, Md. "I didn't get to say a decent goodbye."

(MSSU Photo)

Nodler: Sinquefield committees show what a law abiding man he is

I have taken no survey, but I would say most Missourians resent those who try to push their beliefs and values on the rest of us and have the money to be able to have much more influence than the rest of us.
One example of that would be retired billionaire Rex Sinquefield, who has given hundreds of thousands to those who are willing to side with him in his efforts to bring educational vouchers to Missouri.
During those brief months when campaign contribution limits were removed, Sinquefield was writing checks for tens of thousands of dollars to favored candidates. Before that, he went along with the process of laundering money through party committees. After the Missouri Supreme Court reinstated the limits, Sinquefield formed 100 of his own committees, again to enable him to contribute more than the maximum amount.

In my book, that is an effort to skirt the law.

That, however, is not the way Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, sees it, according to an article in this morning's Kansas City Star:

The Senate debate over whether to repeal Missouri’s limits on campaign contributions generated reactions ranging from shame to pride.

But perhaps the most interesting came from Republican Sen. Gary Nodler of Joplin, who said it was appropriate for lawmakers to be in tune with their political contributors.

Public financing of campaigns severs that connection between lawmakers and like-minded contributors, he said.

“Why is the mindless support that (stems from public financing) somehow more ethically pure than purposeful political support?” Nodler asked.

Later, several senators were criticizing conservative political financier Rex Sinquefield, who last year set up and funded 100 fundraising committees so he could get around the current law, which limits contributions to $1,350 to each statewide candidate. Under the law, each committee is considered a different person and can give the maximum amount.

Nodler disputed the notion that it showed that Sinquefield was deliberately evading the campaign finance law. On the contrary, Nodler said: Sinquefield was demonstrating how to follow the law to the letter.

Perhaps it makes Gary Nodler beam with pride when billionaires and special interests evade the law by finding loopholes. That kind of thinking, however,is what makes many Missourians distrustful of politicians like Gary Nodler.

Former Chart editor promoted at Democrat-Gazette

Chad Hayworth, formerly an editor at The Chart, Missouri Southern State University's newspaper, has been promoted to deputy city editor at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:

Hayworth was born and reared in Wichita, Kan. He attended Missouri Southern State College in Joplin.

In summer 1994, Hayworth served an internship at the Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock, where he was assigned to the city desk. While in college, he worked in the features department of the Joplin (Mo. ) Globe.

Early in his career, he worked as a business reporter at the Salina (Kan. ) Journal and as a police and courts reporter for the Benton County Daily Record.

Hayworth has three children, Peyton, 12, Ryne, 9, and Addison, 8.

Hayworth has been at the Democrat-Gazette since 1999.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

ABC pays FCC fine for NYPD Blue for KODE, KSPR, other affiliaties, appeals decision

ABC forked over $1,237,500 to cover the fine levied to the network and its affiliate stations for airing a 2003 NYPD Blue episode that was considered indecent. Paying the fine allowed the network to appeal the decision:

"ABC today filed an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit challenging an order by the Federal Communications Commission, which found that a 2003 episode of the award-winning drama NYPD Blue violated the FCC’s indecency rules," the network said in a statement announcing the move.

"ABC contends that the FCC order is arbitrary and capricious, contrary to the commission’s own standards and past decisions and in violation of the indecency statute and the First Amendment,” ABC added. “In its order, issued Tuesday, the commission assessed a total of $1,237,500 in fines against 45 stations that carried the program, including two ABC-owned stations (WLS Chicago and KTRK Houston) and 43 other ABC affiliates.”

The company concluded, "While strongly opposed to the fines, ABC today paid them in their entirety in order the make the FCC decision appealable. The ABC Television Affiliates Association also opposed the FCC’s NYPD Blue indecency decision and says it intends to support ABC’s appeal."

The offending scene was described in the FCC decision:

The complaints refer to a scene at the beginning of the program, during which a
woman and a boy, who appears to be about seven or eight years old, are involved in an incident that includes adult female nudity. As confirmed by a tape of the program provided by ABC, during the scene in question, a woman wearing a robe is shown entering a bathroom, closing the door, and then briefly looking at herself in a mirror hanging above a sink. The camera then shows her crossing the room, turning on the shower, and returning to the mirror. With her back to the camera, she removes her robe, thereby revealing the side of one of her breasts and a full view of her back. The camera shot includes a full view of her buttocks and her upper legs as she
leans across the sink to hang up her robe. The camera then tracks her, in profile, as she walks from the mirror back toward the shower. Only a small portion of the side of one of her breasts is visible. Her pubic area is not visible, but her buttocks are visible from the side.
The scene shifts to a shot of a young boy lying in bed, kicking back his bed
covers, getting up, and then walking toward the bathroom. The camera cuts back to the woman, who is now shown standing naked in front of the shower, her back to the camera. The frame consists initially of a full shot of her naked from the back, from the top of her head to her waist; the camera then pans down to a shot of her buttocks, lingers for a moment, and then pans up her back. The camera then shifts back to a shot of the boy opening the bathroom door. As he opens the door, the woman, who is now standing in front of the mirror with her back to the door, gasps, quickly turns to face the boy, and freezes momentarily. The camera initially focuses on the woman’s face but then cuts to a shot taken from behind and through her legs, which serve to frame the boy’s face as he looks at her with a somewhat startled expression. The camera then jumps to a front view of the woman’s upper torso; a full view of her breasts is obscured,
however, by a silhouette of the boy’s head and ears. After the boy backs out of the bathroom and shuts the door, the camera shows the woman facing the door, with one arm and hand covering her breasts and the other hand covering her pubic area. The scene ends with the boy’s voice, heard through the closed door, saying “sorry,” and the woman while looking embarrassed, responds, “It’s okay. No problem.” The complainants contend that such material is indecent and request that the Commission impose sanctions against the licensees responsible for broadcasting this material.

Democratic national leadership has not cut down on lobbyists' earnings

The Democratic party took over Congress with promises of reforming the way things are done, especially as far as lobbyists are concerned.
That doesn't appear to be what has happened.
An article posted on The Hill's website indicates lobbying firms made more than ever during the past year:

What had a bigger impact on K Street, firm partners say, was the increased legislative activity of the new Democratic majority in areas like energy and tax policy.

Steven Ross, a partner at Akin Gump, said new committee chairmen brought a “pent-up agenda” that helped to drive up business.

He also attributed his firm’s success to a retooled tax shop and its bipartisan model, which he said was “back in vogue.”

James Christian of Patton Boggs said his firm benefited from the big fight in Congress last year to increase the fuel mileage standards. Cerberus Capital Management, which purchased a majority stake in carmaker Chrysler, paid the firm $1.8 million to lobby on that issue.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Federal public defenders appointed for former Jasper County Drug Task Force leader, wife

Public defenders will be appointed for former Jasper County Drug Task Force leader Frank Lundien and his wife, Hayley, to represent them in their federal bankruptcy fraud case.
That decision was made during a four-minute hearing this morning in Springfield. The Lundiens will be arraigned 11:30 a.m. March 12.

The grand jury indictment, handed down Jan. 24, alleges the Lundiens concealed property, including two vehicles, and $1,785 from a joint checking account at Joplin Metro Credit Union from the bankruptcy trustee on March 12, 2004.

Huckabee: Heading toward his last stand?

A trip to the Alamo may have been fitting for Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who has been counted out by everyone covering the GOP race. Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank offers a study of the candidate as he campaigns for votes in the upcoming Texas primary:

He then went out into the Alamo plaza and, besieged not by Mexican soldiers but by autograph seekers, traced a line between the defenders of the Alamo to his own battle against presumptive GOP nominee John McCain and the Republican Party establishment.

"I refuse to allow the establishment or the party bosses in Washington or anywhere else to tell us this is over," he said. "For me to pull out of the election before Texas gets to vote would not only be unacceptable, it would be inexcusable," he said. "It's not Republican, and it's not American."

What Sam Houston was to warfare, Mike Huckabee is to the photo op. In Iowa, he won the envy of his rivals when he invited the cameras to join him on a hunting trip. He went jogging for the cameras (to show his fitness) and played the electric bass guitar on Leno (to show his hipness). On Thursday, it was time to demonstrate his stick-to-itiveness -- and there's no better place for that than the Alamo, which just happens to be in Texas, one of the next big primary states.

"People sometimes think of the Alamo as a defeat, but it actually was the springboard to Texas's victory and independence," Huckabee explained in justifying his journey. Well, that's true, Governor; Houston made "Remember the Alamo" his battle cry when he defeated Santa Anna at San Jacinto. But every one of the men guarding the Alamo in 1836 was slaughtered.

Still, there's nothing like a visit to the Alamo to put one's troubles in perspective. As an added bonus, the visit allowed Huckabee to play Col. Travis to McCain's Santa Anna -- and McCain, author of the immigration "amnesty" detested by conservatives, was once again on the side of the Mexicans.

Former Golden City man wins bull riding honor

Championship Bull Riding, Inc., has named Seth Reynolds, 25, a former Golden City resident, the January Crown Royal King of the Month. Following is the rest of the information from the news release sent by CBR:

Reynolds is a professional bull rider who competes in the CBR. He recently moved to Willow Springs from Golden City, where he was raised. In the 2008 CBR season opener in El Paso, TX, Reynolds won the long round of competition riding Casper Baca’s bull Soul Shaker for 89 points. The money earned in El Paso, brought Reynolds to a fifth place ranking in the world CBR standings.

Reynolds spent his entire youth with the ambition of becoming a marine. He had almost reached that goal, but was disqualified from the Navy Seals Program for being color blind. It was devastating for him. Luckily two things were waiting for him when he returned home: God and bulls.

For a while after coming home, he fell into an un-Christian lifestyle. But one night he got on a bull and everything changed. He discovered he had a passion and talent for riding bulls. He says that through the sport he re-found God and ultimately found his wonderful wife in church.

“As soon as I was willing to change my life and hand it over to Christ, he blessed me immediately. He gave me a beautiful Godly wife and a career in bull riding,” said Reynolds.

Reynolds grew up around rodeo, but never warmed up to it until after the Navy didn’t work out. Williams started his career by attending Gary Lefew ‘s bull riding school and continues Lefew’s training and mental techniques. Reynolds then earned an Associates of Science degree from Fort Scott, Kansas, where he was on full rodeo scholarship and continued to increase his bull riding skills.

Some of his career highlights include winning the PRCA Prairie Circuit Finals Championships in 2004 and qualifying to the CBR Finals. Reynolds says his goals include not only becoming a world champion, but to continue spreading the Gospel at every rodeo he travels to.

“I feel like God really wants me to be a speaker as well as a bull rider. There are times in my life when I don’t really feel like leaving the house and ride. But then I remember that when I go, I can share the word of God and it makes me excited to go. Bull riding is just a bonus on top of that,” said Reynolds.

A new member of the Reynolds family arrived recently as he and his wife Lacy had a baby boy on Saturday, February 16.

“I was in a bull riding Friday night and rode my long round bull. When I was getting ready to ride my short round bull, my sister-in-law ran over and told me that my wife’s water had broken. I rode my short round bull and then headed to the hospital. I got there at 4 am in the morning and then Colt was born at 9 am. I stayed with them in the hospital until about 3:30 pm, and then I drove back to the rodeo to ride again. I ended up riding my long round and short round bull again that night. Then I went back to the hospital and we were there until Monday morning,” said Reynolds.

The CBR Crown Royal King of the Month is featured on the organization’s website at and in the world championship program at the end of the season. To see Reynolds and other professional bull riders in action, tune in to the CBR’s weekly program on Wednesday nights on RFD-TV beginning March 5. Or come to a live event! The full CBR schedule is posted on

Jetton: Lazy Missourians could learn from Mexicans

Speaker of the House Rod Jetton made a wise decision when he decided not to run for governor.
If he had received his party's nomination, Jay Nixon would already have the sound bite ready for his advertisements.
According to an article by Rudi Keller in the Cape Girardeau Southeast Missourian, Jetton slammed Missouri workers with an unfavorable comparison to illegal workers:

Jetton, speaking to publishers, editors and reporters at the Missouri Governor's Mansion, made an example of Wayne County residents in his 156th Missouri House District. In 2004, an employer who considered moving to Wayne County, which had one of the highest unemployment rates in the state at the time, was able to attract only three applicants, Jetton said. The jobs weren't great -- the pay was about $8 an hour -- but the chance to get off government assistance should have been attractive, he said.

"We have a shortage of people who want to go out and bust their tails and do the jobs," Jetton said.

Jetton made his remarks when asked about his statement made to Republicans in Springfield, Mo., that he would like to "trade some of our people for some of the Mexicans who work so hard."

He didn't back away from that remark. "If we can find a way to trade them, I would trade them in a heartbeat," Jetton said.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Clinton finishes strong in Texas debate

Hillary Clinton had a weak first half of tonight's debate, but she bounced back in the second half, putting aside the shrill attack mode and showing a little more warmth and personality.
Her best moment came when she was asked where in her life she had been most tested. She pointed out that she had certainly been tested, bringing a laugh from the audience, but she turned her answer into a winner by noting that she had seen many people who were going through worse while traveling across America and she said she had seen soldiers who had lost limbs. Her problems did not compare to the problems of those people, she said.

Obama stumbled quite a bit during the last half of the debate, but he was able to keep from making any mistakes. Considering the momentum he had going into tonight's debate, not making a mistake puts this one in the win column for the Illinois senator.

Memorial Middle School shooter's attorney files reply brief with Supreme Court

With just one week remaining before the Missouri Supreme Court hears arguments on whether Memorial Middle School shooter Thomas Gregory White should have his case returned to the juvenile system, White's public defender has filed a reply to the Jasper County prosecuting attorney's brief.
White has been in jail since the October 2006 incident in which he took an automatic weapon into the school, fired it into the ceiling, then pointed the gun at Principal Steve Gilbreth, and allegedly tried to shoot Gilbreth, but the weapon jammed.
White has been charged with two counts of assault and single counts of armed criminal action, unlawful use of a weapon, and attempted escape.
A link to the brief can be found here.

Obama is winning the debate

Hillary Clinton needed a knockout blow in tonight's Texas debate to counter the momentum Barack Obama has been generating the past few weeks and she is not even holding her own with the Illinois senator.

Her feeble attempts to hang the plagiarism label around Oback fell flat and were roundly resented. Obama has managed to mention some specifics while at the same time occasionally scratching those oratorical highs he reaches during his stump speeches.

Mrs. Clinton needs to bounce back quickly or it may be all over for her.

Asia'h made it, on to the next round of American Idol

Joplin's Asia'h Epperson will be back next week.
American Idol host Ryan Sechrest just asked two candidates to come to the front, then told the remaining 10, including Asia'h, they are safe.

First eliminations set for American Idol top 24

We need should know in a few moments if Joplin's Asia'h Epperson will be one of the two who will be eliminated from the American Idol competition.
That does not appear to be likely, considering there were some extremely weak competitors last night, and Miss Epperson was at the top or near the top of her game with her rendition of the Janis Joplin classic "Piece of My Heart," a performance which judge Simon Cowell called the best of the evening.

Obama, Clinton offer economic policies in debate

"We've got to stop giving tax breaks to companies that are shipping jobs overseas," Barack Obama said, when questioned about how his economic policies would differ from Hillary Clinton.
Obama also said he would get rid of the tax cuts given to the most wealthy in America by the Bush Administration.
He also suggested working on reducing greenhouse gases and America's reliance on foreign oil.

Mrs. Clinton was asked about her "ready on day one" campaign slogan. She said she agreed with Obama on many of his thoughts on the economy. 'The wealthy and the well-connected have had a president for seven years, it is time we had a president who will work for you."

She suggested a "trade time out" to look and see what trade agreements and working and make sure the ones we have are being enforced.

On the foreclosure crisis, Mrs. Clinton said she would declare a 90-day moratorium on home foreclosures and a crackdown on predatory lenders. "I would freeze interest rates for five years," adding that if that step is not taken many would be left homeless.

Clinton, Obama willing to meet with new Cuban leader

"I would be ready to reach out and work with a Cuban government" if there were moves toward democracy and freedom for its people, Sen. Hillary Clinton said during the opening moments of tonight's Texas Democratic presidential debate on CNN.
She said she would not meet with the Cuban leader Raul Castro until she saw evidence that change was taking place.

"A presidential visit should not be offered and given" unless there is a change, Mrs. Clinton said.

Barack Obama said he, too, would be willing to meet with Castro, but that he would be willing to meet without preexisting conditions. It is important for the United States not just to talk with its friends, but with its enemies."

Obama suggested loosening travel restrictions between the two countries as a start. "I would not normalize relations."

Mrs. Clinton said a presidential visit should not be immediately offered, but that a lot of "preparatory work" should be done. "I would get back to very vigorous diplomacy," and "bipartisan diplomacy," saying it was time to let the world know that the "arrogance" of the Bush foreign policy is over.

Obama says the president must take a more active role in diplomacy precisely because "of the damage that has been over the last seven years" by President Bush.

CJR offers five questions for New York Times editor

In the wake of the explosive publication of an article which hints that Sen. John McCain had an affair with a lobbyist, Columbia Journalism Review reporter Megan Garber offers five questions for New York Times editor Bill Keller:

Ironically—but entirely expectedly, given the increasingly heated discourse of the campaign trail—the Times story’s questioning of McCain’s ethics has brought out critics who question the paper’s own standards. This is a tough one. We at CJR have an implicit bias toward information, and generally applaud any efforts to share new information with the public. But “For McCain,” by necessity, takes on two very tricky areas—the nature of a relationship and the nature of a quid pro quo—and, at points, walks the line between information and inference.

The questions in the article offer much to think about.
Another Columbia Journalism Review article
notes that the Times article did bring up some strong points about McCain's relations (of the non-romantic variety) with the lobbyist:

let’s look at the facts about political influence in the story, the information presented about McCain’s Commerce Committee work on issues of interest to Iseman’s clients:

* He wrote letters to the FCC asking them to rule in a way that would allow a company to own two television stations “in the same city, a crucial issue for Glencairn Ltd., one of Ms. Iseman’s clients.”

* He favored a minority-ownership tax incentive program. Iseman had several clients who favored that step.

* He twice tried to “advance” legislation permitting companies to own stations in overlapping markets. This issue “was important” to Iseman’s client Paxson Communications (now Ion Media Networks).

* In late 1999, Iseman asked McCain’s staff to intervene with the FCC on behalf of Paxson. McCain agreed, and he sent two letters to the FCC.

Look at the first three. Two concern loosening ownership laws, a step that, while controversial to some, is fully consistent with McCain’s deregulatory ken. It’s also not clear if Iseman’s lobbied McCain on those issues, and her clients are far from the only ones who would have been aided by those actions. Parse the Times’ phrasing, and you’ll see what I mean.

The tax program can’t be explained as deregulatory, but the best the Times can do is say that “several business” represented by Iseman favored such a program. And so, presumably, would many others. So where’s the evidence this had anything to do with her?

But the last bullet is quite something: the letters helping Paxson Communications are the only solid suggestion of an Iseman-McCain quid pro quo. And to my mind, that makes this as much of scandal of influence as a scandal of sex.

Nightline to feature castle doctrine law

Regular readers of this blog know I am no fan of the highly unnecessary Castle Doctrine (frontier justice) law proposed by Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, in the senate, and Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, in the House, and then passed through both bodies and signed into law by Gov. Matt Blunt.
The law, which has been a chief project of the National Rifle Association, has also been implemented in Texas, where it has come under fire (pun intended) after a man shot two burglars fleeing a neighbor's home.
ABC's Nightline will examine the issue in a program slated to start at 10:35 p.m. on KODE.

March 10 preliminary hearing set for former Collins mayor in internet sex case

A 9:30 a.m. March 10 prelimineary hearing has been scheduled in Newton County Circuit Court for former Collins Mayor Allen Kauffman, 62, the latest to be ensnared by a Diamond Police Department internet sex sting.
Kauffman, who is also a minister, is charged with four counts of enticement of a child. He resigned as mayor shortly after his arrest.

Moark parent company posts strong results

Minnesota-based Land O'Lakes, which operates the Moark egg facility in Neosho, posted strong fourth quarter and 2007 results, and for once, the egg layer division did not drag down the profits. Following is the release posted with the Securities and Exchange Commission Wednesday:

Land O’Lakes, Inc., today reported its fourth-quarter and full-year financial results, while also commenting on the company’s balance sheet and individual business unit performance. The company reported significant increases in both sales and net earnings, with net sales up 26 percent and net earnings up 83 percent.
Full-year sales totaled $8.9 billion with net earnings of $162.1 million, compared to net sales of $7.1 billion and net earnings of $88.7 million for 2006. For the fourth quarter, the company is reporting $2.6 billion in net sales and net earnings of $5.5 million, compared to $1.9 billion in net sales and net earnings of $44.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2006.
Total EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization) was $46.0 million for the quarter and $332.1 million for the year, compared to $95.4 million and $250.1 million for the same periods one year ago.
The company also reports Normalized EBITDA (which excludes the effects of unrealized hedging, significant asset sales or impairments, legal settlements, debt extinguishment costs and other special items). Normalized EBITDA for the quarter was $66.4 million, compared to $87.3 million for the fourth quarter of 2006. For the year, Normalized EBITDA was $319.0 million, compared to $240.7 million for 2006.
“The past year was highlighted by improved performance nearly across the board, continued balance sheet strength and strategic progress in positioning for the future,”
Land O’Lakes President and Chief Executive Officer Chris Policinski said today. “Clearly, strong markets, particularly in dairy and eggs, helped boost both dollar sales and earnings. However, our organization-wide commitment to leveraging our brand strength, aggressive portfolio management and effective cost control put us in a position to translate market strength into improved business performance and financial results.

Cornell, Wright to leave Leggett & Platt Board of Directors

A changing of the guard is at hand for Carthage-based Fortune 500 company Leggett & Platt. According to documents filed today with the Securities and Exchange Commission, longtime board members Harry Cornell and Felix Wright are retiring. The news release is printed below:

Leggett & Platt’s Board of Directors increased the company’s share repurchase authorization for 2008. Combined with the Board’s standing annual authorization, the company now has latitude to purchase up to 30 million shares (approximately 18%) of its outstanding stock during the calendar year. The Board made no commitment to repurchase shares, but instead gave management the freedom to decide when and how many shares to buy, subject to factors including the company’s availability of cash, the timing of proceeds from anticipated divestitures, the price of Leggett’s stock, and general economic and market considerations.

The Board also announced that Felix E. Wright, Chairman, and Harry M. Cornell, Jr., Chairman Emeritus, have chosen not to seek reelection in 2008. Leggett & Platt’s bylaws allow directors to serve until age 72, unless a waiver is granted. Mssrs. Wright and Cornell have decided not to request such a waiver.

Mr. Cornell, grandson of company co-founder J. P. Leggett, joined the company in 1950. Mr. Wright joined the company in 1959 when he was hired by Mr. Cornell. David S. Haffner, President, CEO, and fellow board member, commented, “Together, Harry and Felix have served Leggett & Platt for 107 years. To a large degree, though they would be reluctant to take the credit, they have been the architects of our company’s success and growth over the last five decades. Their legacy of partnership and teamwork, as both employees and board members, characterizes well the culture of our company. They will be greatly missed.”

In response to Mr. Wright’s decision, the Board’s Nominating Committee recommended, and the full Board anticipates, the election of Richard T. Fisher as independent chair at Leggett’s next quarterly Board meeting. Mr. Wright, chair since 2002, stated, “We are excited to have an individual of Mr. Fisher’s caliber become Leggett’s next chairman. A seasoned board member, Richard has served as our Presiding Director since 2003. He has performed admirably, and we have high expectations of what he will accomplish as he leads our Board of Directors.”

Lastly, the Board of Directors declared a first quarter dividend of $.25 per share, a 47% increase over last year’s first quarter dividend of $.17 per share. The dividend will be paid on April 15, 2008 to shareholders of record on March 14, 2008. Leggett’s dividends have increased annually for 37 consecutive years, at a compound average growth rate of better than 14%. Only one other Fortune 500 company has achieved as long a string of consecutive increases at a 14% growth rate.

MTV scribe puts Asia'h at the top of the pack

Joplin's Asia'h Epperson has emerged as one of the early favorites in the American Idol competition and another observer who sees it that way is Jim Cantiello of MTV, who breaks down the 12 female finalists in an article posted today:

Asia'h took the silent H in her name really seriously and turned the Joplin hit into "Take Another Little Piece of My Art." Pronunciation aside, she owned the "Idol" stage with a neat R&B twist to a rock classic. Plus, she won points in my book by doing an adorable victory dance after Simon proclaimed her his favorite of the night. Hell, yeah! (Or shall I say, " 'Ell, yeah"?)

Former Joplin police chief back on duty at Fort Smith, says he will hold no grudges

Two days after surviving an attempt to remove him from office, former Joplin Police Chief Kevin Lindsey is back on the job and says he holds no grudges against anyone:

"My top priority was just being back, getting caught up and settling back into my job,” Lindsey said while sitting in his office at the Fort Smith Police Department.

Cpl. Mike Moss said he was relieved to have Lindsey back in charge.

“Our morale is real high right now u
nder Chief Lindsey,” Moss said. “With higher morale we can better serve the community.”

Former Bank of America executive sentenced to 9 1/2 years in prison

Former Bank of America Vice President Robert Conner was sentenced to nine and a half years in prison Wednesday for his role in engineering the bank and credit card fraud scheme that also brought a recent guilty plea from former Rep. John Bowman, D-St. Louis.
Judge Henry E. Autrey sentenced Conner during a 50-minute session that included a fainting spell for Conner, according to an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Conner apologized and begged for mercy, denying he was a predator and faulting the bank and even Post-Dispatch articles for his predicament. He also said he was a sacrificial lamb and complained that prosecutors were not pursuing banks for exorbitant interest rates.

U.S. District Judge Henry Autrey, who previously lambasted some of Conner's co-defendants for their behavior, responded with a slow, sarcastic round of applause.

"Bravo to you, Mr. Robin Hood," the judge said.

"You are a financial predator," Autrey told him, before comparing him to a vulture circling over the almost-dead financial carcasses of the cardholders, then throwing "an extra shovel of dirt in their grave."

After more than five minutes of the lecture, Conner appeared as though he wanted to interrupt, and Autrey responded, "Shut up. You lied. You stole. You eroded the trust of people in the community … who look up to people like you."

Conner then leaned to the right and slowly dropped to the floor.

After he was back on his feet, Autrey continued, sentencing him to 114 months in federal prison and ordering him to repay $1.42 million to Bank of America.

Live blogging planned for Democratic debate

I will be live blogging tonight's Democratic debate between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The debate is scheduled for 7 p.m. on CNN.

McCain schedules 8 a.m. news conference concerning charges of improper relationship with female lobbyist

Arizona Sen. John McCain has scheduled an 8 a.m. (Joplin time) news conference to discuss allegations made in a New York Times article concerning his alleged improper relationship with a female lobbyist:

Early in Senator John McCain’s first run for the White House eight years ago, waves of anxiety swept through his small circle of advisers.

A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, visiting his offices and accompanying him on a client’s corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself — instructing staff members to block the woman’s access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.

When news organizations reported that Mr. McCain had written letters to government regulators on behalf of the lobbyist’s client, the former campaign associates said, some aides feared for a time that attention would fall on her involvement.

Mr. McCain, 71, and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, 40, both say they never had a romantic relationship. But to his advisers, even the appearance of a close bond with a lobbyist whose clients often had business before the Senate committee Mr. McCain led threatened the story of redemption and rectitude that defined his political identity.