Monday, June 30, 2008

Missouri's first lobbyist does it again

The amazing streak of Missouri's first lobbyist Andrew Blunt continued in May, as he filed another no-expenditure report with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
The multi-talented first brother has not paid a cent on behalf of his powerful clients since Matt Blunt became governor in January 2005.

Stevenson tops area legislators in May gifts from lobbyists

Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City, more than doubled his lobbyist gift total for 2008 during May, according to documents posted today on the Missouri Ethics Commission website.
Stevenson, who had received $287.93 during the first four months of 2008, collected $505.22 in gifts during May, the documents indicated.
Most of that amount came from Ameristar Casino lobbyist Jorgen Schlemeier, though his disclosure documents spread the wealth among five other Gamble & Schlemeier clients, imcluding the Missouri College of Emergency Physicians and the Missouri Pharmacy Association. The five clients paid $50 for a meal, $100 in certificates listed as "entertainment," and $240 for "hotel accomodations."

Runner-up to Stevenson, and the top gift recipient for the year is Rep. Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, who received $382.07 in gifts in May, bringing his 2008 total to $2,239.59. Hunter's gifts included $142.56 on May 15 for meals from Phillip Schnieders of the Missouri Automobile Dealers Association.

Rep. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, who has $1,551.28 for the year, received $153.27 in gifts during May, including a $55.97 meal from Rodney Boyd, lobbyist for Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal on May 27.

Ed Emery, R-Lamar, picked up $126.77 in May, upping his 2008 haul to $867.55. His big ticket gifts were a $35 meal from Missouri Southern State University lobbyist Kyna Iman on May 7, and a $31.35 meal from Larry Cole, Cornerstone Health, the following day.

Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, has $557.63 for the year, including $58.92 in May, and Rep. Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, has the smallest total of gifts for the first five months, $402.25, with $97.30 of that coming in May, including a $51.09 meal May 15 from Robert W. Wilson, lobbyist for the Missouri Motor Carriers Association.

Roy Blunt to endorse Hulshof today

Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt is expected to endorse Rep. Kenny Hulshof for governor today, according to KY3 Political Notebook:

Asked how sure the source was about the announcement, the Springfield Republican replied, "100%." Hulshof and Blunt are scheduled to unveil the endorsement in Springfield, Joplin and Mt. Vernon Monday. The duo will then follow-up with appearances in other southwest Missouri towns, including Branson and Bolivar on Tuesday.

Southwest Missouri blogs take top three spots in Blog Net News most influential poll

Southwest Missouri blogs are back on top in this week's Blog Net News poll of most influential political blogs in Missouri.
LIfe of Jason captured the top spot, with The Turner Report finishing second, and KY3 Political Notebook third.
This area claimed eight of the top 10 positions with the JackeHammer blog finishing eighth, Bus Plunge 12th, Branson, Missouri 14th, Simple Thoughts of a Complex Mind 18th, and Desdinova 20th.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Dupont: Feds attempting strongarm tactics to extort guilty plea

Anderson Guest House owner Robert Dupont says he pleaded guilty to a federal fraud charge to prevent his stepdaughter from going to prison.

Five years later, federal officials appear set on getting the same results, even upping the ante by indicting not only Dupont's stepdaughter, but his wife...only this time things are not going to work the same way.

"I'm going to fight this," Dupont said. "These charges are wrong."

Dupont was indicted in September on fraud charges, with the government claiming he was illegally hiding his ownership and operation of the Anderson Guest House, as well as facilities in Joplin and Carl Junction. The Turner Report was the first to reveal, in an April 14 post, that Dupont, his wife Laverne, and stepdaughter Kelley Wheeler were indicted for health care fraud and money laundering.

The charges, Dupont claims, are politically motivated, coming only a few months after 11 were killed in a November 2006 fire at the Anderson Guest House.

"It's time to get this right," Dupont said. The biggest obstacle standing in Dupont's way is his 2003 guilty plea, a guilty plea he says came under duress as federal prosecutors threatened to send his stepdaughter and codefendant, Ms. Wheeler, to prison if Dupont did not change his plea.

"They said if I did not plead guilty, they would send her to prison for five years." Dupont and his lawyer thought they had worked out a deal in which Dupont would plead guilty and his stepdaughter would not receive any prison time.

It was not long before Dupont says he discovered that the government was not going to hold up its end of the deal...and nothing had ever been put in writing. One of the two charges against Ms. Wheeler was dropped, but she ended up spending six months in prison on the other.

On Feb. 21, 2003, Dupont was sentenced to 21 months in prison. Dupont appealed his conviction, saying the government had reneged on the deal, and he had received ineffective assistance from his lawyer:

"(Dupont) believes that he had meritorious and adequate defenses to the charges, and waived said defenses and right to trial by his plea of guilty in order to effectively release his stepdaughter Kelley Liveoak. Defendant's counsel Richard Fredman believed that all of the charges would be dropped against Kelley Liveoak upon (Dupont's) plea as per a letter received by (Dupont) following his plea and so advised (Dupont) prior to the entry of his plea."


In the motion, Dupont said his lawyer's failure to enforce the agreement, or to even review the written agreement "constitutes ineffective assistance of counsel."

The appellate court rejected Dupont's motion, noting that there was no evidence of an agreement in the written record, and also noting that Dupont signed documents indicating he had not been coerced into the plea.

So Dupont's guilty plea on a charge of defrauding the government through use of Sandhill, Inc., and Sterling Home Health Care, companies he allegedly owned, stayed on the books...even though an FBI agent had testified before the guilty plea was entered that Dupont did not own Sandhill or Sterling Home Health Care during the times in which the crimes were allegedly committed.

According to a trial transcript, FBI agent Janet Butkus said, "There was a sale, a parting of the ways between the owners of Sterling Home Health Care, Inc., that being Robert Dupont and Karl Householder, who originally owned Sterling Home Health Care by themselves. Dupont and Householder, they decided to split about this time and part of Sterling Home Health Care, Inc. was sold to Karl and Julia, and they changed the name. And Robert Dupont kept part of Sterling Home Health Care, Inc. and took it with him when he moved out of the Joplin area. (Note: This was actually when Dupont made his move into the Joplin area.) If I might add, at that same time when he sold, when they made their split, originally Sandhill assisted in the Butler Guest House, Lamar Guest House and St. Louis Guest House. When they made their split, at that time, not only did Dupont sell part of Sterling, the home health agency, but he sold Butler Guest House and Lamar Guest House to Karl and Julia and he kept St. Louis Guest House for himself."

It was noted in the trial testimony that the doctors who had been involved in the scheme, had been billing patients through the Lamar and Butler Guest Houses, the ones owned by Householder at that time, according to Ms. Butkus, and not at the St. Louis Guest House, which remained under Dupont's ownership.

During the current case, the government is likely to note Dupont's guilty plea, as well as note that Dupont is Householder's brother-in-law, and indicate that those two facts show that Dupont has experience in trying to hide his connection to running businesses.

At this time, the next hearing in Dupont's case is not scheduled until December.

Book signing set for Lamar author


A signing for Lamar Democrat reporter Richard Cooper's latest book, Hickory Bob: The Bob Harmon Story, will be held 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 12, at Always Buying Books, 5357 N. Main, Joplin.

This description of the book comes from its page on Amazon.com:

Before the days of Stan "The Man" or Lou Brock or Bob Gibson, there was one of the most durable pitchers ever to wear a St. Louis Cardinal uniform. He was Missouri-born Bob Harmon. In 1911, "Hickory Bob" won 23 games and was the starting pitcher in 41. The 41 starts remains the Cardinal franchise record, likely never to be broken. This is the first biography of this dead ball era Cardinal star. His remarkable life from virtual orphan to baseball great to the heights of business success are all documented here, along with pages of vintage photographs.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Hearing date reset in Rowan Ford murder case

The next hearing for the two men accused of the brutal rape and murder of nine-year-old Rowan Ford of Stella has been moved to 11 a.m. Aug. 19, in Barry County Circuit Court.
The hearing for Rowan Ford's stepfather David Wesley Spears and his friend, Chris Collings, was originally scheduled for July 22, but was delayed at the request of Collings' new attorney, Thomas Jacquinet.

Wheaton superintendent takes assistant job at Carl Junction

Dr. Jim Cummins, Wheaton superintendent, has signed on as the new assistant superintendent for the Carl Junction R-1 School District. He replaces Dr. David Stephens, who is the new superintendent for the Nevada R-1 School District.
Cummins previously served as high school principal in Diamond and as a teacher in the Neosho R-5 School District.

A little more from Natural Disaster

Those of you who have followed this blog know that our group Natural Disaster was hit by a setback last month when our drummer, John Scott, lost his house, and nearly all of his possessions, including his drums, in the May 10 tornado that hit Newtonia.
It appears we will not be back for a third year in a row at Old Mining Town Days in Granby, so I'll leave you with this video of the group performing the Chuck Berry 1964 standard "No Particular Place to Go" at last year's Old Mining Town Days.

We hope to be back in action soon. Check out more songs at the Natural Disaster MySpace site, which has our versions of Memphis, This Magic Moment, Suzy Q, Fools Rush In, Time is on My Side, and Singin' the Blues.

Mental evaluation on tap for Memorial Middle School shooter

Judge David Mouton signed an order of transport Monday for Memorial Middle School shooter Thomas Gregory White, indicating that a mental evaluation to determine if he can assist with his own defense is either taking place or about to take place.

White, 15, was 13 and a seventh grader at Memorial when he took an assault rifle into the school, fired the weapon into the ceiling, and then pointed it at Principal Steve Gilbreth and tried to pull the trigger, according to police. The gun jammed.

White is charged with two counts of assault, and single counts of unlawful use of a weapon, armed criminal action, and attempted escape.

Feltner asks for second change of judge

Documents filed June 20 in Cole County Circuit Court indicate Eric Feltner, former chief of staff to Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, has asked for a second change of judge in his sex crime case.
Feltner, being represented by Columbia attorney Kenneth Stanley Clay, has a 9 a.m. July 7 arraignment scheduled before Judge Patricia Joyce. Feltner was arrested on two counts of attempting to furnish pornographic material to a minor after falling prey to an uncover internet sex sting of the Jefferson City Police Department.

When word of his arrest became public, he was forced to resign (fired).

Alito: Candidates with money should not be penalized

Justice Samuel Alito came out in favor of the little guy in his majority opinion declaring part of the Campaign Reform Act of 2002 unconstitutional.

In this case, the little guy is the poor billionaire who was hurt by rules allowing larger campaign contributions to be given to candidates who are facing people who are dipping into their own wealth for their campaigns:

Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said the amendment required "a candidate to choose between the 1st Amendment right to engage in unfettered political speech and subjection to discriminatory fundraising limitations."

Alito said that by attempting to level the playing field, Congress was in effect attempting to influence voters' choices.

"Different candidates have different strengths. Some are wealthy; others have wealthy supporters who are willing to make large contributions. Some are celebrities; some have the benefit of a well-known family name," Alito wrote. "Leveling electoral opportunities means making and implementing judgments about which strengths should be permitted to contribute to the outcome of an election."

Under the law, he said, those are judgments for voters alone.


In other words, if you are not an incumbent or a billionaire, the odds against you are astronomical. The justices in the majority may consider this to be protection of free speech. It seems apparent that it is protection of free speech for the wealthy.

Another all-time low for GateHouse Media stock

GateHouse Media dipped to another all-time low, $2.43 per share, at the close of trading today. The stock has dropped 18 cents per share in the past two days after a slight rebound to $2.61 on Wednesday. The previous low price had been $2.51 per share on Tuesday of this week.

GateHouse Media owns The Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News, Big Nickel, Neosho Post, Greenfield Vedette, Aurora Advertiser and Pittsburg Morning Sun.

Price on Turner books reduced at Always Buying Books

My books, The Turner Report, Devil's Messenger, and Small Town News, are on sale at Always Buying Books in Joplin for $10 apiece.
More information about the books can be found at their pages on the Amazon.com and Iuniverse.com websites.

Northpark Mall owner schedules second quarter earnings report

Chattanooga, Tennessee-based CBL & Associates, owner of Northpark Mall in Joplin, has scheduled its second quarter earnings report. A news release issued by the company says:

CBL plans to issue its earnings release for the second quarter after the market closes on Tuesday, August 5, 2008, and will host a conference call on Wednesday, August 6, 2008, at 10:00 a.m. ET. The number to call for this interactive teleconference is (303) 262-2130. A replay of the conference call will be available through Wednesday, August 13, by dialing (303) 590-3000 and entering the confirmation number, 11110989#.

The live broadcast of CBL's quarterly conference call will be available online at cblproperties.com, as well as www.streetevents.com and www.earnings.com on Wednesday, August 6, 2008, at 10:00 a.m. EDT. The online replay will follow shortly after the call and continue until Wednesday, August 13
, 2008.

Steelman unveils endorsements to single-digit audience



Since much of the Republican political establishment has been either openly or surreptitiously backing Kenny Hulshof for governor, State Treasurer Sarah Steelman has emphasized the support of ordinary, every day citizens for her candidacy.

The support of three more ordinary citizens was announced today at the Joplin Public Library...with a total of nine people in the meeting room, including Mrs. Steelman, the three who were endorsing her, two of her campaign workers, a reporter from KSN, and me. I didn't ask who the other guy was, but he appeared to be a reporter.

I am not sure if the low turnout was an indictment of the Steelman advance team or of our local media. .

The endorsements came from Don Stubblefield, Carthage, a former teacher at Joplin Parkwood High School and my alma mater East Newton High School, Bill Early, Mount Vernon, a retired law enforcement officer and Vietnam veteran; and one of my former students at Diamond Middle School, Ben Taylor, 18, who will be attending Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg this fall.

(Photos: Sarah Steelman answers questions following the announcement of three endorsements. Retired schoolteacher Don Stubblefield tells why he supports Mrs. Steelman.)

(Video- 2008 Diamond High School graduate Ben Taylor announces his endorsement of Sarah Steelman's candidacy for governor.)


video

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ethics Commission issues opinion on entertainment tickets given by lobbyists to politicians

Though the names are carefully blacked out on the opinion, it appears an elected official who has been accepting tickets to entertainment events from lobbyists tried to get a ruling which would allow him or her to accept the tickets, keep one, report that one, and then spread the tickets around to others without having to count them as gifts.

That effort failed.

The opinion, issued June 5, indicates the person requesting the opinion asked the following question:

"If an elected official accepts more than one ticket to a sporting event or an entertainment performance, uses one ticket for his or her use and then give the remainder to another person, not related to him or her and not employed by him or her in an official capacity, does the lobbyist disclose only the value of the ticket used by the elected official or the total of all tickets received and accepted on behalf of the elected official?"


The opinion said that the lobbyist must report the value of all tickets.

Of course, the value of all the tickets must be reported. The whole idea of reporting gifts is so the public can know which lobbyists are lavishing gifts on which elected officials. If the lobbyists are giving the gifts to the elected officials and then those officials turn right around and provide them to others, it is still something that ultimately leaves the elected official feeling kindly toward the lobbyist and whatever special interests he or she represent.

When we see our elected officials trying to get around those reporting requirements, it becomes obvious why the requirements are necessary. Of course, banning all gifts from lobbyists would be the best solution. That would not keep them from exercising their constitutional right to petition the government, it would just allow the public's business to be conducted in a more businesslike fashion.

What is in those Blunt e-mails?

Word is beginning to circulate in Jefferson City and Washington that a major revelation is coming in the next few weeks which will clearly delineate why Gov. Matt Blunt chose not to stand for re-election.

It would also appear we might be headed for some answers about some of the information that is included in those state e-mails that the governor has tried so hard to keep hidden. It might also explain the frantic, desperate efforts that Blunt has made to change the subject by going after everyone's e-mails from Jay Nixon to Rep. Jeff Harris.

It is becoming more and more obvious that Kenny Hulshof and Sarah Steelman should do everything they can to disassociate themselves from Matt Blunt.

I will go one step further and, as hard as it for me to say this, the performance of the Blunt administration and its rapidly approaching implosion are making me reassess the terms of Joe Teasdale and Bob Holden as governor. In comparison to Matt Blunt, those two are beginning to look like political geniuses.

Special price on Turner books at Books n Java in Neosho

Copies of The Turner Report book, Devil's Messenger and Small Town News are on sale at Books N Java on the east side of the Neosho square for $10 apiece.
More information about the books can be found on their web pages on Amazon.com and IUniverse.com.

Missouri Growth Plan approved by federal education officials

Perhaps it is because of the nearly universal opposition to No Child Left Behind, but federal education officials have finally added a touch of common sense to the way schools are judged.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education issued a news release today saying the federal government has approved "growth" plans submitted by Missouri and Michigan:

Department of Elementary and Secondary Education officials outlined the growth model today in a discussion with the State Board of Education during its meeting in Jefferson City.

The growth model looks at the academic performance of individual students to determine if they are “on track to be proficient” within four years. If students who are scoring below the “proficient” standard in reading or math are making progress and appear likely (“on track”) to achieve proficiency, then they may be counted with the school’s other proficient students.

Schools will be able to count students as “on track” for no more than four years and only until the eighth grade.


Of course, even this still does not eliminate the impossibility of ever reaching the lofty standards of No Child Left Behind. There is no activity in which 100 percent of the people are proficient. When it comes to school, some children are better at math than reading, or better at science than history.

Besides, what No Child Left Behind does is place 100 percent of the responsibility for the schools. Of course, teachers and administrators should be held accountable for a portion of the blame when students do not succeed, but placing all of the blame in one direction does not solve the problem. How can teachers and school administrators deal with students who do not care whether they learn and do not receive any encouragement at home. How can teachers be expected to be successful 100 percent of the time with students who come from homes where drugs and alcohol are present, and where the students suffer through physical, emotional, and sexual abuse?

And how can schools be expected to cope with the kind of poverty that makes students more concerned about when or if they will have their next meal than whether they have completed their homework.

The fact that teachers are able to reach so many children who live is these kinds of conditions is consistently overlooked by self-serving politicians who want to gain a few extra votes or more dollars from well-heeled contributors by using the public schools as a scapegoat.

The federal government's decision to accept this sensible growth plan is a positive step, but since it is an election year, I expect it won't be long before the other shoe falls.

Webb City native wins national award for newspaper column


Webb City High School graduate Susan Campbell, a columnist for the Hartford Courant, took first place in the National Society of Newspaper Columnists Writing Contest. The winners were announced Saturday in New Orleans. Ms. Campbell won for best column in newspapers with more than 100,000 in circulation:

"Susan Campbell stood out in a crowd of exceptional columnists both for her ideas and her delivery," the judges wrote. "She's refreshingly blunt and edgy without being preachy. The reader hears a raw, tell-it-like-it-is voice. Campbell takes tired, old topics and turns them on their heads, presenting a view that most of us probably never considered.
"

ACLU opposes lunch prayer at Naval Academy

The American Civil Liberties Union is threatening action against the U. S. Naval Academy's tradition of lunchtime prayer.
According to an article in today's Washington Post:

In a letter to the Naval Academy, Deborah Jeon, legal director for the ACLU of Maryland, said it was "long past time" for the academy to discontinue the tradition. She said the practice violates midshipmen's freedom to practice religion as their conscience leads them.

The Naval Academy rejected the ACLU's request that the prayer be eliminated.

"The academy does not intend to change its practice of offering midshipmen an opportunity for prayer or devotional thought during noon meal announcements," the university said in a statement. It said that some form of prayer has been offered for midshipmen at meals since the school's founding, in 1845, and that it is "consistent with other practices throughout the Navy."

Nine midshipmen have complained to the ACLU about the practice, Jeon said yesterday. Some have since graduated. One recent graduate, an agnostic who objected to the chaplain-led prayer, said she felt pressured to take part in it.


The article indicates that the Naval Academy may be fighting a losing battle since prayers at other such institutions have been ruled unconstitutional.

The idea that the First Amendment is designed to protect us from religion is ridiculous. While I can understand prohibiting teachers and school officials from leading prayers or religious activities in elementary and secondary schools, we are talking about adults here. The idea that traditions should be altered or completely eliminated because they cause momentary discomfort for a few is a far cry from what the Founding Fathers intended.

Governor praises Supreme Court Second Amendment decision

Gov. Matt Blunt has issued a statement praising today's U. S. Supreme Court decision striking down Washington D. C.'s gun ban:

"I commend this landmark decision today by the United States Supreme Court affirming the freedom and right of law-abiding Americans to own firearms. Today’s decision is a blow to those groups and liberal politicians who oppose gun rights and who seek to sabotage the Second Amendment rights of Missourians and all Americans.
"Missourians maintain a deep reverence for the freedoms guaranteed by the Second Amendment. My administration has a proud record of supporting those freedoms for law-abiding Missourians. We understand that our Constitution and Bill of Rights were created to limit the powers of government, not the rights of the people."
Today, Gov. Blunt is signing House Bill 2034, a pro-Second Amendment package at stops in Boonville at River Hills Sporting Clays and in Park Hills at a shooting range. The bill protects Missourians’ access to ranges and strengthens the state's firearms laws.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Taking the low road to the governor's office

(Note: The following post is my column for this week's Newton County News.)

A message to Sarah Steelman and Kenny Hulshof- You’re no Bill Webster and Roy Blunt.
I have heard this year’s race for the Republican nomination for governor compared to the infamous 1992 GOP bloodbath, but as a reporter who covered the ’92 race, I can tell you, this year’s race is just a pale imitation.
Yes, the 1992 race featured plenty of negative advertising, much of it coming from Roy Blunt, but it was substantive advertising based on real ethical problems that Bill Webster had. If Blunt had been given one more week before the primary, his momentum may well have carried him past Webster and saved the GOP a resounding defeat. Instead, Mel Carnahan, considered by some to be a sacrificial lamb to Webster, was able to use the material from Blunt’s advertisements to win the race and eventually Webster landed in a federal prison.
What have Mrs. Steelman and Hulshof given voters hungry for substance? Viagra.
Thanks to Mrs. Steelman, we know that Kenny Hulshof cast a vote that included funding for Viagra through Medicare. Thanks to Hulshof we know Mrs. Steel man voted for Viagra for prisoners when she was in the Senate.
Neither bothered to mention that those votes were not as simplistic as the ads made them sound. That would be letting the truth get in the way of good old attack advertising.
We also have the odd situation of the Republicans having the incumbent governor, but neither candidate wanting to be too closely linked with his record. The circumstances surrounding the sudden departure of Matt Blunt from the race have still not been explained in any satisfactory fashion. Blunt announced he would not seek a second term, claiming he had accomplished everything he wanted to do in his first four years. I would love to have a look at what his original goals looked like. Talk about setting the bar low.
In fact, whichever candidate emerges to face Attorney General Jay Nixon in November, whether it is Hulshof or Mrs. Steel man, should benefit from not being too closely connected with the governor.
Had the Republicans chosen someone like Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder or Speaker of the House Rod Jetton, the woes that surround Blunt could have been convincing campaign issues.
As it is, it will be nearly impossible for Democrats to connect Sarah Steel man or Kenny Hulshof with the infamous license fee office for sale scandal, with the current misuse and probable destruction of e-mails, or with the 2005 decisions which removed thousands of people from Medicaid eligibility.
It would be nice if the general election became a referendum on the leadership abilities and positions on the issues of Jay Nixon and whomever the Republicans nominate.
It would be nice, but I am not going to hold my breath waiting for that to happen. Sad to say, we may reach a point sometime in October when we long for the good old days when the candidates discussed substantive issues like Viagra.
***

For those who want to relive the 1992 governor's race, several chapters from the book version of The Turner Report are devoted to that race. More information about the book can be found at this link.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

RES hires three lobbyists

Renewable Environmental Solutions (RES), the company which has been under fire in Carthage for the past few years, thanks to the foul odor which has accompanied its tenure in the city, has hired powerful lobbyist Harry Gallagher's firm to represent it in Jefferson City, according to Missouri Ethics Commission records.

Gallagher, Jodi Wynegar, and Heath Clarkston registered May 28 to represent RES.

Missouri Supreme Court upholds conviction of man who gave girlfriend and her daughter HIV

The Missouri Supreme Court today upheld the City of St. Louis Circuit Court of a man who gave both his girlfriend and her 15-year-old daughter HIV.

James Wilson had attempted to have his conviction overturned by claiming the trial judge erred in not allowing testimony showing that the 15-year-old had lied about a car accident in which she had been involved.

Wilson also claimed that he had not recklessly infected the teenager, but the court rejected that, noting that he had been aware of his HIV-positive status for five years.

The following summary of the case was provided in the opinion:

From January through November 2003, James Wilson engaged in sexual contact with his girlfriend's 15-year-old daughter. The next summer, the girlfriend was hospitalized. In September 2004, the daughter found a medical record indicating Wilson was HIV-positive. The next day, after she learned her mother also was HIV-positive, she told her aunt that Wilson had been having sex with her. The police arrested Wilson, and in October 2004, a grand jury charged him with eight counts of second-degree statutory rape, three counts of statutory sodomy and one count of recklessly exposing another to HIV. At trial, Wilson sought to cross-examine the daughter and introduce her prior deposition testimony in which she admitted she had lied about her role in a car accident occurring in July 2004. The court excluded this evidence and prohibited the cross-examination as irrelevant. At the close of the evidence, the court granted Wilson's motion for a directed verdict on one of the statutory rape charges, and the jury convicted Wilson of the remaining seven charges. The court sentenced him, as a prior offender, to 15 years in prison for the first statutory rape conviction plus seven years in prison for each of the remaining six statutory rape convictions, the three statutory sodomy convictions and the exposure to HIV conviction. The seven-year sentences were to be served concurrently with each other but consecutively to the 15-year sentence.

Judge approves Monett lawsuit settlement

U. S. District Court Judge Dean Whipple issued an order today approving a settlement in the lawsuit filed by fired Public Works Administrator Mark Blackwell against the city of Monett.
Details of the settlement can be found in the June 11 Turner Report.

GateHouse Media drops 15 cents, hits another all-time low

Trading of GateHouse Media shares closed at $2.51 today, a 15-cent drop from Friday's close. The $2.51 beat the previous low of $2.61, recorded Thursday.

The stock dropped as low as $2.48 during the day before rebounding slightly.

Hearing set on convicted Wal-Mart embezzler's retirement package


You would think that a company would not have to give a $15 million retirement package to someone convicted of embezzling money from it, but that is not the way things work in our society.

Arkansas Business Report says an Aug. 22 hearing has been scheduled to see if former Wal-Mart executive Tom Coughlin will receive retirement benefits:

Coughlin, who was convicted of embezzling from the world's largest retailer, filed a counterclaim against Wal-Mart, accusing the company of conducting a "witch hunt" against him. Coughlin, the former vice chairman of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., was sentenced to 27 months of home detention, plus 1,500 hours of community service. He also had to pay $400,000 in restitution.

In a response to Coughlin's counterclaim, Wal-Mart says the former executive is not entitled to his retirement package because he defrauded the company. Coughlin pleaded guilty in 2006 to five counts of wire fraud and one count of tax evasion.

MSU rehires Burch as lobbyist

The Springfield Business Journal reports Missouri State University has rehired former Rep. Jerry Burch as its lobbyist, a job Burch has held for the past 18 years since he was upset by Bubs Hohulin for 126th District representative in 1990:

The board voted June 20 to extend Burch’s contract for another year, from Sept. 1 through Aug. 31, 2009.

During that period, Burch will be paid $78,849, a 4 percent increase from the current year. The increase is consistent with the 4 percent merit pool provided for MSU employees, according to a news release.

“We continue to be pleased with Jerry Burch’s work on behalf of the university,” MSU President Michael T. Nietzel said in the release. “Even in tight financial times, higher education and Missouri State made progress this past year. Jerry Burch deserves a fair amount of credit for that. His hard work, integrity and experience serve Missouri State well in Jefferson City and around the state.”

GateHouse Media stock sees slight increase

After several consecutive days of hitting all-time lows, GateHouse Media stock finally saw an increase Monday.
The stock was selling at $2.66 per share at the close of trading Monday, up five cents from Friday's all-time low of $2.61.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Speculation: GateHouse will suspend dividend, begin selling off properties

The journalistic pyramid scheme known as GateHouse Media may be headed for a dismantling.
Stockhouse, a Canadian website that provides stock information, says the GateHouse dividend will be reduced or eliminated and that the company is likely to begin selling some of its newspapers. Of course, the company's holdings include The Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News, Big Nickel, Pittsburg Morning Sun, Aurora Advertiser, and the Neosho Post:

With $1.3 billion in debt and shrinking operating income, the dividend is almost certainly going to be reduced or eliminated. That will kill the main reason for owning that shares. It also looks more and more likely that the company will have to auction off properties to pay down debt.


At the close of trading Friday, GateHouse Media's shares were selling for $2.61.

Former KOAM reporter fills in as Meet the Press host

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, who got his start on television nearly three decades ago as a reporter at KOAM, was the host on Meet the Press this morning. NBC has made no decision on a permanent replacement for the late Tim Russert.

Russert would have enjoyed Williams' use of past quotes from Sen. Lindsey Graham, who had previously been a staunch opponent of offshore drilling, but who has now executed a 360 degree turn on the subject.

NBC would probably be wise to replace Mr. Russert from within, perhaps using Williams or Tom Brokaw until the election, and then promoting Andrea Mitchell or Chuck Todd or David Gregory, but wouldn't it be nice to see former Nightline host Ted Koppel grilling politicians again?
***
Update: NBC has announced that Tom Brokaw will serve as host of Meet the Press beginning next Sunday.

Globe editorial: Memorial Middle School shooter case shows system needs change

Going by the current trial setting of December or January, it appears Memorial Middle School shooter Thomas Gregory White will have spent more than two years in jail awaiting trial.
That is not the way the system should work, an editorial in today's Joplin Globe says:

The allegations against White are such that we have always believed he should stand trial as an adult.

However, this case has opened our eyes to problems in the judicial system that need closer examination to determine if there is a better way to treat young teens being held in the adult system.

Trial dates for White have been set for December or January, following the outcome of a mental evaluation requested by the public defender’s office.

While a two-year wait for trial may not be uncommon for an adult facing serious felony charges, it’s too long for someone who commits a crime at the age of 13.


White is charged with two counts of assault, and single counts of unlawful use of a weapon, armed criminal action, and attempted escape.

Globe column looks at study on Sinquefield contributions

Do politicians who accept contributions from retired billionaire Rex Sinquefield toe the line when it comes to his pet issues, namely removal of campaign contribution limits snd educational vouchers?

Joe Hadsall's column
in today's Joplin Globe examines a recently-issued study by the Missouri Citizen Education Foundation, which looks at votes cast by elected officials who accepted Sinquefield contributions, a group that includes Rep. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, Rep. Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, and Rep. Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City.

All three, as you might expect, voted right down the line for Sinquefield.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Show-Me blog: Jasper County refused election records request

Someone from the jasper County Clerk's office flatly turned down a request for school district election results made by Cynthia Juedemann of retired billionaire Rex Sinquefield's Show-Me Institute, according to a post on the Show-Me Daily blog:

Specifically, I'm asking for school district election results from the past nine years — school board elections, special school elections, bond issues, and tax levies — in the hope of creating a publicly available database detailing turnout in those elections. While some county clerks have been forthcoming, others have come up with creative ways to avoid giving me the information.

A Jasper County employee, after covering the receiver, said something along the lines of "they'll just use it for political reasons," before refusing my request for any and all election results.


The employee hit the nail right on the head. Of course, the Show-Me Institute is going to use the results for political reasons. So what? The institute's record for taking facts and distorting them for its pro-voucher positions is consistent, but it does not matter what someone intends to do with public records...they are public records.

If Ms. Juedemann's account of the telephone conversation is accurate, at least one employee in the Jasper County Clerk's office needs a refresher course in the public's right to know. It is not restricted to people whose beliefs coincide with your own.
***
Back to the Show-Me Institute. It appears obvious from Ms. Juedemann's post that Rex Sinquefield's crew is preparing to use the low turnout at school elections, which is for the most part a given, as a sign of the need for "choice" in education (in other words, pumping public money into private schools. It is a weak argument, especially when you consider that municipal elections are also held in April. Should we also turn over the management of cities to people who are unaccountable to the voters?

That kind of argument is not going to play well in Missouri, though, it will certainly get full publicity from the Joplin Globe, who ran a page-one story in last Sunday's edition on a dubious Show-Me Institute report, burying information about the Show-Me Institute's pro-voucher background at the end of the inside jump.

News-Leader editorial: Hulshof-Steelman race nauseating

The gutter tone of the Republican primary race for governor between Rep. Kenny Hulshof and State Treasurer Sarah Steelman is strongly criticized in an editorial in today's Springfield News-Leader:

Watching the two over the past several weeks has been nauseating.

Steelman fires off a criticism; Hulshof's people fire back. Return fire confuses, and more salvos complicate the issue -- which is usually an unsolvable or old saw to begin with -- to the point that any sane voter would slam down the newspaper and go back to watching "American Idol."

Consider that in the past month Hulshof and Steelman, through spokespeople, have traded attacks over:

1) Who's most pro-life 2) Who's the biggest stem-cell hypocrite 3) Who should have done more years ago to stop Medicare and Medicaid patients from getting Viagra 4) The bridge to nowhere in Alaska and 5) Does Hulshof have enough "courage" to fight his own battles?

There's been little true debate over issues important to Missourians. Where do you find the time
?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Special interests contribute to Hunter's Carl Junction School Board campaign


I suppose the word must have finally reached everyone about the importance of education in today's society.

I had never realized, however, that the hub of educational activity in Missouri is in my neighbor town of Carl Junction. According to documents filed in the Jasper County Clerk's office, the Missouri Hospital Association, Partners for Leadership, Travelers Indemnity, and let's not forget the casinos- Penn National Gaming, all made maximum $325 contributions to the R-1 Board of Education candidacy of Rep. Steve Hunter.

Hunter terminated his Grassroots for Hunter committee on the statewide level in October, declaring that he would run for the Carl Junction R-1 Board of Education. Board candidates file their campaign reports locally and not with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Hunter's school board race received no contributions in October or January, but the pace picked up in his April filing. In addition to the maximum contributions listed above, Hunter received $300 apiece from the Missouri Association of Insurance Agents and Bank of America, $100 from Ride-Away Credit, and $450 from the 127th District Legislative Committee.

The disclosure report shows Hunter received $2,825 during the first three months of 2008, and spent $3,382.28, leaving him with $12,569.77, considerably more than is usually spent on a school board race.

Hunter has spent a considerable amount of money since October, when he terminated his state committee with $25,224.88 in the bank.
Among his expenditures:

-$1,350 to Kenny Hulshof's campaign for governor
-$325 to Rep. Marilyn Ruestman
-$650 to Purgason and Friends
-A $4,000 donation to Survey St. Louis
-$325 to Friends of Mark Parker
-$25 to the National Rifle Association
-$30 for membership in the Missouri Farm Bureau
-$237 to Capital One for rooms for the Summer Caucus and Canoe Trip
-A $100 donation to the Missouri College Republicans
-A $30 donation to the Joplin Trails Association
-$49.95 for a subscription to Wine Spectator magazine

And for those looking for at least one expenditure that can be remotely connected to Hunter's efforts to land a post on a public school board, Hunter provides it with $25 for a membership in the Show-Me Institute, retired billionaire Rex Sinquefield's think tank, which promotes educational vouchers.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Former Blunt chief of staff to lobby for Doe Run

Gregg Hartley, former chief of staff to Majority Whip Roy Blunt, has registered to lobby in Missouri for the Doe Run Company, according to Missouri Ethics Commission records. Doe Run, one of the largest lead producing companies in the world, has a smelting plant in Herculaneum.

The company has come under scrutiny for environmental violations and was the subject of an investigative report in the November/December 2006 Mother Jones magazine:

Like many people in Herculaneum, a town of 2,800 along the Mississippi River 30 miles south of St. Louis, Leslie Warden and her husband, Jack, were unaware of exactly what came belching out of the 550-foot smokestack about a quarter mile from their house. High school sweethearts, they’d bought a fixer-upper in 1988. Jack worked as a union carpenter, Leslie as a bookkeeper and secretary. Many of their neighbors had jobs at the Doe Run smelter, which employs about 240 workers and produces up to 250,000 tons of lead a year. Sometimes fumes from the plant made it hard to see across the street. "My wife would wash clothes and hang them on the line, and she’d have to rewash them because they’d get soot on them from the smelter," Jerry Martin, a former mayor, recalls. Occasionally, someone from the company would come around to test the tap water or offer free grass seed to fill in the bare spots in residents’ yards. When an acid plume drifted over from the plant and corroded the paint on cars, the company would pay for the bodywork.

In 1997, a plume damaged Leslie Warden’s brand-new Mustang, and this time Doe Run refused to fix it. If the plant’s emissions could harm her car, she wondered, what about her 13-year-old son’s lungs? Could his add be connected to pollution from the smelter? She started calling public health and environmental agencies, inquiring about the gray, sticky deposits on her deck, the trucks that rumbled through town, and the acrid air.


This is the second time Hartley has registered with the state. For a period of a little over a month in 2005, he was registered to lobby for the Missouri Association of Realtors.

Cassidy parlayed his position as Blunt's chief of staff into a top post at the powerful Washington lobbying firm of Cassidy & Associates.

Another all-time low for GateHouse Media

For the third straight day,the stock of GateHouse Media, owner of The Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News, Big Nickel and hundreds of other publications across the United States, sunk to an all-time low.
The price per share dropped to $2.58 before closing at $2.66 Thursday.

"Turner Report" book, "Devil's Messenger available at Hastings




A quick check at Hastings Books, Music, and Video in Joplin shows that my first novel, Small Town News is sold out, but copies of Devil's Messenger and The Turner Report are still available.

Copies of all three books are available at Changing Hands Book Shop in Joplin. The books had sold out at Pat's Books in Carthage when I stopped by today, but I left some copies, so all three are once again available there.

I will provide some more updates on some of the other retail outlets for the books over the next several days.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

McCain continues to call for suspension of gas tax


During his campaign stop in Springfield today, Sen. John McCain reiterated his support of a suspension of the gas tax:


“In the short term, I can give you some relief,” McCain told Sarah Craig, a small business owner who told the Arizona senator current gas prices are hurting her bottom line.

“What are you going to do today? What are you going to do next week that helps us now?” Craig asked, repeating a common question among voters these days.

McCain said suspending the gas tax and "maybe" giving taxpayers another economic stimulus check would give Americans short-term relief.


The text of McCain's speech can be found at this link.

Link provided to Lamar author's website


Lamar R-1 school nurse and former Lamar Press columnist has a big hit on her hands with her book, Healing for the Heart, and recently set up a website to promote the book and the book and her various speaking appearances.
A link has been added in the section on the right hand side of this page.

(Photo- Nancy Hughes with readers at the Lamar signing of her book)

GateHouse Media stock reaches another all-time low

The owner of The Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News and more than 300 other publications across the U. S., GateHouse Media, has fallen on hard times.
For the second straight day, the company's stock closed at an all-time low. After closing at $2.79 Tuesday, the stock fell to $2.69 per share today, dipping as low as $2.63.
At its highest point after going public last year, GateHouse Media shares sold for $22.25 per share.

Open letter calls for GateHouse Media CEO to drop dividend plan

In an open letter to GateHouse Media CEO Michael Reed, Douglas McIntyre, the editor of 24/7 Wall Street strongly suggested it is a poor time for the embattled newspaper company to be issuing dividends:

With the company's stock at a 52-week low, and down 86% from the period high, Wall St. does not believe that Gatehouse has the cash to pay its tremendous yield and make it debt service.

Most other public newspaper companies announced drops in advertising revenue of between 10% and 15% in May. Based on the last quarter, Gatehouse had razor thin operating margins, and debt service of over $24 million.

With long-term debt at $1.2 billion, Gatehouse may not make it even with the dividend gone. It certainly has almost no chance if the payments continue.


McIntyre is the former editor of Financial World magazine. GateHouse Media owns The Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News, Big Nickel, and Pittsburg Morning Sun.

McCaskill: Supreme Court decision was the right one


In an interview a few moments ago on MNBC's Morning Joe program, Sen. Claire McCaskill said the U. S. Supreme Court made the correct decision last week when it said prisoners on Guantanamo should receive the rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

"The Supreme Court did the right thing. Torture happened because it was approved at the top levels of this administration. It besmirched our reputation. Restoring our credibility means respecting our Constitution."

.The interview also included Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan.

This link will take you to the complete interview.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

New attorney signs on for accused in Rowan Ford murder

Thomas Jacquinot, a public defender from Kansas City who specializes in death penalty cases, signed on as the attorney today for Chris Collings, one of two men charged with the murder of nine-year-old Rowan Ford of Stella.
Also listed on the defense team are public defenders Susan Elliott and Jeff Stephens.
Jacquinot filed a motion asking that a pre-trial hearing set for July 22 be delayed. Jacquinot is scheduled to serve as the lawyer for Richard Davis, who is charged with killing two Independence area women in 2006.

Collings and Rowan Ford's stepfather, David Wesley Spears, are charged with first degree murder and forcible rape. Spears is represented by Cynthia Dryden, a public defender from St. Louis, who is also a specialist in death penalty cases.

GateHouse Media stock closes at all-time low

GateHouse Media stock closed at an all-time low of $2.79 per share today, down two cents from the previous low.
At one point today, the GateHouse stock, which has been plummeting for the past several months, dipped as low as $2.73 per share, before staging a mild comeback this afternoon.
GateHouse Media owns The Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News, Neosho Post, Greenfield Vedette, Big Nickel, and the Pittsburg Morning Sun in this area.

KOAM dominates May sweeps


KOAM News continued to dominate during the May sweeps, with its news programs drawing more viewers than KODE and KSNF combined, according to the latest Nielsen reports.

The ratings in terms of number of households tuning in are listed below:

6 a.m. to 7 p.m.- KOAM 16,000, KODE 5,000, KSNF 7,000
12 noon- KOAM 17,000 KSNF 2,000
5 p.m. KOAM 27,000, KODE 11,000, KSNF 5,000
6 p.m. KOAM 33,000, KODE 12,000, KSNF 13,000
9 p.m. KFJX 13,000
10 p.m. KOAM 36,000, KODE 12,000, KSNF 16,000

The biggest gain for KOAM was for the 10 p.m. broadcast, which saw its viewers increase from 29,000 during the February sweeps to 36,000.

KSNF lost more than half of the audience for its 5 p.m. newscast with Tiffany Alaniz and Gary Bandy, dropping from 11,000 viewers in February to 5,000 in May.

Harris' new video: Koster's Favorite Things

Jeff Harris continues to provide much humor, if not musical talent, to the Democratic race for attorney general, with his latest video attack on opponent Chris Koster, done to the tune of "My Favorite Things."

Bonne Terre Democrat asks for change of venue in felony case


The June 27 trial date for Rep. Bradley Robinson, D-Bonne Terre, may be in jeopardy.
Robinson, 44, who is charged with felony hit and run, is asking for a change of judge and change of venue, according to St. Francois Circuit Court records. The motion will be taken up June 27.

Robinson allegedly was driving his pickup on Jan. 1 when he struck a man, severely injuring him. Surveillance video purportedly shows Robinson and his wife changing places to make it appear that Robinson's wife Tara was driving, and then leaving the scene. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, five passengers in the pickup have been granted immunity in exchange for their testimony against the Robinsons.

Court records indicate Tara Robinson's preliminary hearing, also scheduled for Friday, was postponed at her request, and will be held July 18. She is charged with a misdemeanor, making a false declaration.
Robinson is not seeking re-election.

July 14 hearing set for Neosho pastor in sex case

A July 14 pre-trial hearing has been scheduled for Randall Danny Russell, 49, Neosho, pastor of Acts II Church, who pleaded not guilty in Newton County Circuit Court Monday to two charges of child molestation and seven counts of statutory sodomy. Russell waived his formal arraignment.

Catanese lands Steelman Viagra ad

Credit KY3's hard working political reporter Dave Catanese with another scoop.
KY3 Political Blog gave its readers a first glance at State Treasurer Sarah Steelman's Viagra ad which is scheduled to launch later today. (Clarification: Mrs. Steelman is not promoting Viagra in this ad, but simply saying her opponent, Rep. Kenny Hulshof voted to have Medicare cover the cost of the drug.)

Try the link above and watch as the Steelman-Hulshof race continues to degenerate into a mudslinging brawl.

Another Natural Disaster video

For those few of you who cannot make it through the day without a Natural Disaster fix, here is another YouTube video with group leader Richard Taylor singing the old Mac Davis song, "Baby, Baby, Don't Get Hooked on Me."
Unfortunately, due to our use of a stationary camcorder, which had to be placed on the stage because of a steady rain that night, Richard can only be seen a few times. Ah, such is the price of fame.

Viagra debate is uplifting

Sorry, I couldn't resist the headline.

I would guess we have Jeff Roe to thank for turning the governor's race into one that will center on anything but legitimate issues. Sarah Steelman launched her first attack ad on Kenny Hulshof last week, then mentioned three times in their debate that Hulshof had voted to allow Medicare to cover Viagra for senior citizens.

Now Hulshof notes that Mrs. Steelman voted for Viagra for prisoners. I would suggest that both votes were not for Viagra, but for other portions of the bills in questions. unfortunately, in today's political atmosphere, and in a world of sound bites, nothing is going to be put into context.

There is nothing wrong with criticizing politicians based on their votes, but the sleazy operators who are running the political campaigns should at least make the pretense of supplying voters with the truth.

Neither Hulshof nor Mrs. Steelman favors having taxpayers foot the bill for Viagra for anyone. Now let's get back to legitimate stiff competition.

And perhaps I should amend my earlier statement that we have Jeff Roe to thank for this. Jeff Roe is a hired gun doing exactly what he is paid to do. The only person to blame is Sarah Steelman.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Arguments heard in Conrad Black appeal

U. S. Federal Court judges heard arguments Friday from former Hollinger Interntional CEO Conrad Black, who is trying to have his six-and-a-half-year prison sentence for mail fraud and obstruction of justice tossed out:


Jailbird Black is in the chokie for six and half years for treating funds in his publicly traded media company Hollinger International (other-otc: HLGAF.PK - news - people ) like his own personal piggy bank. In July, a federal jury found him guilty of three counts of mail fraud and one count of obstruction of justice and he was off the hook for nine other charges.

Black's alleged misdeeds were detailed during the trial, including using company money to pay $42,000 for his wife's birthday party at New York restaurant La Grenouille, swindling the company in a $3 million Park Avenue apartment sale and taking the corporate jet on a two-week vacation to Bora Bora in French Polynesia. Black said these were justified business expenses and that he paid his fair share in the apartment deal.

Black and his No.2 David Radler built Hollinger from scratch, starting with a tiny, money-losing English-language paper in French-speaking Quebec, the Sherbrooke Record. At its height, Hollinger owned the Sun-Times, the Daily Telegraph of London, the Jerusalem Post, Canada’s National Post and hundreds of U.S. and Canadian community newspapers.

Black married the beautiful journalist and socialite Barbara Amiel and they lived a lavish international lifestyle. He renounced his Canadian citizenship to get his British peerage title because the Canadian prime minister at the time, Jean Chretien, had recommended against the move thereby killing Black's chances at being called Lord while Canadian.

Lead prosecutor Eric Sussman said he was confident the panel would uphold the convictions. The judges could make a decision in four to six weeks, Frey said.


Hollinger International, at one time, owned The Carthage Press and the Neosho Daily New

Broder offers thoughts on Tim Russert

The dean of Washington columnists, David Broder of the Washington Post, offers some remembrances of Meet The Press moderator Tim Russert, who died Friday:

Sitting next to Tim many Sunday mornings on the NBC set, I had a close-up view of his mind at work — testing, probing, moving on. His questioning was completely efficient but never officious. Both the viewers and the guests could tell he really liked the newsmakers he was interviewing.


I am generally a skeptic when it comes to the many people who jump from the political world into television or punditry. I almost always suspect some of them are just waiting to move back. But Tim was clearly smitten with his new world. He loved his NBC buddies, and he bragged on them. He loved talking to that big audience, sharing and showing off his political smarts.

Comments return to Carthage Press website

Those who wish to comment on articles on The Carthage Press website may do so once again, according to an article posted on Saturday:

The registration process, which can be completed within minutes, is now in effect, and people who register can then post comments to the variety of stories on our Web site.

When visiting the site, visitors will be asked to login or register. After entering a valid email address that will be verified and a first and last name, posters are asked to choose a user name and password.

The Carthage Press still values the option of anonymous posting. This allows our posters to comment without the fear of retribution, especially in a small town. Those who are comfortable using their real name are invited to do so.

Comments posted to the Web site are valued and read. We invite readers to participate in this community newspaper
.

Closing sale begins at Joplin, Pittsburg Goody's stores

Closing sales have begun at the 69 Goody's atores, including locations in Joplin and Pittsburg, that are closing following the company's decision to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Discounts of 20% to 40% are now being offered on all merchandise in all closing stores. Consumers will be able to take advantage of outstanding savings on a tremendous selection of in-season, famous brand fashion basics, casual and career looks, accessories, swimwear, footwear, back to school apparel and more. In addition, store fixtures, furniture and equipment are also available for sale.

The store closing program is being managed by Hilco Merchant Resources LLC. Michael Keefe, President and CEO of Hilco Merchant Resources stated, "This exciting sale presents a great opportunity to save on a very broad assortment of clothing and accessories for the whole family, at a time when savings are very important to consumers. This will be a very popular sale, which we believe will not last very long."

Daily News, Globe win APME awards

The Joplin Globe and Neosho Daily News each captured six awards Friday in the annual Associated Press Managing Editors (APME) Contest.

In a notable and welcome departure from the way it has handled past awards, the Globe actually publicized the work of its reporters and photographers, placing the story on page one of the business section, which the Globe for some reason calls "Your Money." (If it was ever my money the Globe was writing about, it wouldn't take up much space.)

The Daily won three first-place awards- Cody Thorn in sports feature for his piece on the final game of Neosho High School graduate and Missouri State University standout Tyler Chaney, Thorn in spot sports, and Wes Franklin, John Ford, and Todd Higdon in community affairs for "Post 163."

The newspaper also earned second place awards for Wes Franklin in feature writing, and Rick Rogers in headline writing, and a third place award for Rogers, Franklin, Ford, and Higdon in spot news for their coverage of the Micronesian church shootings.

The Globe also received two first place wins- one by Wally Kennedy in community affairs for his coverage of CAFOs, and the other by Greg Grisolano in feature writing.

Susan Redden made it a one-two finish in Community Affairs, taking second for her investigation of Jasper County Public Administrator Rita Hunter. Derek Spellman and Jeff Lehr took second in spot news with their coverage of the Rowan Ford murder. Globe photographers T. Rob Brown and Roger Nomer had third place finishes in sports photo and spot news photo, respectively.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

News-Leader link fixed

Thanks for those who have told me that my Springfield News-Leader link has not been working for quite a while. That has been fixed.

I have also removed two links, Minutia and Wake Up Call, from the list, though I will occasionally monitor them to see if they are updating again.

"Meet the Press' to devote hour to remembrance of Russert

The life and career of Tim Russert will be remembered 8 a.m. Sunday when Meet the Press devotes the entire hour to Russert, who died after suffering a heart attack Friday.

Those scheduled to appear on the show, according to an e-mail message sent out moments ago by NBC News, include Tom Brokaw of NBC News, Mike Barnicle of MSNBC, political operative James Carville, Meet the Press Executive Producer Betsy Fischer, presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, Gwen Ifill of PBS, political operative Mary Matalin, and former NBC correspondent Maria Shriver.

The news release said the moderator's chair will be left empty in honor of Mr. Russert.

A few thoughts about Tim Russert


The shocking news Friday of the death of NBC Washington bureau chief and Meet the Press moderator Tim Russert has brought a virtually unanimous outpouring of grief and praise. Much of the talk has centered around the obvious- his brilliant questioning of politicians and other newsmakers, his books about his father, Big Russ, and, of course, his use of a whiteboard to explain election news to viewers.

Despite his prominence on Meet the Press, my favorite Russert program was his weekly Saturday hour-long interview program which originally ran on CNBC and later moved to MSNBC. In that show, Russert often would spend an hour discussing substantive non-fiction books with the authors, something you don't see anywhere else except on C-Span II. I am going to miss him on that program as much as I will miss him on Meet the Press.

As a reporter who always loved the research aspects of the job, I appreciated the vast amount of preparation Russert put into his job. When he interviewed the authors for the Saturday program, it was obvious he had read the books. In the same way, when he politely, but firmly, grilled politicians on Meet the Press, I, like thousands of viewers, anticipated when he would confront them on something they had said that many times had been overlooked by other, less diligent, reporters.

The 2008 election will not be the same without Tim Russert.

Blunt: Russert was a giant

Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt joined the bipartisan chorus of praise for Meet the Press moderator Tim Russert, who died of a heart attack Friday at age 58:

On the other side of the aisle, House Republican Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri said in a statement that it was “hard to quantify the influence that Tim Russert has had over political discourse in this country today.” He added that Russert “was more than his career. He was a man defined by his commitment to family and friends making him the giant that he truly was.”

Friday, June 13, 2008

Nexstar Broadcasting's web revenue to exceed $10 million in 2008


Nexstar Broadcasting's revenue from its websites will exceed $10 million this year, CEO Perry Sook told investors at the Deutsche Bank Media Conference Tuesday:

Sook mentioned the Nexstar station sites as “community portals” not adorned with station branding -- such as WROC Rochester, N.Y., and its RochesterHomepage.net -- as crucial in growing Nexstar’s Web revenue from $100,000 in 2006 to $5 million last year and more than $10 million in 2008.

“We can’t out-Google Google and we can’t out-YouTube YouTube,” he said, “but we can out-hyper-local all of them.”


Nexstar Broadcasting's Joplin portal is fourstateshomepage.com, which serves both KSNF and KODE.

GateHouse Media stock sinking

GateHouse Media, only recently the darling of the stock market, has seen its stock price drop rapidly in recent months.
GateHouse closed at $2.94 per share Friday, after hitting an all-time law of $2.81 recently.
GateHouse Media owns The Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News, Big Nickel, and Pittsburg Morning Sun among more than 300 publications.

Mouton orders mental exam for Memorial Middle School shooter

During a hearing Friday in Jasper County Circuit Court, Judge David Mouton ordered a mental evaluation for Memorial Middle School shooter Thomas Gregory White.

White, 15, is charged with two counts of assault, and single counts of armed criminal action, unlawful use of a weapon, and attempted escape:

White’s public defenders had asked for the examination in light of recent evaluations of their client by a doctor and a psychologist suggesting that an extended jail stay was wearing on the boy’s mental health and that the teen might be schizophrenic.

The prosecutor’s office raised no objection to the request at a hearing Friday in Circuit Judge David Mouton’s courtroom before the judge’s ruling. Mouton subsequently ordered that White undergo an examination for mental competency at the Western Missouri Mental Health Center in Kansas City. He asked Assistant Prosecutor John Nicholas to see to arrangements for his transfer there as soon as possible.

But the judge turned down a defense request that White be released from jail on a cash bond and placed on house arrest while awaiting trial on five felony counts stemming from an assault-rifle-related case Oct. 9, 2006, at Memorial Middle School in Joplin.

Nexstar Broadcasting stock down 72 cents in last two days

Nexstar Broadcasting stock has fallen 72 cents in the past two days, closing at $4.41 per share Thursday. The stock was selling at $14.98 per share just a year ago. Nexstar owns KSNF in Joplin and KSFX in Springfield and manages KODE in Joplin and KOLR in Springfield.

Saga Communications, owner of KOAM and KFJX in the Joplin market, has not been faring much better in recent months, but did improve by 29 cents per share Thursday, closing at $5.20 per share.

McCain coming to Springfield

The presidential race will return to southwest Missouri next Wednesday when Sen. John McCain will hold a town hall meeting at Missouri State University:

The Arizona senator will hold an early afternoon rally at a hall on campus that will accommodate 350 people, though details about the exact location remain unclear, according to his campaign and Republican sources. The event will be open to the public.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Memorial Middle School shooter's fate may be decided Friday

The Joplin Globe notes in a story posted a little over an hour ago that Friday's hearing in the case against Memorial Middle School shooter Thomas Gregory White could prove to be a pivotal one.

Judge David Mouton is expected to rule on public defender Brett Meeker's motion to have White undergo a mental evaluation to determine if he is capable of assisting in his own defense.

White, 15, who is scheduled to go to trial in December, was a 13-year-old seventh grader at Memorial in October 2006 when he took an assault rifle into the school, fired the weapon into the ceiling, then aimed it at Principal Steve Gilbreth, allegedly attempting to fire it when 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. He has been in jail since his arrest.

July 7 arraignment set for former Kinder chief of staff

A 9 a.m. July 7 arraignment has been scheduled in Cole County Circuit Court for Eric Feltner, former chief of staff to Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder. Feltner is charged with two counts of attempting to furnish pornographic material to a minor.

The arraignment was originally scheduled for June 27.

Feltner was arrested after falling prey to an undercover internet sex sting of the Jefferson City Police Department.

Remembering Eulah Hawkins

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

Writing a column for a newspaper is never easy.
That’s not my way of moaning about not being able to come up with ideas. It is more of an appreciation of those who are able to come up with ideas, not just once a week, but week after week, month after month, year after year.

It takes a special person to meet a deadline that seems to come every couple of days rather than once a week. Eulah Hawkins was that kind of person.

As a neophyte newspaper editor for the Newton County News back in 1977 and early 1978, I struggled to come up with copy to fill the pages, did not have any concept of how to go out and get copy (I got the job because only two people answered the application and after a few weeks, the other one left to attend college full time.), and I was more concerned with my own grades since I was also attending Missouri Southern State College at the time. Plus, in addition to being the editor, I was also the advertising salesman.

The one thing I could count on week after week was the presence of Eulah’s column. Sometimes it was about what was going on in the community, sometimes it was about her family, sometimes it was just about life in general, but it was always readable and kept Newton County News readers looking forward to page two every Thursday.
Eulah’s finest moments as a reporter/columnist came in late 1977 as she covered the death of the much-loved Barbara McNeely, an MSSC student and East Newton High School graduate, and the trial of William McMurray, the man who murdered her. She took the reader into the trial, filling her story with rich detail and emotion that struck just the right chord with readers who were still grieving over Barbara’s loss.

When I returned to the Newton County News in late 1980, working for Emery Styron, Eulah was still providing her columns, only now, thanks to Emery, her work wasn’t the only thing NCN readers could look forward to when their papers arrived.
After Emery left, and I once again became editor, I had the pleasure of working with Eulah again until February 1982, when the publisher Richard Bush dispatched me for a second time. I was much better as a reporter and editor, but I still couldn’t sell advertising for the life of me.

For the next two decades, Eulah Hawkins continued to be a staple of the Newton County News, joined by other columnists such as Bill Pierson and Vickie Thomas in the 1980s and 1990s, and Donna Fullerton and Wana Senter, whose columns still grace these pages.
I was sad to learn of Eulah’s passing last week. She will be missed, but thankfully we were able to share many wonderful Thursdays with her.

Natural Disaster on YouTube

It is not difficult to find natural disasters on YouTube, but until a few moments ago, our band, Natural Disaster, has never graced the website. It is a scary thought, but our version of "Secret Agent Man" is now on the world wide web, thanks to a stationary camcorder on the stage (it couldn't be placed further back because it was raining that night) during our June 30, 2007, performance at Old Mining Town Days in Granby.

This could send Pepto-Bismol sales sky high.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

NBC anchor broadcasting, blogging from Afghanistan


NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, who got his start at KOAM, is broadcasting and blogging from Kabul, Afghanistan:

A striking event took place on our interesting final approach to landing. While we were banking hard to line ourselves up with the runway, I looked down at a goat herder tending a modest flock on steep mountain terrain outside Afghanistan. It was a tableau that could easily have been from 2,000 years ago. At exactly that moment, my Blackberry vibrated to life in its holster on my belt, filling up with overnight emails from New York and elsewhere. A wireless society. A confusing, changing place.

KY3 garners 16 Missouri Broadcasters' awards


KY3 dominated the Missouri Broadcasters Association list of award winners for medium market television stations. The wards were presented Saturday.

KYTV took first place in nine categories. Following are the list of Springfield radio and television winners:

Commercial- Certificate of Merit- KYTV, "Majestic Flea Market Junkie"

Spot News- Winner- KTTS-FM, "Severe Weather; Winner KYTV, "Tornado; Certificate of Merit, KYTV, "Ice Storm"

Documentary/Public Affairs- Winner, KSMU-FM, "Missouri Monks;" Winner, KYTV, "Shopping with Care," Certificate of Merit, KOLR, "Iraq Star"

Investigative Reporting- Winner, KYTV, "Secrets Revealed;" Certificate of Merit, KYTV, "Stealing from the Poor"

Special Programs- Certificate of Merit, KSMU-FM, "A Day Without Art;" Certificate of Merit, KOZK, "Sense of Community: Fruit Experiment Station"

Sports- Certificate of Merit, KSPR, "Hicks from the Sticks"

PSA or Campaign- Certificate of Merit, KYTV, "KY3-DTV"

Best Weathercast- Winner, KYTV, "Twister on Tap, October 2007"

Feature Reporting- (This category was not divided into smaller, medium and larger markets) Winner, KYTV, "Baby's First Picture"

News Series- Winner, KYTV, "Get Out Alive;" Certificate of Merit, KSMU-FM, Sense of Community- World War II Vets"

Children's Programming- Winner, KYTV, "Dangerous Text Messages;" Certificate of Merit, KSFX, "Childhood Hunger"

Station-Sponsored Community Event- Winners, KYTV, "Shred it Free with KY3;" Certificate of Merit, KYTV, "KY3 Toy Test"

Play-by-Play- Certificate of Merit, KTXR, "Bears vs SIU"

Promotion- Certificate of Merit, KYTV, Puppy Prozac"

Editorial- Certificate of Merit, KSFX, "Ozarks Green"

Complete Newscast- Winner, KTTS-FM, "Feb. 14, 2008;" Winner, KYTV, "Ice Storm;" Certificate of Merit, KYTV, "Day of Destruction"

"Tired Truckers'" series nets investigative reporting award for KOAM


An examination of tired truckers earned KOAM top honors in the investigative reporting category at the annual Missouri Broadcasters Association Awards presented Saturday.

KOAM also won first place in "news series" for "Lost Legacy" and won a certificate of merit (second place) for its "Country Tonight" commercial.

Two other Joplin broadcasting outlets won MBA awards.
KODE received a certificate of merit in sports for The Locker Room" and KZRG Radio earned one for its ice storm coverage.

It would be great if KOAM could place links to its award-winning coverage on its website.

Where is Globe coverage of Goody's closing?

For a newspaper that prides itself on having a weekly "Watching Range Line" column, the Joplin Globe appears to have not been watching carefully this week. So far, I have seen no mention of Goody's Chapter 11 bankruptcy or its decision to close 69 stores, including the stores on Range Line in Joplin, and in Pittsburg, Kan.

Now I am strictly referring to the Globe website, since I have been attending a technology seminar every morning this week at Joplin High School and have not had the opportunity to see the print edition. Perhaps the AP story on the bankruptcy ran in the print edition, or a company news release run verbatim except for the addition of those misleading words "From Staff Reports."

Perhaps Wally Kennedy will be watching that area of Range Line next Tuesday.

While the Globe has been shortchanging this story, other newspapers have been far more diligent. The Pittsburg Morning Sun's Kevin Flaherty posted a story Monday afternoon. The Jefferson City News Tribune also posted an article that day and followed it up with an enterprise piece written by Kris Hilgedeck today:

On a morning when the air was cool and the sunlight warm, a stream of casual shoppers trickled into the store Tuesday morning.

Many of the visitors were state workers on their breaks from the Department of Social Services, whose building is across the street.

State employee Julia Cooley walked over to return a purchase.

Cooley likes shopping at Goody's because it appeals to her love of bargain-hunting. She usually purchases items off the clearance racks.

Sometimes the workers walk for exercise at the shopping center.

“When we walk, we just pop in,” she added. “It's just convenient.”

Cooley was personally disappointed the store was closing.

She tends to rely on the store to find gifts for friends, family, colleagues, neighbors and children.

“You can get something for a baby shower,” she explained.

But she conceded some of the merchandise in the store was priced “pretty high.”


At a time when the word "recession" is being tossed around on a daily basis, area readers should expect the newspaper of record to the problems facing businesses and consumers.
Of course, I could being hasty with my criticism. Perhaps Wally Kennedy will be watching that area of Range Line next Tuesday.

Court rejects former Missouri State instructor's appeal


Former Missouri State University drama instructor George Cron's lawsuit against the university was dealt another blow May 15 when the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals backed the lower court ruling which granted summary judgment for the defendants.

"Cron could not identify any constitutionally protected property interest which had been denied him."

Cron's original lawsuit was detailed in the April 3, 2006, Turner Report:

In a lawsuit filed March 31 in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, George Cron, Springfield, lists Rhythm McCarthy, a professor in the Theatre and Dance Department; Jay Raphael, department head; Bruno Schmidt, vice president of academic affairs; John Black, Missouri State's general counsel; and The MSU Board of Governors as defendants; and alleges wrongful dismissal and defamation.
Cron, who also has acted in such films as "Flying Tiger" and "Larva," says his problems with Ms. McCarthy began even before he was hired at Missouri State (then Southwest Missouri State University) in October 1998 when she was chairman of the Search Committee which hired Cron. Ms. McCarthy, in addition to her duties at Missouri State, is a professional dancer who has appeared with the California Ballet Company and the North Carolina Dance Theatre.
"(She) began to aggressively pursue a personal relationship with Mr. Cron," the lawsuit said. Cron says Ms. McCarthy helped him with his application and supported his hiring, which took place in May 1999.
After he was hired, Cron told Ms. McCarthy "that he did not reciprocate her romantic feelings and did not intend to consummate an affair," according to the lawsuit.
After that, he claims, she began "a series of actions designed to undermine (him) and ruin his reputation within the Department of Theatre and Dance." These actions, the lawsuit claims, included a series of statements about Cron's teaching methods, his fitness to teach, and his being "sexist" and "bigoted." Still, Cron was rehired each year until he came up for tenure in 2004. The Tenure Committee voted 6-2 to offer him tenure, the lawsuit said, with Ms. McCarthy and Sara Brummell casting the dissenting votes.
The committee recommendation was forwarded to Raphael, who rejected it. Cron appealed to Schmidt, who denied the appeal. On April 12, 2004, Cron appealed those decisions to the Academic Personnel Review Commission, which in a split decision, said "Cron's complaint was not frivolous." His appeal was again rejected. The case eventually went to an arbitrator, who ruled in Cron's favor July 29, 2005. Nonetheless, the board voted Oct. 4, 2005, not to extend tenure. Cron is asking for reinstatement and damages.

Convicted former representative receives more lenient repayment schedule


Former Rep. John Bowman, D-St. Louis, who was placed on probation April 4 after pleading guilty to bribing a bank official, will have an easier time making his court-ordered restitution.

Judge Henry Edward Autrey signed an order Tuesday setting Bowman's payments at $350 a month, until the entire $19,874.38 is repaid. The change in the payment plan was prompted by Bowman's inability to make a $10,000 initial payment required by the court.

Bowman was placed on probation after admitting to his role in a bank and credit card fraud scheme masterminded by former Bank of America Vice President Robert Conner.

Conner, Bowman, and others involved in the scheme were indicted in January 2007 by a federal grand jury, which said Bowman and his co-defendants agreed to a scheme in which Conner took a bank lending program which provided money to small businesses by offering a $25,000 credit limit, then arranged with the other defendants to apply for the loans, often with fictitious companies, then give Conner kickbacks ranging from $2,500 to $5,000 on each loan.
According to the indictment, Conner approved $1,213,970 in fraudulent loans. Conner was sentenced in January to nine-and-a-half years in prison.

Tentative April 2009 trial set for O'Sullivan lawsuit

A lawsuit filed by the shell of a company that used to be O'Sullivan Industries against Structured Equity Advisors will likely have an April 2009 trial date set, with a five-day trial, according to a schedule filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

The scheduled was hammered out during a June 11 meeting, and requires that each side complete discovery by Jan. 8, 2009. O'Sullivan cannot amend the complaint or add any additional parties after July 15, while Structured Equity Advisors has until Aug. 1. All motions must be filed by Jan. 22.

Both sides of the lawsuit are detailed in the March 14 Turner Report and the April 15 Turner Report.

City of Monett, fired public works superintendent reach settlement

A settlement between the city of Monett and fired Public Works Superintendent Mark Blackwell awaits court approval.
According to documents filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, the city has agreed to pay $32,635.40 into Blackwell's LAGERS retirement account, covering the time between his Oct. 3, 2004, dismissal and March 31, 2009, and then place $7,364.58 into a restricted account to paid into the retirement fund until Blackwell is eligible for retirement. Blackwell will have to contribute $40,000, the amount that would have been his share, into the account, the proposed settlement said.
The settlement, if approved, will end an acrimonious lawsuit which included allegations of corruption against Monett officials. The following account of the lawsuit comes from the Aug. 10, 2005, Turner Report:

A lawsuit filed Tuesday in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri alleges that Monett City Councilman Jerry Dierker has misused his position to pad his pocketbook.
The action was filed by Mark Blackwell, who was fired from his position as public works superintendent in October 2004 after eight years, a dismissal he attributes to his attempts to blow the whistle on Dierker. In addition to Dierker, Councilman Don Roberson and Mayor Jim Orr are listed as defendants.
In his petition, Blackwell says Dierker:
-"used city funds and employees to further his own private construction and development projects, including the use of stormwater pipe purchased by the city, in Dierker's private construction projects, using employees paid by the city
-"used his position to improperly prevent or discourage construction and development projects which competed with his private projects
-"improperly utilized his position to coerce private developers and contractors to utilize the services of specific providers who were Dierker's friends or business associates.
Blackwell says that on or about June 1, 2004, "in response to Plaintiff's efforts to discover whether budgeting and accounting problems existed with respect to city projects, City Council member Jerry Dierker ordered the reassignment" of Blackwell's administrative assistant and failed to replace the assistant. After that time, Blackwell was not given access to accounting records to determine whether "proper budgeting and accounting procedures were being followed," according to the lawsuit.
On June 18, Blackwell met with Mayor Orr to discuss those concerns, as well as his concerns about what he considered to be improper activities by Dierker. The same concerns were discussed during a July 20, 2004, meeting with Orr and Dierker, the petition said.
On Aug. 17, 2004, Blackwell met with Roberson, going over the same concerns. He also took those concerns to others, including "retired public officials, leaders of the business community," and with other city employees," according to the lawsuit.
The situation came to a head at a meeting called by the mayor on Oct. 5, 2004. Others attending the meeting, the petition said, were Roberson, Dierker, and City Clerk Janie Knight. "At the personnel meeting on Oct. 5, 2004, Commissioner Roberson claimed that he was unable to reach (me) by phone on Sept. 15, 2004, and that therefore the commissioners and mayor determined that (I) had taken off work without reporting the absence."
At that point, Blackwell was given the option of signing his name to a resignation letter that was typed and ready for him. Blackwell refused. The mayor handed Blackwell another pre-arranged letter telling him he was fired.
Blackwell says those actions were not allowed under city policies, since he had never received any written reprimands or any other type of formal discipline and besides, the petition said, the "purported justification for terminating Plaintiff's employment was a pretext" and had nothing to do with the reason he was fired.
Blackwell says the firing was retaliation and violated his First Amendment right to freedom of speech.