Thursday, August 31, 2006

Daily News' Ford remains at the top of his game in McDonald County cult investigation

Neosho Daily News Associate Editor John Ford remains on top of the McDonald County cult story story, relating the information that the Lamberts and Eplings are no longer in the compound at Cecil Epling Way.
It is gratifying to see Ford get the opportunity to sink his teeth into a meaty story, which today contained the following nugget:

(McDonald County Deputy Mike)LeSueur said there was no probable cause to remove the remaining eight children from the compound, as the accused (Raymond Lambert, Patty Lambert, Paul Epling, and Tom Epling) are no longer present. He said the four are believed to be staying in a travel trailer out of state. No warrant has been issued for their arrest at this time. Steve Geeding, McDonald County prosecutor, said he just discussed the matter with a judge, who said the four could leave the state, as long as they return for a preliminary hearing Oct. 2. McDonald County Associate Circuit Court Judge John LePage is presiding in the case.

KODE: Lamberts, Eplings nowhere to be found

KODE continued its domination of the McDonald County church sex cult today, breaking the news that county deputies went to the compound at Cecil Epling Way to remove any leftover children and found no trace of the four church leaders, Rev. Raymond Lambert, 51, his wife, Patricia Lambert, 49, and her brothers (and his stepbrothers) Paul Epling, 53, and Tom Epling, 51.
The latest installment in Tara Brown's continuing investigation of this church and its sister church near Granby in Newton County, included the revelation that McDonald County Judge John LePage not only placed no limitations on the church leaders' travel while they are out on bond on numerous counts of having ritual sex with children, but he did not place any conditions that would require them to stay away from children while they await trial.
The latest chapter also included another interview with a former member of Lambert's Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church, who spoke of Lambert not being shy about sexual activities with church youth.
Rounding out the story was the information that George Otis Johnston, 63, pastor of the Grandview Valley Baptist Church North, turned himself in to McDonald County authorities on a charge of child molestation. Johnston, who is Lambert's uncle, also faces eight felony counts of statutory sodomy in Newton County.
(Pictured: Raymond Lambert is seated. His wife, Patty, stands behind him. Photo provided by Tara Brown, KODE)

St. Clair County judge to hear Surface case

St. Clair County Circuit Court Judge Michael Dawson will hear the drunk driving case against Jasper County Presiding Commissioner Chuck Surface, according to circuit court records.
Dawson was appointed after Judge Stephen Carlton disqualified himself Monday one day before Surface was scheduled to be arraigned. Carlton had been appointed after Surface asked for a change of judge after Judge Joseph Schoeberl was initially assigned to the case.
Robert George of Lawrence County is serving as the prosecuting attorney after Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney Dean Dankelson disqualified himself.

Tonight is Schieffer's last night

Those of you who have not had the opportunity to see the incredibly literate, human approach Bob Schieffer has brought to the CBS Evening News after replacing the embattled Dan Rather need to watch tonight. This will be his last night at the helm.
Under Schieffer, the CBS newscast has been the only one that has gained in the ratings, which should prove that you don't have to have a pretty face and be under age 50 (Schieffer is nearing 70) to attract an audience. Schieffer's respect for his audience, and for his reporters, has been evident in each program.
Schieffer, who will be replaced next week by Katie Couric, took the job on an interim basis, never wanting it full-time, and has not only kept the ship afloat, but has enabled the network's news department to rise above the low point it reached at the end of the Rather era.

Stevens says you have no right to know

Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, whose name has become synonymous with pork barrel spending, thanks to his bridge to nowhere project for his home state, emerged Wednesday as the person blocking a bill by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., which would enable us to have a searchable database for these boondoggle spending projects. According to Stevens:

Stevens' spokesman, Aaron Saunders, said Stevens merely wanted the bill delayed until he could be convinced that it would not create another unnecessary layer of bureaucracy

Now if that is not a perfect example of irony, what is?

Globe offers update on religious cult sex charges

The new McDonald County felony sex charge against Granby-area minister George Otis Johnston, 63, and his hearing on felony sex charges in Newton County are featured in an article in this morning's Joplin Globe.
Though the Globe was nine days late in coming to the table, it has made up for lost time since then with Derek Spellman, who wrote today's article, and Jeff Lehr continuing to coverage the ritual sex with children story that has surrounded Johnston's Grandview Valley North Independent Church near Granby and the Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church in the Washburn area. Four members of the Grand Valley church, Rev. Raymond Lambert, 51, his wife, Patty Lambert, 49, and her brothers (and his stepbrothers) Paul Epling, 53, and Tom Epling, 51, face felony charges involving ritual sex with children.

Education secretary says No Child Left Behind only needs tweaking

Apparently, the water must be spiked in Washington, D. C. where Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said Wednesday that No Child Left Behind is working well and only needs "tweaking."

"I like to talk about No Child Left Behind as Ivory soap. It's 99.9 percent pure," Spellings told reporters over coffee. "There's not much needed in the way of changes. . . . As much grist as there was for the mill five years ago on various fronts . . . we've come a long way in a short time in a big system affecting 50 million kids."

While I appreciate the focus the act has placed on education, its flaws far outweigh its positive aspects. Instead of putting its focus on the improvement of public schools, which is where it should be, federal education leaders have been extolling the virtues of charter schools, private schools, and educational vouchers, usually using dubious studies to make their points.

Even worse, the annual yearly progress, the hallmark of the bill, has no meaning whatsoever. How can we actually compare progress in different areas of the country, or even between neighboring states, when each state is allowed to set its own criteria with no real oversight over that criteria.

The folly of that was shown when Missouri, which has always held its students to higher standards, found it was not making sufficient annual progress, so naturally, it took the most logical step and lowered its standards. You can't blame Sen. Gary Nodler, whose bill was responsible for the change. Had it not been done, we would have been unfairly placed below states where students were not making as much progress. At the same time, it points out how ludicrous the entire system is.

Of course, Secretary Spellings completely disregarded the study released last week that showed charter school students performing public school students in tests:

Spellings acknowledged that the federal clearinghouse to screen charter schools needs work, but she all but dismissed the study, saying it has only "modest utility" when parents look for options.

"Some charter schools are fine, excellent, do great work -- some less so," she said. "The difference between charter and public schools doesn't have anything to do with method of instruction or curriculum. It's just a different governance model. What charter schools need to do and what public schools need to do is figure out how we make any classroom work."

In other words, the administration is going to go full steam ahead on a dangerous educational policy without even acknowledging criticism (sounds similar to the way it behaves in other areas, too, doesn't it?)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Will column focuses on Missouri Senate race

Missouri's U. S. Senate race between incumbent Republican Jim Talent and Democratic challenger Claire McCaskill was featured on two national venues today,
A nine-minute news story was included on PBS' News Hour with Jim Lehrer, while the race was also spotlighted in syndicated columnist George Will's latest offering.

Among the items in the Will column were these:

In 2002, President Bush made five trips to Missouri on his behalf. This year, Talent, like most Republican candidates, is stressing his independence, but Bush is coming Sept. 8 for a third visit anyway.

She will carry the St. Louis and Kansas City metropolitan areas, which cast 57 percent of Missouri's votes. To win, however, she must prevent huge Talent majorities in what she calls ``Ashcroftland'' -- rural and very religious areas, especially southwest Missouri, which sent John Ashcroft to the Senate to replace Republican Jack Danforth when he retired in 1994 after three terms.

McCaskill says Thomas made a 'big mistake'

KC Buzz Blog reports State Auditor and U. S. Senate candidate Claire McCaskill says GOP state auditor candidate Sandra Thomas made a "big mistake" in connection with her handling of $195,000 of missing money in Platte County, where Ms. Thomas is county auditor:

"It's a big mistake and one she should be accountable for," McCaskill said. "What I find even more disturbing is that she's not taking any responsibility for it."

Blogger, former Lamar resident, profiled on Snarling Marmot site

In her latest profile of area bloggers, the Snarling Marmot features former Lamar resident Bryan Crockett, who has three blogs, including Dad's on a Rant Again, which is featured in the links section on the right hand side of this page.

Talent supports wiretapping: "We can't let judges run the war'

Senator Jim Talent, in Monett for a campaign stop Tuesday, emphasized his support for President Bush's conduct of the war in Iraq and criticized a judge's recent decision that the National Security Agency's wiretapping program was unconstitutional:

Not shying away from his support for the war in Iraq, Talent reported much progress had been made in that country. Success, he stressed, did not need to be measured by having the entire country pacified. He was critical of those who challenged President Bush's authority to order wire taps, with or without a court order. He declared, "We can't let judges run the war."

News-Leader assistant metro editor takes new post at Junction City

John Lechliter, assistant metro editor at the Springfield News-Leader, has taken the reins as managing editor at the Junction City Daily Union.
Among his earlier newspaper positions were stints as managing editor at the Fort Scott Tribune and Coffeyville Journal.

AP continues coverage of McDonald County cult case

Marcus Kabel of Associated Press continued his reporting on the McDonald County sex cult case, as well as its offshoot in Newton County today with the news of the new charge in McDonald County against George Otis Johnston, and his not guilty plea to eight statutory sodomy counts in Newton County.

The gross factor is there from the outset in Kabel's story:

Plying her with what he called "angel kisses" and assurances God had instructed him to "fulfill her needs as a woman," a pastor repeatedly molested a young girl at two reclusive southwest Missouri church communities for nearly a decade, prosecutors in two counties say.

Another sex charge filed against Granby-area minister

McDonald County Prosecuting Attorney Steve Geeding has filed child molestation charges against Granby-area pastor George Otis Johnston, 63, according to McDonald County Circuit Court records.
The charge is the latest in a series filed against members of the Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church in Washburn and Johnston's Grandview Independent Baptist Church North in connection with alleged sexual church rituals with children.
Johnston's nephew, Rev. Raymond Lambert, 51, Lambert's wife Patty, 49, and her brothers (and Lambert's stepbrothers) Paul Epling, 53, and Tom Epling, 51, all face various charges involving sex with children.
According to court records, Johnston, who also faces statutory sodomy charges in Newton County, allegedly molested a child on April 15, 2004. Bond was set at $50,000.

Appeal set on $12 million decision in Jasper Popcorn case

Lawyers for International Flavor & Fragrances and Bush Boake Allen will attempt to have a $15 million verdict by a Jasper County jury reversed during a hearing Sept. 19 before the Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals in Springfield.
Richard and Lana Brand were awarded $15 million, $12 for Brand and $3 million for his wife, following a two-week trial in March 2005:

Richard Brand contends that he developed a rare and irreversible lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans -- also known as Popcorn Packer's Lung -- from exposure to diacetyl, a chemical in the butter flavoring sold by the defendants to Gilster-Mary Lee.

Wadsworth appeal set for Sept. 19

The Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals will hear convicted sex offender Donal R. Wadsworth's appeal of his conviction in Jasper County Circuit Court on seven counts of enticing a minor.
Wadsworth, 46, Fayetteville, Ark., is one of those who was captured after arranging to meet an underaged girl over the Internet. The underaged girl was actually Diamond Police officer Jim Murray.
Wadsworth, as you might remember from the Feb. 16 Turner Report, was arrested by the Fayetteville Police Department on almost exactly the same charge following an investigation conducted in nearly exactly the same way.
As I wrote in February:

According to a report last week on KHOG, Fayetteville, Wadsworth was trolling the Internet even while he was being tried here on seven counts of enticement of a child.
"The investigation was primarily done online, and officials said that Wadsworth engaged the undercover officer in sexual conversations several times over the past two months," the KHOG report said.
The station quoted Fayetteville Police Sgt. Bill Phelan as saying, "He showed up at 12:30 a.m. to meet who he thought was a 13-year-old girl, and was taken into custody by an officer."

Audit says tuition increasing faster than inflation, personal income

Parents and young adults who are paying through the nose for a college education in Missouri won't be surprised by the news, but a state audit of tuition at Missouri's institutions of higher education show that state colleges and universities charge some of the highest rates in the midwest.

State audit of Ethics Commission released

No bombshells were included in Missouri State Auditor Claire McCaskill's audit of the Missouri Ethics Commission, which was posted on the state website today.
The auditor recommended posting Ethics Commission decision on its website and noted the amount of time before the April election that decisions could not be made because Governor Matt Blunt had not appointed members and the Commission did not have a legal quorum:

The statutory deadline was not met for deciding election complaints for 21 out of 28
complaints filed before the April 4, 2006 election because the MEC did not have a quorum of four commissioners. A quorum was not possible as three of the six commissioner’s terms expired on March 15, 2006, and new commissioners were not appointed in time to meet the statutory requirement of 15 days. Although appointments have since been made and approved, they were not done in a timely manner. Due to similar circumstances, 6 out of 15 and 12 out of 13 complaint
decisions were untimely in 2004 and 2002, respectively.

Harpool continues to press Champion on issues

Doug Harpool's campaign strategy is becoming clear.
He takes a stand on an issue, and then criticizes the incumbent Norma Champion, R. Springfield, for not taking one.
Earlier, Harpool came out in favor of stem cell research and asked, "Where is Norma?" So far, Ms. Champion has not taken a stand on that issue.
Now, Harpool is supporting the ballot proposal to increase the minimum wage, another issue on which Ms. Champion is apparently undecided:

"The senator who voted to eliminate Medicaid funding in our state would not come forward and tell those with life-threatening and debilitating diseases that she will NOT support an initiative to preserve and improve the value of their lives -- and she will most defiantly not come forward and tell working families that she believes $11,000 a year is enough to raise a family," Harpool said.

"Missouri's minimum wage has been stuck at $5.15 for almost a decade while the cost of healthcare and higher education has skyrocketed and gasoline is up to $3 a gallon. Too many families can hardly balance the checkbook at the end of the month and they struggle to put food on the table," Harpool added. "Raising the minimum wage will make a profound difference in the lives of these families and in Springfield as a whole, because those people have a tendency to spend those new dollars locally."

Stossel launches another attack on public education

ABC reporter and syndicated columnist John Stossel is back to his hobby of attacking public schools in his latest column.
Stossel, the born-again big business booster, who has been bashing public education by taking a few admittedly horrid examples of public education gone awry, and then using those as an excuse to condemn all public schools, continues his mantra that competition cures all ills.
If we had competition in schools, he says, the following would happen:

"I bet we'd see cheap and efficient Costco-like schools, virtual schools where you learn at home on your computer, sports schools, music schools, schools that go all year, schools with uniforms, schools that open early and keep kids later, and, who knows what?"

I am sure that Stossel's sports schools and music schools would enable this country to bridge the highly suspect gap between American students and those in foreign countries, gaps which can nearly always be explained by the simple fact that the American public school system is the only one in the world that even makes an attempt to educate all students, ranging from the gifted to those with severe mental retardation.

Citing another suspect source, Stossel perpetuates the myth that home-school students fare better on standardized tests than public school students:

"Homeschooled students blow past their public-school counterparts in terms of achievement. Brian Ray, who taught in both public and private schools before becoming president of the National Home Education Research Institute, says, "In study after study, children who learn at home consistently score 15-30 percentile points above the national averages," he says. Homeschooled kids also score almost 10 percent higher than the average American high school student on the ACT."

Name me one of those studies. Stossel has made a habit in each of his tirades against public education of saying all sort of studies exist to back his point, but he never indicates specifically which studies these are. This kind of sleight of hand has been going on in anti-public education propaganda since the 1980s when "A Nation At Risk" first alarmed the country about the supposedly horrendous state of American education, yet never cited a single study to prove any of its doom-and-gloom scenarios.
Of course, home schoolers are going to do better. Most home-schooled students do not go on to higher education. You are taking a small percentage of highly motivated home-schooled students. If you compare them with the same small percentage of top public school students, I would guess the scores would be virtually equal. That is not an indictment of public schools. I would imagine there are many parents who provide excellent teaching at home. At the same time, the home schooling trend, like so many others, has been largely started by a group of people who are making big bucks off of it, by exploiting the idea that public education is some big anti-religious establishment that is responsible for everything that is wrong in society.

And let us not forget it who else has made a killing off attacking public education. John Stossel's big business agenda has helped turn him into a highly-paid, much sought after public speaker and has resulted in two best selling books. He has a lot to gain by continuing his scurrilous attacks against public schools.

Joplin attorney among nominees for appellate court

Joplin attorney Dan Scott is one of three nominees for a position on the Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals.
Governor Matt Blunt has 60 days to choose one of the nominees. If he fails to do so, the selection will be made by the Appellate Judicial Commission.

Out-of-county judge to hear Surface case

Though no one has explained why the decision had to wait until just a day before the arraignment, the first phase of Jasper County Presiding Commissioner Chuck Surface's drunk driving case has been delayed by Judge Stephen Carlton's decision to remove himself from the case, citing a conflict of interest.
That decision, first revealed in the Aug. 28 Turner Report, postponed Surface's initial arraignment. An out-of-county judge will be chosen to hear the case.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Noland says U. S. has already won war in Iraq

Jim Noland, the Republican opponent for Fourth District Congressman Ike Skelton, apparently has no problem with defying logic. He told KY3 that the U. S. has already won the war in Iraq. Among his thoughts:

It doesn't matter if it is Iraq where they are. Terrorists are terrorists. They hate us. These people are dedicated. They're more dedicated than us because they're willing to die for what they believe. And we have a lot of illegal aliens here that would destroy us in a moment. . . We had a different policy in World War Two than we have today. People are much freer about speaking out. We say we can't do anything about illegal aliens. Let me tell you for sure, these people were not even illegal and they weren't aliens but President Roosevelt went around and he picked up every transit, every person that was un-American in any way and put them in camps. And they stayed there until the war was over.

Skelton: 'We don't talk about Iran'

The possibility of a military confrontation with Iran is something that Fourth District Congressman Ike Skelton told KY3 he does not want to talk about:

"We don't want to even think about that because Iran could very well be a tinderbox. I hope we can handle this Iranian problem diplomatically. It's going to be difficult but we don't need another war."

Skelton is the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.

GateHouse Media tops list of prospective buyers for New England newspaper group

Journal Register Company plans to sell five New England daily newspapers and the top prospect to latch onto those is GateHouse Media, according to an article in today's Boston Globe:

"GateHouse will have an interest. GateHouse has let it be known they would like to buy more papers up there and strengthen their Boston cluster," said Larry Grimes , president of W.B. Grimes & Co., an investment banking firm specializing in media, based in Gaithersburg, Md.

GateHouse Media owns the Joplin Daily, Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News, and Big Nickel in this area.

Globe offers more information on Newton County minister's protection order hearing

Today's Joplin Globe offers more information on the hearing in McDonald County Circuit Court in which a protection order against George Otis Johnston, pastor of the Grandview Valley Baptist Church North, was extended until a hearing can be held Sept. 18.
Reporter Derek Spellman, who has been covering the McDonald County developments in the charges of ritual sex with minors brought against leaders in the Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church and Johnston, provided details from the hearing and from the probable cause affidavit filed with the court.

In the application for the ex parte order, the girl alleged that Johnston "called my cell phone (and) made threats to dig up things on me to make me look bad after I refused to come back to the church. During my time at the church he has hit me in (the) face and sexually assaulted (me)."

Johnston was charged last week with seven counts of first-degree statutory sodomy and one count of second-degree statutory sodomy after the girl accused him of abuse dating to when she was 8 years old.

Johnston's arraignment is scheduled for Wednesday in Newton County Circuit Court.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Sept 6 hearing set for Monett minister charged with sex crimes

A 2:30 p.m. Sept. 6 preliminary hearing is scheduled in Boone County Circuit Court for a Monett minister charged with statutory rape and statutory sodomy charges involving a 14-year-old girl.
Rev. Roberto Edgar Lopez, 36, pastor of a Spanish language church in Monett, is being held on $100,000 bond. He will be represented by Michael Coles of the Boone County Public Defender's office.
Information about the case is featured in an article from the Columbia Daily Tribune.

Carlton disqualifies himself from Surface case, conflict of interest cited

How of if this will affect the drunk driving case against Jasper County Presiding Commissioner Chuck Surface remains to be seen, but the case is headed to a third judge.
Jasper County Division IV Judge Stephen Carlton disqualified himself from the case today, citing a conflict of interest, according to Circuit Court records. Surface's arraignment is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.
The case will now be transferred to Division II, according to The presiding judge for Division II is David Dally.
Initially, the case was in Judge Joseph Schoeberl's court, but Surface asked for a change of judge. The case is being handled by a special prosecutor, Robert George of Lawrence County, who was appointed after Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney Dean Dankelson disqualified himself due to a conflict of interest.

Full protection order issued against Newton County minister

McDonald County Circuit Court Judge John LePage issued a full protection order designed to keep Granby-area minister George Otis Johnston away from a 17-year-old relative, who is now living in Anderson.
Johnston's arraignment on eight felony counts of statutory sodomy is scheduled for Wednesday morning in Newton County Circuit Court. Johnston is the pastor of the Grandview Valley Baptist Church North.
His lawyer, Andrew Patrick Wood of Neosho, made an oral motion today to set aside the protection order. A hearing on that motion is scheduled for Sept. 18.
Johnston is reportedly the uncle of Raymond Lambert, pastor of the Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church in the Washburn area of McDonald County. Lambert, his wife Patty, and her brothers (and his stepbrothers) Paul and Tom Epling, are charged with numerous felony sex crimes, purportedly involving ritual sex with children. The investigation into Johnston's activities began as a result of that investigation, according to Newton and McDonald County officials.

Scott allowed to enter photo ID law hearing

Lawyers for Sen. Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City, sponsor of the photo voter identification law signed into law recently by Governor Matt Blunt will be allowed to participate in a court hearing to determine the constitutionality of the law.
The decision was made today by Cole County Circuit Court Judge Richard Callahan. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Friday.

La-z-Boy officials working to restore past profits

La-Z-Boy officials are trying to restore the company's previous glowing profit margin, according to an Associated Press article published today.
One of the methods used by the company, according to the article, has been to put American workers on the unemployment line and have work done in China:

Tough times have forced the company to change where and how furniture is made, CEO Kurt Darrow said.

It has closed or sold 20 of its plants that build wood products. Instead, La-Z-Boy will share designs and processes with Asian suppliers to build the furniture.

The ability of those companies to build quality furniture for cheaper costs forced La-Z-Boy and others to close their own facilities and hire foreign ones. The move saved La-Z-Boy $13 million this year.

"We've made some tough decisions and had to do some things that affected a lot of people," Darrow said.

The La-Z-Boy plant in Neosho is one of Newton County's largest employers.

O'Sullivan officials take nine days to finally announce death of former CEO

It took hine days, but the death of O'Sullivan Industries' first million dollar CEO, Bob Parker, first mentioned in the Aug. 19 Turner Report was finally officially announced by the company on Aug. 22 The following news release was issued:

ROSWELL, Ga., Aug. 22 /PRNewswire/ -- O'Sullivan Industries reported today the passing of former CEO, Robert (Bob) S. Parker. Current O'Sullivan CEO and long time co-worker of Parker, Rick Walters said, "Bob was a tremendous leader, motivator, and friend. We all had the highest professional regard for him and feel great personal sorrow at his loss. Our deep sympathies are extended to Bob's family."

Parker joined O'Sullivan in 2004 bringing with him 21 years of experience in the Office Products Industry. He was employed by Sanford Corporation (Sharpie Products) from 1983 to 2004, serving as Sanford's President during and throughout the acquisition of Sanford by Newell Rubbermaid. Subsequently, he led several major acquisitions and served on the Board of various organizations, including the WSA, NAWID, NOPA, BPIA, NSSEA, and the WIMA.

Over the years, his personal drive and commitment created a culture of achievement that continues to impact the O'Sullivan organization today. Parker's personal life reflected the same energy and excitement. He lived life to the fullest and had many passions, including golf, family and work. He is remembered for his good humor, sly smile, and terrific energy.

Robert Stewart Parker, 60, of Atlanta and formerly of Chicago, died
August 13, 2006. Mr. Parker was the former President and CEO of
O'Sullivan Industries. He was an avid golfer and belonged to several
clubs including Country Club of the South in Atlanta, Glen Oak Country
Club in Illinois, The Honors Course in Tennessee, and Berkeley Hall in
South Carolina. Bob was a caring husband, father, grandfather, friend,
and motivator. He is survived by his wife, Linda Parker; daughter and
son-in-law, Michelle and Steve Asbell; son, Tim Parker; sons and
daughter-in-law, Brian and Andria Parker, Mike and Sasha Parker;
11 grandchildren; sister, Nancy Buettner; and brother, Earl Parker.
Contributions in his honor may be made to the City of Hope, 1500 East
Duarte Rd., Duarte, CA 91010.

Gannett, GateHouse could be in running to buy Dow Jones newspapers

Dow Jones, former owner of the Joplin Globe, is looking to rid itself of six newspapers, and possible suitors include Gannett, owner of the Springfield News-Leader and USA Today, and GateHouse Media, owner of the Joplin Daily, Carthage Press, and Neosho Daily News.

According to an article in Editor & Publisher:

The six papers possibly facing the auction block are The News-Times in Danbury, Conn.; The Daily Star in Oneonta, N.Y.; the Press-Republican in Plattsburgh, N.Y.; the Santa Cruz (Calif.) Sentinel; The Daily Item in Sunbury, Penn.; and Traverse City (Mich.) Record-Eagle.

While a geographically diverse collection, the newspapers are close to papers owned by such acquisitive chains as MediaNews Group, Gannett Co., and GateHouse Media, which recently moved its headquarters to upstate New York.

AP: More charges likely in cult sex investigation

An Associated Press report cites McDonald and Newton county officials who say more charges are likely in connection with the investigation of two connected cult-like churches in McDonald and Newton counties.

The assistant prosecutor in a case in Newton County and the sheriff’s deputy leading the investigation of a related case in McDonald County, both in southwest Missouri, said more possible victims are being interviewed and are naming other alleged perpetrators.

Five church leaders, four in the Washburn area of McDonald County, and one in the Granby area of Newton County, have been charged thus far.

Nodler says formula needed to fund higher education

Higher education needs a formula similar to the one used for elementary and secondary schools, according to Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, chairman of a special committee studying the ever-increasing cost of attending college, is quoted as saying in an article in today's Columbia Tribune.

"I'm troubled by the entire method that we use to fund higher education, which is a baseline budget process. That's neither equitable or useful."

McCaskill outstate strategy continues; Talent stresses Missouri values

Today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers a look at the campaigns of U. S. Senate candidates Jim Talent and Claire McCaskill.

Talent has been stressing his conservative Missouri values, while Ms. McCaskill has continued her approach of wooing voters in outstate Missouri.

Volunteers, word of mouth hallmarks of Wright campaign to unseat Nodler

Joplin social worker Kim Wright obviously will not raise the $100,000 plus 32nd District State Senator Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, has in his campaign war chest, but the independent candidate is forging forward, relying on volunteers and word of mouth, according to a post on the Joplin Independent website:

In response to how the Wright campaign was going to finance itself, treasurer Cindy Weaver said that although Nodler "has a large treasure chest of money, we have volunteers...not $200 a plate meals". Everyone was invited to a Ham and Bean Dinner and Silent Auction Fundraiser from 4 to 9 p.m., September 29, 2006 at the Joplin Board of Realtors Building, Seventh and Florida. Donations would be appreciated but spreading the word that a vote for Kim Wright for State Senate to help return the voice of voters to government was considered just as important.

Wright spoke to a group of about 100 at Cunningham Park Saturday, according to the Independent and outlined her beliefs:

Wright, speaking extemporaneously, focused on what needed to be done to insure a good life for future generations. She was concerned over energy needs and dwindling water resources. She said she wanted to be the spokesperson for communities getting together to fight for tougher drug enforcement, for reevaluation of Medicaid cuts that affect the vulnerable population, for alternatives to nursing homes for seniors, and for maintaining quality educational standards.

Springfield Republican responds to News-Leader's criticism of governor

In an op-ed piece in today's Springfield News-Leader, Rep. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield, responds to a recent editorial which criticized Governor Matt Blunt's "my way or the highway" approach to politics.

Dixon notes increased funding for education, creation of new jobs (though he doesn't get into the quality and lower pay of many of those new jobs), bringing the Medicaid structure under control, and the state's having a budget surplus as examples of positive changes brought about Blunt and Republican legislators.
He concludes the essay by saying:

My personal experience with our current governor has always been marked by his accessibility and willingness to listen. Even when we have disagreed, he has always been willing to listen.

On more than one occasion, I have been impressed by his commitment to stand by tough decisions in the face of unrestrained criticism. You recently wrote about this governor, it's a "my way or the highway approach." That's not been my experience, but it does give me an opportunity to point out that even Missouri highways are smoother and safer since Gov. Blunt and the Republican majority took office.

Bin Laden on FBI list, but not for 9-11

An interesting story in today's Washington Post and one that is sure to serve as fodder for conspiracy theorists- Osama bin Laden is on the FBI's Most Wanted List for his role in the 1998 embassy bombing in Kenya that killed Sgt. Kenneth Hobson of Lamar, but not for his role in 9-11.

The curious omission underscores the Justice Department's decision, so far, to not seek formal criminal charges against bin Laden for approving al-Qaeda's most notorious and successful terrorist attack. The notice says bin Laden is "a suspect in other terrorist attacks throughout the world" but does not provide details.

The article adds:

"The indictments currently listed on the posters allow them to be arrested and brought to justice," the FBI says in a note accompanying the terrorist list on its Web site. "Future indictments may be handed down as various investigations proceed in connection to other terrorist incidents, for example, the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001."

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Star weighs in on religious sex cult story

Add the Kansas City Star to the growing list of media outlets that have assigned reporters to cover the felony sex charges lodged against leaders of two independent churches in McDonald and Newton counties.
The Star's Kevin Murphy's report was featured in today's edition. While it offers little or no new information to those who have been following this story from the outset, it does provide a useful primer to readers who are unfamiliar with what has been going on these past two weeks.
The story has also been covered by the Neosho Daily News, Joplin Globe, McDonald County newspapers, Springfield News-Leader, and Associated Press on the print side.

Protection order hearing set for Newton County minister who faces felony sex charges

Arraignment for Grandview Valley Baptist Church North minister George Otis Johnston on eight counts of statutory sodomy is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 30, in Newton County Circuit Court, but Johnston is also involved in a hearing set for 9 a.m. Monday in McDonald County Circuit Court in Pineville.
Court records indicate Judge John LePage will decide whether to grant a full order of protection against Johnston to a 17-year-old Anderson girl. She is described as "other family member" in the documents.

Surface arraignment set for Tuesday

Jasper County Presiding Commissioner Chuck Surface's arraignment on a charge of driving while intoxicated is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 29, in Jasper County Circuit Court.
Surface was stopped by a Jasper County deputy July 28 after leaving the Elks Club in Joplin. He also was charged with failure to drive on the right half of the roadway.

Blogosphere jumps on McDonald/Newton county cult stories

The Turner Report is definitely not the only blog that has weighed in on the allegations of ritual sex crimes against children that have been filed against ministers and other church leaders of two independent Baptist churches in McDonald and Newton counties.

One site, Grandview Valley North & Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church has been specifically formed to feature information about these charges. The message at the top of the site, which was started Saturday, says:

The Chronology of Allegations against the Pastors of Grandview Valley Baptist Church North and Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church in Newton and McDonald Counties Missouri. Pastor George Otis Johnston and Pastor Raymond Lambert

Irregular Times, offers a creepy justification of the acts of Rev. Lambert, saying similar things are sprinkled throughout the Bible.

Karena's Blog makes an unfair comparison between U. S. Rep. Katharine Harris, R-Fla.'s recent statement that our country is doomed to fail unless Christians are in charge with the problems facing the Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church:

Katherine Harris, who claims that only Christians are capable of leading our country, has obviously not met Lambert, his wife and the Epling brothers, along with slews of other pastors and priests who have been charged with child molestation. I suggest Katherine go on down to the Ozarks and party with the Lamberts and Eplings for a while, to learn first-hand how some Christians prepare others for their "service to God." Then she can go on the campaign trail and blather about how much better "men of God" are equipped to offer their service to our country.

Karena has the right to her opinion, but ministers who abuse children, sexually or otherwise, make up an extremely small percentage of those who serve their congregations.

Progressive Gold also makes an unfair comparison, indicating that religious perverts are always Republicans.It does so under the horrendous title, "No Child's Behind Left."

Time and time again there are media reports of church officials and fundamentalist Christians being involved in organized abuse. Many of the perpetrators and alleged perpetrators have ties to or are actual Republican party operatives and politicians.

McCaskill continues southwest Missouri strategy

State Auditor Claire McCaskill, whose defeat in the 2004 governor's race can be attributed to southwest Missouri voters (and John Kerry's decision to abandon the state) is continuing her strategy of wooing outstate voters, according to a post on the KC Buzz Blog.
Troubles may be on the horizon if Ms. McCaskill's campaign is counting on getting a big bounce from her opponent, Jim Talent's opposition to the stem call proposition. Kansas City Star political columnist Steve Kraske writes today that people may be willing to vote for someone with whom they disagree on that one issue.

Talent attacks McCaskill's stances on veterans' issues during Columbia appearance

James Talent, flanked by State Representative Col. Jack Jackson, attacked State Auditor Claire McCaskill's stance on issues of concern to veterans during a campaign stop in Columbia Saturday:

Talent said that the Veterans Affairs health-care system has improved since he got into Congress. "Now, I’m not going to claim entire credit for that, but I’m one of the group of people who’s substantially increased funding on veterans’ health care," Talent said.

Talent also stressed his support for a ban on burning the American flag, increased funding for national defense and protections for servicemen and -women from predatory lenders.

Jackson indicated Ms. McCaskill had snubbed him recently, refusing to shake his hand, and he likened it to the way veterans were treated after returning from Vietnam:

"That bad memory, when I came home from Vietnam both times, flashed in front of my face when I walked by her one time not too long ago, stuck out my hand and tried to say, ‘Jack Jackson.’ And she ignored me," Jackson said.

"Well, thank you very much. You must have been one of them who ignored me when I was a 26-year-old kid coming home."

A spokeswoman for Ms. McCaskill, Adrian Marsh, denied the snub of Jackson and added:

McCaskill, whose father served in the military, has her own vision for the military and veterans that advocates increasing the size of the active U.S. Army, blocking increases to health insurance premiums and continuing combat pay for wounded soldiers.

"It’s one of the primary things that’s wrong with Washington, when we deny those who served the benefits," Marsh said.

$19 million for MSSU health sciences building included in MOHELA compromise

Nineteen million dollars for a health sciences building at Missouri Southern State University is included in a MOHELA funding compromise that has been reached by Governor Matt Blunt and legislative leaders.
Two Missouri State University projects, $29.7 million for renovations at various buildings and $5 million for the Jordan Valley Innovation Center are also included in the plan.
The projects and projects for other state colleges and universities will be financed through the sale of $350 million of student loans.

Nexstar Broadcasting CEO wins award

Nexstar Broadcasting CEO Perry Sook has been named Broadcaster of the Year by the Texas Broadcasters Association.
He received the award, according to a news release, "for winning a battle against cable operators about the compensation of local stations for their programming."
Viewers of Cable One in Joplin will recall Nexstar's KSNF and its sister station, Mission Broadcasting's KODE were kept off the air for nearly all of 2005 after Cable One refused to pay Nexstar for retransmission rights. Nexstar eventually reached agreements with Cable One and numerous other cable systems, though the exact details of those agreements have not been released.

Update on former state senator provided

For those curious as to what former 32nd District State Senator Dr. Marvin Singleton has been doing since term limits precluded him from seeking a fourth term in 2002, the doctor is featured in an article in today's Stockton, Calif. Record.
The article includes this quote from Edward Figueroa, co-director of St. Mary's Interfaith Community Services:

"Dr. Singleton is the kind of man who does not sit back and let life happen to him. He makes sure that his efforts improve the lives of those around him," Figueroa said.

"He volunteers his compassionate medical expertise at our Virgil Giannelli Medical Clinic once a month. This is something he has done since shortly after joining our community. The medical society will be the better for his willingness to lead as their president," he said.

Temporary fate of children in Granby-area compound to be determined in hearings

A decision on what will be done with children who were taken from the Grandview Valley Baptist Church North compound near Granby will be decided during hearings this week, Neosho Daily News Associate Editor John Ford reported today in the latest installment of the story that has shocked Newton and McDonald counties:

Juvenile hearings will be held next week in Selby's courtroom to determine custody of the children currently in temporary protective custody. Authorities are trying to determine if parents were involved in the alleged abuse, or knew of it.

The article also goes into more information concerning the investigation into the church's pastor, George Otis Johnston, who turned himself in Friday and was released after posting $100,000 bond.

Times editorial rips charter school myth

The recent study that showed the performance of charter school students in math and reading lagged behind the performance of public school students is the subject of an editorial in today's New York Times.
Not only does the study indicate charter school students do worse, but students in charter schools that are not affiliated with public schools do far worse than those in charter schools created by public school districts.
If education reform advocates seriously want a better system, the absolutely worst way to do it is by pouring money into social experiments designed to benefit the elitists in our society.

Examination of Knight-Ridder's downfall offers lessons for newspaper companies

It is obvious that the newspaper industry is in a state of flux and nothing exemplifies the changes surrounding the industry more than the complete destruction of the once-powerful Knight-Ridder chain, which owned the Kansas City Star and numerous other large city daily newspapers.
The downfall of Knight-Ridder is explored in an article in today's New York Times and it offers a lesson to those who still own newspapers...unfortunately a lesson that will probably be ignored- you can't save newspapers by cutting them to the bone and reducing quality:

“Financial restructuring is not the answer to what ails the newspaper industry,” said Peter P. Appert, a newspaper industry analyst at Goldman Sachs, which advised Knight Ridder during the sale. “It’s not a panacea that’s going to create value from a shareholder point of view.”

All we have to do to see the effects of a penny-pinching newspaper chain is to look at what Community Newspaper Holdings has done to the Joplin Globe. Not only does the Globe work with a smaller staff than it used to, but it eliminated a great deal of its institutional memory through buyouts of experienced reporters (though that happened during the days the newspaper was owned by Dow Jones), and it has cannibalized its product by creating numerous useless niche publications, most of which have been miserable failures.

News Leader: Term limits have been a failure

Today's Springfield News-Leader's lead editorial comes to a conclusion that has been expressed many times in this blog: Term limits in Missouri have failed.

One of the most regrettable byproducts of term limits has been that with fresh faces come uneducated minds. New legislators take a while, sometimes years, to get up to speed on complicated topics such as multi-billion-dollar state budgets. The result, a new study indicates, is that more and more lawmaking power in states with term limits is being consolidated in the executive branch or in the hands of lobbyists. The study, a comprehensive multi-state study of the effects of term limits compiled by the Joint Project on Term Limits, finds that "term limits in states have done more to limit rather than enhance the effectiveness of the legislative branch," according to Karl Kurtz of the National Conference of State Legislatures, which was involved in the study.

Term limits, supposedly put into effect to offer more citizen leadership, instead has offered us a government that exists to serve special interests.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Media battle on McDonald County cult case continues

As Marcus Kabel's AP coverage of the Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church takes the story across the globe, the local news competition continues at a fast and furious pace.
The Joplin Globe's top reporter, Jeff Lehr, continued his reporting on the Newton County offshoot of the investigation as he related the surrender of fugitive pastor George Otis Johnston, who faces eight felony statutory sodomy counts.
The Globe story revealed that Johnston, the pastor of the Grandview Valley Baptist Church North, may have been holed up in Newtonia during the time he was purportedly on vacation outside of the area:

The Globe received anonymous tips on Friday that Johnston was staying at a house in Newtonia. But neither the newspaper nor the Sheriff's Department has been able to confirm Johnston's whereabouts prior to his surrender on Friday.

Neosho Daily News Associate Editor John Ford, given his most meaty story in years, continues to run with it, holding his own and more, with the Globe's Lehr and Derek Spellman.
Ford's story concentrates on the children who have been removed from the East Newton-area compound, highlighted by this quote from Newton County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Bill Dobbs:

"These allegations are extremely disturbing, especially in the view of the element of religious coercion which is present," said Dobbs. "Another thing that is extremely disturbing is the behavior has gone on for a period of several years with the possibility of several victims. I feel there is certainly the danger of the disturbing acts continuing to be at the church as long as Mr. Johnston is at large."

Of course, that statement was made before Johnston turned himself in. The Daily updated the story at that point, with Ford again handling the reporting duties.

Local television stations naturally played up the news of Johnston's surrender and his subsequent posting of $100,000 bond. I didn't notice any station having a particular edge in the reporting.

It should be interesting to see which local station takes hold of the investigation and runs with it now that the initial notoriety has worn off. Tara Brown of KODE pulled ahead early, but KOAM's reporting has been right up there the whole way.

Washington Times: Bush factor could have negative impact on Talent re-election chances

Some Missourians are so fed up with the war in Iraq and high gas prices, and dissatisfied with President Bush that it might cost Jim Talent a second term, according to an article in today's Washington Times:

Several residents of the Show Me State said they voted to re-elect Mr. Bush in 2004 because they felt "he got us into the war, and he should be the one to lead us out." Now, they see no end to the prolonged stay in Iraq, and they think a change of direction might be the best option.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Skelton: Move troops out of Iraq and let Iraqis take over

Fourth District Congressman Ike Skelton, D-Lexington, says the U. S. needs to begin pulling its troops out of Iraq and turn over security functions to the Iraqis.
Skelton's comments were made during a visit in Sedalia Thursday:

"We have to make sure the Iraqi government and military can do the job," Mr. Skelton said.

"We can't continually hold their hand."

Skelton is the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.

Jarden departure shows another problem with tax increment financing

Jarden Corporation's decision to pull out of Milford, Mass, to move operations to Florida shows one of the bad sides of tax increment financing (TIFs).
Not only will 220 people lose their jobs when the move takes place, but Milford gets nothing out of a TIF arrangement that pulled money out of the local tax system for five years.
Jarden Corporation is the owner of the former Sunbeam plant in Neosho.

Gallup poll: Support for vouchers is weakening

A recent Gallup poll shows that support for educational vouchers is dropping.
Naturally, voucher proponents say the study is flawed. You could take the same study using the same methods and if it had shown support for vouchers, they would be extolling its accuracy.
The erosion of public support for vouchers is not going to stop the well-heeled elitist group, including the insidious All Children Matter which has been pouring money into Missouri elections with mixed results, and which will no doubt continue to do so.
A recent e-mail from Rep. Jane Cunningham, who became chairman of the House Education Committee after writing a letter to House leadership bragging about her ability to bring in campaign money from All Children Matter, indicates she thinks Rep. Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, is one of the legislators whom she believes is under the voucher group's thumb.

Pretrial hearing for Jasper 5 delayed until Sept. 5

A pretrial hearing for five Jasper residents arrested following the infamous March 2 brawl at city hall, originally scheduled for Tuesday in Jasper County Circuit Court, has been postponed until Sept. 5, according to court records
Alderman and former mayor Jim McCorkle, 63, his wife Marie, 64, Jacob Good, 33, Rick Good, 55, and Jerry Ogle, 61, all face charges of third degree assault, misdemeanors, but the five rejected a plea agreement and brought in high-powered attorney Dee Wampler III of Springfield to represent them.
The brawl sent the mayor at the time, John Rodebush, and Mrs. McCorkle to the hospital with minor injuries. It came at a time when a faction led by McCorkle was at odds with a number of actions taken by the mayor, including suspending Ogle as fire chief and either firing or forcing more than 30 city workers to leave during his brief tenure. After McCorkle and another vocal opponent, Vic Crazybear were elected to the council in April ensuring that Rodebush would not get his way in divided votes as he had in the past, Rodebush resigned.

Globe explores latest chapter in sex cult story

In today's edition, the Joplin Globe's ace reporter Jeff Lehr continued his exploration of the Newton County branch of a secretive religious cult which is allegedly involved in ritual sex practices involving children and incest.
The article features more details about the compound, which is located in a rural area outside of Granby, including its split from the Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church in McDonald County.
As first reported in the Aug. 15 Turner Report, four members of that church, including Rev. Raymond Lambert, his wife, Patty, and her brothers (and his stepbrothers) Paul and Tom Epling, have been charged with numerous counts involving ritual sex crimes with children.
At the Granby-area compound, pastor George Otis Johnston, has been charged with eight counts of statutory sodomy.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Sandra Thomas: a connoisseur of fine whine

When an independent audit criticized Republican state auditor candidate and Platte County Auditor Sandra Thomas for her handling of a situation in which $195,000 in funds were missing in Platte County, Ms. Thomas refused to own up to it and blamed everyone except Saddam Hussein and herself.

Thomas blamed Platte County's treasurer, a former county commissioner and even the outside auditor who eventually straightened out the problems – even though Thomas is the county's chief accounting officer.

Platte County commissioners eventually authorized $2,500 to pay a private accounting firm to unravel the mystery. The outside audit found that no cash was missing, but that four accounting errors led to erroneous financial statements, including three mistakes by Thomas' office.

Thomas, who has boasted of her status as a certified public accountant, said the discrepancies were typical for any county that has four agencies posting deposits and drawing money.

"If you look at anyone's books, you will find things like this," she said.

Ms. Thomas went on to attack Democratic nominee Susan Montee for a situation involving the county administrator in Buchanan County where Ms. Montee is the county auditor...even though even Republicans agreed that Ms. Montee was not to blame for the situation.

Apparently, when Ms. Thomas was running against non-auditors she stressed her county auditor experience and claimed she was not a politician. Now that she is facing someone with equal or greater qualifications as a CPA, she turns to the cutthroat politics that supposely are beneath her.
And now that she has started down that road, expect things to get worse before November.
More about the Thomas-Montee accusations can be found at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch political blog.

McCaskill rips No Child Left Behind

State Auditor Claire McCaskill ripped the federal No Child Left Behind act as her campaign for the U. S. Senate seat currently held by Jim Talent continued.
Ms. McCaskill said the act was poorly funded and that the federal government is interfering too much.
While I agree with those criticisms, it would be a poor law even if it were completely funded and the federal government stayed out of it.

KY3 Blog: Jackson asks for recount

Rep. Jack Jackson will ask for a recount in the Republican state auditor primary, according to a post on the KY3 Blog.
Jackson, as you may recall, lost by less than one percent of the vote to Platte County Auditor Sandra Thomas.

Talent-McCaskill debate to be held in Springfield

U. S. Senate candidates Jim Talent and Claire McCaskill will square off in a televised debate at KY3 on Oct. 16.
The debate is also being sponsored by the Springfield News-Leader, KSMU, and Ozarks Public Television.
Here is the take on the debate from the KY3 Blog.

KODE: FBI looking into McDonald County cult

In one of those non-story stories, KODE's Tara Brown reported the FBI may be looking into the operations of the Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church. (The story was also carried on KODE's sister station KSNF.)
While the FBI official she talked to did not confirm an investigation was ongoing, he did say the case was being watched with interest which would seem to indicate that something might be imminent.
KOAM's coverage, meanwhile, concentrated on the removal of eight more children from the East Newton-area compound.
One of the things I have most appreciated about the local stations' coverage of this sex cult story is that the stories are not mirror images of each other. The reporters are examining various angles and providing viewers with more than they are used to getting in area crime reporting.

Globe hits with another cult story, but Daily's Ford back on top

When the Joplin Globe entered the McDonald County cult story after an eight-day absence, it looked as if Derek Spellman, Jeff Lehr, and company were going to stake a claim and drive off other print media.
John Ford, back from a too-short break, proved tonight that is not going to be the way it works. The underrated Neosho Daily News associate editor revealed in a story in today's edition that another alleged victim of Granby-area pastor George Otis Johnston is talking to Newton County deputies about sexual abuse. The Daily, as usual, relates a bit more graphic detail than some might like, but it is a thoroughness that has been consistent throughout the last several years in coverage of sex cases. Ford writes:

According to a probable cause statement filed by Deputy Mike Barnett, an investigator with the Newton County Sheriff's Department, the first alleged victim told authorities Johnston began touching her at the age of 8, kissing her on the mouth and putting his tongue in her mouth.

The graphic details begin at that point and I am not going to repeat them, but those who wish to read the allegations can go to the Daily article.
Ford also had a sidebar on the removal of eight more children from the Grandview Valley Baptist Church.

Ford's stories are thorough, detailed and should be appreciated by Daily readers.

The Globe continues making up for lost time. Tomorrow's edition, which should be online within the next couple of hours, will include the story of the removal of the children. Unfortunately for Globe reporters, because of their editors' insistence on saving all but a few paragraphs for the print edition, the newspaper is almost always behind its competitors on this type of story.
What could make up for that disadvantage is the type of hustling work Spellman and Lehr showed Wednesday in their opening salvo.
The Springfield News-Leader, after an initial story by former Joplin Globe reporter Melissa DeLoach, relied on AP coverage today
While the McDonald County weekly newspapers are covering the Grand Valley cult story, their website is hopelessly behind the rest of the world and only features a one-paragraph tease telling people what is in the print edition.
More national attention will be focused on the area since Marcus Kabel of the Associated Press remains on the story and has filed an update featuring the removal of the children from the East Newton area compound.

McDonald County sex cult story goes nationwide

The story of the arrest of four members of the Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church in McDonald County on ritual sex charges including sex with underage children has gone nationwide.
After the Associated Press followed up on the groundwork laid by the Neosho Daily News, Joplin Globe, KODE and KOAM on the story, versions of the arrests appeared across the nation including the following websites:
Washington Post, MSNBC, CBS News, San Francisco Chronicle, Court TV, Fox News, New Orleans Times Picayune, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Kansas City Star, Forbes, Houston Chronicle, Sacramento Bee, Newsday, Charlotte News and Observer, Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and the Seattle Post Intelligencer, as well as dozens of television stations.
One of my colleagues at South Middle School told me today that Springfield television stations were using KODE's Tara Brown's story, so I would imagine that story is probably being seen on other stations across the U. S., as well.
Like it or not, this area is at the center of a media onslaught. People across the U. S. (and even outside of it, I noticed a London newspaper picked up the story) are going to be watching how the courts, law enforcement, and the media handle themselves.

Grand Valley tax issue needs to be explored

Hopefully, reporters for the local newspapers and television stations are already looking into this, but just how much money is being siphoned away from the McDonald County School District by the Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church?
The church has been the focus of numerous stories on television newscasts and in newspapers and now, thanks to the reach of Associated Press, it is known throughout the state and even beyond its boundaries.
Church property is tax-exempt, a concept which is a hallmark of America, but how much property other than one church building and its immediate surroundings (if such a building exists) has been taken off the tax rolls?
How is the money being made by the Grand Valley businesses being treated and the property on which they are conducted? Internet advertisements for the Grand Valley Kennel Business say all money goes toward the "Grand Valley Christian Academy." Are any taxes paid on the property on which this academy exists, or are classes perhaps held in the church itself?
How much of the property, if any, owned in the Granby area compound by Rev. George Otis Johnston and his followers has been taken off the East Newton R-6 tax rolls?
Obviously, the tax issues pale in comparison to the alleged sexual abuse of children, but this is a side of the story that is hopefully being examined by our local media.
The people in both compounds separated themselves from the outer community, which is their right, but at the same time did they take advantage of every possible incentive available to them and allow their compounds to be partially financed by the people whose company, for the most part, they disdained?

Globe takes over McDonald County cult story

The major advantage newspapers have over television was evident in Joplin Globe reporter Derek Spellman's article this morning on the Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church.
Where the television stations can bring an issue to more people, even their biggest stories are usually limited to only a couple of minutes. Newspapers have the ability to go in depth on a story.
Spellman, an artist with words, gives the reader a gripping description of the isolation of this remote compound and how that isolation may have enabled church leaders to conduct illegal sex rituals with children for decades, with his opening paragraph:

The final leg of the journey to Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church is a lonely dirt and gravel road snaking through wooded slopes into a remote pocket of McDonald County.

The journey halts at a locked gate, behind which is said to sprawl a 100-acre property that includes a farm, a Christian academy, a cemetery, a kennel and a number of homes. Behind that gate, authorities allege, the church's pastor and three others sexually molested several children to "prepare (their bodies) for service to God," according to court records.

The Globe, as this blog has noted numerous times, was late in coming to this sordid story of accusations of ritual sex with children and incest. As far as I can tell, (with my band practicing on Tuesday nights, I have been missing the 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts on that day each week) the news of charges being filed against the church's minister, Raymond Lambert, his wife Patty, and her brothers (and his stepbrothers) Paul and Tom Epling first surfaced nine days ago in The Turner Report and was followed very quickly and expertly by KOAM, KODE, and the Neosho Daily News.
It wasn't until Wednesday, eight days after the charges were revealed that the Globe, which for the most part has written off McDonald County after the departure of ace reporter John Hacker, jumped into the story, perhaps buoyed by the spread of the charges into Newton County, where a minister purportedly related to Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church minister Lambert is charged with eight counts of statutory sodomy.
Give Derek Spellman credit. When he jumped in, he took over the story. Where McDonald County residents did not speak to Associated Press reporter Marcus Zabel, according to Zabel's account, they did speak to Spellman, and for the first time, a more complete picture of this alleged cult began to emerge.
While Spellman took the McDonald County end of the story, the Globe's go-to reporter, Jeff Lehr, handled the story from the Newton County side.
Spellman's story touched briefly on the church's founder, Cecil Epling. Hopefully, Globe reporters will continue to delve into this story and find out more about the late Mr. Epling, since the church has reportedly deified him long before his death in an automobile accident.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

McDonald County cult story hits the wires

Associated Press reporter Marcus Zabel has filed a story on the alleged ritual activities of leaders of the Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church in McDonald County.
The story has no new information. Ironically, the Joplin Globe, which did not jump on this story until it was more than a week old, is the only newspaper cited in the AP story, which mentions the Globe's revelation that another minister, George Otis Johnston, connected with the Grand Valley group, had been charged with similar crimes in Newton County.
Television coverage continued to be heavy tonight on the local stations with KODE's Tara Brown in the Granby area to cover the latest developments.
KOAM featured an interview with Newton County Sheriff Kenneth Copeland, but I was not able to tell who the reporter was on the story, which was read by anchor Dowe Quick on the 10 p.m. newscast.

New links added

Eight links have been added in the links section on the right-hand side of this page.

Musings of a Populist Crusader offers a different look from a writer who considers Pat Buchanan to be the voice of reason.

The Springfield Citizen-Press is the blog established by Missouri State University professor Andrew Cline of Rhetorica fame. I am eagerly anticipating each development as Dr. Cline continues his experiment in citizen journalism.

Minutia; Thoughts of Duane Keys, offers musings on a little bit of everything.

The Heartland Diary of Betty B is another interesting blog from the Springfield area.

Branson, Missouri, offers news and opinion from a resident of that city.

In the Mailbox is the blog of Joplin Globe designer Joe Hadsall, who is the former editor of the Nixa News-Enterprise.

One I should have had on here long ago (and thought I had put on, my apologies), Fat Jack's Erratic Rants.

Finally, ultra-conservative Springfield talk show host Vince Jericho's Jericho's Journal.

Order of protection issued against minister sought for sex crimes

A 17-year-old family member of fugitive minister George Otis Johnston has asked for and received an ex parte order of protection. A hearing to determine whether a full protection order will be granted is scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday, Aug. 28, before Judge John LePage in McDonald County Circuit Court.
Johnston faces eight counts of statutory sodomy in Newton County in connection with alleged ritual sex crimes committed while he was serving as pastor of an independent Baptist Church located in a compound near Granby. Johnston is reportedly an uncle to Raymond Lambert, the Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church minister who faces similar charges in McDonald County.
The charges against both ministers, as well as Lambert's wife, Patty Lambert, and her brothers (and Lambert's stepbrothers) Tom and Paul Epling, involve sex with children, and law enforcement officials have also indicated that these ritual sex practices include incest.
Newton County officials filed the charges against Johnston Tuesday and have issued a warrant for his arrest. His bond is set at $50,000.
Johnston and his family members and followers moved to their present location, a compound covered with trailers, a couple of years ago, paying for the property with money they received from selling land they owned in Newtonia to the Newtonia Battlefield Protection Association.

More "breaking news" from Neosho Daily

Add the Neosho Daily News to those abusing the term "breaking news."
I don't know when the story about the fugitive pastor from Newton County was added to the newspaper's website, but it was definitely hours after that information had run as "breaking news" on the Joplin Globe website.
The only new information I saw was in the fifth paragraph of a seven-paragraph story:

The Newton County Sheriff's Department has taken four children into protective custody. The children are of age 5, 9, 13 and 15. They are of both male and female gender.

If that information had been moved to the lead and made the focal point of the story, perhaps the term "breaking news" would have been a bit more applicable, though not much.
Unfortunately, for the Neosho Daily News as far as the Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church story is concerned, reporter John Ford receiving a few well-deserved days of rest could not have come at a worse time.

Globe, News-Leader jump on McDonald County cult story

The two major regional newspapers, the Joplin Globe and the Springfield News-Leader posted their first stories on the McDonald County sex cult story today.
Since the Globe has apparently written off the McDonald County area, today's news that a Lambert/Epling relative, George Johnston, a pastor in the East Newton area, had been charged with eight counts of statutory sodomy in Newton County, enabled the Globe to piggyback onto the story. Of course, if Globe reporters had checked earlier, they would have had no problem finding a Newton County connection to the Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church. The Eplings were located in Newtonia prior to moving to McDonald County.

The News-Leader posted a story this morning about the Oct. 2 hearing for the Raymond Lambert, Patty Lambert, Tom Epling, and Paul Epling. Oddly, this story, though well-written by former Globe reporter Melissa DeLoach, was termed "breaking news," even though The Turner Report and the local TV stations had the story two days ago and the Neosho Daily News ran it in its Tuesday edition.
Obviously, newspapers are joining in on the nonsense of terming everything "breaking news," that has made the term almost useless in television news. The fact that a hearing in a criminal case was scheduled two days ago is not breaking news.

Scott wants to intervene in photo ID law hearings

Sen. Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City, whose voter identification bill is at the center of a court battle, has asked to be allowed to participate in the hearings to determine the law's fate, according to Missourinet.
Scott is upset because his law isn't being defended by Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, who is named as the defendant in the lawsuit. The hearings are being held in Cole Count Circuit Court.

Globe continues cut-and-run policy

These have to be the times that are trying Joplin Globe management's souls. As The Turner Report noted Tuesday, the Globe's brain trust has decided to eliminate BusinessWatch, the ill-conceived response to the creation of two business newspaper rivals. BusinessWatch itself, more than one reader has pointed out, was simply a repackaging of the Globe's Regional Business Report, itself a dismal failure.
Then we have the spectacle of a major story breaking in McDonald County, the arrest of the leaders of a purportedly cult-like movement, the Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church, but Globe reporters are nowhere in sight. The reason: The Globe has pulled out of McDonald County because it has received steep competition from Arkansas newspapers that have crossed the border. Meanwhile, newswise, it has been the Neosho Daily News that has pounced on a story (in the print media, that is) that one time would have been the Globe's from the start (especially when John Hacker was the McDonald County reporter).
Now the Globe has a problem with the Joplin Daily, which despite moving in fits and starts, is starting to make inroads. Globe management can't use the same tactic in dealing with the Daily that it has used with the business newspapers and McDonald County coverage.
They can't just eliminate Joplin coverage because it has competition, though I am sure they have found the thought tempting. Imagine the money the Globe could save by not having reporters covering Joplin. (And let's not hear any of you jokers out there saying it is already following that philosophy.)
The Globe responded to the Daily by putting forward the same tired idea that failed a few years back when they tried an all-Joplin weekly called the Joplin News-Herald.
I would love to have been at the meeting when the latest all-Joplin publication was created.
"Wait a minute," someone said. "Why don't we try a weekly with all Joplin news?"
"We did that," the answer came. "Don't you remember the Joplin News-Herald?"
"Oh, yeah," the dejected response came, then a smile formed on the man's face. "I've got it. We'll start an all-Joplin weekly and call it the Joplin Herald."
"You're a genius!"
Those must be some meetings they have at the Globe.

Consider the pattern:
The Regional Business Report fails, so when business news competition emerges, the same concept is trotted out, treated as if it is some master stroke, and the name is changed to BusinessWatch. It is dead in the water.

The Joplin News-Herald fails because readers quite rightly think they should receive Joplin news in the Joplin Globe, so the minute a competitor, the Joplin Daily, comes in, the same concept is trotted out, treated as if it is some master stroke, and the name is changed to Joplin Herald. It is still in business, but it is dead in the water.

The one thing the Globe doesn't appear to have tried is to put some money into beefing up their Joplin news and business coverage and putting it in the parent newspaper. Now with valuable reporters having already left the newspaper and others searching for new positions, the Globe is in serious trouble and their miserly, penny-pinching ways are not going to make the situation improve any.

The newspaper will survive, I have no doubt about that. I just hope it's worth reading.

Study: Regular public school students do better than charter school students in math, reading

The bad news for proponents of anything but regular public school education continued Tuesday with the release of a report showing public school students did slightly better than charter school students in reading and math.
Naturally, the charter school proponents are already citing problems with the studies, but it appears that charter schools, which are public schools that operate independently from the rules that govern normal public schools, are not the great cureall for education that their proponents originally claimed they would be.
Others saw charter schools for what they really are, a pathway to public support for private schools, since many of those supporting the charter school movement are the same ones who support vouchers to private schools.
While there are obviously many problems facing public schools, problems I might add that mirror the problems of society itself, I still cannot understand why this cabal of the rich and spoiled are trying to destroy what may be the greatest invention this country has ever had...a public education system designed to teach everyone from the most gifted student to those who are severely mentally handicapped.
As long as we have a small group of ultra-wealthy businessmen and the politicians whose campaigns they are financing, trying to shove charter schools and private school vouchers down our throats, much-needed funding and resources are going to be diverted from our public schools.

Nexstar eliminates sports segments at Pennsylvania station

Nexstar Broadcasting, the deep-in-debt parent company of KSNF in Joplin and KSFX in Springfield, and de facto owner of KODE and KOLR, has found a new way to pinch pennies at its WYOU station in Scranton, Pa.
Apparently, it is eliminating its weekday sports broadcasts and, of course, eliminating personnel during the process.
Hopefully, this is not a sign of things to come for its stations in southwest Missouri.

Falwell slams stem cell research

In a move that should boost proponents of stem cell research, the Rev. Jerry Falwell, whose college education came in Springfield, has come out against it, according to an AP article:

"I believe life begins at conception," Falwell said. "Therefore, for the same reason I oppose abortion, I oppose stem cell research."

E-mail suggests Ruestman is in voucher proponents' pocket

An e-mail sent by Missouri's top voucher proponent, Rep. Jane Cunningham to the All Children Matter group indicates Rep. Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, may be in the pocket of voucher proponents, and if she's not, they certainly think she is.
The voucher group, which is heavily funded by Amway leader and Michigan politician Dick DeVos and Wal-Mart's Walton family, has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into Missouri campaigns, with mixed success, over the past couple of years in an effort to fuel the voucher movement.
The e-mail was revealed Tuesday in the Fired Up Missouri blog and included the following passage:

Jerry Nolte has taken some pretty brave steps for us in a risky district. Others may be Rex Rector, Jim Lembke, Therese Sander, Marilyn Ruestman, Tim Flook, Bob Behnen in the Senate and Victor Callahan if he has a race, maybe the fellow running against Sara Lampe if he has a chance.

An earlier Fired Up post indicated All Children Matter spent more than $84,000 on the August primary alone.

Four ex-major leaguers on tap for final KOM Reunion

The KOM (Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri) League's final reunion is scheduled to begin Sept. 7, and at least four former major league players are expected to be in Carthage for the event, according to its organizer, author John Hall.
Hall, whose baseball books on Mickey Mantle's minor league days and on the KOM League (He was a batboy for the Carthage team), said in a KOM Flash Report Tuesday that former St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals manager Whitey Herzog, former Kansas City Athletics and New York Yankees second baseman Jerry Lumpe, who is a Springfield resident; former Cardinal and Pittsburgh Pirate center fielder Bill Virdon of West Plains, and former Cardinal pitcher Cloyd Boyer of Alba, are scheduled to be here for the event.
The KOM League thrived in the three states (though Carthage was the only Missouri team) during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Hall has kept the group together in recent years through a magazine, an e-mail newsletter, his books, "Majoring in the Minors," and regular reunions.
One of the highlights for me during the 1999 reunion, which was also held in Carthage, was watching the old timers baseball game at Carl Lewton Stadium and seeing Virdon, who at that time was in his mid to late 60s, step up and line the first pitch over the second baseman's head into right field for a solid single as if he had never stopped playing.
The schedule for next month's reunion, according to Hall, is:

Thursday—Sept. 7
Start arriving anytime the urge hits you. If you arrive before noon you'll be on your own.
2:00—5:00 P. M. –Registration for those who didn't pre-register— Precious Moments Best Western.
6:00 P. M. Buffet at Souper Sam's at Precious Moments "World Headquarters."
8:00 P. M. Lights out and bed check by any former manager attending.

Friday—Sept. 8
7:00 to 9:00 A. M., or so. Continental Breakfast at Precious Moments Best Western..
9:00 —11:30 A. M. Sight seeing at Precious Moments or other sites around Carthage.
12:00—1:00 P. M. Lunch at Kendrick House a Civil War site on the north city limit of Carthage.
1:30—2:00 P. M. Tour of Americold. This is the underground storage facility that was the outgrowth of the closing of quarrying operations of Carthage Marble. This is one of America's largest multi-purpose storage sites and we were very fortunate to be given honor of touring it.
2:00—6:00 P. M. Nothing scheduled.
6:00 P. M. Banquet at Souper Sam's at Precious Moments World Headquarters.

Saturday Sept. 9
7:00 —8:30 A. M., or maybe 9:00 Continental Breakfast at Precious Moments Best Western.
9:00—12:00 Do whatever you like but be at Municipal Park by noon.
12:00—Picnic in the park.
1:30 P. M.—Tribute to deceased former KOM Leaguers in the old KOM League stadium. Scottish pipers, honor guard etc. will be some of the features of this special event.
3:00—5:30 P. M. Free time.
5:30 P. M—"The Last Supper" of this and all former KOM League reunions.
Special music by "The Millers" of Springfield, MO.
A word or two from a former player or two.
A few things that can't be announced in advance for quite frankly I don't know what they might be. But, as with all former reunions, something special and unanticipated will occur.
Sunday Sept. 10
Whenever you awake, "The Last Breakfast."
Then, the attendees will depart. Some will probably shed a tear or two while others will rejoice that the ordeal of KOM League reunions have finally come to an end. For most of us we’ll remember the good things that have happened over the past decade, or so, and we'll only regret we didn’t think of doing this many years prior to 1995.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

First casualty claimed in Joplin newspaper battle

BusinessWatch, the publication started by the Joplin Globe to counter the creation of two business news competitors, is biting the dust.
The publication has been a miserable failure since its inception and the head honchoes at the Globe have decided to pull the plug, a reliable source has told The Turner Report.
Probably most Joplin readers did not realize the Globe had a business publication. It was started a few months back in response to the beginning of two business weeklies, Asay Publishing's Joplin Business Journal and Tri-State Business, a publication from the same company that owns the Springfield Business Journal.
BusinessWatch has been somewhat along the same lines as the Globe's weekly newspaper, the Joplin Herald. It was formed without a plan and with little to make the readers want to come back for more. In fact, the only message that the creation of these cannibalistic papers sent out was that the Globe was desperate to stave off competition, but lacked the creative mindset to know how to do it.
Readers learned from the creation of BusinessWatch and the Joplin Herald that Globe editors don't think there is enough room in the parent newspaper to cover Joplin news or business news. At least that was the message sent by the editors and especially by Publisher Dan Chiodo in his column introducing the Herald.
Then after a few weeks of feeble attempts to offer at least some new content in these niche publications, they became more or less harbors for reprints of Globe articles (especially in the Herald) and a place for features that never should have been created in the first place (consider BusinessWatch's Wal-Mart Watch column).
Though the Globe's chief print competitor, the Joplin Daily, has come nowhere near to living up to its potential, if GateHouse Media is patient, it has every opportunity to succeed. The people who are running the Globe have no idea how to meet competition.
Now if GateHouse had been smart enough to combine the resources of the Joplin Daily, Carthage Press, Neosho Daily, and Big Nickel and start a regional Sunday newspaper with some actual meat in it, the Globe might really be in trouble. And who knows, that may happen sometime in the near future.

Webb City opponent to be missing players, coach at jamboree

The Warrensburg High School football team will be minus its coach and five top players when it participates in a jamboree this weekend at Webb City.
According to, a sports website, the team's coach has been placed on a paid leave of absence and five players suspended due to a hazing incident.