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University of Missouri's student newspaper, The Maneater, is one of the most awarded student publications in the country. I had the honor of working on staff for the two years that I attended MU and the time and experience that I acquired during that work was invaluable to my career. 

CPD, Highway Patrol seek new recruits

February 12, 2010 - Due to staff retirements and officers moving to new positions within departments, the Missouri State Highway Patrol is looking for new officers and hosting recruiting events around Missouri in the coming months.

The department is looking for qualified troopers to join the first recruiting class of the year, a highway patrol news release stated. Testing sites will span the state of Missouri from Macomb, Ill., to Kansas City and will take place from Feb. 20 to April 10.

"This is something we do every year," Highway Patrol Capt. Tim Hull said. "We run two classes a year so it's something we continuously do, but we're very picky who we put into this positions."

Recruits must have a minimum of 60 hours of college credit or two years of active duty military service with honorable discharge as a pre-requisite, the news release stated. Two years of post-certified, full-time law enforcement experience will also be accepted for new recruits. Hull said these requirements help to find the best recruits.

"It's to their benefit to have that training already," Hull said. "It helps them do their job and helps in being trained for the physically demanding academy."

The Columbia Police Department has eight spots that need hiring but three spots are open to recruits. The other five available positions are for officers on military leave. CPD is another office that uses an academy to train its new recruits.

"The academy that we normally use is the Law Enforcement Training Institute," CPD spokeswoman Jessie Haden said. "It's housed in the Hearnes building. That's where we usually send our recruits."

Haden said recruits that have already been trained in academies are usually hired first for financial reasons but said if the department has a good applicant they want to hire, CPD will hire the person and send the applicant into training.

Hull said the recruitment process takes six months from the time the first test finishes. The department has many different tests for the recruits ranging from background checks to physicals and psychological tests before they get to the hiring process.

"We are very competitive salary wise now," Hull said. "We do a lot of recruiting and spend a lot of time going to job fairs and armed forces bases for people that are looking to get out of the armed forces."

The Boone County Sheriff's Department also uses this method for finding new people. Major Tom Reddin of the sheriff's department said it uses other methods to hire since they don't have an academy.

"As far as patrol spots all our positions are filled," Reddin said. "The highway patrol has an academy while we don't have that. We attend job fairs and also have a meet the department program."

The Highway Patrol has a similar program called Community Alliance. The program meets once a week and civilians get to go through some of the training officers do, Hull said. The group gets to "see how the patrol operates and shoot weapons and shoot radar with an officer" during these events.

"We've refocused that program for colleges that have criminal justice majors," Hull said. "And we also have one for high school students in case that's the career that they'd like to get into."

Hull said all of this recruiting is so the department can get the best possible recruits.

Sheriff's department patrols impaired driving

January 26, 2010 - Four drivers were arrested for driving while intoxicated during a DWI saturation and sobriety checkpoint conducted by the Boone County Sheriff's Department last weekend.

The saturation began Friday evening in a small portion of northwest Columbia and at a larger portion in rural Boone County north of Columbia, a sheriff's department news release stated. Ten deputies were focused on identifying and removing impaired drivers from the streets.

The same deputies from the saturation then set up and conducted a sobriety checkpoint at around 1 a.m. Saturday at the intersection of Brown School and Providence roads in Columbia, the news release stated. The checkpoint lasted about one hour.

"Checkpoints are late evening activities," sheriff's department Major Tom Reddin said. "Generally in large part because that's when the bars get out."

During the saturation, 18 traffic stops were conducted before the deputies moved onto the second half of their operation at the sobriety checkpoints, the release stated.

Reddin said the locations of checkpoints are usually decided depending on where there has been a history of impaired driving in a certain area.

"We also have to ask if the location will be able to handle the checkpoint safely," Reddin said.

About 50 vehicles passed through the checkpoint during its operation, the news release stated. Four people were arrested for driving while intoxicated and there were six other arrests made for other violations, the news release stated. One citation was issued for running a stop sign and 22 verbal warnings were issued for "other various violations."

Reddin said he was pleased by the effectiveness of the saturation as well as the checkpoint and hopes to keep the practice going.

"We've been very proactive in apprehending impaired drivers," Reddin said. "We've been fortunate in the past years to restructure our traffic department through resource allocation and increase the traffic unit."

The sheriff's department received a grant from the Missouri Department of Transportation Division of Highway Safety that paid for the saturation and checkpoint, the release stated.

Sheriff's department increases enforcement for holidays

December 9, 2009 - This time of year, streets are soon to be clogged with snow and increased traffic enforcement by the Boone County Sheriff's Department.

The sheriff's department will be taking part in increased enforcement of impaired drivers from Dec. 7 to Dec. 13, a Boone County Sheriff's news release stated.

"We haven't just been waiting until the holiday season to stop impaired driving," Sheriff's Department Major Tom Reddin said. "This has been going on all year."

According the news release, the office will be taking part in a statewide, weeklong effort to reduce drinking and driving. Officers and deputies will be working extra shifts "with the primary mission of identifying and removing impaired drivers from the roadways," the release stated. The Missouri Department of Transportation will fund overtime pay for this.

"Officers are always looking for (impaired drivers) while on patrol anyway," Reddin said. "But this week there will be specific officers whose sole responsibility will be to find those impaired drivers."

According to the release, the sheriff's department encourages people to visit the Web site, Save Missouri Lives, to encourage people to learn about impaired driving and the consequences. The site also offers statistics of accidents and fatalities due to drinking and driving.

This year has seen 772 deaths due to impaired driving — a 12 percent decrease from 2008, the Web site stated.

"We are always pleased to hear that fatalities are down this year, but we'd love to reduce them even more," Reddin said.

Reddin said increased enforcement is sometimes enough to decrease impaired driving, but the sheriff's department is hoping to reduce numbers through education, media coverage and programs to raise public awareness of the consequences and fatalities that come from impaired driving.

"You will see saturation patrols going around this week, where officers will patrol a certain area searching for impaired drivers," Reddin said. "Another popular enforcement method is the checkpoint and you may even seen both at some points."

The department focused on the importance of group awareness of the problem.

"We are all part of the solution," the release stated. "It is never worth the risk to drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol."

'Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2' flawless

November 17, 2009 - "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2," Infinity Ward's sequel to its 2007 masterpiece, is everything you could hope for in the game and in life. This game will complete you.

I'll say it outright: This is the biggest game of the next generation era. Nothing has been more hyped up to this point in the PS3 and 360's lifetime, and nothing has provided on that hype better than "MW2." I was at the midnight launch for the game, and I can say from personal experience it blew the "Halo 3" midnight line out of the water. That being said, let's move onto the actual game.

It's not often that a first-person shooter has just as good of story as it does a multiplayer experience, but "Modern Warfare" doesn't stop at that. It now offers an amazingly fun SpecOps mode, in which you and your buddy can be pitted against waves of enemies and fight alongside each other. You can play the beloved "CoD:4" level, "All Ghillied Up" with your friend. I don't think I've ever had more fun in a co-op game than with that level.

There's just too much good to talk about with this game within a word count. The updated graphics, the new AI, the amazing story with plot twists you'll never see coming — it's all wonderfully done and sucks you in for hours and hours at a time. Say goodbye to your good test grades for about a month after you buy this game.

The multiplayer has been overhauled in more than one way. There are thousands of gun and perk combinations to unlock and own now. There are new modifications to add to your guns. With a perk allowing you to have two modes on the same weapon, things can get very interesting.

Grab a sniper rifle with a silencer and a thermal scope and add in the perk to not be seen on radar, and you've got yourself a modern-day ninja. The perks are even upgradeable. Kill streaks are customizable. You could have an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle after three kills, while your friend gets a care package dropped next to him when he marks the spot.

The story is wonderful, as expected from Infinity Ward. It stays grounded in today's fears, while keeping from taking a particular. The whole airport sequence is handled very well in the game and ends up being one of the best psychological situations a video game has ever seen. I can't talk about it here without serious spoilers, but be ready for anything in that level.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this game. Infinity Ward took its time and made sure every single aspect was polished. People who considers themselves a first-person shooter fan, a war game fan or heck, even a video game fan, have to get this game.

Les Bourgeois Vineyards undergoes investigations

November 6, 2009 - The incidents at Les Bourgeois Vineyards in early September that caused the vineyard to cancel 15 scheduled events have progressed in their investigations, Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Chris Harris said. All three incidents involved MU students.

Two sexual assaults reported within a week of each other, the first Sept. 13 and the second Sept. 18, are still under investigation by the Boone County Sheriff's Department.

"One of the cases was submitted to the prosecutor's office who then requested more investigation," Sheriff's Department Major Tom Reddin said.

The other case sent evidence to the Missouri State Highway Patrol Crime Laboratory Division for analysis, Reddin said. The lab gets evidence from all over the state and has to organize and prioritize the importance of each case.

"It could be several months before they get the evidence back," Reddin said.

The third accident involved senior Brian Lindsey being backed over by a bus leaving the winery after a party. After an investigation by the Highway Patrol, the driver has been cleared of all liabilities in the accident, Harris said.

"We found that the bus driver could not be held liable in this incident," Harris said. "There was no information whatsoever to lead me to believe that he was negligent that night."

Harris was the officer who responded to the bus incident on the night of Sept. 17.

Harris also said the area where the members of the party were waiting wasn't an ideal place to be that night. The investigation showed there was one Les Bourgeois employee directing buses and people before the incident.

"He was just overwhelmed," Harris said.

Harris said the largest contributing circumstances to the incident that night were intoxication, a large crowd and the location where it happened.

According to a statement released shortly after the bus incident, Les Bourgeois was deeply troubled by the alleged incidents and very concerned for the safety of the patrons. The winery has been in full cooperation with the authorities during the investigation, Reddin said.

"We did turn up some liquor law violations that were happening that night," Harris said in reference to the night of the bus accident. "That night would have been the time to make those cases but I was busy trying to get the information for the accident report. Everything as far as our department is concerned is closed on the case."

'Forza Motorsport 3' is a racing beauty

October 30, 2009 - Racing games don't have to do a lot from year to year to stay on the cutting edge. Gameplay has stayed more or less the same since the racing genre was invented.

Considering this, it's the little things that make a racing game great, and it's the little things that developer Turn 10 has packed into its labor of love, "Forza Motorsport 3," to make this game amazing.

Four years into the Xbox 360's life, developers are finally tapping into all the console can do and this is clear with the most stunning feature of “Forza 3” — the graphics. Drawn distances on some of the newly introduced mountain drifting tracks are amazing and the cars look positively realistic.

All of these upgrades are done without a hitch in frame rate. All 400 or so cars look absolutely stunning, from the sleek bodylines to the details on the sidewalls of the tires. Cars handle like their actual weight and can now tip over if you try to take a 90-degree turn at 152 mph. There is a rewind function, and it is unlimited, but true racing fans will find they won't use it much.

The other major overhaul is the way the menus look and the way the game goes about letting you race. A calendar format is introduced and really makes people feel like they are professional drivers and races take place over weeks or months at a time, not one after each other, as in "Forza 2."

This time around, Forza has put a big emphasis on community after seeing people blossom with car designs in the previous game. "Forza 3" now offers a storefront where players can create designs and sell them to other players for credits earned in the game, but it doesn't stop there. People can also tune their cars for different racing types, such as the newly added drag and drift racing, and sell their tuning setups in the same storefront. You can browse people's pictures and videos all in the same place, and it adds a bit of personality to the game.

You really need to nitpick to find things wrong with this game. When you come out of pause during the race the game has a weird way of getting you back up to speed that can be disorienting for drivers. And the race at the beginning of the game to "get drivers used to Forza racing" is mandatory, like it or not.

But the drawbacks are too small to count. Turn 10 has done an amazing job with this game and really pushed the Xbox to its limits in getting the graphics they wanted. This game definitely gives longstanding racing king "Gran Turismo" a run for it's money and is the racing game to have if you own a 360.

MU hosts Sprite Step Off

October 6, 2009 - The floor was covered and a stage was built for fraternities and sororities to compete in the Sprite Step Off.

Sprite is hosting hundreds of events across the country, calling fraternities and sororities with step teams to come and compete against each other and make their way up the competition ladder to a grand prize pool of $1.5 million in scholarship money.

The men of Alpha Phi Alpha's from Fontbonne University and Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville chapters came in first and second place, respectively. The winning sorority was the ladies from Alpha Theta Omega. Both teams will be moving on to the regional finals in Chicago.

"Stepping comes from African native dances," SIUE Alpha Pi Alpha member Terrance Murphy said. "It's really a mix of dancing and marching."

Stepping is a type of dance that includes stomping, clapping and slapping different body parts to create sounds. Teams can be anywhere from two to seven people and can use props ranging from canes, which the ladies of Sigma Gamma Rho used, to a bed, which the sorority Zeta Phi Beta used in their show.

"Stepping is nerve-racking," Zeta Phi Beta member Rasheedat Yahaya said. "All of those nerves have to go out the window when you step on stage."

Zeta Phi Beta was one of the MU chapters to take place in the competition.

The night started off with the ladies of Sigma Gamma Rho and moved on to chapters from Alpha Theta Omega, Zeta Phi Beta and the men of Alpha Phi Alpha.

Between Greek performances, the Mid-Missouri Highsteppers, a young stepping group, showed off their moves and MU's own dance crew Outer Limits had a show also.

The night was about the dance moves, but the day leading up to it was all about service.

"We went to the Boys and Girls Club this morning," Murphy said. "We kicked it with them, showed them some steps and talked to them about college and staying in school."

All of the fraternities and sororities that competed in the Step Off competition did community service Saturday morning. Groups, such as Zeta Phi Beta, who couldn't make the Boys and Girls Club made up for it by helping out in other places.

"Sprite is telling people to match the $1.5 million pool with 1.5 million community service hours," Yahaya said. "I think that Sprite is showing that Greek has the community service side and also the academic side."

Saturday night also featured a DJ battle to break up the competition and Big Boi of Outkast was there to express his enthusiasm for stepping after the winners were announced.

But for the brothers of the fraternities and the sisters of the sororities, it wasn't about the money or the competition.

"This is a great experience," SIU Alpha Phi Alpha member Christopher Arceneaux said. "It's an adrenaline rush and it makes you step harder when you go out there."

Fans need not worry about Halo franchise

September 29, 2009 - Halo fans were a little more than concerned when they got wind of the news Bungie and Microsoft were parting ways. And they were consequently a little more than hysterical when they heard that Microsoft would be keeping the rights to Bungie's epic story.

"Halo 3: Orbital Drop Shock Trooper" is the first incarnation of the franchise since the messy divorce, and fans should be coming back for more because even without Master Chief, "ODST" still changes the game yet again.

The new hero in the series is a strong silent type named the Rookie, who drops into the city of New Mombasa soon before the events of "Halo 2," for all those who keep up on the Halo lore. Rookie, as an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper drops into the city to free it from Covenant control when disaster strikes, spreading his squad over the destroyed city and knocking him senseless for a fair amount of time. This is the basis for the story in ODST, a surprisingly engaging tale.

The player controls Rookie as he wanders through the dark, destroyed city trying to reconnect with his lost squad and when he comes across a clue leading to their whereabouts, players are taken back to earlier in the day when that squad member was out and about. An interesting way to tell the story, keeping players in their seats and their thumbs on the controller.

Remember in previous Halo games when grunts would stick themselves and run at you in a last ditch attempt to take Master Chief down? Remember how it never worked? You are not Master Chief, you do not have shields, you cannot leap tall buildings in a single bound, you cannot stop a speeding bullet and you most certainly cannot play this game like any other Halo game. Enemies are taller and more intimidating. You will think twice about confronting a Brute head on if you're low on ammo and health.

And the game is hard! Heroic difficulty is challenging and Legendary is almost impossible without help from the co-op aspect. ODST's have low-light vision that will help you navigate through the dark city and sometimes it's better to pass up those three grunts than to take them on.

The new Firefight mode is excellent, pitting you and your friends against as many enemies as you can handle. All you have are guns, a shared amount of lives and little bit of luck against brutes, jackals, grunts and wraiths; all at the same time.

"ODST" also comes with a second disc that has all of the "Halo 3" maps (Legendary and Mythic map packs included) and this disc is used to play with your friends who haven't picked up "ODST" yet. It's a nice addition if you didn't splurge for the map packs earlier.

Whether you buy this just because it's Halo or a new release, "ODST" is a very respectable standalone story compared to the Master Chief saga. The game is a must for any Halo fan and any first-person shooter fan.

Les Bourgeois Vineyard still closed to student outings

September 29, 2009 - After sexual assault reports and senior Brian Lindsey being run over by a bus due to irresponsible alcohol use, Les Bourgeois Vineyard canceled multiple scheduled events.

Les Bourgeois' problems started the night of Sept. 2 during a party the winery hosted for a group of college students. A sexual assault occurred that night but was not reported until Sept. 13, said Major Tom Reddin of the Boone County Sheriff's Office.

"On the 17th there was another account of sexual assault that occurred," Reddin said. "That one was reported to us on the 18th."

Les Bourgeois Vineyard is deferring all questions to the authorities at this point in the investigation, but they did release a short statement expressing their concern about the situation.

"We are deeply troubled by the alleged incidents and very concerned for the safety of our patrons," Les Bourgeois Vineyard spokeswoman Rachel Mills said in the statement. "While we wait for all the facts to emerge, we have suspended all hosting of large after-hour events."

Sept. 17, when the sexual assault happened, was also the night senior Brian Lindsey was struck by a bus as it was leaving the winery, Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Chris Harris said in an interview after the accident.

Harris said as the bus was still in the parking lot of Les Bourgeois, Lindsey stepped in front of the bus to stop it. Lindsey fell underneath the bus and was run over, and the bus stopped on top of him for about 15 seconds before it backed off. Harris also said on the night of the accident, the driver, Thomas Hoehn, had no issue with alcohol or drugs.

"There will be no charges on the driver whatsoever," Harris said. "The bus driver had a loaded bus. There was just no way he could have avoided what had happened."

The severity of the incidents and their close proximity to each other has raised eyebrows of police officers and school officials with all three events involving students. Director of Student Life Mark Lucas expressed his concern in light of the sexual assaults.

"It's tragic that students put themselves in situations that are risky because of alcohol," Lucas said. "Our students make decisions every day that have consequences that have a certain risk associated with them."

In the wake of the two assaults and the bus accident, Les Bourgeois Vineyard is working hand in hand with the authorities to sort things out. The news release put out by the winery stated they are cooperating with the authorities and are reviewing the steps they can take to increase the safety of their patrons.

"We've been in contact with the winery," Reddin said. "We've discussed our concerns about these incidents but we're pleased to hear their concerns are the same as ours."

Authorities are investigating the assaults and the bus accident.

Boone County Sheriff's Office is covering the sexual assaults and the Missouri State Highway Patrol is handling the bus incident. At the time of the interview, Reddin didn't know exactly what charges were being applied to the Sexual Offense Statutes. The Criminal Statutes Chapter 566 has more than 40 sections and contains many different criminal charges that can be used.

"We've got some training to do to our students," Lucas said. "You cannot have a person give consent when they are not of sound mind. We've clearly got to do a better job of educating people of that."

Les Bourgeois suspends events

September 25, 2009 - Les Bourgeois Vineyard canceled the next 15 scheduled events in the wake of recent incidents, including reports of rape and senior Brian Lindsey being hit by a bus, a news release stated.

"We are deeply troubled by the alleged incidents and are very concerned for the safety of our patrons," Les Bourgeois Vineyard spokeswoman Rachel Mills said in a news release.

Two of the incidents at the winery involved the sexual assault of young women in connection with parties the Les Bourgeois Vineyard regularly hosts for fraternities.

Major Tom Reddin of the Boone County Sheriff's Office said college students were involved.

"Reported on Sept. 13, there was a sexual assault that actually happened on Sept. 2," Reddin said. "That incident actually happened at a party with college students in attendance."

Along with the two assaults, the third incident was Lindsey being hit by a bus after the vineyard closed following a party involving a large group of college students, Reddin said.

The second occurrence of sexual assault happened Sept. 17 and was reported to the Boone County Sheriff's Office the next day.

"Our students and people in general make decisions everyday that have a certain risk associated with them," Director of Student Life Mark Lucas said. "It's tragic that students put themselves in situations that can turn out bad because of alcohol."

The final incident took place Sept. 17, the same night of the latest sexual assault, and was also connected to the parties the winery hosts. As the group was leaving, Lindsey tried to stop the bus full of people and was backed over by the bus, Reddin said.

All of the events are under investigation, with the Sheriff's Office looking into the sexual assaults and the Missouri State Highway Patrol investigating the bus accident.

"We've obviously been conducting investigations into the assaults and we are about to file reports soon," Reddin said.

Les Bourgeois Vineyard is working with the Sheriff's Office and Highway Patrol.

"We are fully cooperating with the authorities," Mills said in the news release. "We are reviewing the steps we can take to maximize the safety of our patrons."

Madden Curse preys on NFL's top talent

September 15, 2009 - Whether you believe in hexes and voodoo, it's hard to ignore one of today's modern magic: the dreaded Madden Curse.

For those who aren't aware of the greatest threat to human kind since the swine flu, the Madden Curse is the series of interesting coincidences between the players appearing of the front of EA Sports' football game, "Madden," and those players being hurt soon after appearing on the cover.

Let's take a trip back in time to 1998: true to the pattern "Madden" games follow, "Madden NFL 99" was just released. Most will remember John Madden himself graced the cover — but there was also an edition of the game that featured Garrison Hearst, and it all went downhill from there. Hearst suffered a gruesome ankle break when he tried to spin away from a defender during a playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons. The rest, as they say, is history.

"Madden 2000" once again had John himself but there was a recognizable Barry Sanders in the background. Barry heard the injury train coming and escaped an undesirable fate by retiring in the 1999 off-season.

Eddie George, the star of the "Madden 2001" cover seems to be the exception to the curse and mysteriously escaped an ill-fate, but it does stand to be noted the 2001 season was George's only season with less than 1,000 yards and only three yards per attempt, both career lows for the legendary half back.

"Madden 2002" was released in September 2001 and Dec. 2 of that season, cover star Daunte Culpepper suffered a knee injury against the Steelers, missing the final five games.

Not only did injuries catch up to Marshall Faulk after he appeared on the cover of "Madden 2003," he ran for 500 fewer yards from the 2001 to 2002 season, thus beginning the downfall of the Rams.

"Madden 2004" featured the now infamous Michael Vick. If you put aside the dog fighting and jail time, Vick also broke his leg and missed the first 11 games of the season after being on that box.

If anyone's been a winner in this whole curse business, it would be the cover boy of "Madden 2005." The ferocious middle line backer of the Baltimore Ravens, Ray Lewis, who racked up 146 tackles netting him his seventh Pro Bowl appearance. But Lewis is the exception, not the rule.

In 2006, the Eagles poster-boy became the Madden poster-boy and ended in disaster. In week 11, after appearing on the cover of the video game, Donovan McNabb tore his ACL as he was jumping out of bounds and, consequently, ended his season.

Seattle Seahawks half back Shaun Alexander broke his foot after being posted up on the "Madden 2007" cover. All hope was not lost for, in the same game, Alexander set a team record with his 102 touchdowns.

When Vince Young announced he'd grace the cover of "Madden 2008," people immediately said he would fall victim to the ruthless curse. Not only did he miss a game during the season due to injury, but he's also no longer the starting quarterback in Tennessee.

Madden's comeback into greatness was predicted for 2009, so EA decided to put someone who was also coming back on the cover, the future Hall of Famer Brett Favre. He missed no games, but played terribly in the later half of the season and annoyed a generation of football fans with his retirement flip-flopping.

And that brings us to this year. "Madden 2010" is the first Madden to feature two players on the cover — and will probably take them both down. Troy Polamalu is already sidelined — he tore his MCL in the first game back against the Titans and is expected to miss three to six weeks.

My advice to Larry Fitzgerald: Retire while you can. You had a good season last year and proved your dominance as a wide receiver and we would all hate to see you go down. Just because you weren't hurt in the first week doesn't mean it won't happen. The curse is out there, and it's waiting to claim more victims.

Paws in the Park raises awareness for Columbia Second Chance

September 15, 2009 - Stephens Lake Park went to the dogs, cats and guinea pigs Saturday.

For the past three years, animals and their owners have been coming to Stephens Lake Park for Paws in the Park to support local organization Columbia Second Chance.

Second Chance is a not-for-profit agency that works directly with the Central Missouri Humane Society to help find homes for animals. The all-volunteer shelter also takes animals from the public but helps CMHS first.

"I don't actually know how Paws in the Park came up," said Shannon Kasmann, a longtime board member with Columbia Second Chance. "We wanted some sort of animal-themed festival to bring everyone out."

Paws in the Park brought all types of dogs together in a clearing at Stephens Lake Park. In the middle of the clearing stood a dog agility course where the day's activities took place. Great Danes and Yorkshire terriers mingled among booths around the course, set up by sponsors.

One such booth was representing PETCO. Kate Trip, the representative for the company, explained PETCO couldn't operate without shelters like Second Chance.

"As a corporation, we don't sell dogs or cats," Trip said. "We invite rescues in, and that's really a huge part of our focus."

The day's festivities started with a fashion show of a new clothing line for humans, while also giving Second Chance animals some publicity. Dogs searching for permanent homes shared spotlight as they strutted down the runway with human companions.

Four-legged friends weren't the only ones excited to come to Paws in the Park. Animal shelters and rescues everywhere have felt the impact from the nationwide recession, and Second Chance is no exception.

"I'd say we're doing pretty steady," Kasmann said. "I will say that, for us as well as CMHS, adoptions in general have been down this year."

Kasmann said some shelters are getting along fine, but the public needs to realize shelters aren't totally funded by the city.

"CMHS has a budget of about a million dollars, but Columbia only helps out with 10 percent of that," Kasmann said. "But the turnout for our event this year seems to be good."

After the fashion show, a fetch contest followed, with all types of dogs competing to see who could fetch three newspapers in the shortest time. Some competitors easily brought the newspapers back to their owners, but others had trouble focusing with the other animals around them.

Dogs and owners had many things to do with all the booths present at the event. Man's best friend could get a snapshot taken at one sponsor's photo booth. Another sponsor handed out free dog treats, and the line for that tent was long all day.

"This is a great event," CMHS Executive Director Patty Forister said. "We love to come here and set up a booth and see some of our wonderful dogs."

Forister said her organization works hand-in-hand with Second Chance whenever possible. She said whether they adopt out the animals or Second Chance finds them a home, it's always good to come to the events and see animals they helped place in homes.

"This is also an opportunity for us to talk about animal welfare alongside Second Chance," Forister said. "We're all working toward the same goal — that there are no more homeless pets and that no animals are neglected either."

One of the final events for the day was the pet and owner look-alike contest. Some of the similarities between pairs were striking and some, not so much. The contest, to allow more contestants, added a "best dressed" category. Dressed in full MU football and cheerleader gear, Chloe and Daphne, owned by Columbia resident Rebecca Smith, showed off for the crowd.

"This is our second year," Smith said. "We do the dress up every year. We come for the dogs and to also support Second Chance."

But not everyone at Paws in the Park was there for the dogs. One side of the clearing was reserved for the Kitten Corner, which housed some of the cats up for adoption. Ages ranged from four months to 13 years old, and even the number of legs ranged, with Murphy, an older but docile cat, having only three legs. With cats, Second Chance doesn't just wait for them to be dropped off at the shelter, but they take them off the streets.

"We did what we call a 'multi-trap day,'" Second Chance volunteer Kimberly Newberry said. "We trapped 42 cats in three days."

Newberry helped staff the Kitten Corner during the event. They ended up taking in about 10 cats Second Chance deemed adoptable, but they also took in two mother cats each with a litter of five kittens.

"We have two great facilities, one for the cats and one for the dogs," Kasmann said. "Between the two, we can take around 100 dogs but also 100 cats."

As the festival came to a close, the last major event of the day was an agility demonstration on the course. Different sizes of dogs were taken through the course and showed off their skills as they jumped hurdles and maneuvered through weave poles before doubling back through a chute barrel and doing the same obstacles again.

Much like the shade helped people escape from the heat and the bowls of water helped panting dogs, Paws in the Park helped raise awareness about Second Chance and its goals in Columbia.

"Second Chance is a great organization and they are in shelters everyday, checking out animals and seeing if they can put them into foster homes," Forister said. "It's always a real treat to see the animals with their new families at a fun event like this."

Street Crimes Unit works to reduce violent crime

September 4, 2009 - Due to a high number of violent crimes in 2007, Columbia Police Department came together and created the Street Crimes Unit to deal with more demanding cases and investigations. CPD Sgt. Brian Richenberger supervises the unit that has been active for little more than a year.

"Our officers are doing a little bit more than the average patrol officer has time to do," Richenberger said. "That's why they're so effective."

The main focus of the Street Crimes Unit is to apprehend those who commit crimes and not the law-abiding people who live in the high-crime areas, a city of Columbia news release stated. The four-officer team focuses on violent crimes and drug activity in Columbia, Richenberger said.

"We're not answering (911) calls so to speak but actively hunting down criminals and going into hot-spot areas," Richenberger said.

During the 2007 year, another unit, called the Violent Crimes Task Force, was created out of CPD, the MU Police Department, Boone Country Sherriff's Department and the FBI, the news release stated. The task force operated as long as it could before the officers had to return to their regular assignments.

It arrested more than 40 people for felony violations, cleared several high-profile violent crimes, seized three firearms and made more than 100 traffic stops, the news release stated.

The task force operated during December 2007 and disbanded when officers had to return to their regular assignments, the news release stated. The following summer, the CPD Street Crimes Unit was created. Richenberger said the Unit has been active since July 28 of last year.

"We've been doing what we've intended to do," Richenberger said. "All the officers are being proactive."

The news release also stated the best way to deal with violent crimes is responding quickly to them if they are in the same area. These areas have become known as hot spots of enforcement for the Street Crimes Unit.

Aside from violent crime, the unit will not be responsible for traffic enforcement and tickets will rarely be given for minor violations, the news release stated.

"Certainly, the criminals won't be happy with this, but that's what we want," Mayor Darwin Hindman said in the news release. "I think the Street Crimes Unit sends a message that Columbia is serious about dealing with this issue."

The news release stated the unit could cost around $400,000, and at the time of the unit's creation, $125,000 was available.

"The rest will come from saving efficiencies, including fuel conservation," City Manager Bill Watkins stated in the news release.

Watkins also said the unit is designed to have an immediate impact on violent crime and credits former CPD Chief Randy Boehm for pulling the proposal together.

"We've been going pretty much as planned," Richenberger said. "We've taken some very bad guys off the street."

'Madden NFL 10' shows improvement over last version

September 1, 2009 - When a video game comes out every year, especially with a sports title, there is an immense amount of pressure to add to the overall experience without neglecting what makes the game enjoyable in the first place. EA Sports' "Madden NFL 10" has found balance this year with the right amount of improvements and changes.

"Madden"'s slogan this year is "Fight for Every Yard" and its most visual change in the gameplay is the addition of its Pro-Tak system, which stands for Procedural Tackle system. This allows more realistic running, more broken tackles for bigger gains and gang tackles of up to nine big, smelly football linemen pushing for that first down line. "Madden" veterans will notice the game runs slower overall, but it is more dynamic and realistic. In this updated version, halfbacks can't just spin on a dime, and cornerbacks can't magically turn around mid-air and pick off your touchdown pass.

Although every year the creators of "Madden" say their latest version is the most realistic representation, "Madden 10" is two steps ahead in this category. Referees bring out the chains to measure close first downs. Between big plays, crowd reactions are shown, and players even get a glimpse of their team's quarterback in pre-game warm-ups. It can be annoying, but it adds to the overall ambiance and makes you feel like every online game is being played on a real Sunday.

The graphics this year are a huge step ahead of 2009, and the players actually look like their real-life counterparts. Even with a helmet on, you can still see Larry Fitzgerald's long face and big goofy smile when he completes a big pass. Quarterbacks have real throwing motions, and this year, if they get hit while throwing, the ball will go wild and be free for any linebacker to take back to the house.

A small thing of note, if you place the Playstation 3 version of the game and an Xbox 360 version side-by-side, the 360 has the slight edge in graphics, and the difference is noticeable. Neither Sony nor EA has come out and said why this is the case, but it's interesting nonetheless.

EA has finally answered the call of the angry masses and added an online franchise this year. You and 31 of your buddies can get together and set up a whole league with the real NFL scheduled games each week. Players can trade between each other and track league leaders in each category for bragging rights. If you aren't popular enough to have 31 friends, don't fret. The computer can fill in and control the teams during the season and during games.

There aren't too many downsides to "Madden" this year. The new accelerated clock feature takes a certain amount of time off the clock if both players choose their plays quickly and can be frustrating when trying to run out the clock at the end of a game, but it also makes the pre-snap game more realistic. Veterans will want to look at the button layout this year because EA changed the position of a couple key buttons such as the strip ball mechanic.

Overall, "Madden 10" is a much-improved game over its predecessor and a must-buy for any football fan, whether you're waiting for the next 2K Sports offering or not. All of EA's tweaks under the hood make this game enjoyable to play and addicting as ever.

CPD Bait Car Program busts thieves

August 25, 2009 - Columbia Police Department's Bait Car Program is helping to reduce car theft in Columbia.

Detective Steve Brown, who is in charge of the program, said when the program started, CPD was seeing an upswing in car theft.

"We were also having a lot of thefts of items from vehicles," Brown said.

On Aug. 9, CPD officers arrested a man for possession of stolen items that had come from one of Columbia's bait cars. According to a CPD news release, the Bait Car Program is a practice the department has chosen to run in high auto theft areas. An unattended car is intentionally left in a high-risk area with valuables inside of the car to draw more attention to it.

"We're not doing anything that's not out in the public already," Brown said. "I will still find unlocked cars with purses, laptops and even keys in the ignition inside."

Columbia's bait cars are modified to activate a hidden video camera when the car door is opened, Brown said. The car also alerts officers in the area.

If the bait car is stolen, the car can be shut off by remote with the suspects inside, Brown said.

Columbia experienced a 36-percent reduction in auto thefts during the first seven months of last year when compared to the same time period in 2007, a CPD news release stated. The release also stated 11 arrests have been made so far as a result of the program.

CPD and the MU Police Department collaborate using the Bait Car Program to enforce the law in town and on campus.

"It's a great resource for the law enforcement in the area," MUPD Capt. Brian Weimer said. "We don't have our own cars but we work closely together with the city of Columbia."

Brown said when the program began, the department talked to its legal parties and made sure they would have no entrapment issues.

"Entrapment is the law enforcement having an active role in forcing criminals into these activities," Brown said.

The Missouri General Assembly lists entrapment under revised statutes as a law enforcement officer or person working with an officer who solicits, encourages or otherwise induces another person to commit a crime.

The news release also stated all the incidents reported in the program have ended in arrests or issued warrants. Brown said deterrence from auto theft is large part of the program.

"As long as people leave valuables in their cars unlocked, thieves will continue to take it," he said.