- A funeral is scheduled for Thursday for a soldier from Ste. Genevieve who died in Afghanistan. 25 year-old Sgt. Michael J. Beckerman was assigned to the 101st Airborne at Fort Campbell in Kentucky. The army says he died Dec. 31 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wound suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvsed explosive device. Beckerman arrived at Fort Campbell in January 2010. He joined the Army in September 2004. Local media is reporting that he left behind a young daughter. His wife, Margaretta, is also in the armed forces.
- Rock and roll legend Chuck Berry is back home in St. Louis after falling ill during a performance in Chicago on Saturday. News reports in Chicago say the 84-year-old rocker was about an hour into a concert when he slumped over the keyboards. He reportedly tried to return to the stage about 15 minutes later, was escorted off again, then returned to do his "duck walk." His agent says he was suffering from exhaustion, and refused medical treatment.
- A new audit is sharply critical of the amount of overtime worked by employees at the state Department of Mental Health. The review by outgoing state auditor Susan Montee found that in 2009, the department paid out about $48 million in overtime, with some employees at the state habilitation centers receiving overtime payments that exceeded their paychecks. The department says it's now limiting overtime limits and will evaluate whether it is cheaper to higher new employees.
- Schools are bracing for further budget cuts when the General Assembly returns to Jefferson City later this week. Lawmakers last year held K-12 funding flat, despite a formula that called for a $100 million increase, and Gov. Jay Nixon slashed the state money available for school transportation by $70 million in June. Nixon says he hopes to avoid cutting basic education aid, but transportation assistance is "on a watch list."
- A surprising 7-9 season for the St. Louis Rams ended last night with a loss to the Seattle Seahawks 16-6. A win would have put the Rams in the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
Morning headlines: Ste. Genevieve soldier killed, Chuck Berry collapses, Mo. Mental Health Dept.'s excessive overtime, Mo. schools preparing for cuts
By Julie Bierach & Rachel Lippmann • Jan 3, 2011