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Politics & Issues

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This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: July 7, 2008 - Frustrated by repeated efforts to get financial and other information from The Shawn Hornbeck Foundation, the Better Business Bureau today criticized the charity for "delays in filing required reports and failure to be transparent to the public."

The foundation is headed by Pam Akers, the mother of Shawn Hornbeck; vice president is Craig Akers, the boy's father. The boy's 2002 disappearance and subsequent rescue five years later in Kirkwood made international headlines and prompted the startup of the foundation in 2003.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: July 7, 2008 - Last December, state Rep. Rachel Storch, D-64th District, was among those at the annual Christmas party given by the Roberts Co., the real estate and communications business owned by brothers Michael and Steve Roberts. Storch's attendance demonstrated the good relations she enjoys with the brothers. So, nobody was more surprised than she when, about four months after the party, the son of Michael Roberts, Michael Roberts Jr. -- he prefers "Mike" -- announced that he would challenge Storch in the Aug. 5 Democratic primary.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: July 7, 2008 - The assault on the corporate independence of Anheuser-Busch calls to mind the shifting winds of power and influence in the metropolitan area and its possible connection to articulating a future vision and mission for St. Louis.

The era in which August Busch partnered with downtown bankers and other corporate moguls to organize Civic Progress as the priority setter and weathervane for St. Louis appears to be waning. In addition to the absence of home-owned big banks, the corporate stage is less local and more national or even global. Thus the erstwhile focus on the local community among the large corporate chiefs is far less intense.

As the flood waters retreat

Jul 6, 2008
Diane Hays helps get the outside clean, as the inside of the house waits for FEMA. 300 pixels 2008
Kristen DiFate | Special to the St. Louis Beacon

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: July 6, 2008 - WINFIELD— Diane Hays intently worked the power washer, blasting a filmy layer of grime from Mike Moran’s homemade slice of heaven.

Any other Independence Day, Moran's bachelor paradise of a patio would be buzzing: Friends crowding the handcrafted wooden bar. Baseball on the television. Hot dogs sizzling on the grill. But this year, the Winfield homeowner’s Shangri-La is a soggy, mud-stained mess. 

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Photo by Bob Williams, IPVA | St. Louis Beacon archives

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: July 5, 2008 - Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama brought a centrist message of self-help and personal responsibility to thousands of AME church members on Saturday, imploring them to view problems facing black communities as moral ills that religious institutions and underpinning could do much to heal.

Speaking to enthusiastic members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church at a general conference at the St. Louis Convention Center, Obama offered remarks that were partly homiletic and partly political.

Arch discussion deadline approaches

Jul 4, 2008
One of the goals of the new group, Groundswell for Change, is to improve the connectors between the Arch grounds and the Old Courthouse. 300 pixels 2008
Rachel Heidenry | St. Louis Beacon archives

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: July 4, 2008 - That is our Arch.

So, it's not surprising that area residents are paying a good deal of attention these days to proposals and discussions about what to do with the 91-acre national park the Arch soars above – a site that attracts more than 3 million visitors a year.

Health concerns in the wake of flood

Jul 4, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: July 4, 2008 - Our area has not seen any flood-related disease outbreaks to date, however, we need to remain on high alert and take steps to protect ourselves, according to Dr. Farrin Manian, chief of infectious disease at St. John's Mercy Medical Center. This includes exercising caution regarding mosquitoes.

This levee was overtopped in western St. Charles County on June 20, 2008. Many houses were built on berms after 1993. 300 pixels
Robert Criss | St. Louis Beacon archive

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: July 3, 2008 - As the turbid, polluted waters slowly recede, it is time to reflect on why 2008 was another disastrous flood year. Why, indeed, did record and near-record flooding strike the Midwest so soon after 1993?

The sad truth is that the flood of 2008 should be no surprise. Experts have long warned that floods are becoming more frequent and more severe, and that this succession of aggravated misfortune is caused by Man.

Commentary: For whom the exit polls

Jul 3, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: July 3, 2008 - Q: Who was the last Democratic presidential nominee to win both the Electoral College and a majority of the popular vote?

A: Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000 but lost the Electoral College to George W. Bush. Bill Clinton, the only Democrat to actually win the White House in that 32-year period, won consecutive three-man elections with popular pluralities of 43 percent and 49 percent, respectively.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: July 3, 2008 - A Missouri judge refused on Wednesday to stop the state from spending $21 million for life sciences research.  Opponents of stem cell research -- represented by Ed Martin, the former chief of staff to Gov. Matt Blunt -- had sought an emergency order to block the spending.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: July 2, 2008 - Exactly 36 days before the primaries for Missouri's 9th congressional district, a Republican candidate and a Democratic candidate held a debate. It was their second.

State Rep. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, and former state Sen. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia, debated abortion, which was also the topic of the previous debate. 

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: July 2, 2008 - Don't get Jane Cunningham started. She likes nothing better than a good political fight over failing schools, and she doesn't mind being a lightning rod of criticism for her views on reforming them. To some voters, she's the enemy of public education; to others, she's the savior of good kids who deserve an alternative to bad schools.

'Millionaire Amendment' decision shows O'Connor effect

Jul 1, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: July 1, 2008 - A recent Supreme Court decision shows the difference that the absence of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor makes. The decision striking down the provision of the McCain-Feingold law was written by Justice O'Connor's replacement, Justice Samuel Alito. It's a good bet that the case would have come out the other way if Justice O'Connor still had been on the bench because she voted in favor of upholding most of the provisions of the law in an earlier decision.

Commentary: All tangled up in racial terms

Jun 30, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 30, 2008 - Talk of "race," "racism," people being "racist," and the rise in hate groups makes me think we need to step back and make sure we're on the same page with what we mean when we use these terms.

One factor that makes the conversations on race most tangled is the failure, or perhaps unwillingness, to understand racism at multiple levels. We're too quick to label an action or person as racist and "condemn" it or "disown" the person rather than fully analyze the situation.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 27, 2008 - The pope has reassigned St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke to Rome to be the top administrator of one of the Catholic Churches three courts, its court of last appeal, according to an announcement by the Vatican press office.

He is the first American to hold the post, though Americans have served on the court. Burke has been on the tribunal for two years, commuting to Rome from St. Louis.

Newspaper photo from "made in USA: East St. Louis" (Virginia Publishing), by Andrew Theising 300 pixels  2008
St. Louis Beacon archives

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 27, 2008 - Note from the author:

July 2, 2008, is the 91st anniversary of the East St. Louis race riot, the first and officially the deadliest of a series of devastating racial battles that swept through American cities in the World War I era.

Racial memory: Clear as black and white

Jun 27, 2008
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Photo by Olivr Nurock

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 27, 2008 - In the past four years, since I began work on my new book on the terrible 1917 East St. Louis race riot, my wife and I have told hundreds of people from the St. Louis area about the project, and have discovered a fact that is both remarkable and thoroughly understandable.

In general, white people, even those who have lived in this area for most or all of their lives, have never heard of the riot - a riot that arguably was the deadliest of the 20th century.

Arch grounds: change or not?

Jun 26, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 26, 2008 - Former Missouri Sen. John C. Danforth believes the National Park Service has made up its mind against any changes or improvements to the grounds of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.

He described a meeting last night in Forest Park, and another one next week at the Old Courthouse downtown, as  "window dressing."

Supreme Court upholds individual right to keep a gun

Jun 26, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 26, 2008 - The U.S. Supreme Court ruled for the first time in history that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to keep a handgun in the home for self-protection. Through much of the 20th century, the Second Amendment had been viewed by the courts as protecting a collective right necessary to running state militias.

Countdown to Missouri's Aug. 5 primary

Jun 26, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 26, 2008 - Like determined safe crackers, Republicans labored for 84 years before they figured out the combination for breaking the Democrats' lock and taking complete control of state government in Missouri. Republicans already held majorities in the state House and Senate in 2004 when all the numbers fell into place and -- presto! -- Republican Matt Blunt took the governor's seat.

African diary - Kenya

Jun 26, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 26, 2008 - Kenya was the brightest spot on my first trip to Africa a year ago when our State Department-sponsored group traveled from Uganda to Kenya to Ethiopia. Kenya's economy was booming, the middle class growing and a robust election campaign was underway. The press was freer in Kenya than anywhere we went.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 25, 2008 - The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) announced on June 25 that it would hold the interest rate on banks' overnight loans at 2 percent. It also warned that inflation will get more scrutiny in future meetings. What the economists on the committee fail to comprehend is that actions really do speak louder than words.

Commentary: This Bud's for them

Jun 25, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 25, 2008 - A friend of mine stopped by the office the other day to ask me to sign a petition. Normally, I'm not much of a joiner, but it's hard to refuse a buddy so I asked him what we were protesting. Turns out I'm against the takeover of Anheuser-Busch.

Light the lights for Big Brothers and Grand Center

Jun 25, 2008
night image of grand center woolworth building  300 pixels  2008
Tom Nagel | St. Louis Beacon archives

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 25, 2008 - "Ma'am, are they taking applications in there?" the gentleman called from his white pickup Monday afternoon at the corner of Olive and Grand. "I've been wanting to do that.''

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 24, 2008 - From the back window of her shop, Tina Henley has quite a view.

To the right, she looks out on a bridge stretching over the Lake of the Ozarks. To the left, she sees the Lodge of the Four Seasons. Straight ahead flows the main channel.

Highway 79, Revisited

Jun 23, 2008
johnboatonroad300.jpg While Joe Landrigan can get around with an ATV, some people need boats to check on their homes. 300 pixels. 2008
Kristin DiFate | St. Louis Beacon archives

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 23, 2008 - ANNADA -- Joe Landrigan's utility terrain vehicle cut a frothy wake through caramel waters, the lone sound -- and sign -- of life in this speck of a town along Highway 79 in Lincoln County.

kneedeepbeattie300.jpg 2008 caption "Corn is supposed to be knee high by now ... not the water."
Bruce Beattie | Daytona Beach Journal | St. Louis Beacon archives

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 23, 2008 - Devastating floods along the Mississippi River may have caught most of the media attention in recent weeks, raising fears of higher food prices and damaged crops in an increasingly global food market.

For weeks, however, farmers throughout Missouri and, to a lesser extent, Illinois, have been struggling through the wettest planting season on record, not to mention paying high prices for fuel, fertilizer and seeds.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 22, 2008 - The Highway Department (I know its formal name is the Missouri Department of Transportation but its popular name in accordance with its habit and current practice is "Highway Department") recently gave its latest and most graphic display of dysfunction in Missouri transportation policy. It published a video of its proposed rebuild of I-70 across the state featuring an exclusive four-lane separate highway for trucks at a projected cost of $4 billion -- yes with a "b."

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 19, 2008 - Chris Gebke knows her clients are starting to feel the pinch.

Trips to St. Louis for a Cardinals baseball game or an evening at the Muny are disappearing for the dozens of adults with developmental disabilities who rely on Community Link, a social service agency based in Breese, Ill.

Foreclosures: The problem is growing; seek help early

Jun 19, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Over the coming weeks, the Beacon, in partnership with KETC Channel 9, will be reporting on the sticky web of issues surrounding foreclosure - a crisis for nearly 2 million Americans, including thousands in the St. Louis region who have lost their stake in the American Dream.

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