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(Jonesboro) (AP) – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is touting the Republican Party’s nominees for governor and the U.S. Senate in Arkansas, as the GOP tries to build on its recent gains in a state that had been a Democratic holdout in the South.

The potential 2016 presidential hopeful headlined a rally Friday morning with gubernatorial nominee Asa Hutchinson and U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, who is trying to unseat Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor. Christie praised Hutchinson, who is running against Democratic rival Mike Ross, as someone voters can be assured is “one of you.”

The two races highlight an election Tuesday where Republicans are hoping to complete a takeover of Arkansas’ top offices.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour also headlined the rally.

(St. Louis) (AP) – With a grand jury decision and a local election looming, the Rev. Al Sharpton returned to St. Louis on Friday to renew calls for the federal prosecution of a white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black 18-year-old in the nearby suburb of Ferguson.

The civil rights activist said leaks about the supposedly secret St. Louis County grand jury deliberations undermine the local inquiry into whether to indict Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson in Michael Brown’s killing. The panel is expected to complete its review by mid-November, independent of Justice Department investigations into both Brown’s death and the broader practices of the Ferguson department.

Legal analysts have said leaked information about Wilson’s testimony to investigators could be an attempt to prepare the public for the possibility that the grand jury might recommend he not face charges.

“The grand jury is tainted. The confidence of the family has been shattered,” Sharpton said after meeting briefly with Brown’s parents and local activists at a breakfast rally before returning to New York. “We should turn this over to the federal government.”

Sharpton’s remarks were followed by a training of volunteer “justice disciples” who will monitor the police response to anticipated protests over the upcoming grand jury decision. He’s scheduled to again join Brown’s parents Monday at a get-out-the-vote rally in St. Louis, with a particular emphasis on a St. Louis County executive race that has largely become a referendum on Ferguson.

Sharpton, who delivered the eulogy at Brown’s funeral and has joined Michael Brown Sr. and Lesley McSpadden at news conferences in Ferguson, Atlanta and Washington, said published reports suggesting Ferguson chief Tom Jackson was being forced to step down distract from the fundamental point of the Ferguson protests and what organizers call a broader social movement.

“Don’t act like you can exchange a job for justice,” he said. “To suggest that just changing who the chief is answers how this young man was killed is an insult to the intelligence.”

Jackson, meanwhile, criticized Attorney General Eric Holder’s recent call for “wholesale change” in the department.

The Ferguson chief told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Holder’s comments in Washington this week were “irresponsible” while the federal investigations continue. Jackson said he is “low-hanging fruit” for critics but has no plans to resign.

“I think he’s about to leave office and needs to say he accomplished something in Ferguson,” Jackson said of Holder, who has announced his resignation but plans to remain in office until a replacement is confirmed.

MSHPlogo(Jefferson City) – The Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Rural Crime Investigative Unit has been honored with the International Association of Chiefs of Police/Thomson Reuters Award for Excellence in Criminal Investigation.

This honor is bestowed upon the law enforcement agency, law enforcement unit, task force, or inter-agency task force that has shown exceptional innovation and excellence in the area of criminal investigations.

Highway Patrol superintendent Colonel Ron Replogle, Major Luke Vislay, commander of the Criminal Investigative Bureau, and several members of the RCIU accepted the award at the IACP Annual Conference on October 28, 2014.

Since its inception, the RCIU has recovered approximately $7.6 million in stolen property since its inception. In addition to the approximately $7.6 million in stolen property recovered, the RCIU has conducted more than 1,500 criminal investigations and arrested 345 suspects.

(Washington) – The current representative from Missouri’s 8th Congressional District, Jason Smith, says he hopes that he has done enough in the past 16 months to warrant going back to Washington.

Smith spoke with Ozark Radio News and told us about what he thought his major accomplishments have been while in office. The first one he brought up was the battle against land regulations in the Blueways issue:

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Smith says that, if elected, he will continue to fight burdensome regulations that would affect business owners and families across the 8th Congressional District:

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He continued talking about keeping and growing jobs in the district, citing the recent closure of the Robertshaw plant in West Plains as an example of government regulations driving businesses out of the country:

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We also asked Smith about a number of other issues, including the current air strikes against the Islamic State, or ISIS. Smith says he supports the current bombing campaign, and that he will be working to make sure the administration does everything it can to protect innocent lives:

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We also asked Smith about his position on gun control:

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One topic brought up by all a majority of the candidates interviewed by Ozark Radio News this week is campaign finance reform, and the elimination of “big money” in American politics. We asked Smith his opinion of large campaign contributions:

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When asked again about the reduction or elimination of large corporate or individual donations, Smith had this to say:

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At the end of the day, Smith says he’s excited for the election, saying that he sees it as a referendum on the Obama Administration’s policies, including health care:

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Smith, of Salem, was chosen by voters in the 8th Congressional District in a special election in June 2013 after former Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson vacated the position.

(Birch Tree) – A Birch Tree man was killed Thursday afternoon after an accident involving an ATV.

A report from Troop G of the Highway Patrol states the accident happened just after 4 PM on Route Y, about eight miles southeast of Birch Tree, when the southbound ATV operated by 28-year-old Cody Rector failed to stop at a stop sign and struck an eastbound vehicle, driven by 20-year-old Dakota Pulliam of Birch Tree, in the driver’s side door.

Rector was pronounced dead at the scene. Pulliam and a passenger, 19-year-old Casey Vanhorn of Mountain Grove, suffered serious and minor injuries, respectively, and were both taken to Mercy Hospital in Mountain View.

The death marks fatality number 31 for Troop G for this year, compared to 22 at this time last year.

Tom Wolfe taking questions from students during the assembly. (ORN Photo)

Tim Wolfe taking questions from students during the assembly. (ORN Photo)

(West Plains) – The president of the University of Missouri system visited West Plains Middle School on Thursday to talk to students about the importance of higher education.

President Tim Wolfe spoke with Ozark Radio News and discussed his “Show Me Value” tour and what was discussed:

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He also talked about why the tour focuses on middle schools across the state:

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Wolfe also addressed one of the main complaints about and against higher education, and that is the cost:

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We also asked him what he thinks the best way to address the problem of student debt in the US, which is over $1 trillion:

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Tim Wolfe is the 23rd president of the four-campus University of Missouri system.

(Little Rock) (AP) – The Arkansas Supreme Court’s decision to keep a minimum wage hike on the ballot removes the last major hurdle for a proposal that is gaining bipartisan support and faces no organized opposition as Election Day nears.

Arkansas voters will be asked to raise the state’s minimum wage from $6.25 an hour to $8.50 by 2017 under the proposed initiated act. Arkansas is one of a handful of states with a minimum wage lower than the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.

Justices on Monday rejected a Little Rock businessman’s lawsuit challenging the measure. The proposal has been embraced by Democrats, who say it’ll help turn out the vote in the election. Several top GOP candidates endorsed the measure after it was approved for the ballot.

(Mountain Home) – A Cotter man faces a variety of charges after he allegedly attacked a Baxter County Deputy.

29-year-old Gilbert Ballman was charged with violating his probation, resisting arrest, and two counts of 2nd degree battery.

A report from the sheriff’s office states that two officers arrived at a home off of Buck or Two Lane in the Mountain Home area around 7 PM Wednesday on an unwanted person call. Deputies made contact with Ballman outside the residence, and after he was identified, deputies attempted to arrest him on a probation violation.

The report states that during the attempted arrest, Ballman became combative and punched one of the deputies in the eye and another in the face before being tased.

Ballman’s bond was set at $25,000 for resisting arrest and the two counts of felony battery. He is being held without bond on the probation violation.

The injured deputies suffered minor injuries and did not seek medical attention.

(Jefferson City) – Snow is not in the local forecast yet, but the Missouri Department of Transportation wants to be ready when winter weather is here. To prepare, MoDOT will test its readiness for the upcoming winter season with a statewide drill on November 5.

The drill tests MoDOT’s winter plan to ensure its readiness to get travelers back on Missouri roadways as quickly as possible after winter storms. During the drill, MoDOT employees will react to a simulated forecast of significant snow for the entire state. The department’s emergency operations centers will activate and maintenance employees will be deployed to their trucks.

Motorists may notice increased numbers of MoDOT vehicles on state routes during the drill. In rural areas, crews will deploy after 8 AM, with the drill taking about six hours.

The Missouri Department of Transportation annually spends about $46 million to keep roads clear in the winter and help ensure motorists get to their destinations safely and quickly. For information on road conditions across the state, safe traveling tips, and other winter weather information, visit www.modot.org.

(Willow Springs)- The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is beginning a five-year research project to evaluate white-tailed deer reproduction, reproduction and movement patterns throughout Douglas, Howell, Texas and Wright counties.

To help with the project, MDC has scheduled two workshops in the south-central part of the state for landowners and hunters interested in participating in or learning more about this project.

The first workshop will be 6 PM, November 10, at Willow Springs Middle School Auditorium, 215 W. 4th Street in Willow Springs. The second workshop will be 6 PM, December 4, at the Mountain Grove YMCA, 1 YMCA Drive in Mountain Grove. No registration is required for these workshops.

The deer study will begin in January and is being done in partnership with the University of Missouri at Columbia. The study will include monitoring bucks and does of all ages. Biologists will capture and place GPS tracking collars and small metal ear tags on deer, which will then be immediately released. Hunters will be encouraged to harvest deer in normal fashion in study areas, including those with collars.