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(West Plains) – The Howell County Courthouse and administrative offices will be closed on Friday, December 26 according to presiding commissioner Mark Collins.

The courthouse and offices are also going to be closed on Thursday, December 25 for Christmas. Offices will reopen on Monday, December 29.

All offices will be open their normal hours, Monday through Wednesday, from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. County residents are reminded that the last day to pay property taxes without penality is December 31.

For more information on office hours and property tax deadlines, visit

(West Plains)- The West Plains Schools of Board of Education met for their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, December 16, at 6 PM.

During the meeting the board learned that the South Central Career Center has officially received verbal confirmation that they have been granted a six year accreditation from the Council on Occupational Education.

Board candidate election filing opened at 8AM on Tuesday, December 16, and will run through 5PM on Tuesday, January 20. Sam Riggs and Brian Mitchell are in their final year of a three year term and Courtney Beykirch is in completing her first year of a term previously held by Bo Pace. Three seats, 2 three year terms and 1 two year term, will be up for election in April.

Each year, the school board reviews and approves the course offering for West Plains High School. The board conducted a first read of the 2015-2016 course offerings for West Plains High School and is scheduled to approve the list at the next meeting.

The South Central Career Center has been in conversation with MSU-West Plains regarding a partnership which would incorporate the SCCC Culinary Arts class into a degree program at the university. The board was presented with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that would allow the SCCC to move forward with this partnership. The board will conduct a second read in January and decide whether or not to move forward with the partnership.

The next board meeting is scheduled for January 20 at 5 PM at the West Plains Board of Education Office.

(West Plains) – Fun, food, games and prizes will be part of the Target Stroke event for families on January 10, 2015 from 9AM-1PM at South Howell County Ambulance, located at 1951 E State Road K in West Plains.

The event, which is free and open to all ages, will include fun for the entire family and information on stroke that is important for people of all ages to know. Target Stroke is hosted by South Howell County Ambulance and Ozarks Medical Center.

In addition to games and food, there will be Air Evac helicopter, ambulance, police car, and fire truck tours. There will also be free health screenings, including blood pressure, blood sugar and overall health risk analysis, exercise demonstrations, and members of the OMC Stroke Team will be available to answer questions and provide information.

The signs of stroke are face drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty and time to call 911, which can be remembered by the acronym FAST; face, arm, speech, and time.

Dr. Applegate said the treatment of stroke is a team effort and they requires many people and specialties, who are coming together to support education at the Target Stroke event. The team includes emergency responders, radiology, lab, stroke team physicians, Neurosciences Center, Emergency Department, nursing, Rehabilitation Services and the community.

The national standard is to deliver tPA within 60 minutes of arrival at the hospital. At Ozarks Medical Center the current average for 2014 is 39 minutes from arrival, with 44 patients treated so far this year. To date, the Stroke Team at OMC has been activated 135 times in 2014. Dr. Applegate said not all patients needed or were eligible for tPA. However, it is important that the trained stroke team and physicians make this determination.

For more information on stroke or Target Stroke, contact the OMC Neurosciences Center at 417-257-6777.

(West Plains) – The Imaginary Theatre Company of the St. Louis Repertory Theatre will bring its production of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” to the West Plains Civic Center stage for a 7 PM performance January 23.

Presented by Missouri State University-West Plains’ University/Community Programs (U/CP) Department, the performance is being made possible with support from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.

Tickets are $8 each for adults. Children age 13 and under, and Missouri State-West Plains students with a valid BearPass ID, will be admitted free.

This beloved Hans Christian Andersen tale gets a quirky new look in this silly satire about a vain man and his clever wife, according to information from the theater company. Determined to teach her husband a lesson in humility, the queen and her loyal handmaiden pose as two weavers who make the most beautiful garments in the world. There’s just one catch – only the most intelligent people can see these clothes. Everyone is invited to find out if the emperor will admit he’s had the wool pulled over his eyes or embarrass himself in front of the entire kingdom.

For more information about this presentation, contact the U/CP office at 417-255-7966 or visit

(Jefferson City) – The Statewide Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Missouri (SOMO), founded by the Missouri Police Chiefs Association (MPCA) 28 years ago, recognized the top achievers at the annual Awards Ceremony on December 11.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics is the organization’s largest grassroots fundraising program in the state. Special Olympics are law enforcement’s charity of choice, not only in Missouri, but throughout the United States and in 46 countries worldwide.

This LETR Awards Ceremony recognizes individual and department efforts during the 12 month period of Sept. 1, 2013 through Aug. 31, 2014. The ceremony is held in conjunction with the Missouri Police Chiefs Association mid-year conference and serves to also kickoff 2015 efforts. There were over 250 attendees at this year’s ceremony.

The Highest Gross Increase award went to the South Central Correctional Center in Licking with $795; Greatest Percentage Increase went to South Central Correctional Center at 57%; Outstanding Agency of the Year in Region 7 went to Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop G; and Outstanding Unsung Hero in Region 7 went to Sgt. Charley Hogue with Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop G.

Shop’n Save is the Presenting Sponsor of Missouri’s Torch Run, providing year-round fundraising assistance. For more information you can visit



(Van Buren) – Christmas is a favorite time of year for many people. The smell of freshly baked cookies, snowflakes falling softly to the ground and twinkling lights around every corner remind us of special memories of years past. In honor of the season, Ozark National Scenic Riverways was pleased to host An Ozark Christmas Sunday on December 14.

The holiday season was kicked off with the official lighting of the park Christmas tree by Superintendent Bill Black. Family, school faculty and students gathered to listen to the Van Buren 3rd graders sing Christmas carols and the reading of Ozark Christmas stories created by the students. Old Saint Nick even dropped in for a visit.

Preparations for the event began weeks ago as the Van Buren 3rd graders studied past Ozark Christmas traditions with their teachers and Park Ranger, Cathy Runge. After gaining an understanding of their unique Ozark heritage, the students created their own traditional Ozark Christmas ornaments to decorate the park Christmas tree. The students also wrote stories about their Ozark Christmas traditions and the winning essays received gift cards.

(Mountain Home) – Arkansas State University-Mountain Home (ASUMH) offices will be closed on Tuesday, December 23, through Friday, January 2 for the annual holiday break.

Campus offices will re-open Monday, January 5. Spring 2015 registration for current and new students is January 6-9. Classes begin Monday, January 12.

For more information on classes that will be offered during the spring 2015 semester, please call 870-508-6100. A full schedule is available online at

To find out how to get started at ASUMH, contact Allison Haught, Recruiter, at 870-508-6262.

Cars drive by the Sony Pictures Plaza building in Culver City, Calif., Friday, Dec. 19, 2014. President Barack Obama declared Friday that Sony "made a mistake" in shelving the satirical film, "The Interview," about a plot to assassinate North Korea's leader. He pledged the U.S. would respond "in a place and manner and time that we choose" to the hacking attack on Sony that led to the withdrawal. The FBI blamed the hack on the communist government. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Cars drive by the Sony Pictures Plaza building in Culver City, Calif., Friday, Dec. 19, 2014. President Barack Obama declared Friday that Sony “made a mistake” in shelving the satirical film, “The Interview,” about a plot to assassinate North Korea’s leader. He pledged the U.S. would respond “in a place and manner and time that we choose” to the hacking attack on Sony that led to the withdrawal. The FBI blamed the hack on the communist government. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

(Honolulu) (AP) – President Barack Obama says the United States is reviewing whether to put North Korea back on its list of state sponsors of terrorism as Washington decides how to respond to what he calls an “act of cybervandalism,” not one of war, against a movie company.

Sony Pictures Entertainment, which said it canceled the theatrical release of “The Interview” after distributors refused to show it, pledged to find a way to get the film out. “How it’s going to be distributed, I don’t think anybody knows quite yet,” a Sony lawyer said. The comedy involves a plot to assassinate North Korea’s leader.

Obama is promising to respond “proportionately” to an attack that law enforcement blames on North Korea. “We’re not going to be intimidated by some cyberhackers,” he said.

The president said the U.S. would examine the facts to determine whether North Korea should land back on the terrorism sponsors list.

“We’re going to review those through a process that’s already in place,” Obama told CNN’s “State of the Union” in an interview broadcast Sunday. “I’ll wait to review what the findings are.”

While raising the possibility of a terrorism designation, Obama also asserted, “I don’t think it was an act of war. I think it was an act of cybervandalism that was very costly, very expensive. We take it very seriously.”

Obama’s description drew immediate scorn from two Republicans who are longtime critics of his foreign policy.

“It is a new form of warfare, and we have to counter with that form of warfare with a better form of warfare,” said Arizona Sen. John McCain.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina called it “an act of terrorism” and favored reimposing sanctions and adding North Korea to the terrorism list. The U.S. needs to “make is so hard on the North Koreans that they don’t want to do this in the future.”

North Korea spent two decades on the list until the Bush administration removed it in 2008 during nuclear negotiations. Only Iran, Sudan, Syria and Cuba remain on the list, which triggers sanctions that limit U.S. aid, defense exports and certain financial transactions.

But adding North Korea back could be difficult. To meet the criteria, the State Department must determine that a country has repeatedly supported acts of international terrorism, a definition that traditionally has referred to violent, physical attacks rather than hacking.

North Korea threatened to strike back at the United States if Obama retaliated, the National Defense Commission said in a statement carried by the country’s official Korean Central News Agency. The statement offered no details of a possible response.

The U.S. is asking China for help as it considers how to respond to the hack. A senior Obama administration official says the U.S. and China have shared information about the attack and that Washington has asked for Beijing’s cooperation.

The official was not authorized to comment by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

China wields considerable leverage over North Korea, but Obama has accused China of carrying out cyberthefts, too.

In the CNN interview, taped Friday in Washington before Obama left to vacation in Hawaii, Obama renewed his criticism of Sony’s decision to shelve “The Interview,” despite the company’s insistence that its hand was forced after movie theaters refused to show it.

Obama suggested he might have been able to help address the problem if given the chance. “You know, had they talked to me directly about this decision, I might have called the movie theater chains and distributors and asked them what that story was,” he said.

Sony’s CEO has disputed that the company never reached out, saying he spoke to a senior White House adviser about the situation before Sony announced the decision. White House officials said Sony did discuss cybersecurity with the federal government, but that the White House was never consulted on the decision not to distribute the film.

“Sometimes this is a matter of setting a tone and being very clear that we’re not going to be intimidated by some, you know, cyberhackers,” Obama said. “And I expect all of us to remember that and operate on that basis going forward.”

David Boies, a Sony lawyer, said “The Interview” is “going to be distributed, and what Sony has been trying to do is to get the picture out to the public,” while protecting the rights of company employers and moviegoers.

Boies said theaters “quite understandably” decided not to show the film as scheduled because of the threats. “You can’t release a movie unless you have a distribution channel,” he said.

North Korea has denied hacking the studio, and on Saturday proposed a joint investigation with the U.S. to determine the true culprit. The White House rejected the idea and said it was confident North Korea was responsible.

But the next decision – how to respond – is hanging over the president as he vacations with his family in Hawaii.

Obama’s options are limited. The U.S. already has trade penalties in place and there is no appetite for military action.

“I think we’ve got to recognize that this is not a Sony security problem. This is a national security problem,” Boies said.

Boies appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Graham was on CBS’ “Face the Nation” and McCain spoke on CNN.

Associated Press

Mourners stand at attention as the bodies of two fallen NYPD police officers are transported from Woodhull Medical Center, Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014, in New York. An armed man walked up to two New York Police Department officers sitting inside a patrol car and opened fire Saturday afternoon, killing both officers before running into a nearby subway station and committing suicide, police said. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Mourners stand at attention as the bodies of two fallen NYPD police officers are transported from Woodhull Medical Center, Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014, in New York. An armed man walked up to two New York Police Department officers sitting inside a patrol car and opened fire Saturday afternoon, killing both officers before running into a nearby subway station and committing suicide, police said. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

(New York) (AP) – The warning came just moments too late: A man who had shot his ex-girlfriend a few hours earlier had traveled to New York City and vowed online to shoot two “pigs” in retaliation for the police chokehold death of Eric Garner.

Just minutes before a wanted poster for Ismaaiyl Brinsley arrived in the NYPD’s Real Time Crime Center, he ambushed two officers in their patrol car in broad daylight, fatally shooting them before killing himself inside a subway station.

Brinsley, 28, wrote on an Instagram account before Saturday’s shootings: “I’m putting wings on pigs today. They take 1 of ours, let’s take 2 of theirs,” two city officials with direct knowledge of the case confirmed for The Associated Press. He used the hashtags Shootthepolice RIPErivGardner (sic) RIPMikeBrown – references to the two police-involved deaths that have sparked major protests around the country.

The officials, a senior city official and a law enforcement official, were not authorized to speak publicly on the topic and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Police said Brinsley approached the passenger window of a marked police car and opened fire, striking Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu in the head. The officers were on special patrol doing crime reduction work in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn.

“They were, quite simply, assassinated – targeted for their uniform,” said Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, who looked pale and shaken at a hospital news conference.

The sudden and extraordinary violence stunned the city, prompted a response from a vacationing President Barack Obama and escalated weeks of simmering ill will between police and their critics following grand jury decisions not to indict officers in the deaths of Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Missouri. The New York police union head declared there’s “blood on the hands” of protesters and the city’s mayor.

Brinsley took off running after the shooting. Officers chased him down to a nearby subway station, where he shot himself in the head as a subway train door full of people closed. A silver handgun was recovered at the scene, Bratton said.

“This may be my final post,” Brinsley wrote in the post that included an image of a silver handgun. The post had more than 200 likes but also had many others admonishing his statements.

Bratton said the suspect made very serious “anti-police” statements online but did not get into specifics of the posts.

The Rev. Al Sharpton said Garner’s family has no connection to the suspect and denounced the violence.

“We have stressed at every rally and march that anyone engaged in any violence is an enemy to the pursuit of justice for Eric Garner and Michael Brown,” he said.

Brown’s family condemned the shooting in a statement posted online by their attorney.

“We reject any kind of violence directed toward members of law enforcement. It cannot be tolerated. We must work together to bring peace to our communities,” the family said.

Garner, who was black, died after he was taken down by a white officer during an arrest on suspicion of selling loose cigarettes. The 18-year-old Brown, who was black, was fatally shot by a white officer. He was unarmed.

Most of the protests have been peaceful, particularly in New York. Bratton said police were investigating whether Brinsley had attended any rallies or demonstrations and why he had chosen to kill the officers.

Brinsley was black; the officers were Asian and Hispanic, police said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the killings of Ramos and Liu strike at the heart of the city.

“Our city is in mourning. Our hearts are heavy,” said de Blasio, who spoke softly with moist eyes. “It is an attack on all of us.”

Scores of officers in uniform lined up three rows deep at the hospital driveway. The line stretched into the street. Officers raised their hands in a silent salute as two ambulances bore away the slain officers’ bodies. The mayor ordered flags at half-staff.

In a statement Saturday night, Attorney General Eric Holder condemned the shooting deaths as senseless and “an unspeakable act of barbarism.” Obama, vacationing in Hawaii, issued a statement saying he unconditionally condemns the slayings.

“The officers who serve and protect our communities risk their own safety for ours every single day – and they deserve our respect and gratitude every single day,” Obama said. “Tonight, I ask people to reject violence and words that harm, and turn to words that heal – prayer, patient dialogue, and sympathy for the friends and family of the fallen.”

The tragedy ended a bizarre route for Brinsley that began in Maryland early Saturday. He went to the home of a former girlfriend in a Baltimore suburb and shot and wounded her. Police there said they noticed Brinsley posting from the woman’s Instagram account threats to kill New York officers.

Baltimore-area officials sent a warning to New York City police, who received it moments too late, Bratton said.

But the posts were apparently online for hours, though it’s not clear if anyone reported them. Bratton called on New Yorkers to alert authorities of any threats to police they see – even if they don’t seem real. “That information must get into the hands of the police officers,” he said.

Brinsley had a history of arrests in Georgia for robbery, disorderly conduct and carrying a concealed weapon. Bratton said his last-known address was in Georgia, but he had some ties to Brooklyn.

Meanwhile, the department grieved the sudden and violent loss of the officers.

“Both officers paid the ultimate sacrifice today while protecting the communities they serve,” Bratton said Saturday night.

Ramos was married with a 13-year-old son and had another in college, police and a friend said. He had been on the job since 2012 and was a school safety officer. Liu had been on the job for seven years and got married two months ago.

Rosie Orengo, a friend of Ramos, said he was heavily involved in their church and encouraged others in their marriages.

“He was an amazing man. He was the best father and husband and friend,” she said. “Our peace is knowing that he’s OK, and we’ll see him in heaven.”

De Blasio and the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, Patrick Lynch, have been locked in a public battle over treatment of officers following the grand jury’s decision in the Garner case. Just days ago, Lynch suggested police officers sign a petition that demanded the mayor not attend their funerals should they die on the job. On Saturday, some officers turned their backs on de Blasio as he walked into the hospital.

“That blood on the hands starts at the steps of City Hall, in the office of the mayor,” Lynch said. “After the funerals, those responsible will be called on the carpet and held accountable.”

De Blasio was scheduled to attend Mass with Cardinal Timothy Dolan at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Sunday.

The last shooting death of a New York City officer came in December 2011, when 22-year veteran Peter Figoski was shot in the face while responding to a report of a break-in at a Brooklyn apartment. The triggerman, Lamont Pride, was convicted of murder and sentenced in 2013 to 45 years to life in prison.

(West Memphis) (AP) – Officials say progress is being made toward a merger agreement between Arkansas State University and the Mid-South Community College.

Both the ASU board of trustees and the MSCC board of trustees have scheduled meetings on Jan. 9 to consider the plan.

ASU President Charles L. Welch says MSCC officials have done an excellent job of outlining their expectations and vision for the institution. Welch says officials are enthusiastic about the system’s ability to help achieve their goals in education and workforce training.

If approved by the boards of the two schools, the merger would be effective July 1 following approval of the Higher Learning Commission. MSCC President Glen Fenter says that would give officials ample time to work through the legislative session and budget planning for the next year.