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(Mountain View) – Resolutions are easy to break, but not if you have a team holding you accountable. Just in time for the New Year, Mercy St. Francis Hospital is bringing back its successful “Biggest Loser” challenge.

Teams and participants are encouraged to sign up now for the 12-week contest, which kicks off with a weigh-in on January 6. It will be followed by a series of fun events to get the community in better shape through March 31.

Last year, 57 people accepted the challenge, losing a combined 867 pounds – nearly a half-ton of weight. The Mountain View Food Bank received more than $400 in donations; this year, 25 percent of entry fees will be donated to the food bank’s backpack program.

Registration costs $20 and requires a signed waiver and photo. All weigh-ins will take place at Mercy St. Francis Hospital at 100 W. Highway 60 in Mountain View. The first will be Tuesday, January 6, from 7:30 AM to 7:30 PM. The final weigh-in is Tuesday, March 31; winners will be announced by Friday, April 3.

Mercy will provide cholesterol and diabetes tests on the first and last weigh-ins for contestants who would like to track their progress; testing requires fasting.

Contest rules and a schedule of events are available at bit.ly/BiggestLoserMtnView. Those planning to form a team are encouraged to give Carol Schmidt a call by Dec. 31. She can be reached at 417-934-7097.

(Jefferson City) – The Missouri Corn Growers Association and Missouri Corn Merchandising Council will be awarding seven deserving students $1,000 scholarships.

Applications for the Missouri Corn Scholarship Program are now available for high school seniors and college juniors pursuing a degree in agronomy or related area of agriculture. This year there will be an increase in the amount of each scholarship from $750 to $1,000.

High school senior applicants must be Missouri residents from a Missouri farm or rural area. They must plan to attend a two- or four-year Missouri college or university and major in agronomy or agriculture-related field. The scholarship funds will apply toward the freshman year of college expenses for high school winners.

College applicants must also be Missouri residents from a Missouri farm or rural area and currently a junior enrolled in a Missouri four-year college or university majoring in agronomy or agriculture-related field. The scholarship funds will apply toward the senior year of expenses for college winners.

Missouri Corn Scholarship applications are available for download at www.mocorn.org under the “Resources” tab.

(Mountain View) – Ozarka College in Mountain View will offer a four-day Photography and Photoshop continuing education course, beginning in February.  The course will be taught by Patrick Ward and will meet daily from February 2-5, 2015 from 5-7 PM.

Tuition is $20 per student and pre-registration is required. There will be two levels of photography taught.  The first will cover the basics of camera use; students will learn how to properly use the shutter speed, aperture and ISO to consistently get the photograph they desire.  Students need to bring a camera that has adjustable settings, preferably a Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) that has the ability for multiple lenses and modes.

The second level of photography will cover preparation for specific shooting settings such as sports, portraiture, landscapes and macro.  Proper lighting techniques using natural lighting as well as flash photography will also be covered.

The first level of Photoshop will get everyone familiar with the complicated but powerful world of Photoshop CC.  Students should be prepared to take notes during this portion of the class; bringing a notepad or laptop is encouraged. The second level of Photoshop will cover, in detail, how and why to work in layers, mask images for fine detail editing, fix blemishes, patch tool as well as many others.

For more information about additional items this course will cover or to register, contact Lindsay Wilson-Galloway, Director of Ozarka College Off-Campus Operations in Mountain View by calling 870-269-5600 or email lhgalloway@ozarka.edu.

(Jefferson City) (AP) – Missouri officials are ratcheting back their expectations for the state’s finances while forecasting modest growth for the future.

Gov. Jay Nixon said Thursday that he has agreed on new revenue projections with budget leaders from the Missouri House and Senate. That agreement is noteworthy, because the Democratic governor and Republican lawmakers were unable to reach a consensus revenue estimate a year ago.

The officials now are predicting Missouri revenues of $8.37 billion for the 2015 fiscal year that runs through June. That’s down about $367 million from what Nixon originally had forecast and down about $218 million from what lawmakers originally predicted.

The governor and legislators are predicting the state’s 2016 revenues to grow by about 3.6 percent over that revised forecast for 2015.

(Jefferson City) (AP) – Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon intends to issue an administrative rule to ensure home care workers get a hike in pay.

The Office of Administration on Thursday confirmed the governor’s plans after home care workers earlier that day caroled outside his mansion to request his help.

The workers bathe, feed and tend to elderly Missourians or others who can’t care for themselves.

They’re currently paid a minimum of $7.50 an hour, but an agreement ratified by the state Quality Home Care Council ensures them between $8.50 and $10.15 an hour.

Home workers who sang “We’re dreaming of our first contract” to the tune of “White Christmas” say they feared vendors wouldn’t pay them the promised wages without pressure from Nixon.

(Little Rock) (AP) – An Arkansas appeals court has ruled a 2012 routine background check by state game wardens violated a man’s constitutional rights.

In a 6-3 decision on Wednesday, the court ordered that Jimmy Pickle’s case be retried in a circuit court.

Pickle was arrested and eventually convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm after Game and Fish Commission officers asked him for his hunting license while he was duck hunting.

He had given them his name, because his license was in his truck. The game wardens ran a warrant check on Pickle, who was carrying a shotgun, and discovered he was a convicted felon and arrested him.

The court sided with Pickle, finding the game wardens violated the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.

(West Plains) – The West Plains Police Department has announced that they will be out in force for the rest of this month as part of the annual “Holiday DWI Campaign”. The crackdown, which will include high-visibility enforcement throughout West Plains, will run through January 1, 2015.

The West Plains Police Department said officers will be aggressively looking for drunk drivers during the crackdown and will arrest anyone caught driving substance-impaired.

Although it is illegal in all 50 States, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to drive drunk (having a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher), far too many people across the nation still get behind the wheel after consuming too much alcohol. The latest statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration underscore the serious nature of the nation’s continuing substance-impaired driving epidemic. In 2014, 223 people died in Missouri crashes involving impaired drivers, with 41 people killed and 242 seriously injured in Missouri traffic crashes between December 13, 2013 and January 1, 2014. Four of the fatalities and 32 of the serious injuries involved a substance impaired driver.

Police Chief Jeff Head noted that being arrested for substance-impaired driving brings a wide range of negative consequences into one’s life. Drunk drivers face jail time, loss of their driver licenses, and steep financial consequences such as higher insurance rates, attorney fees, court costs, lost time at work, and the potential loss of job. When family, friends and co-workers find out, violators also often face tremendous personal embarrassment.

For more information on the campaign, visit the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” Campaign Headquarters at www.TrafficSafetyMarketing.gov, or www.saveMOlives.com.

(Sikeston) – Twelve Southeast Missouri communities have been selected to receive $3.1 million in federal transportation alternative funds.

The local agencies selected to receive transportation alternative funds include Ava and Houston. Other towns include Bloomfield, Campbell, Senath, New Madrid, Poplar Bluff, Butler County, Piedmont, and others. The projects consisted of trails, historical preservation projects and sidewalks. A selection committee comprised of representatives from local regional planning commissions and the SEMO MPO reviewed applications before making their recommendations.

These funds, which are set aside by Congress to be used specifically for alternative transportation projects, allow communities to develop projects that improve the quality of a community and enhance the travel experience for people traveling by all modes.

A total of thirty-five applications were received this November totaling $8.5 million in requests.

(Washington) – Gasoline prices have hit the lowest levels since 2009, according to a new survey from the US Energy Information Administration. Amerine Woodyard with the EIA has the report:

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Gas in the local region is at an average of $2.22/gallon. Also, the U.S. average retail price for on-highway diesel fuel fell to its lowest level since January 2011 at $3.42 a gallon on Monday. That’s down 11.6 cents from a week ago.

(Little Rock) (AP) – A panel approved by voters to review and adjust salaries for Arkansas’ top elected officials is holding its first meeting.

The Independent Citizens Commission planned to meet Thursday at the state Capitol to begin its review of the salaries for Arkansas’ constitutional officers, legislators and judges. The seven-member panel was formed as part of a constitutional amendment approved by voters last month that imposed new ethics rules on lawmakers and eased their term limits.

The salaries for those officials had previously been set by the constitution, which allowed the Legislature to make cost-of-living adjustments. Supporters of the panel say it will help update salaries that pale when compared to other states.

The commission’s agenda on Thursday includes selecting a chair and vice chair.