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(Little Rock) (AP) – Incoming Republican U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton will be serving on the Banking and Armed Services committees when he takes office next year.

Senate Republicans on Monday announced their committee appointments for next year, when the GOP will hold a majority of seats of the chamber. Cotton, an Army veteran who is currently a congressman representing south Arkansas, defeated two-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor last month.

Cotton was also named to the Joint Economic Committee, the Select Committee on Intelligence and the Special Committee on Aging.

Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman was newly appointed to the Rules and Administration Committee. He’ll continue serving on the Agriculture, Appropriations, Environment and Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

The Missouri Department of Conservation is partnering with the Missouri 4-H Foundation on a year-long survey at many of MDC's unstaffed shooting ranges to get feedback from range users on their experiences. Participation in the survey is completely voluntary. (Provided)

The Missouri Department of Conservation is partnering with the Missouri 4-H Foundation on a year-long survey at many of MDC’s unstaffed shooting ranges to get feedback from range users on their experiences. Participation in the survey is completely voluntary. (Provided)

(Jefferson City) – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is partnering with the Missouri 4-H Foundation to get public input on their use of the MDC’s unstaffed shooting ranges across the state.

The partnership involves a year-long survey where 4-H staff will ask MDC shooting range users to participate in a brief exit survey about their experiences using the ranges.

Surveys will be conducted at approximately 40 MDC unstaffed shooting ranges from January 1 to December 31, 2015. Participation in the survey is completely voluntary.

Missouri is a national leader in providing free, publicly-owned shooting ranges with MDC maintaining 70 unstaffed and five staffed shooting ranges around the state.

MDC partnered with Missouri 4-H for the survey because of their mutual interest and long-standing involvement in promoting shooting sports across the state.

For more information about MDC shooting ranges, including locations, hours, and driving directions, visit mdc.mo.gov/node/6209.

(Mountain Home) – Thanks to several community partners, gates were recently installed at the Donald W. Reynolds Library parking lot entrance, which will prevent vehicles from entering the parking lot during winter weather conditions.

Traffic on the parking lot causes snow and ice to become packed, which in addition to being a safety concern, causes difficulties and delays in clearing the lot. The Library thanks everyone who donated their time and labor to the project.

When it was determined a gate was needed, the Library reached out to people in the community for help as it has always done. When approached with the idea, Rick Hastings, welding instructor at ASU-Mountain Home, was enthusiastic about giving his students an opportunity to practice their skills on a project benefitting the community.

This winter, the gates will be closed at night when there is a high probability of frozen precipitation in the forecast, and they will remain closed until the driveway and parking are cleared. Fines will not be charged for materials that are late because of closing due to inclement weather. For Library information visit www.baxlib.org or the Library’s Facebook page. The Donald W. Reynolds Library Serving Baxter County is located at 300 Library Hill, Mountain Home, AR.

(Willow Springs) – This weekend marks the final presentation of a special Christmas production of the holiday classic “It’s A Wonderful Life” in Willow Springs.

Aaron Sydow with the Willow Springs Theater Guild spoke with Ozark Radio News and told us more about the production:

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He also talked about some of the talent behind the production:

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For more information on the show or tickets, you can call 417-256-6814.

(West Plains)- “The Permanence of Fine Printing in the Digital Age” will be the topic of the next Friends of the Garnett Library monthly luncheon meeting on Friday, January 9, on the Missouri State University-West Plains campus.

John Neal Hoover, executive director of the Mercantile Library Association for the St. Louis Mercantile Library, will present the program, which is related to the exhibit “The Art of the Printed Book Through the Centuries” that was on display at the Garnett Library earlier this year.

Hoover is a member of the history faculty at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and teaches classes in early American topical reading and seminars, as well as museum and historical society methods of curatorship. The St. Louis Mercantile Library remains the oldest library west of the Mississippi River in continuous existence.

In addition, Missouri State-West Plains Chancellor Drew Bennett will give a brief update on university activities. The luncheon and meeting will take place from 12-1PM at the Garnett Library located at 304 W. Trish Knight St. Parking is available in lots adjacent to the library on its west and south sides.

The cost of the meal is $10, and is payable at the door. Those wishing to eat are asked to make a reservation by calling 417-255-7940 or emailing FriendsofGarnettLibrary@MissouriState.edu by Tuesday, January 6.

(Mountain Home) – Mountain Home resident and author Timothy W. Bryant will be attending a book signing event for his new book Men of Oak this Saturday, December 20, from 10AM-4PM at Orschelin Farm and Home in Mountain Home.

In Bryant’s book the main character William O’Brien is a man raise to respect women folk; a man strong and confident enough to handle any situation that comes his way. Helping the good people of Hardwood build a church was just what William and his friend Thomas were more than willing to do. Moving a few bad men out of the way and helping a couple of ladies, well they were up to the job.

For more information, contact 405-458-5642 or Michelle Whitman at michelle@keymgc.com.

(West Plains) – AmVets Post 98 will be hosting their Annual New Year’s Eve Party December 31, 2014 at 7 PM.

Everyone is invited, especially veterans, family, friends and the general public in support of American veterans. Entertainment includes live music by Southern Justice, karaoke by Charlie Davis, dancing, refreshments, door prizes every 15 minutes, games, and more. There will be a champagne toast at midnight followed by breakfast at 2:15AM New Year’s morning.

The cost to attend this party is $10 per person, and seating is limited.

by Summer Ballentine
Associated Press

(Jefferson City) (AP) – A bill filed this month would require pregnant women to get permission from the father before having an abortion except in cases of incest and what the Missouri Republican who sponsored the legislation called “legitimate rape.”

If passed, state Rep. Rick Brattin’s bill would require women to obtain notarized written permission from the father to terminate a pregnancy. The mandate would be waived for rape and incest. An identical bill by the Harrisonville lawmaker died in committee last session.

“Just like any rape, you have to report it, and you have to prove it,” Brattin told Mother Jones in a statement that drew criticism from state Democrats. “So you couldn’t just go and say, `Oh yeah, I was raped,’ and get an abortion. It has to be a legitimate rape.”

Brattin’s comments led to comparisons to former Republican U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, who said in 2012 that women’s bodies have ways of not becoming pregnant from what he called “legitimate rape.”

Brattin told The Associated Press that his statement to Mother Jones referred to what is defined in state law as rape.

“What I was trying to explain is whatever is considered by statute to be a rape should apply in this,” he said. “I’m not going Akin here and trying to redefine what it is and all that kind of garbage.”

The bill is one of several introduced year after year that deal with abortion, and many never garner enough support to become law.

Still, the Republican-led General Assembly in September overrode a veto by the governor to enact a 72-hour waiting periods for an abortion, which is one of the nation’s longest and has no exceptions for rape and incest.

Sean Nicholson, the executive director of the progressive advocacy group Progress Missouri, said the bill likely is aimed at drumming up support and fundraising.

Nicholson said a woman might be unable to contact the man who impregnated her, and Democratic state Rep. Stacey Newman of St. Louis said Brattin’s bill would put women in abusive relationships at risk.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, who defeated Akin for the Senate seat, said the time necessary for criminal prosecution of rape would prevent many women from getting abortions.

“This is just a back-door way to eliminate any rape exception, unless the survivor gets a permission slip from her rapist,” McCaskill said in a written statement. She called the bill “offensive and absurd.”

Brattin said the bill aims to prevent women from using abortions as a form of contraception, and said he was motivated in part by male friends whose partners had abortions without notifying them first.

“If you have a father that wants to be a part of that child’s life,” Brattin said, “he should have that right.”

(Branson) (AP) – The Missouri Conservation Commission has approved a nearly $1.2 million contract to design a new nature center to replace the small visitor’s center at Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery.

The design contract was approved last week. A Missouri Department of Conservation official said the nature center should be finished and open to the public by 2017.

“The existing visitor center is very small and 30-plus years old,” said Jacob Careaga, design and development chief with the state agency. “It will be about similar in size to the Conservation Nature Center in Springfield but with more of an aquatic theme because of its location next to Lake Taneycomo and Table Rock Lake.”

The new building will include live fish and animal exhibits and auditorium space, the Springfield News-Leader  reported.

The new building, estimated to cost between $6 and $7 million, will be paid for with funds from a statewide conservation 1/8-cent sales tax and revenue from fishing and hunting licenses.

Missouri officials say the 2,500-square-foot visitor center, built in 1979, outgrew its ability to handle the large number of tourists and residents who stop by to learn about the fish hatchery, feed trout and walk on nearby trails.

Up to 215,000 people visit each year, Visitor’s center staff member John Miller said, but noted that a study conducted from July 2012 to June 2013 showed 308,000 people visited the center during that time.

The hatchery grows about 1.2 million rainbow and brown trout a year, and 700,000 of those are placed in Lake Taneycomo annually.

by Jim Salter
Associated Press

FILE - In this Nov. 28, 2014 file photo Police and Missouri National Guardsmen stand guard as protesters gather in Ferguson, Mo. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014 ended the state of emergency for unrest in the St. Louis area related to the grand jury announcement in the Ferguson case, lauding the efforts of police and the Missouri National Guard for preventing any loss of life.  (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

FILE – In this Nov. 28, 2014 file photo Police and Missouri National Guardsmen stand guard as protesters gather in Ferguson, Mo. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014 ended the state of emergency for unrest in the St. Louis area related to the grand jury announcement in the Ferguson case, lauding the efforts of police and the Missouri National Guard for preventing any loss of life. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

(St. Louis) (AP) – Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Wednesday ended the state of emergency that he declared for the St. Louis area ahead of unrest over the Ferguson grand jury decision, praising the work of police and the National Guard in preventing any protest-related deaths.

He issued his executive order on Nov. 17. Protests, including some that turned violent, broke out on Nov. 24 after St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch announced that the grand jury wouldn’t indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who is white, for the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed, black 18-year-old. Wilson has since resigned from the department in the St. Louis suburb.

“I want to thank state and local law enforcement, the leaders of the unified command, and the members of the Missouri National Guard for working tirelessly to protect the public,” Nixon said in a statement. “As the hard work of healing and rebuilding continues, the fact that not a single life was lost as a result of the unrest is a credit to the hard work and dedication of these brave men and women.”

On the night of the grand jury announcement, 700 members of the Guard were deployed in the St. Louis region. Nixon sent in 1,500 more troops after some of the unrest became violent that first night and led to looting and fires that destroyed 12 Ferguson-area businesses.

After deployment of the additional troops, scattered violence erupted the night of Nov. 25.

Protests continued in the following days but the violence ceased as local and state police stayed in charge of crowd control and the Guard protected buildings.

The actions of police have been widely criticized, with protesters and others saying officers were too quick to arrest peaceful demonstrators and displayed tactics that were too militarized.

Alexis Templeton, a 20-year-old college student and co-founder of Millennial Activists United, said Nixon sent the large number of Guard members and police officers to “instill fear.”

“I feel he was trying to run the narrative that protesters were dangerous,” she said Wednesday.

Templeton was among about 75 people who marched from St. Louis police headquarters to St. Louis City Hall – a frequent target of activists – to protest how police handled demonstrations related to the Brown shooting. They also claimed police have been intentionally targeting demonstration leaders for arrest.

Their protesting led to City Hall being quickly shut down. The closing affected office workers and citizens attempting to do city business. The city also canceled several public meetings scheduled for Wednesday.

“They have been changing up the tactics,” said Derek Laney, a community organizer charged with assault on a law enforcement officer who accused him of accidentally making contact while falling to the ground at an earlier City Hall “die-in” demonstration. “They want to intimidate us, they want to smear our names. They’re attempting to paint a picture to promote a narrative of violence.”

Several members of the city’s Board of Aldermen joined protesters outside the building in support of their efforts to gain entry. No arrests were reported and the protest was peaceful.

“This is a public building,” Alderwoman Megan Green said. “We support your right to be here.”

The Justice Department is conducting a civil rights investigation related to the Brown shooting. It’s not clear when those findings will be released.