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Pictured from left: WP Firefighter Shawn Bice, Sonny Smith and Amy Cecil of Wayward Son Productions, WP Fire Chief Tim Bean, WP Fire Captain Kurt Wilbanks, WP Firefighter Corbin Thompson and WP Assistant Fire Chief Roy Sims.  (Provided)

Pictured from left: West Plains Firefighter Shawn Bice, Sonny Smith and Amy Cecil of Wayward Son Productions, West Plains Fire Chief Tim Bean, West Plains Fire Captain Kurt Wilbanks, West Plains Firefighter Corbin Thompson and West Plains Assistant Fire Chief Roy Sims. (Provided)

(West Plains) – Wayward Son Productions has donated $750 to the MDA Boot Drop for the West Plains Fire Department.

The boot drop took place on Saturday, August 30. Firefighters were located at the Preacher Roe and West Main St. intersection, and at the intersections of Missouri Ave. and Broadway and Harlin and Elmore Drive.

West Plains Fire Chief Tim Bean told Ozark Radio News that the Boot Drop raised just over $5800 for the MDA, an almost $1000 increase from 2013′s campaign. Bean and the West Plains Fire Department thanks everyone who took the time and donated on Saturday.

West Plains FFA group. (Provided)

West Plains FFA group. Front row: Tyler Elliot, McGwire Roberts, Landon Bunch, Zach Miller, Mason Cook. Back Row: Caleb Cline, Brodie Wilson, Jacob Olsen, Cole Henry, Casey Watkins, Austin Reavis (Provided)

(Caulfield) – Ozark Sporting Clays of Caulfield held a High School Trap Shoot on Saturday, August 23.

West Plains FFA Team 1 took first place, the Howell-Oregon 4-H Seniors took second place, and West Plains FFA Team 2 took third.

In the junior division, the Cotter Shooting Sports group took first place.

$450 in cash prizes were awarded as well as trophies and door prizes.

Cotter team (Provided)

Cotter team. From left, Jarod Dewey, Dalton Orsborn, Zach Crawford, Justin Few, Michael Saunders. Back Row: Coaches Steven Dewey, David Orsborn (Provided)

Ozarks Sporting Clays thanks the event sponsors for their support, including Landmark Bank, Kwik Kar Service and Repair, Meek Lumber, Trillium Trust, and Ozark Wings Hunting Preserve all of West Plains.

(Lebanon) – Over the last few years, Cathy Johnson began to notice small bumps on the veins in her legs. Aside from the soreness, she didn’t think much of them until they suddenly began rupturing. “I was washing dishes in the kitchen. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see lines of blood on the walls and the ceiling,” the 59-year-old recalled. “Then I could hear the gushing coming from my leg, so I called the paramedics.”

Johnson endured nearly a decade of sporadic bursts and bouts of pain due to varicose veins, or veins near the skin’s surface that have become twisted and enlarged due to improper blood flow. As Johnson experienced, the condition commonly affects the veins of the legs with symptoms like itching, burning or tired, heavy legs with visible vein swelling. Relief for her finally came when her primary care physician at Mercy referred her to Dr. Karen Tabb, who had just begun a new, outpatient vein procedure at Mercy Clinic General Surgery – Lebanon.

“It starts with an ultrasound to look for incompetent or dilated veins,” Dr. Tabb explained. “Then we prep the leg and insert a catheter to collapse and close the enlarged leg veins in patients with varicose veins and Chronic Venous Insufficiency, a condition where the veins cannot pump enough blood to the heart. The tissue around the vein is injected with a numbing medication. This may cause a small amount of pain during injection. After that, there is little to no pain and it’s over within 30-45 minutes. Before this, we used vein stripping or other big surgeries.”

Johnson was Dr. Tabb’s first patient to undergo the procedure. “She talked with me the whole time,” Johnson said. “Immediately after she was done, I had no pain. I came back later to get my other leg done, and was able to drive myself home.” Most patients see positive results within two to six weeks.

“We’ve got a large group of patients who have been waiting for us to be able to offer this,” Dr. Tabb added. “Otherwise, they would have to drive at least an hour to get the procedure somewhere else.” Dr. Tabb says about 70 percent of Americans have some sort of venous insufficiency. “Many don’t know they have them, so they are the patients we want to target, so they avoid complications later in life.”

“I never had to stop doing my day-to-day activities,” Johnson said. Her veins have disappeared and her legs are slowly returning to their normal color. “It’s just so nice not to be in any pain.”

To learn more about the vein procedure at Mercy Clinic General Surgery – Lebanon, call (417) 533-6780.

Rhy Norton working in the lab. (Provided)

Rhy Norton working in the lab. (Provided)

(Springfield) – Mental stress can cause physical reactions in our body – for example, a nervous stomach. Currently, researchers at Missouri State University’s Center for Biomedical and Life Sciences (CBLS) within Jordan Valley Innovation Center are investigating the gut brain axis – the communication between the gut and central nervous system.

According to Rhy Norton, microbiology lab coordinator at Missouri State and research microbiologist at CBLS, they are trying to characterize the relationship between the gut microbiota – or the bacteria that live in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract – and the central nervous system and related disorders.

What is the gut microbiota?

Gut microbiota consist of over 100 trillion bacterial cells that live in the GI tract – approximately 10 times more cells than composes a human body, noted Norton. They serve to harvest and store energy, and they are efficient at extracting extra energy from the food you eat – even the indigestible part of your diet. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship (between you and these bacteria), and the gut microbiota also can block out other pathogens from your GI tract.

You are what you eat

“In recent years, there’s been a change in how we think about enteric diseases or enteric upset. We used to think one pathogen or microbe equaled one disease. Now we believe more GI disorders relate back to a misbalance in those microorganisms,” he said.

Misbalance may lead to irritable bowel syndrome, Clostridium difficile or (commonly known as C. diff) and other metabolic disorders, like diabetes or obesity.

“Most obese individuals have a different subset of bacteria that are more efficient at getting energy from the food they eat. These same bacteria tell the body to store fat more efficiently and in larger amounts,” he said.

Norton explained that gut microbiota can train your immune system to identify good bacteria and harmful ones, produce hormones that regulate fat storage, or harvest and even produce vitamins and antibiotics. They can also produce chemicals – microbial neurometabolites – that are identical to neurotransmitters and neuromodulators in an individual’s body.

“Things like dopamine and serotonin can be produced in your gut, released into the body and have an immediate impact on the central nervous system,” Norton added.

He is building on research conducted by Dr. Paul Durham, director of CBLS. Durham’s research focus in the central nervous system, and specifically in the last few years he has turned his attention to understanding chronic pain.

“Your gut microbiota is a garden: You have your normal fauna, but invasive species can come in and disrupt the productivity and nutritional value of your garden,” said Durham. “If you’re under chronic stress and pain, that seems to change the microbiome in an unfavorable way to allow invasive species to get the upper hand…. Can you correct this? Can we reintroduce certain foods to restore homeostasis within the gut and will that then correct the nervous system axis?”

Modifying diet is the easiest way to address the bacteria in the gut, noted Norton. One goal of the research is to develop a test that could be administered by a physician to identify which gut microbiota are present in an individual compared to a healthy individual, and prescribe dietary changes to increase the healthy bacteria. This could then reduce a number of health issues – not just in the stomach, but in the whole body.

Pictured are 2014-2015 ASUMH Student Ambassadors (left to right, front to back): front: Briana Leonard, Mountain Home, AR; Tatanya Jones, Mountain Home, AR; Kaycee Grissum, Mountain Home, AR; Corrina Riggs, Flippin, AR. Middle: Brad Eubanks, Armorel, AR; Heather Yarbrough, Steele, MO; Michael Wehmeyer, Mountain Home, AR; Jody Barnett, Gainesville, MO. Back: Stephen Kruse, Mountain Home, AR; Kedrin Rayburn, Mountain Home, AR; Samuel Hubbard, Mountain Home, AR; Nicholas Wilhite, Mountain Home, AR. Not pictured:  Hannah Duvall, Viola, AR

Pictured are 2014-2015 ASUMH Student Ambassadors (left to right, front to back): front: Briana Leonard, Mountain Home, AR; Tatanya Jones, Mountain Home, AR; Kaycee Grissum, Mountain Home, AR; Corrina Riggs, Flippin, AR. Middle: Brad Eubanks, Armorel, AR; Heather Yarbrough, Steele, MO; Michael Wehmeyer, Mountain Home, AR; Jody Barnett, Gainesville, MO. Back: Stephen Kruse, Mountain Home, AR; Kedrin Rayburn, Mountain Home, AR; Samuel Hubbard, Mountain Home, AR; Nicholas Wilhite, Mountain Home, AR. Not pictured: Hannah Duvall, Viola, AR

(Mountain Home) – Arkansas State University-Mountain Home (ASUMH) recently announced its 2014-2015 Student Ambassadors.

The role of the student ambassadors at ASUMH is to assist the administration with promotion of the university, represent the student body at special events, and assist with recruiting of students.

Student Ambassadors receive a scholarship and are chosen through an application and interview process.

For more information, contact Christy Case Keirn at 870-508-6109 or Allison Haught at 870-508-6262.

This Oct. 2, 2013, file photo shows Vicki Maturo, of Culver City, Calif., as she protests against the government shutdown outside the federal building in Los Angeles. The election of 2014 is an election of contradictions. A surly electorate holds President Barack Obama in low regard and gives Congress even worse marks, yet for all their anger, a historic few are motivated enough to vote and those that do are poised to "keep the bums in." (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

This Oct. 2, 2013, file photo shows Vicki Maturo, of Culver City, Calif., as she protests against the government shutdown outside the federal building in Los Angeles. The election of 2014 is an election of contradictions. A surly electorate holds President Barack Obama in low regard and gives Congress even worse marks, yet for all their anger, a historic few are motivated enough to vote and those that do are poised to “keep the bums in.” (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

(Washington) (AP) – A surly electorate that holds Congress in even lower regard than unpopular President Barack Obama is willing to “keep the bums in,” with at least 365 incumbents in the 435-member House and 18 of 28 senators on a glide path to another term when ballots are counted Nov. 4.

With less than 10 weeks to the elections, Republicans and Democrats who assess this fall’s midterm contests say the power of incumbency – the decennial process of reconfiguring congressional maps and hefty fundraising – trumps the sour public mood and antipathy toward gridlocked Washington.

“Despite the incredibly low polling, favorable ratings for Congress, it’s still an incumbent’s world,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics that tracks political money.

That leaves many voters angry, not only with the political reality but their inability to change it.

“I can’t get over where they say people are going to be able to keep their seats when they’re not doing their jobs. I just don’t understand it,” said retired teacher Pauline Legendre after voting in Minnesota’s Democratic primary last month.

The voter disgust is palpable, evident in blistering comments at summertime town halls and middling percentages for incumbents in primaries. Yet no sitting senator has lost and only three congressmen got the primary boot. Come Election Day, only a fraction of the electorate will be motivated enough to vote – if history is any guide.

Congressional hopefuls are whipsawed by the two dynamics.

“It’s going to be a challenge for any candidate running for Congress to suggest that they have all the answers or that somehow there’s something about them that’s so inspiring” that voters are going to forget “how disenchanted or disaffected they are with government at the federal level,” said Ryan Costello, a Republican seeking an open House seat in southeast Pennsylvania where just 12 percent of GOP voters turned out in the May primary.

Still, the candidates press ahead, with Republicans laser-focused on gaining the six seats necessary to grab the Senate majority and control Congress for the remainder of Obama’s presidency. Five Democratic retirements give the GOP a clear shot to capture control. So do races in conservative-leaning states such as Louisiana, North Carolina and Arkansas, where white Southern Democrats are nearly extinct.

The GOP figures it’s half-way to its goal, with a solid advantage in open contests in South Dakota, West Virginia and Montana. Republicans are optimistic about the open seat in Iowa, less so about Michigan, and energized by their prospects in Colorado and Alaska. If a GOP wave materializes, it could be in the Senate.

In the House, Republicans are expected to pad their majority – currently 233-199 with three vacancies – with the goal of matching or surpassing the 246 seats the GOP held from 1947-49.

Fueling the battle is what’s expected to be a record-breaking flow of campaign cash. The parties’ campaign committees and their allied outside groups are spending at a rate certain to exceed the $3.6 billion price tag of the 2010 midterm elections.

House Republicans who saw a wave election in January 2010 – the year Democrats lost 63 seats – don’t expect a comparable sweep in 2014 simply because redistricting reduced the number of opportunities. On that, Democrats agree, though an Obama decision on immigration could change the dynamic.

On the cusp of the fall election season, fewer than two dozen House Democrats and Republicans are in real jeopardy in November.

The GOP is counting on opposition to Obama to motivate its core voters. To counter that situation, Democrats have dispatched 444 organizers to 48 districts to get out the vote, with another 250-plus ready for the September-to-November sprint as the party typically faces a drop-off in midterm voting.

The Democratic Party is employing reminder pledge cards – “1 million votes for 2014″ – the number they say decided 65 competitive House races in 2012. Democrats maintain that they had a shot two years ago, but Obama’s miserable performance in his first presidential debate sank the party’s chances.

It’s an uphill fight as the president’s party typically loses seats in non-presidential election years.

At a meeting last month with small business owners and workers at a wood fabricating plant in Quarryville, Pennsylvania, Republican Rep. Joe Pitts got an earful from local farmer, Michael Appel, 48, who pressed the nine-term congressman to do more to stop Obama.

“I’m wondering, especially when it comes to Obamacare, how the House is going to start holding the president accountable for making law out of whole cloth?” Appel asked.

“It’s not that we wouldn’t like to, it’s a matter of what we can do,” Pitts responded. “You need the House, the Senate and the president. The problem is we don’t have those two.”

As staff urged the attendees to vote, Appel erupted in frustration: “I voted for Joe Pitts and all he’s told me so far up here is he’s powerless.”

Pitts said in an interview that it’s up to lawmakers to educate voters about the limits of divided government.

“I share their frustration,” Pitts said. “I understand they’re not as involved so they don’t understand a lot of it, but they have a responsibility to turn out next time if they’re concerned, because there are real consequences to these elections in public policy.”

Democratic incumbents have cast themselves as outsiders as they sympathize with hostile voters.

New York Rep. Dan Maffei says “we gotta hold `em accountable” in his campaign ad. Iowa Rep. Dave Loebsack didn’t mince words when he told constituents, “Congress is an incredibly dysfunctional mess and everyone knows that,” and blamed the lack of compromise.

In York, Pennsylvania, first-term Republican Rep. Scott Perry insisted that the House had been doing its job by passing bills, but that cooperation was lacking from the Democratic-led Senate and Obama.

One voter asked him whether, if the Senate goes Republican in November, there might be more hope.

“If you’re expecting cataclysmic change immediately, I think that’s a bit beyond expectations,” Perry said.

FILE - This June 17, 2014, file photo shows President Barack Obama speaking at the Democratic National Committee's (DNC) annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) fundraiser gala in Gotham Hall, in New York. His name won't be on the ballot, but Obama will shape the midterm elections like no other. For Republicans, he is a punch line who fires up conservatives and reaches dissatisfied independents. And some Democrats won't even mention his name. It's left Obama able to do little more than raise money ahead of an election that will define how he spends his final two years in office. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

FILE – This June 17, 2014, file photo shows President Barack Obama speaking at the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) fundraiser gala in Gotham Hall, in New York. His name won’t be on the ballot, but Obama will shape the midterm elections like no other. For Republicans, he is a punch line who fires up conservatives and reaches dissatisfied independents. And some Democrats won’t even mention his name. It’s left Obama able to do little more than raise money ahead of an election that will define how he spends his final two years in office. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

(Washington) (AP) – Hampered by low approval ratings and an unfriendly electoral map, President Barack Obama enters the fall campaign as a liability to some vulnerable Democrats and a target for Republicans trying to fire up conservatives and appeal to disillusioned independents.

Mindful of his precarious political position, Obama is charting a midterm election strategy intended to help where he can and, perhaps most importantly, do no harm to Democrats.

Thus far, that has meant embracing his status as the party’s most prolific fundraiser. While Democrats have grumbled in past election cycles about Obama’s level of commitment to the party’s success, the president has been an aggressive fundraiser during the 2014 campaign, headlining 40 money events this year, with more to come this fall.

Obama is also expected to do targeted outreach as Election Day nears, using radio interviews, online appeals and other strategies to encourage young people and African-Americans to vote.

White House officials say Obama probably will campaign in October for individual candidates, namely those running for the House, as well as gubernatorial candidates in contested states such as Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Yet the president will be largely sidelined in nearly all of the races that will determine November’s biggest prize: control of the Senate for the remainder of his presidency.

The most competitive Senate contests are in states where Obama has never been popular or has fallen out of favor with voters. Those states include Louisiana, Arkansas, Alaska, and North Carolina.

“We will go where we’re most helpful and we will not go where it’s not helpful,” White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said about Obama’s Senate strategy.

With just two months to go until Election Day, Obama has yet to campaign alongside a Democrat at risk of losing in November. He planned to hold a July fundraiser with Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, but the embattled incumbent pulled out at the last minute, citing a need to stay in Washington for votes.

Of course, it’s more than a conservative-leaning electoral map that has some Democrats trying to keep Obama at arm’s length.

For much of the year, his approval rating among the American public has hovered in the low 40s, the lowest of his presidency. He also has been battered throughout the summer by a seemingly endless string of foreign policy crises.

A Gallup poll conducted in August put public support for Obama’s handling of foreign affairs at 36 percent. His approval rating on the economy sits at 35 percent, reflecting the fact that many Americans are yet to feel the impact of higher economic growth and lower nationwide unemployment.

Republicans see Obama’s difficult stretch as a boon for their electoral fortunes. They are using the prospect of neutralizing the president for his final two years in office as a way to motivate conservatives to show up in an election where turnout is expected to be low.

GOP leaders are casting incumbent Democrats as little more than a rubber stamp for what they claim is the president’s failed agenda.

“After voting with him anywhere between 90 and 100 percent of the time, it’s easy to see that a vote for a 2014 Democrat is a vote for another two years of Obama,” said Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Republicans themselves are experiencing their own historically low approval ratings. But the GOP is all but certain to maintain control of the House. Republicans need to pick up just six seats in order to achieve a majority in the Senate for the first time in Obama’s presidency.

That leaves Obama with the grim reality that even the most favorable outcome of the fall campaign will be a continuation of the divided Congress that has stymied nearly all of his second-term legislative goals.

White House officials appear resigned to the notion that few legislative victories await them even if Democrats hold the Senate. Instead, they are casting the fight to retain control of the chamber as crucial to staving off Republican challenges to current laws and ensuring that the president can get nominees confirmed.

During a fundraiser in August, Obama tried to motivate Democrats by hinting that “we’re going to have Supreme Court appointments” during his final years in office.

There are some bright spots for Obama.

His health care law rebounded after a deeply flawed rollout and no longer looks to be the drag on Democrats that it appeared to be earlier this year. Democrats say the president remains their best asset for rallying core constituencies who could sway close elections, particularly young people and black voters.

“He’s one of the strongest motivators for our grassroots in terms of voter turnout,” said Rep. Steve Israel, the New York lawmaker who serves as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

(St. Louis) (AP) – A health system with hospitals in Missouri, Illinois, Oklahoma and Wisconsin has started working with a bank to offer interest-free loans to patients with unpaid medical bills.

Since SSM Health Care inked a deal with Commerce Bank five months ago, $6.5 million has been lent to about 4,000 patients, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Patients get the loans without undergoing credit checks, and Commerce Bank receives a service fee for administering them.

“The need for something like this has always existed,” said Paul Sahney, vice president of revenue management for SSM Health Care, noting that out-of-pocket health care costs are rising significantly.

Hospitals have long worked out payment plans with patients in-house. But Sahney said his hospitals aren’t positioned to effectively manage monthly payments from patients like banks already do with home and car loans.

Sahney expects the new relationship with Commerce will ultimately drive down the health system’s bad debt, which grew from $157 million in 2012 to $204.7 million in 2013.

Mark Huebner, vice president of health care banking for Commerce Bank, said partnering with hospitals “fits in the wheelhouse of Commerce Bank perfectly.”

SSM can easily submit the payment information to the bank when a patient expresses interest. From there a patient with a balance of $7,000 or more for hospital services is eligible for a five-year term loan. There is no minimum payment, but the first payment must be $300, Sahney said.

Anyone whose hospital bill is more than $300 is eligible for the loan. No one is denied the interest-free loan even if it appears the person has no ability to pay.

If a patient stops paying or defaults, SSM “would then be the ones to move forward with attempts to collect,” said SSM spokesman Steve Van Dinter.

Similar loans are being offered to patients at other hospitals. About a year ago, Chesterfield-based Mercy Health began working with Commerce to offer loans to patients in the St. Louis area, and recently expanded its loan options with Commerce.

Like SSM, Mercy will now switch to interest-free loans for up to a five-year term instead of a just a three-year option, said Robin Sumner, executive director of patient services.

Executives with Oregon-based CarePayment, which offers a plan similar to Commerce’s program, say business is booming as more providers, mainly hospitals, look to partner with the finance company.

“We’ve seen a significant uptick in interest from providers in the last 12 months,” said Chief Operating Officer Ann Garnier. “We’re seeing double-digit growth.”

(Columbia) (AP) – Boone County could spend nearly $450,000 by the end of the year to defend itself and county employees in a lawsuit filed by a man whose murder conviction was vacated.

The Columbia Daily Tribune reports that county commissioners are set to take action Tuesday on a proposed $240,000 budget revision. The lawsuit already has resulted in two other budget revisions that totaled $100,000 each.

The legal fees are the result of a lawsuit filed by Ryan Ferguson. Ferguson was convicted in 2005 of killing Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt. Last year, a state appeals court panel ruled prosecutors had withheld evidence from his attorneys and that he didn’t get a fair trial

(Jefferson City) – Today is Labor Day, and all city, county, state and federal offices are closed in observance of the holiday.