State digest 11/10/05

Thursday, November 10, 2005

St. Louis' gonorrhea rate is worst in United States

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis, which has ranked high in cases of sexually transmitted diseases in the past, has the worst gonorrhea rate in the nation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The city also ranked second in chlamydia and fifth in rates of syphilis nationwide. The CDC report, which uses 2004 data, says young people, minorities and men who have sex with men were at greatest risk. Syphilis and chlamydia rates rose nationwide, while gonorrhea rates dropped to a historic low.

Businesses in clear with jobless insurance plan

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- State labor officials gave businesses good news Wednesday: The federal government approved Missouri's unemployment insurance plan, meaning businesses won't see a big tax increase. The state started borrowing money from the federal government in 2003 to maintain the fund from which unemployment benefits are paid. But the state had to start paying that money back. It submitted a repayment plan to the U.S. Department of Labor during the summer. If the plan had been rejected, the U.S. government would have imposed what's essentially a $50 million tax increase on Missouri businesses to start recouping its money.

Birds overload radar at Lambert Airport

ST. LOUIS -- A large flock of migratory birds shut down the radar system at St. Louis' Lambert Airport on Wednesday, forcing Kansas City to pick up the slack temporarily. The Federal Aviation Administration said about 3,000 birds -- probably geese -- passed over the airport about 7 a.m., but that the airport's radar perceived them as 3,000 aircraft. That caused the radar system to overload and fail, said FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory. The FAA is working on technology to help radar systems discern birds from airplanes. But for now, the equipment can't make the distinction, Isham Cory said. The radar switch caused only minor delays on a couple of flights.

Man gets two years in prison for art heist

ST. LOUIS -- A former employee of a business that specialized in storing valuables has been sentenced to two years in prison for conspiring to steal millions of dollars' worth of works by artists including Picasso and Matisse. Donald R. Rasch, 44, of University City, apologized before sentence was imposed Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Charles Shaw. Rasch and another former employee of the now-defunct Fine Arts Express pleaded guilty earlier to a felony count of conspiracy to transport stolen goods in interstate commerce. They are accused of stealing paintings, prints and sculptures in June 2002 -- around the time the business was moving from St. Louis to suburban Bridgeton. Prosecutors said the men claimed to own the art when they sold it in 2003 and 2004.

Carnahan unveils new Missouri 'Blue Book'

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Secretary of State Robin Carnahan unveiled the latest edition of the state manual Wednesday, dedicating it to community leaders across the state. "They're the unsung heroes that do the everyday work in their communities," Carnahan said at a Capitol ceremony. The manual, dubbed the "Blue Book" because of its cover, contains detailed information on state and local government, from elected officials and election results to judges to state agency duties and personnel, including salaries. The 2005-2006 edition is 1,520 pages long. The state budgeted about $525,000 to produce more than 44,000 copies, and Carnahan said the project came in under budget. Its blue cover and traditional design harkens back to the state manuals of the early 1900s through the 1960s, she said. The theme for this edition is "foundations," with photos focused on the architecture of Missouri and essays on some important elections in state history.

MoDOT touts progress with new funding

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The state Department of Transportation released its annual report Wednesday, touting the work it has done, or planned, after voters last year approved an amendment directing more money to roads. Work has started on the first phase of the agency's plan for spending the extra money, with the focus on repaving 2,200 of the most traveled miles in the state's 32,000-mile road system. The repaving is expected to be done by December 2007. The agency also is speeding up construction of planned projects and has taken on about three dozen major new ones thanks to the influx of money. Transportation officials say 47 percent of major Missouri highways are in good or better condition and expect that figure to rise to 75 percent by the end of 2007 with completion of many new projects. But the transportation report said even with the money from the amendment, Missouri only moves from 45th to 44th in the nation in revenue per mile.

-- From wire reports

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