VA chief pledges end to whistleblower retaliation
ST. LOUIS (AP) - The acting secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs says the beleaguered federal agency is making progress on a host of problems that led to his predecessor's forced resignation.
Former bank executive Sloan Gibson took over the VA in late May following the resignation of Eric Shinseki amid an uproar over treatment delays and falsified records at VA hospitals and clinics nationwide, including reports that dozens died awaiting treatment.
Gibson told the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Affairs Tuesday in St. Louis that he's frozen hiring at VA central offices and suspended senior performance awards for the year.
He also vowed to crack down on whistleblower retaliation one day after a private government watchdog released a critical report on the agency's treatment of whistleblowers.
Finances improve for struggling Normandy schools
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - State officials say a struggling St. Louis County school district should be able to make it financially. But they say the first day of class on Aug. 18 will provide a big test of whether a new state oversight program is working at Normandy schools.
Normandy schools were reconfigured by the State Board of Education in an attempt to revive the academically struggling district and keep it from collapsing financially.
Missouri education officials said Tuesday that Normandy ended the budget year with $1.5 million in operating funds and is project to finish the coming school year with $4 million.
Last school year, about 1,000 students transferred from Normandy to other districts. Because of state oversight changes, only one-third of those students are expected to be able to transfer this year.
KANSAS CITY SCHOOLS
Kansas City schools seek temporary state approval
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Kansas City School District is offering to end a lawsuit against Missouri if state education officials grant temporary provisional accreditation to the district.
The State Board of Education was meeting in a closed session Tuesday to discuss the offer.
Kansas City schools currently are unaccredited. The district filed a lawsuit last year challenging that decision.
The unaccredited status means the district must pay the costs of students choosing to transfer to other nearby schools.
Kansas City school officials say just 24 of their nearly 16,000 students applied to transfer during the school year that starts Aug. 11.
If Kansas City gains provisional accreditation after school starts, those transfer students could finish the year at their new schools but could have to return to Kansas City the following year.
Body found in fountain at Kansas City airport
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Police are investigating how a woman's body ended up in a pond connected to a fountain near the Kansas City International Airport.
Kansas City police on Tuesday identified the woman as 21-year-old Husenet Yassin.
Her body was found Monday afternoon during a routine check by airport security.
The Jackson County Medical Examiner's Office determined Yassin had died not long before her body was found.
A cause of death has not been determined. KCTV-TV reports police are listing the death as suspicious because of where the body was found.
Missouri man gets life in prison in fatal shooting
JACKSON, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri man has been sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole for killing a romantic rival in 2012.
The Southeast Missourian reports that 37-year-old Steven Williams was sentenced Monday. He was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Darcus Purl. Williams will be eligible for parole in 25 years.
Williams shot Purl during a confrontation over a woman. His attorney told the judge that Williams did not set out to kill Purl, and expressed remorse to Purl's family. The shooting occurred at the woman's home in Cape Girardeau.
Man accused of highway shootings claims innocence
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A man charged with 10 shootings on Kansas City-area highways says he can prove he's innocent.
The Kansas City Star reports Mohammed Whitaker is basing the claim largely on one piece of evidence that tracked which cellphone towers handled calls from his phone on April 2, the day of the sixth shooting.
He says if the time on the report - 5:30 p.m. - is correct, he could not be responsible for a shooting that day near Grandview. The records place his phone about nine miles from the shooting site just six minutes before it happened. He says he could not have covered that distance during rush hour on his way home from Overland Park, Kansas.
Police and prosecutors declined to discuss the April 2 incident or Whitaker's claims.
MISSOURI PARK-LEAD CLEANUP
Cleanup of lead at Missouri park nearing an end
PARK HILL, Mo. (AP) - A three-year cleanup project is nearing an end at a popular Missouri state park that is on the site of a shuttered lead mine.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the cleanup project at St. Joe State Park in St. Francois County is almost done. About 563,000 people visited the park last year.
The park is known for its sand flats, hills and 2,000 acres set aside for all-terrain vehicles.
Officials say the state park sits on land that once included a dump for mine waste called tailings. Park signs warn visitors the tailings may pose a health risk.
A 2011 agreement between a natural resources company and a Missouri department has allowed the park to remain open. The business is leading the $8.2 million cleanup.
Chesterfield bans e-cigarette sales to minors
CHESTERFIELD, Mo. (AP) - The St. Louis County town of Chesterfield has joined a growing list of municipalities preventing the sale of vapor nicotine products to minors.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Chesterfield City Council voted 6-1 Monday in favor of an ordinance that would prohibit the sale and possession of vapor products - or e-cigarettes - to those under 18.
E-cigarettes are electronic devices with liquid nicotine that claim to lack the carcinogens found in tobacco. The products produce vapor instead of smoke.
Supporters say they are less harmful than cigarettes and can help users quit tobacco use. But opponents say they still contain nicotine and should be kept away from minors.
Ellisville and Eureka have similar ordinances.
Dogs taken from owner who planned to abandon them
VAN BUREN, Mo. (AP) - More than three dozen small-breed dogs have been removed from a property in southern Missouri amid reports that the owner planned to dump them along the side of a highway.
The Humane Society of Missouri announced the rescue Tuesday. The dogs include 39 Chihuahua and mixed-breed dogs, some of them puppies, taken Monday from property in Carter County.
The Humane Society says one of its investigators went to the site and found the owner putting the dogs into a single crate, saying she intended to dump them along the roadway. She agreed to give up the animals, who were kept Monday night in Cape Girardeau before being transported to St. Louis for examination.
Officials say some of the dogs have external parasites.
An investigation continues.
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