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Associated Press

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Soaring numbers in a monthly survey of business supply managers suggest economic conditions are improving in nine Midwest and Plains states.

 

More than three dozen organizations have accepted invitations to take part in the inaugural parade after President-elect Donald Trump is sworn in Jan. 20, the Presidential Inaugural Committee announced. More than 8,000 participants will represent the various groups. A list of the organizations:

— 1st Cavalry Division Horse Cavalry Detachment, Fort Hood, Texas

— 1st Infantry Division Commanding General's Mounted Color Guard, Fort Riley, Kansas

— Boone County Elite 4-H Equestrian Drill Team, Burlington, Kentucky

(Information from: The Commercial Appeal, http://www.commercialappeal.com)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - One-year-old formerly conjoined twin girls from Nigeria are continuing their recovery at a Tennessee hospital.

The Commercial Appeal  reports the parents of Miracle and Testimony Ayeni are delighted by their progress. Mary Ayeni says her daughters "eat whatever you put in front of them."

DELLWOOD, Mo. (AP) - Missouri Gov.-elect Eric Greitens has named leaders for his public safety team.

Greitens announced Monday that Drew Juden, director of public safety in Sikeston, will be his director of public safety. Greg Favre, command staff officer for the St. Louis Fire Department, will be deputy director.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Ethics and right-to-work bills are among the top priorities for Missouri Republican legislative leaders and GOP Gov.-elect Eric Greitens.   Lawmakers return Wednesday to the Capitol for the roughly five-month 2017 session.   Republicans hold supermajorities in both chambers but have been checked by outgoing Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon. He was barred by term limits from seeking re-election.   Greitens might be a closer ally to GOP lawmakers.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A Tennessee group of businesses is charging into the fiery debate over how to balance LGBT rights and religious conviction.

About 300 companies, from health-care giant HCA to FedEx, have joined under the moniker Tennessee Thrives to oppose religious objection and bathroom bills, like the one in North Carolina that has stirred a months-long uproar.

Companies in other GOP-led states have successfully voiced opposition under similar names: Georgia Prospers, Opportunity West Virginia, Missouri Competes.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The stakes confronting Republicans determined to dismantle President Barack Obama's health care law were evident in one recent encounter between an Ohio congressman and a constituent.

"He said, 'Now you guys own it. Now fix it. It's on your watch now,'" recalled GOP Rep. Pat Tiberi, chairman of a pivotal health subcommittee. "And this is a supporter."

LITTLE ROCK (AP) --A former U.S. senator who defended an impeached president and a former U.S. representative who helped draft articles of impeachment against another president are among the notable Arkansans who died during 2016.

Former governor and Sen. Dale Bumpers died New Year's Day at age 90 and former U.S. Rep. Ray Thornton died April 13 at age 87.

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  LONSDALE, Ark. (AP) — Damon Helton had one problem when he bought a 160-acre farm in Lonsdale four years ago — he didn't know the first thing about farming.

Three years out of the military, the retired Army Ranger was still transitioning back to civilian life. He had a well-paying sales job, but it took him away from his wife and children too often.

So he bought the Farm at Barefoot Bend in Garland County.

"Then, it was like 'Holy crap, what did we just do?'" he said.

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  LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas could be in for some wild weather next week as spring-like temperatures give way to thunderstorms and a cold front that could be packing snow and freezing rain.

The National Weather Service says high temperatures will reach into the 60s and 70s Monday before a cold front pushes in from the Plains to the state, triggering showers and thunderstorms. Forecasters say some of the storms could be severe across southeast Arkansas.

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  LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The number of Arkansas residents participating in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has decreased by nearly 25,000 since new federal requirements were imposed in January.

The state began enforcing requirements that limit the food stamp program to three months for able-bodied, childless adults ages 18 to 49, unless they're in school or participating in volunteer or job-training programs.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A trial date has been set for a man accused of fatally shooting a northeast Arkansas farmer over a dispute about herbicide use.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports (http://bit.ly/2isVn2W ) Missouri resident Allan Curtis Jones will stand trial March 13 in the death of 55-year-old Monette resident Mike Wallace.

Circuit Judge Melissa Bristow Richardson also set a plea date of March 6 for Jones. Jones will go to trial if he fails to reach a plea deal with prosecutors.

Jones has pleaded not guilty.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — More than 300 people from law enforcement, medicine and other specialties gathered in Memphis for the Heroin and Opioid Training Summit to discuss growing use of the drugs.

Media outlets report that the summit, organized by the U.S. Attorney's Office of West Tennessee and held Tuesday at the Bass Pro Pyramid, was the first of its kind in Memphis. U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton says the purpose of the summit was to share information among the disparate groups represented and discuss options to combat the problem.

Arkansas Economic Development Commission

OSCEOLA, Ark. (AP) — Production is beginning at a new, $1.3 billion steel mill in northeast Arkansas.

According to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Big River Steel has begun operations in its melt shop and hot mill at the new facility in Mississippi County. The steel mill was the first "superproject" to be approved under a 2004 state constitutional amendment that allows the state to borrow money to help lure major employers.

ASH FLAT, Ark. (AP) — A man who has been on death row for the 1986 killings of a man and a woman has been resentenced to life in prison without parole.

The Batesville Guard (https://guardonline.com/?p=225354) reports Steven Victor Wertz was resentenced Tuesday by the Arkansas Supreme Court.

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STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Some rice farmers can use much less water and get the same yield by flooding their fields at the start and end of the season, and letting them dry out a bit in between, Mississippi State University researchers say.

That's a radical change from recommendations across the Rice Belt to keep two to four inches of water in the fields, irrigation specialist Jason Krutz said in a news release. Instead, he recommends letting fields dry until water is 4 inches below the soil surface, then re-flooding them.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas' attorney general says the state will receive nearly $53,000 in a settlement with the owner of the Ashley Madison adultery dating website.

The agreement is part of a $1.6 million settlement that will be paid to 13 states and the District of Columbia following an investigation led by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission into a massive breach of the company's computer systems and the outing of millions of its members.  Ashley Madison is owned by Toronto-based Ruby Corp.

PINE BLUFF, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas-based Simmons First National Corp. has announced plans to buy an Oklahoma bank in a deal valued at more than $564 million.

Simmons, which is based in Pine Bluff, announced Wednesday that it would purchase Southwest Bancorp, Inc. of Stillwater, Oklahoma. Southwest Bancorp is the parent company of Bank SNB, which has 31 branches in four states.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas legislative panel has rejected a disputed $160 million contract with an Indiana company to take over the operation of seven youth lockup facilities in Arkansas.

The panel voted Tuesday not to review the Department of Human Services' contract with Youth Opportunity Investments LLC, which is set to take over the facilities Jan. 1.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The chief of staff to Arkansas Treasurer Dennis Milligan is retiring.

Milligan said in a statement Monday that Jim Harris is retiring after serving as chief of staff since Milligan took office in 2015.

Harris said in the statement that he needs to focus on his health.

A retirement date was not announced. Harris has previously worked in both the governor's office and for the state Department of Emergency Management.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri labor union leader is proposing to take the battle over so-called right-to-work laws to a vote of the people.

Missouri AFL-CIO President Mike Louis has filed several versions of an initiative petition with the secretary of state's office that would ask voters to amend the constitution to ensure union negotiating rights.

Louis concedes that the Republican-led Legislature and incoming Republican Gov. Eric Greitens are likely to enact a right-to-work law during the 2017 session that prohibits mandatory union fees in workplaces.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Jobs are on the rise and unemployment continues to decline in Missouri.

The state Department of Economic Development on Tuesday announced seasonally adjusted nonfarm payroll employment grew by 1,900 jobs in November.

Jobs again hit a record high, with a total of more than 2.8 million in the state. The state gained about 57,000 jobs in the past year, which is a growth of a little more than 2 percent.

The most job growth last month occurred in the accommodation and food services industry.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Rhodes College in Memphis has named Marjorie Hass as the school's 20th president.

Hass, who is currently president of Austin College in Sherman, Texas, will become the first female president in Rhodes' 168-year history. She succeeds current President William E. Troutt in July following his retirement after 18 years as Rhodes president.

Rhodes has an enrollment about 2,000 undergraduate students.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri woman who sued American Family Insurance for retaliation and age and sex discrimination has been awarded $20 million in punitive damages.

Deborah Miller, 60, of Blue Springs, also was awarded $450,000 in actual damages on Friday by a Jackson County jury, The Kansas City Star reported (http://bit.ly/2gydiVH ). She was removed from her manager position in a corporate restructuring but continues to be a company agent.

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LABADIE, Mo. (AP) — Two additional air monitors will help to determine if Missouri's large coal-fired power plant complies with federal safety thresholds for an airborne pollutant.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced new safety standards for sulfur dioxide emissions more than six years ago. Ameren Missouri said its preliminary tests show the air near its coal-fired Labadie Energy Center meets the standard, but questions have been raised about the placement of existing sulfur dioxide monitors.

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