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Jobless rate slowly inches downward

Columbus -- Ohio's jobless rate showed slow and steady improvement in December, state officials reported Jan. 18.

The state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for December was 6.7 percent -- down slightly from 6.8 percent in November and 6.9 percent in October, the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services said.

It's the lowest since July 2008, when the rate was 6.6 percent. The rate reached a high of 10.6 percent for several months in 2009 and early 2010.

Officials said the state's economy is improving slowly, and it will take time for a full recovery. Still, Ohio's unemployment rate for December was well below the national average of 7.8 percent, which was unchanged from November. Ohio's unemployment rate has improved from 7.9 percent in December 2011.

The number of unemployed in Ohio has decreased 70,000 in the past 12 months.

-- Associated Press

Settlements reached in 11 alleged abuse cases

Warren -- Undisclosed financial settlements have been negotiated for 11 men who say they were sexually abused by a Franciscan brother who taught and coached at a Catholic high school in Northeast Ohio three decades ago.

Attorney Mitchell Garabedian said Jan. 16 the settlements involved allegations against Brother Stephen Baker at John F. Kennedy High School in Warren from 1986-90. Because of statute of limitation issues, the cases were resolved without charges or lawsuits, officials said.

Mediation settlements involved the school, Third Order Regular Franciscans and Youngstown Catholic Diocese, which said it was unaware of the allegations until nearly 20 years after the alleged abuse.

Franciscans say they responded compassionately when notified. Baker has been removed from public ministry.

-- Associated Press

Ex-mayor must repay $19,000 he stole

Athens -- The former mayor of a small town in southeast Ohio must pay back more than $19,000 after pleading guilty to theft in office.

A judge in Athens County also ordered that the former mayor of Jacksonville can never hold public office again. The Athens Messenger reports that George Pallo apologized in court on Jan. 18.

Pallo stepped down from his office two weeks ago after serving as mayor for more than 30 years.

Authorities say he deposited money designated for the village into a fire fund and used some of the money for personal use.

They say he also opened a credit card in the village's name without authorization and bought a lawn mower.

-- Associated Press

2 arrested after assault rifle fire hits homes

Montville Township -- Two men have been arrested after authorities say bullets from an assault rifle they were firing traveled into the homes of residents 500 yards away.

The Akron Beacon Journal reports the panicked homeowners called 911 to report sounds of rapid gunfire hitting their houses in Montville Township in Northeast Ohio. Bullets became lodged into walls and a microwave.

Sgt. Matthew Neil of the Montville Township police says officers went to investigate the shots and a second round of gunfire started. An officer reported hearing bullets going over his head. Neil said the two men were shooting at paper targets with no back stop, and they had been drinking.

Officers seized an AK-47 assault rifle with 628 rounds and three handguns. Neil said charges are pending against the men.

-- Associated Press

State: Some dead birds dumped at park shot

Bentleyville -- State wildlife officials say some of the dead geese and ducks dumped along a northeast Ohio river had been shot.

The 25 Canada geese and 8 mallard ducks were found dead earlier this month, their bodies thrown over an embankment at Cleveland Metroparks' South Chagrin Reservation.

WEWS-TV5 reported Jan. 17 that at least four of the birds had been shot, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Investigators have said previously they believe the birds were taken illegally netted and penned on private property before their deaths.

-- Associated Press

Akron mulls texting while driving ban

Akron -- City Council is considering whether to ban drivers from sending text messages from behind the wheel.

A new state law already makes texting behind the wheel a secondary offense for adults. That means they have to be pulled over for speeding or some other offense before they can get a ticket for texting. It's a primary offense for those 18 and under, so they can be more easily ticketed. The Akron Beacon Journal reports Council members on Jan. 14 discussed a proposal that would make texting while driving a primary offense for drivers regardless of their age.

Akron's proposal is modeled after an ordinance approved by the Cincinnati City Council in 2010. Drivers would be banned from writing, sending or reading text messages and from interacting with Internet-based content.

-- Associated Press

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