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Headlines for Monday, October 7, 2019

20 Missouri Residents Indicted for Allegedly Trying to Sell Kilo of Heroin, Other Drugs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A federal grand jury has indicted 20 Missouri residents for allegedly trying to sell at least a kilogram of heroin and other drugs.  U.S. Attorney Timothy Garrison's office says 16 of the 20 defendants were arrested October 2 for purported drug trafficking dating as far back as 2011.  Most of the defendants are from Kansas City.  Roughly 200 law enforcement officers were involved in the arrests.   Investigators seized 23 guns, $75,000 in cash, and drugs including heroin and cocaine.  Officers also say they found a bullet-proof vest and a ledger on a nightstand that appeared to document drug sales.

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Update: Police Arrest 1 of 2 Wanted in Deadly Kansas Bar Shooting

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police have identified two suspects in a Kansas bar shooting that left four people dead and five others wounded.  Police in Kansas City, Kansas, announced early Monday that 23-year-old Javier Alatorre was arrested Sunday afternoon in Kansas City, Missouri, while 29-year-old Hugo Villanueva-Morales is still at large.  Both men have been charged with four counts of first-degree murder. Authorities had said the two men had apparently gotten into some sort of disagreement with people inside Tequila KC Bar, left, then returned with handguns early Sunday. Around 40 people were inside the small bar when gunfire erupted around 1:30 am.  Police say four men were killed. Their names weren't immediately released.  It's unclear whether Alatorre has a lawyer to comment on his behalf. Police say Villanueva-Morales is considered "armed and dangerous."  (Read more about this story.)

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Police Arrest Suspect in Deadly Wichita Bar Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have arrested a suspect in a deadly shooting that took place outside a Wichita bar last month.  Wichita Police arrested a 42-year-old man Saturday in connection with the September 29 shooting outside Magoos Bar and Grill. Police said the shooting was related to an earlier disturbance in the bar.  Police said 29-year-old Demario Cooks died at a local hospital after the shooting.  The suspect faces charges of criminal homicide, illegal gun possession by a felon and drug charges.  Both the suspect and the victim were on parole at the time of the shooting.

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Help Wanted! Kansas Has 56,000 Vacant Jobs

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR / KNS) -- Kansas has the most vacant jobs ever recorded since the state started tracking the number fifteen years ago. An annual survey of Kansas employers shows more than 56,000 jobs open across the state. Tyler Tenbrink, with the Kansas Department of Labor, says that’s the result of both job growth and a low unemployment rate of 3.2 percent.  The greatest numbers of job openings are clustered around the Kansas City area and in south-central Kansas. The occupations in high demand range from retail workers to nurses and truck drivers.

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GM-UAW Talks Take Turn for Worse; Settlement Not Near

DETROIT (AP) — The top negotiator in contract talks between General Motors and the United Auto Workers says bargaining has hit a big snag.  In an email to union members, UAW Vice President Terry Dittes (DIT-ez) casts doubt on whether there will be a settlement soon in a dispute that's led to a 21-day strike by 49,000 union members.  Dittes' letter says the union presented a proposal to the company Saturday. He says GM responded Sunday by reverting back to an offer that had been rejected and made few changes.  He says the company isn't willing to fairly compensate workers.  GM says it continues to negotiate in good faith "with very good proposals."  The strike has shut down GM's U.S. production since September 16 and hampered manufacturing in Mexico and Canada.  GM's Fairfax Assembly Plant in Kansas City, Kansas, employs more than 2,400 workers.  (Read more here.)

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Man Shot by Kansas City Police Charged with Several Counts

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Prosecutors say a Kansas City man shot by police after officers say he tried to hit them with his vehicle has been charged with several criminal counts.  The Kansas City Star reports that the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office has charged 46-year-old James Ponder with three counts of assault, one count of property damage and one count of resisting arrest.  Police say Ponder was shot Thursday in northeast Kansas City after officers stopped his vehicle. Police say Ponder initially stopped but then accelerated toward the officers.  One of the officers fired, but the vehicle continued on, hitting two police cruisers, several civilian vehicles and fences as it drove through residential neighborhoods. Police say Ponder eventually fled on foot and was found later at a home.  No officers were injured.

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Missouri Real Estate Suit Draws Justice Department Interest

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Justice Department is looking into a Missouri class-action lawsuit accusing national real estate brokers of conspiring to charge excessive fees.  The Kansas City Star reports that attorneys in the department's antitrust division noted in a recent court filing that it's investigating the matter.  A pair of Kansas City law firms sued major residential real estate brokerage companies this year on behalf of Missouri residents who have sold a house since April 2015.  The Missouri suit is comparable to one filed in Illinois that some spectators have said could put the business model of residential real estate brokerages in jeopardy.  The National Association of Realtors is asking a judge to throw out the lawsuit.

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U.S. Researchers on Front Line of Battle Against Chinese Theft

WASHINGTON (AP) — Emails and other documents obtained through public records requests by The Associated Press show the FBI's far-reaching efforts to caution colleges that some Chinese scientists aspire to steal U.S. research for Beijing's gain.  The emails show that university administrators routinely have sought briefings from law enforcement officials, even as some schools struggle with balancing the government's warnings against the institutions' commitment to inclusive, international academic environments.  The FBI has reached out to colleges and universities across the country as the law enforcement tries to stem what American authorities portray as the wholesale theft of technology and trade secrets by researchers tapped by China.  The emails underscore the extent of U.S. concerns that universities, as recruiters of foreign talent and incubators of cutting-edge research, are particularly vulnerable targets.

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U.S. Supreme Court to Review Kansas' Lack of Insanity Defense

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to consider how far states can go toward eliminating the insanity defense in criminal trials as it reviews the case of a Kansas man sentenced to die for killing four relatives.  The high court plans to hear arguments Monday in James Kraig Kahler's case. He went to the home of his estranged wife's grandmother about 20 miles south of Topeka the weekend after Thanksgiving 2009 and fatally shot the two women and his two teenage daughters.  Kahler's attorneys have argued that he was in the grips of a depression so severe that he experienced an extreme emotional disturbance that disassociated him from reality.  His attorneys argue Kansas violated the U.S. Constitution by abolishing the right to pursue an insanity defense.

(-Related-)

U.S. Supreme Court Begins Election-Year Term Full of Big Cases

WASHINGTON (AP) — The justices are returning to the Supreme Court bench for the start of an election-year term that includes high-profile cases on about abortions, protections for young immigrants and LGBT rights.  The court meets this (MON) morning for its first public session since late June. First up is a death-penalty case from Kansas about whether states can abolish an insanity defense for criminal defendants.  The justices also will hear arguments in a challenge to a murder conviction by a non-unanimous jury in Louisiana.  The term could reveal how far to the right and how fast the court's conservative majority will move, even as Chief Justice John Roberts has made clear he wants to keep the court clear of Washington partisan politics.

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DEA to Open Office in Southwest Kansas as Drug Seizures Increase

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — The federal Drug Enforcement Administration plans to reopen an office that in closed two years ago in Garden City.  The Kansas News Service reports the office is reopening at a time when methamphetamine seizures are increasing in Finney County and some drug-related shootings have been reported in the area.  Finney County is one of about a dozen Kansas counties that the DEA classifies as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.  It isn't clear when the office will open. William Callahan, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA's St. Louis Division, said a team of six agents, who have started working, will also monitor opioids.  He said the amount of meth seized through August by the county's drug task force more than doubled the amount for all of 2018.

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Kansas City Airport Announces 2 New International Routes

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Travelers will have to more direct flights from Kansas City International Airport to Mexico beginning in February.  Airport officials announced this week that Vacation Express will fly one nonstop route to Cancun and another to Puerto Vallarta on Sundays.  The Kansas City Star reports other airlines serve Cancun from Kansas City but the airport has not had nonstop service to Puerto Vallarta since Frontier ended service there in 2015.  Vacation Express is a tour company that operates charter flights to sunny destinations.  The announcement comes just days after Icelandair announced it would drop seasonal service to Reykjavik — Kansas City's only nonstop transatlantic service.

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KPR's daily headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays and updated throughout the day.  KPR's weekend summary is usually published by 1 pm Saturdays and Sundays.

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