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Headlines for Tuesday, October 8, 2019

 

Kansas Sees Rise in Syphilis Cases, Newborns with Disease

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas has seen a big jump in syphilis cases over the past five years and a spike in the number of infants born with the sexually transmitted disease.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Kansas reported 152 cases of primary and secondary stage syphilis in 2018, compared with just 60 cases in 2013.  That's an increase of 153%.  The rate of cases per 100,000 residents grew to 5.2 in 2018 from 2.1 in 2013.  Kansas had eight cases of newborns being born with syphilis in 2018. The state had only a single reported case from 2013 through 2017.  Kansas health officials say babies born with syphilis may be developmentally delayed, have seizures or die if the infection is not treated during a pregnancy.

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Judge Orders Extradition of Suspect in KKC Bar Shooting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri judge has ordered the extradition of a suspect in a Kansas bar shooting that left four people dead and five wounded, while the search continues for a second suspect.  Court records show that the judge issued the order today (TUE) after 23-year-old Javier Alatorre waived his right to fight being returned to Kansas.  Alatorre and 29-year-old Hugo Villanueva-Morales are charged with four counts of first-degree murder.  Police say surveillance video shows Villanueva-Morales arguing with someone and being forced to leave the bar in Kansas City, Kansas, late Saturday. Police say gunfire erupted when he returned about two hours later with Alatorre, who was arrested later Sunday in Kansas City, Missouri.  Police provided no further updates today (TUE) on the search for Villanueva-Morales but have warned that he should be considered "dangerous."

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Police Called to KCK Bar 2 Hours Before Shootings

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas City, Kansas, police chief says officers responded to reports of a disturbance at a bar two hours before a shooting left four people dead and five wounded.  Interim police Chief Michael York said Monday that officers could not find the man suspected of causing the disturbance and had no information that he planned return to the Tequila KC bar.  Police said Javier Alatorre, 23, and Hugo Villanueva-Morales, 29, were each charged with four counts of first-degree murder. Alatorre was arrested Sunday but Villanueva-Morales was still at large Monday afternoon.  Police said surveillance video shows Villanueva-Morales entering the bar, where he got into an argument and was told to leave late Saturday.  Authorities said both men returned early Sunday and opened fire.

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Son of Wyandotte County Sheriff's Captain Charged with Killing his Father

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The son of a Kansas sheriff's captain has been charged with fatally shooting his father.  Twenty-two-year-old Zachary Arnold was charged Monday with second-degree murder in the death of 57-year-old Chris Arnold. He was a captain with the Wyandotte County Sheriff's Office, but was off-duty when he was killed Saturday at his home in Kansas City, Kansas. No details have been released about what led up to the shooting.  Zachary Arnold is being jailed without bond in neighboring Johnson County, Kansas. No attorney is listed for him in online records.  Wyandotte County Sheriff Don Ash said in a Facebook post that Chris Arnold was "a man of integrity who loved his family, especially his son Zach, and served his community and his agency and we should honor that and we will."

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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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Second-Largest City in Kansas Now Bans LGBT Discrimination

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — The second-largest city in Kansas has passed an ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  The city council in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park voted 10-1 Monday to protect residents and employees from being denied housing, employment or services from businesses. But Overland Park leaders warned that the city's ordinance could become moot depending on the outcome of a federal lawsuit over whether federal civil rights law protects LGBT people from job discrimination, reported The Kansas City Star. A ruling is expected by next summer, in which the justices will determine whether it is legal to fire employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.  Despite the questions, backers of the proposal took the Overland Park action as a landmark development, reported KCUR.

Overland Park has a population of around 190,000, falling second in population only to Wichita, which has around 390,000 residents.  "It's fantastic," said Brett Hoedl, chair of the Equality Kansas of Metro Kansas City. "We assumed it was going to go this way, but I get jittery every time we go into one of these meetings."  He said it could create pressure for adoption of a statewide law. Nearly two dozen states outlaw discrimination against someone because they are LGBTQ. Missouri and Kansas aren't among them.  Council Member Dave White voted for the ordinance, but said he wanted more teeth in the legislation. The ordinance allows fines of up to $1,000.  "We're saying, 'Yes, it's illegal but we can only fine them,'" White said. "We can't do anything more than that and none of the money goes to the person who suffered the discrimination."

Councilman Jim Kite was the only one to vote against it. He explained he has concerns with the wording of the ordinance, but he believes the mediation process could be helpful for aggrieved citizens.  Other cities to pass non-discrimination ordinances include Kansas City, Kansas; as well as Lawrence, Manhattan, Merriam, Roeland Park and Prairie Village.

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Man Pleads Not Guilty in Missouri Case Tied to Missing Brothers

KINGSTON, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri man has pleaded not guilty to tampering with a vehicle rented by two missing Wisconsin brothers.  KSHB-41 reports that Garland Nelson pleaded not guilty during an arraignment Monday.  Missouri prosecutors allege Nelson abandoned a rental truck used by Justin and Nick Diemel, of Shawano County, Wisconsin. The brothers were visiting the Nelson farm in Braymer, Missouri.  The brothers were reported missing July 21 and are presumed dead. Human remains found on the Nelson farm have not yet been identified.  Nelson also faces charges in Kansas of endangering the food supply. Prosecutors there say Nelson didn't have proper health papers in May when he took 35 calves from his family's farm in Missouri to a farm in Fort Scott, Kansas.

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Kansas Businessman Greg Orman: No Plans to Run for Office Again

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Greg Orman says he has no plans to run for political office "anytime soon" after unsuccessful campaigns as an independent candidate for the U.S. Senate and governor in Kansas.  The Kansas City-area businessman made the statement in an email to supporters Tuesday touting a column for the RealClear Politics website that decried what Orman views as political corruption involving both major political parties.  He quoted Mark Twain: "There is nothing to be learned from the second kick of a mule." Orman received 6.5 percent of the vote in last year's governor's race. But he received nearly 43 percent of the vote in a race for the Senate in 2014 against longtime Republican Senator Pat Roberts, with no Democrat running.  Roberts is not seeking re-election to the Senate in 2020.

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Jury Awards Former Missouri Prison Guard $200,000 in Damages

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Jurors have awarded $200,000 in damages to a former Missouri prison guard who alleged that she was sexually harassed by fellow guards. The Kansas City Star reports that jurors also found in favor of Ana Barrios on her claims of gender discrimination and retaliation. But the jurors denied her claims of race and disability discrimination, as well as her request for punitive damages.  

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Greyhound Lines Apologizes for Forcing Texas Man Off Bus in Kansas

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) _ Greyhound Lines has apologized for forcing a Texas man off a bus in Kansas and for accusing him of being unruly and uncooperative.  Mohammad Reza Sardari was traveling from Dallas to Kansas City, Missouri, in November 2017 when he was thrown off a Greyhound bus at a bus station in Wichita.  The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that Sardari, who is Iranian, sued Greyhound in 2018 saying the bus driver discriminated against him after looking at his ticket and seeing his name.  In a statement last month, the bus company said Sardari wasn't unruly or uncooperative and that he was not removed from the vehicle by police as the company claimed in an earlier statement.  Greyhound apologized in the statement but maintains it didn't discriminate against Sardari.

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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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Kansas to Give Corporations More Time to File Income Taxes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is giving about 300 corporations an extra 30 days to file their state income tax returns because of the complexity of federal income tax changes enacted at the end of 2017.  The state Department of Revenue announced Tuesday that it will allow corporations to file their tax returns by November 15 without penalty if they'd already sought an extension on filing their federal taxes until October 15.  Corporations that time their tax filings to the end of their fiscal year also will receive an additional 30 days.  The department said the extra time is designed to ensure that corporations still owing some state income taxes for 2018 can file accurate returns following changes in the federal tax code championed by President Donald Trump.

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Michigan Governor Concerned About Impact of GM Strike

DETROIT (AP) — Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer says she's concerned about the growing impact of the United Auto Workers union's strike against General Motors.  Whitmer visited workers on the picket lines at a GM plant near the state capital of Lansing Monday as the strike entered its fourth week. She says it's important for both sides to find common ground as quickly as possible.  Whitmer is concerned about the state's economy as the strike impact spreads to the automobile supply chain.  The strike by 49,000 workers began Sept. 16 halted production at GM's U.S. factories. On Monday, GM shut down V8 engine and continuously variable transmission assembly lines at its Ramos Arizpe plant in Mexico, idling about 415 workers. Earlier the company closed two assembly plants in Mexico and Canada.

(-Related-)

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.  

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Unions Sue USDA Seeking to Halt New Pork Processing Rules

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The union representing workers at pork processing plants has sued the federal government to challenge new rules finalized in September that allow companies to set line speeds and turn more food safety tasks over to company employees.  The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and local unions in Minnesota, Iowa and Kansas have joined with nonprofit consumer advocacy group Public Citizen to file the lawsuit in federal court in Minnesota.  The lawsuit alleges that the new rules announced in September by the U.S. Department of Agriculture violate the Administrative Procedure Act because it is not backed by reasoned decision-making and should be set aside.  A USDA spokeswoman says the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

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Kansas City Jury Finds Former Missouri Prison Guards Guilty of Beating Inmate

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two former Missouri prison guards have been convicted of assaulting a handcuffed inmate and violating his rights.  A federal grand jury found Kansas City residents Travis Hewitt and Terrance Dooley, Jr. guilty of violating the prisoner's Constitutional protection against unreasonable force.  Federal prosecutors allege that in 2015 the guards handcuffed the disoriented inmate, who was going through severe alcohol withdrawal. In a cell out of sight of surveillance cameras, Hewitt, Dooley and two other guards reportedly beat him.  Doctors found that the inmate had broken ribs, a punctured lung, and bruises on his face.  Hewitt, 29, and Dooley, 38, face up to 20 years in federal prison without parole.  Two other guards recently pleaded guilty to charges related to their alleged role in the inmate's assault.

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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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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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Kansas Governor Launches Design of Economic Development Strategy

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly says she's launching the state's first formal strategy in 30 years to strengthen economic development.  Kelly pledged Monday to work with industries and economic development specialists to write a comprehensive plan to speed economic growth. A report is expected by March 2020.  The project will be coordinated by the Kansas Department of Commerce and the McKinsey consulting firm.  Secretary of Commerce David Toland says the state has lagged in key economic indicators such as GDP growth, population growth and labor participation.  Toland said the goal of the project is to make Kansas "best in class." Economic development professionals, business leaders and Department of Commerce staff will make up a steering committee that will guide the planning and development of the plan, called the "Framework for Growth."

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Kansas Truck Driver Sues BNSF Railway over Crash at Missouri Railroad Crossing

GREENFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas truck driver alleges in a lawsuit that two rail cars were "uncontrolled" when they struck his semi as he drove over a stretch of unmarked tracks in southwest Missouri in the dark.  The Springfield News-Leader reports that Brandan Bunnel's lawsuit against BNSF Railway was moved this month from state to federal court.  The suit says the collision happened in April 2018 as Bunnel left a Dade County grain elevator after unloading cargo there. The suit says he suffered "serious, life-altering injuries" and that his truck was damaged when the rail cars slammed into the vehicle's passenger side.  The suit says that at the time the crossing had no signs indicating the crossing was there, but that stop signs and "private railroad crossing" signs have now been placed there.

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Justices Weigh Case over Unanimous Verdicts

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court appears ready to require that juries in state criminal trials be unanimous.  The justices heard arguments on the first day of the term Monday in an appeal by a Louisiana man who is serving a life term for killing a woman after a jury voted 10-2 to convict him. Oregon is the only other state that allows for non-unanimous convictions for some crimes.  Louisiana voters have changed the law for crimes committed beginning this year.  There appeared to be wide agreement on the court to jettison a 1972 ruling that required unanimous verdicts in federal, but not state trials.  There was one minor surprise when the justices took the bench Monday. Only eight justices were present. The court says 71-year-old Justice Clarence Thomas is at home, likely with the flu.  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was in her customary seat to the left of Chief Justice John Roberts. The 86-year-old Ginsburg asked the first question in the insanity arguments. Ginsburg was treated this summer for a tumor on her pancreas.

The nation's highest court also listened to a case from Kansas in which a convicted murderer is challenging the constitutionality of the state's lack of an insanity defense.  Read more about this case in the Topeka Capital-Journal.

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