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Headlines for Wednesday, September 18, 2019

 

University of Kansas Closing STEM Learning Center and Ending UKanTeach Program

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas plans to close its Center for STEM Learning and a program designed to attract math and science teachers.  Program director Steven Case said Friday that the center and the UKanTeach program will close at the end of the academic year because of budget cuts at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports students in the UKanTeach program complete a science, technology, engineering or math bachelor program while also receiving a teaching license in math or some science programs.  An email to students in the program said officials in the liberal arts and education departments are collaborating on a new program to continue the UKanTeach approach. The 112 students currently in the program will be allowed to obtain their teaching licenses.

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Slow Progress Reported in Talks as GM Strike Enters 3rd Day

DETROIT (AP) — Union and company bargainers are making progress toward a new contract as a strike by United Auto Workers continued into its third day.  The strike brought 33 General Motors factories to a halt, including the one in Kansas City.  Committees working on thorny issues such as wages, health insurance costs, use of temporary workers, and new work for plants slated to close worked until early evening Tuesday and are scheduled to resume bargaining again today (WED).  UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said the talks were moving slowly but progressing.  More than 49,000 workers walked off their jobs on Monday in a dispute over the union's quest to get a bigger share of GM's profits and the company's goal of cutting labor costs so they're closer to those at U.S. auto plants run by foreign companies.  Health care costs and giving temporary workers a clear path to permanent jobs were two major sticking points in talks toward a new four-year contract.  On the picket lines, many workers were hoping for a quick resolution, but said they're willing to stay out as long as needed.  "I can't see this lasting too long," said machinist Clarence Trinity as he carried a union sign at GM's engine and transmission factory in the Detroit suburb of Romulus, Michigan. "Both sides are losing bad."

Citi analyst Itay Michaeli, in a note to investors, estimated that the strike is costing the company $100 million per day in earnings. However, GM has enough inventory to supply dealers for 77 days at the current sales pace, although it's running lower on big SUVs, according to Cox Automotive.  If the strike ends soon, GM will be able to crank up production to make up for lost production time and mitigate some of the losses. But if it lasts more than a week, it will start to affect production in Canada and Mexico, putting more pressure on GM's inventory. If supplies dwindle, consumers may go to other brands, costing GM sales and market share.

GM and the union are negotiating at a time of troubling uncertainty for the U.S. auto industry.  GM is facing weakening sales, a deteriorating global economy and an unpredictable trade war as it tries to keep its labor costs in check through 2023. But workers want a bigger share of GM's healthy profits, which totaled more than $30 billion in the past five years.

Driven up by the longest economic expansion in American history, auto sales appear to have peaked and are heading down. Long-term challenges also loom: GM and other carmakers are struggling to make the transition to electric vehicles.  Gary Chaison, professor emeritus of industrial relations at Clark University in Massachusetts, expects the strike to end within a week. He sees it as more of a message to show how effective the union is, especially for nonunion workers who might be asked to join the UAW.  GM's offers, he said, seem to be pretty good, so the strike is a mystery to him. "I can't see a prolonged strike coming out of this," he said. "I think there's too much to lose and not enough to gain."

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Woman Arrested After 145 Pounds of Marijuana Discovered in Vehicle

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Shawnee County authorities say officers arrested a 30-year-old woman after finding marijuana worth an estimated $500,000 in her car.  Sheriff's Sgt. Todd Stallbaumer says the woman was stopped Tuesday on Interstate 70 in Topeka. Officers found about 145 pounds of marijuana in her car. He says the marijuana was destined for the Topeka area.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Janae Williams, of Topeka was booked into the Shawnee County jail facing possible charges of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and possession of drug paraphernalia.  Williams is being held without bond in the jail.

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Kansas Man Sues Leading E-Cigarette Maker

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City man who began vaping in high school and now suffers respiratory problems has sued a leading e-cigarette maker, alleging that it fraudulently concealed the addictive nature of its products.  KCUR Radio reports that Isaac Gant, of Johnson County, filed the lawsuit this week in federal court in Kansas City, Kansas. He's seeking class action status on behalf of all Kansas residents who bought or used products made by Juul. The suit seeks unspecified damages.  The filing comes as health officials investigate hundreds of breathing illnesses nationwide reported in people who used vaping devices. Seven deaths have been reported, including one in Kansas.  San Francisco-based Juul said last week in a statement that it's "never marketed to youth" and has ongoing campaigns to combat underage use.

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Wichita State, Kansas State Plan Satellite Nursing Program

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State University and Kansas State are hoping to offer a satellite nursing program in Manhattan.  The program would allow Kansas State students to earn a three-year bachelor's of science from the College of Health and Human Sciences. And, if they are accepted, students could also complete a two-year bachelor's of science in nursing through Wichita State on the Manhattan campus.  The program is intended to address a nursing shortage in Kansas.  The Manhattan Mercury reports Kansas State signed a memorandum of understanding last month. That starts the planning phase leading up to seeking the Kansas State Board of Nursing's approval for the program.  John Buckwalter, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences, said the program will attract students who would have attended Kansas State if it had a nursing program.

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Surgeon Banned from Operating Room at Wichita VA Hospital

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A surgeon accused of mishandling surgeries in Missouri is banned from the operating room of the Wichita Veteran Affairs hospital while his work is being reviewed.  The Kansas City Star reports Veteran Affair's banned urologist Christel Wambi-Kiesse from doing surgeries at the Robert Dole VA Medical Center in Wichita after learning he faced disciplinary action in Missouri.  Missouri's healing arts board found that Wambi-Kiesse performed robot-assisted surgeries beyond his abilities. A complaint before Missouri's Administrative Hearing Commission said his alleged mistakes contributed to a woman's death and caused dangerous complications for two men.  Wambi-Kiesse will be allowed to see patients but cannot perform surgery at the Wichita VA hospital while he is under review. The federal agency said appropriate action will be taken based on the results of that review.

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Shawnee Mission School District Adopts LGBTQ Protections

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A Johnson County school district has voted to add LGBTQ protections to its nondiscrimination policy.  The Shawnee Mission school board voted unanimously Monday night to adopt the LGBTQ language. It joins nearby districts in Olathe, Blue Valley and De Soto, who have added the nondiscrimination language.  The Kansas City Star reports the vote came after 10 residents spoke against changing the policy, while a handful of others supported the proposal.  Board member Deb Zila said she believed the change reflected the district's practice of welcoming all children and trying to accommodate them as best it can.  Opponents said they feared that schools are teaching students about sexuality at too young of an age, or that transgender students might be allowed to use the bathroom of their choice.

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Barton County Civil Process Server Charged with Rape

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A civilian employee for the Barton County Sheriff's office has been charged with rape. Barton County Attorney Levi Morris says 64-year-old Jimmy Hapes, of Great Bend, was charged Wednesday after he turned himself in to county officials. Hapes is a civil process server for the sheriff's office. The sheriff's office asked the Kansas Bureau of Investigation to help with the investigation after the rape was reported on June 24. The KBI said in a news release Wednesday the alleged rape occurred June 7. The KBI said Hapes was placed on administrative leave after the accusations were made. No further information was immediately available.

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Suspect Arrested in Garden City Restaurant Owner's Death.

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Garden City police say a 31-year-old suspect is facing a possible first-degree murder charge after a restaurant owner was killed.  Police said in a news release Tuesday that Marcus William Roady was arrested in the death of 69-year-old Ernie Ortiz.  Officers found Ortiz Thursday lying the parking lot of the El Conquistador Restaurant in Garden City. He had been shot several times and died later at a hospital.  Police have said the shooting could be linked to an attempted robbery.  KAKE-TV reports Kansas Department of Corrections records show Roady is on parole for drug and criminal damage convictions in Sedgwick and Finney counties.

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Death of Rural Kansas Homicide Suspect Ruled Suicide

PLAINVILLE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a suspect in a western Kansas shooting death has killed himself after law enforcement interviewed him.  The Kansas Bureau of Investigation announced Monday that 47-year-old Jon Flowers's death was a suicide. His body was found Saturday inside his home in the small town of Inman after he didn't show up at work or respond to relatives.  He had been interviewed days earlier about the killing of 57-year-old Mark Reif, who was found dead September 9 inside his home in rural Plainville.  The KBI says it is believed that Flowers "acted alone" and that there's "no indication that the violence was random." No details were released about a possible motive.  Plainville is about 25 miles north of Hays and about 110 miles northwest of Inman.

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Kansas City Airport Warns of Delays Because of Road Closures

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City International Airport officials are warning travelers to give themselves more time to get to their destinations.  The airport authority announced that construction on a new terminal will slow traffic, beginning Wednesday. Vehicle traffic between terminals B and C will be reduced to one lane, and the road that allows motorists to return to a terminal will be closed.  The change to the loop road system will particularly affect motorists who circle the area while waiting to pick up passengers. People waiting for passengers may park for free in the Cell Phone lot near the FAA tower. Or they can park in the economy parking lot for up to one hour without being charged a fee.  The airport says ongoing construction means travelers should allow more time for up to a year.

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Jurors Deadlock in Trial of Priest Accused of Molestation

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Jurors have deadlocked in the trial of a suspended Kansas priest charged with molesting a child.  The Wyandotte County prosecutor's office says jurors were unable to reach a verdict Monday in the case against the Rev. Scott Kallal. The 37-year-old was tried on two felony counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child. He has pleaded not guilty.  He was accused of inappropriately touching a girl in 2015 at a Kansas City, Kansas, church and at a graduation party in Bonner Springs. The girl was 10 at the time.  The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas said in a statement that Kallal will remain on leave and that it will resume its evaluation process after the legal process is completed. Prosecutors haven't said whether they will retry him.

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Nebraska Trial of Kansas Man Delayed; Case Involves Fatal Crash that Killed 4 from Iowa

OGALLALA, Neb. (AP) — The Nebraska trial of a Kansas man charged with the collision deaths of four Iowa motorcyclists has been delayed again.  The new trial starting date for 24-year-old Jeser Cisneros-Hernandez, of Liberal, Kansas, is December 3. Keith County District Court records say he pleaded not guilty in October 2017 to four felony counts of vehicular homicide, one misdemeanor count of reckless driving and one of failing to drive in his lane.  The North Platte Telegraph reports that Cisneros-Hernandez's trial previously had been set to start in July 2018, then successively in April, August and October of this year.  Prosecutors say Cisneros-Hernandez's vehicle hit two motorcycles carrying two people each on July 1, 2017, near Ogallala.  Authorities say 54-year-old Sheila Matheny and 61-year-old James Matheny, from Bedford, Iowa. The other motorcyclists were 58-year-old Michal Weese and 59-year-old Jerolyn Weese, who lived in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

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Woman Sentenced in Death of Oklahoma Man in Kansas

COLUMBUS, Kan. (AP) — A woman who was a fugitive with her son for two years after an Oklahoma man was killed has been sentenced to nearly five years in prison. Diana Bohlander was sentenced Tuesday to 59 months in prison for her role in the death of 64-year-old James McFarland, of Tulsa, whose body was found in April 2017 in southeast Kansas. Bohlander's 23-year-old son, Ty, was given the same sentence Sept. 3. The Joplin Globe reports the Bohlanders were living in a van with McFarland when he was killed. Investigators believe McFarland suffered blunt force trauma when he and Ty Bohlander fought. Diana Bohlander was accused of helping her son conceal the crime. The Bohlanders were fugitives until Ty Bohlander was arrested in March in Santa Monica, California. His mother turned herself in the next month.

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Kansas Town Council Fires 3 Top Officials; Mayor Walks Out

FRONTENAC, Kan. (AP) — The city council for a small southeast Kansas community has fired its administrator, attorney and clerk without any discussion, prompting the mayor to threaten to resign and then walk out of the meeting. The Pittsburg Morning Sun reports that the mass firings happened during Monday night's meeting in Frontenac, a town of about 3,400 located just to the north of Pittsburg. The reasons for the surprise terminations remain unclear. The Morning Sun has filed a records request. After the firings, Mayor Linda Grilz said she would veto the vote or the council also could have her resignation. She then walked out with the three fired employees. A city council member who voted in favor of the firings is now serving as interim mayor. But questions remain about whether Grilz had officially resigned.

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KU Football Player Charged with 2 Misdemeanors 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ A University of Kansas football player is charged with two misdemeanors after his arrest at a Lawrence bar. The Lawrence Journal-World reports sophomore linebacker Thomas Patrick Barrett was charged Tuesday with two counts of contributing to a child's misconduct. An attorney entered a not guilty plea on his behalf. Police Sgt. Amy Rhoads say Barrett, from Cleveland, Ohio, was arrested on Aug. 31 at the Jayhawk Cafe. Two 17-year-old girls inside the business at the time were in possession of what was believed to be alcohol. The girls were released to their guardians. Barrett, who turned 21 the same week he was arrested, is scheduled for another court appearance October 2. The Kansas athletic department said it is monitoring the situation while it goes through the legal process.  

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Eureka Football to Play First Home Game Since 2018 Tornado

EUREKA, Kan. (AP) — The Eureka High School football team will have the home field advantage for the first time in more than a year when it plays on September 27.  The team will play at home that night for the first time since an EF-3 tornado destroyed their field, more than 150 homes and close to two dozen businesses in June 2018.  The team — called the Tornadoes — played every game last season on the road.  KSNW-TV reports Justin Zimmers, a senior, said the game will be a true homecoming. Even though fans followed the team to away games last year, Zimmers said it will be exciting to play in front of hometown fans again.  Eureka, about 60 miles east of Wichita, has about 2,400 residents.

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