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Headlines for Tuesday, December 17, 2019


Boeing Gets FAA Message, Will Halt Max Production in January

Boeing is suspending production of the 737 Max as hopes of getting its marquee aircraft back in the air quickly fade. The ramifications are likely to ripple beyond the factory floor of Boeing's plant in Renton, Washington, potentially altering the country's trade balance. Southwest Airlines pushed back any hope of re-inserting the Max into its lineup by five weeks, to April. American Airlines did the same last week. Southwest said Tuesday that it is trying to minimize travel disruptions and apologized to customers. Shares of major manufacturers that supply Boeing with critical elements of the 737 Max, including Spirit AeroSystems and General Electric, are falling.


Boeing Woes Spread to Wichita Parts Maker Spirit AeroSystems

An aircraft parts maker that produces fuselages for the grounded 737 Max jet and already has dozens of them in storage is trying to figure out what to do after the Boeing Co. temporarily halted production of the jet. Wichita-based Spirit saw its shares fall in early trading today (TUE).  It said in a statement that it is working with customers to determine what Boeing's announcement Monday means. The temporary production halt comes as Boeing struggles to get approval from regulators to put the plane back in the air after it was grounded following a pair of deadly crashes.


Kansas Court Considers Parental Rights of Ex-LGBTQ Partners

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Some LGBTQ people in Kansas who wanted to raise children born to partners they couldn't legally marry can be denied contact with the children when the couples split up. An attorney on Tuesday urged the state's highest court to make that far less likely to happen. The Kansas Supreme Court heard arguments in two cases brought by women who were unmarried partners of other women who became mothers through artificial insemination. Neither had a formal parenting agreement with the mothers and the high court is considering whether Kansas law requires one for them to have contact with the children. 


Man Arrested in Shooting Death in Southeast Kansas

INDEPENDENCE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in southeast Kansas have arrested a man in a deadly drive-by shooting in Independence. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says 18-year-old Benjamin Mason, of Coffeyville, was arrested Sunday and is being held on a possible charge of first-degree murder. The KBI says 19-year-old Kimberly Meeks was shot while walking with a man in Independence Saturday evening. Witnesses said someone fired the shots from a passing car. Meeks died at the scene. The man with her ran from the scene. Investigators have not revealed a motive for the shooting.  


Police Warn College Students in Lawrence and Manhattan to Beware of Serial Rapist

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in Kansas are urging students in university communities to stay vigilant over the winter holidays but they have no new updates about a serial rapist known to attack over breaks in college classes. The rapist has been tied to incidents spanning from 2000 to 2015. Police say each incident involved a masked intruder entering the victim's off-campus residence. All of the victims were students of either Kansas State University or the University of Kansas. Riley County police spokeswoman Hali Rowland says the case is still active, but there are no new developments to release.


4 Killed in Weather-Related Crashes in Missouri; Numerous Schools Close

BONNE TERRE, Mo. (AP) — At least four-people have been killed in weather-related crashes in Missouri and numerous school districts called off classes after a storm dumped from 3 to 9 inches across a large swath of the state. Much of the state was under either a winter weather advisory or winter storm warning Monday. The Missouri State Highway Patrol said it had responded to 525 calls from stranded motorists and to 559 traffic crashes. One crash in St. Francois County in the eastern part of the state killed a motorist who was stranded after a previous crash and two good Samaritans who were trying to help.


Wichita Man Dies in Weather-Related Accident

SEDGWICK COUNTY, Kan. (Salina Post) — One person died in an accident Sunday night in Sedgwick County.  The Kansas Highway Patrol says a pickup slid while traveling over an icy bridge on Interstate 235.  The vehicle left the roadway, overturned, rolled and came to a stop in the center median on its top.  A passenger in the pickup, 21-year-old Jimmy S. Romero, of Wichita, was pronounced dead at the scene.  According to KHP, the driver and the passenger were not wearing seat belts.  


Judge Criticized by Abortion Foes Named to Top Kansas Court

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has named a veteran trial-court judge opposed by the state's most influential anti-abortion group to the Kansas Supreme Court. Shawnee County District Judge Evelyn Wilson's appointment is likely to intensify a backlash against the court from conservative legislators. Many Republican lawmakers already are seeking to give the GOP-controlled Legislature power it does not have now to block a Supreme Court appointee. Wilson has been a judge since 2004, and the anti-abortion group Kansans for Life opposes her because of past political contributions by her husband to abortion-rights candidates. She replaces former Justice Lee Johnson. He retired in September.


Judge Considering Reduction of Lawrence Woman's Murder Sentence

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Douglas County judge is being asked to consider whether a woman convicted of killing a Lawrence man should receive a reduced sentence. An attorney for 25-year-old Sarah Gonzales-McLinn, of Topeka, is arguing that she was not properly advised of a plea deal that could have reduced her sentence by half. Gonzales-McLinn is serving a “Hard 50” sentence for killing 52-year-old Harold Sasko in January 2014.  Prosecutors say Gonzales-McLinn drugged and nearly beheaded Sasko, who was her supervisor at a pizza parlor. Two days of hearings on the motion began Monday in Douglas County Court. 


Former Bank Vice President Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former vice president of a Kansas bank has pleaded guilty to embezzling. Sixty-year-old Debra Kay Converse, of Harveyville, pleaded guilty Monday and was ordered to pay $107,715 in restitution. Prosecutors say she was vice president of the First National Bank in Harveyville when the crime occurred. The bank's investigation focused on what Converse claimed were glitches in software. The bank started an audit when Converse resigned in March. U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said Tuesday the bank also learned Converse wrote $5,700 to First National while she was serving as city treasurer. Rather than credit the revenue to the bank, she cashed the checks.


Kansas Massage Parlor Owner Charged with Allowing Sex Acts

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A 61-year-old woman who owns or operates three massage parlors in suburban Kansas City is accused by federal prosecutors of allowing her employees to perform sex acts.  Federal prosecutors announced Monday that Chunqui Wu, of Overland Park, Kansas, is facing a federal charge of transportation with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct. She owns or operates two parlors in Olathe and one in Leawood. Authorities say Wu was arrested in November after an undercover investigation at her massage parlors, which revealed she allowed employees to offer sexual services for tips. Wu is scheduled to be arraigned on Friday.


Kansas Man Whose Granddaughter Died Bonds Out of Jail

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man whose 4-year-old granddaughter from Nebraska died is out of jail after a judge reduced his bond. Timothy Funk Sr., of Silver Lake, is charged with first-degree murder in the July death of his granddaughter at his Silver Lake home. WIBW-TV reports a judge on Friday lowered Funk's bond to $75,000 and he was released from jail soon after. Court documents indicate the girl, Brandy Lee Funk, of Beatrice, Nebraska, died in July from carbon monoxide poisoning after a gas-powered generator in a garage was left on all night.


2nd Suspect in October Bar Shooting is Jailed in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A man arrested in Mexico last week on four first-degree murder charges following an October shooting at a Kansas City, Kansas, bar is now jailed in Wyandotte County.The Kansas City Star reports that jail records show thirty-year-old Hugo Villanueva-Morales was booked Saturday night into the Wyandotte County Detention Center on a $1 million bond.Villanueva-Morales also faces federal charges of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution in connection with four deaths at the Tequila KC bar on Oct. 6. Five others were wounded in the shooting. Twenty-three-year-old Javier Alatorre is also charged with four counts of first-degree murder.


Affidavit: Kansas Jail Guard Beat Up Handcuffed Inmate

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A criminal affidavit that led to charges against two Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Office employees alleges a sergeant at the county jail beat up a handcuffed inmate whose arm was being held by a deputy. Sgt. David Toland and Deputy Marcus Johnson were charged last month, but details of the September jail incident were not made public until The Kansas City Star obtained the affidavit. Toland is accused of punching the prisoner in the face and slamming the inmate's head against an elevator door.


Overland Park Girl Who Pointed Finger Gun Placed on Diversion

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A 13-year-old Kansas girl who was arrested for pointing a finger gun at classmates has been placed on a juvenile diversion program. The Kansas City Star reports that the Overland Park girl, who was originally charged with felony threatening, was set to go before a judge on Tuesday, but the hearing was canceled. A spokeswoman for the Johnson County District Attorney confirmed she is on diversion but provided no details. The girl's mother told The Star previously that she made the gun with her fingers after a boy asked who she would kill if she could kill five classmates.


Missouri River Flooding in Kansas City District Officially Over

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says flooding on the Missouri River in the Kansas City district has officially ended. Col. Bill Hannan, commander of the Kansas City District, announced Monday emergency operations were ending and the district was returning to normal operations. The announcement ends the longest flooding event in the district's history. The Emergency Operations Center had been continuously operating for 279 days. As of Wednesday, all Missouri River stages were below flood stage for the first time since March 13. The Corps said the river's water levels are expected to continue to drop.  


University of Kansas Will Close Confucius Institute

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas plans to close its Confucius Institute in January. An email sent Monday to faculty and staff from interim Provost Carl Lejuez said the institute will close in part because of a 2018 law that restricts Department of Defense funds to universities that host Confucius Institutes. The institutes offer Chinese language, cultural enrichment and cultural events. In 2018, former FBI Director Christopher Wray and some U.S. lawmakers said the institutes are propaganda tools of China's Communist Party. At one point, the Chinese government sponsored more than 100 institutes in the U.S. but several colleges have closed theirs.


Hallmark's Flip-Flop on Same-Sex Ads Backfires

NEW YORK (AP) — Hallmark's decision to pull, then reinstate an ad featuring a same-sex couple kissing shows how controversy can generate more publicity than simply ignoring it. Under pressure from a conservative group, Hallmark says it pulled the ad to "not continue to generate controversy." Instead, Kansas City-based Hallmark faced criticism from celebrities, including Ellen DeGeneres and William Shatner. Hallmark was also mocked on "Saturday Night Live." Hallmark reversed its decision Sunday, which experts say doesn't help matters. One marketing consultant says companies need to understand the ramifications before making a call one way or another because "you only want to pull the Band-Aid off once."


Appeals Court Approves Controversial Grain Belt Power Line

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri appeals court has approved a controversial wind power transmission line that will cross northern parts of the state to deliver energy from the Midwest to a power grid for eastern states. The Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District on Tuesday rejected opponents' claims that the state's Public Service Commission was wrong to approve the construction of the Grain Belt Express Transmission line. Missouri landowners in the path of the project line, along with the Missouri Farm Bureau, have fought the line, which they say would take some of their land without providing any benefit to them.


Report: 5th Straight Year with Under 30 Executions in U.S.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A new report finds a continuing decline in capital punishment in the United States. The Death Penalty Information Center says 2019 was the fifth straight year with fewer than 30 executions and 50 new death sentences. Only seven states carried out executions this year. But even as death row populations were dropping in most of the 29 states that still have the death penalty, the Trump administration tried to restart executions on the federal level and a more conservative Supreme Court appeared less willing to grant death-row inmates last-minute reprieves.


Man Admits Offering Money and Marijuana for Child Pornography

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 21-year-old Kansas man has admitted to offering marijuana and money to young girls in exchange for child pornography. Austin Ballew, of Cherryvale, pleaded guilty Tuesday to five counts of sexually exploiting a child and three counts of sex trafficking of a minor. In exchange for his plea, seven other charges were dismissed. Federal prosecutors say Ballew used Facebook to offer teenage girls in southeast and south-central Kansas marijuana and money to send him sexually explicit videos of themselves. He then threatened to make the videos public if the girls stopped cooperating. He will be sentenced March 23. 


Kansas Jayhawks Face Test of Holding onto No. 1 Spot in AP Top 25

Kansas faces the challenge of holding onto its new No. 1 ranking in the AP Top 25 men's college basketball poll when it visits No. 18 Villanova this week. The Jayhawks are the fifth different team to reach No. 1 this season. Michigan State, Kentucky, Duke and Louisville were the others. None of them won more than two games before stumbling after claiming the top spot. This week's AP Top 25 national schedule also includes a marquee matchup between No. 5 Ohio State and No. 6 Kentucky in Las Vegas on Saturday.


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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