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Headlines for Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Here are the headlines for our area, as compiled by KPR news staffers.

Governor: Kansas May Have to Help Pay Spirit Workers

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly says that the state may have to help pay workers at aircraft parts maker Spirit AeroSystems to keep them on the assembly line if the Boeing 737 Max stays grounded much longer. The Wichita Eagle reports that Kelly said she talked with Wichita-based Spirit AeroSystems CEO Tom Gentile on Tuesday, one day after Boeing announced that it was temporarily halting production of the 737 Max as it struggles to get approval from regulators to put the plane back in the air. Spirit has continued to build 737 Max fuselages and now has dozens lined up on a tarmac near the company’s south Wichita factory.

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Boeing Woes Spread to Parts Maker Spirit AeroSystems

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — 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 Tuesday. 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. 

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Boeing Gets FAA Message, Will Halt Max Production in January

WICHITA , Kan. (AP) - Shares of major manufacturers that supply Boeing with critical elements of the 737 Max, including Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita are falling. Boeing is suspending production of the 737 Max as hopes fade of getting its best selling aircraft back in the air. The ramifications are likely to ripple beyond the factory floor of Boeing's plant in Renton, Washington, potentially altering the country's trade balance.  Wichita-based Spirit AeroSystems produces fuselages for the 737 Max and officials there say the company is trying to figure out what to do after Boeing temporarily halted production of the jet. 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 is urging the state's highest court to make that 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 woman had a formal parenting agreement with the mothers and the court is considering whether Kansas law requires such an agreement for those women to have contact with the children. 


Kansas Official Replacing Kobach Found Gun in File Cabinet

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kris Kobach's successor as Kansas secretary of state says his staff found an unsecured gun in a file cabinet after taking over the office. The Wichita Eagle reports that the discovery of the .45-caliber pistol in January was mentioned in a timeline Secretary of State Scott Schwab's aides produced in investigating how 1,000 rounds of ammunition purchased during Kobach's tenure went missing. The Eagle obtained the timeline through an open records request. Kobach had a staffer receive law enforcement training and reimbursed him for a gun and ammunition. A Schwab spokeswoman said the gun was turned over immediately to Capitol Police. 


Justice Dept. Plans Crackdown on Violent Crime in 7 Cities, Including KCMO 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department is launching a crackdown aimed at driving down crime in seven of the nation’s most violent cities. Attorney General William Barr announced the initiative known as Operation Relentless Pursuit at a news conference in Detroit, Michigan. He was joined by the leaders of the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Marshals Service. The Justice Department will intensify federal law enforcement resources in the seven cities with violent crime rates high above the national average. They are: Detroit, Albuquerque, Baltimore, Cleveland, Kansas City, Memphis and Milwaukee.


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, has been arrested 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. 

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

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Police in Kansas university communities are urging students in to stay vigilant over the winter holidays but police say they have no new updates about a serial rapist known to attack students 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.


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. The hearing is set to continue on January 13th 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. A judge lowered Funk's bond to $75,000 and he was released from jail. 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.


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. Sergeant 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.


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.


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

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Jayhawks face the challenge of holding onto the team's 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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