Latest Michigan news, sports, business and entertainment at 3:20 a.m. EDT

GENERAL MOTORS STRIKE

Committees finish work in GM talks, top bargainers take over

DETROIT (AP) — Contract talks between General Motors and striking United Auto Workers took a big step toward an agreement Wednesday when committees finished their work and sent it to the top bargainers.

The move is a sign that contract talks are getting close to finishing. It means that minor issues largely are resolved, and a few bargainers for both sides will now try to come to terms on wages, use of temporary workers and other contentious issues.

UAW Vice President Terry Dittes (DIT-ez) outlined the development in a letter to members. He says the union presented material to GM and is waiting for a response.

The strike by about 49,000 workers is in its 10th day. It has halted production at more than 30 GM factories nationwide.

FLAVORED E-CIGARETTES-MICHIGAN

Vape shop sues to stop Michigan’s ban on flavored e-cigs

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The owner of a northern Michigan vape shop is suing to stop Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s ban on flavored electronic cigarettes, contending the emergency rules are illegal and will force him to close his store.

Marc Slis, who operates 906 Vapor in Houghton, filed the lawsuit in Houghton County Circuit Court on Wednesday. It is believed to be the first of what could be several legal challenges against Whitmer’s ban .

Stores are supposed to start complying with the ban on Oct. 2.

Slis says the emergency rules are invalid, arbitrary and capricious in part because tobacco products — the most prevalent source of nicotine — are unaffected by the ban.

Whitmer has said the e-cigarette industry is using candy flavors and deceptive advertising to target children.

___

This story has been corrected to fix the spelling of Marc Slis’ first name, which had been misspelled “Mark.”

TRUMP-IMPEACHMENT-GOVERNORS

Democratic governors in Midwest understated on impeachment

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Democratic governors in Midwestern states central to President Donald Trump’s reelection strategy are reacting cautiously to impeachment proceedings beginning in Congress.

House Democrats’ probe focuses on Trump’s phone call to Ukraine’s president, a rough transcript of which was released Wednesday.

While some Democratic House members in the upper Midwest states were outspoken in calling for Trump’s impeachment, governors were more measured.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says she supports impeachment. But, she says, “The mere fact we are even at this point is a sad commentary on the state of politics in Washington, D.C.”

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz says impeachment “may not be politically good to do.”

And Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers didn’t respond to questions Wednesday after saying a day before that impeachment wasn’t up to him.

TRUMP-ENDANGERED SPECIES

17 states sue feds over Endangered Species Act lawsuit

SEATTLE (AP) — Seventeen states are suing to block Trump administration rules weakening the Endangered Species Act.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in federal court in San Francisco, follows a similar challenge filed last month by several environmental groups, including the Humane Society and the Sierra Club.

The new rules begin taking effect Thursday. They for the first time allow officials to consider how much it would cost to save a species. They also remove blanket protections for animals newly listed as threatened and make it easier for creatures to be removed from the protected list.

The administration and congressional Republicans have said the changes improve the law. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said they ease “the regulatory burden on the American public” without sacrificing conservation goals.

Democratic Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson called it “death by a thousand cuts” for the law.

PHILIP MORRIS-ALTRIA

Philip Morris, Altria end merger talks; Juul CEO steps down

NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. tobacco giants Philip Morris and Altria are calling off merger talks and Juul’s CEO is stepping down with safety concerns over e-cigarettes intensifying.

The makers of Marlboro cigarettes said last month that they were in discussions to become a single company, more than a decade after splitting into two as lawsuits mounted.

Altria has exclusively sold Marlboro cigarettes and other tobacco brands in the U.S., while Philip Morris has handled international sales.

Philip Morris International Inc. CEO André Calantzopoulos said Wednesday that the companies will instead focus on launching IQOS in the U.S. IQOS is a heat-not-burn cigarette alternative made by Philip Morris.

Altria Group Inc. also announced that K.C. Crosthwaite will become JUUL’s new CEO, replacing Kevin Burns.

UNVACCINATED KIDS-SCHOOL

Chickenpox outbreak leads to concern over unvaccinated kids

MARYSVILLE, Mich. (AP) — A chickenpox outbreak has led an eastern Michigan health department to ask parents of children who aren’t vaccinated to keep them home from school until they’re inoculated.

The St. Clair County Health Department told parents of Marysville High School students in a letter that about 37 “exposed susceptible students” who cannot provide documentation of smallpox immunity will be excluded from attending school and extracurricular activities until 21 days after the last identified case.

The letter says students will be re-admitted to the high school immediately upon getting vaccinated or providing the health department with acceptable documentation of immunity. It says immunity is defined as documentation of two valid doses of live chickenpox vaccine at or after 12 months of age or laboratory evidence of immunity or confirmation of the disease.

CHINA-US PRISONER

Former US college football player home from prison in China

DETROIT (AP) — A former college football player who spent three years in prison in China for his involvement in a bar fight says he has a newfound appreciation for the word freedom now that he’s returned home to Detroit.

Wendell Brown, who played at Ball State University in Indiana, told The Associated Press after arriving back in Detroit on Wednesday that people don’t really understand the meaning of freedom until they lose it.

Brown was teaching English and American football in southwest China when he was arrested in September 2016 and charged with intentional assault. Brown denied hitting a man and said he was defending himself after being attacked.

Brown was sentenced to four years in prison, but that was reduced to three years by a Chinese court.

SOCIAL MEDIA-THREAT

Court throws out teen’s conviction tied to Snapchat

BESSEMER, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan appeals court has thrown out the conviction of an Upper Peninsula teenager who used social media to fantasize about killing a boy, his dog and his goldfish.

The messages between four girls were made on Snapchat. The messages never were sent to the boy and he never read them. The girls believed they were private. But a Juvenile Court jury in Gogebic (Go-GEY’-bic) County convicted a girl, identified as J.P., of using text messages to terrorize another person.

The appeals court overturned the conviction Tuesday, saying there was no evidence that the teens actually intended to frighten the boy. Judge Elizabeth Gleicher says teens “sometimes make poor judgments” due to an inability to “foresee the painful consequences of their actions.”

The girls didn’t like the 13-year-old boy and said he was a bully.

MOTORIST STRUCK-OFFICER

$125K settlement reached after Michigan officer punches man

(Information from: The Grand Rapids Press, http://www.mlive.com/grand-rapids)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A western Michigan city has agreed to pay $125,000 to a man who was seen on bodycam video repeatedly being punched by a police officer during an arrest.

The Grand Rapids Press reports Grand Rapids announced the settlement Tuesday with 24-year-old Bronquel Brown.

The officer was fired after the Grand Rapids Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit determined the officer violated department policy during the March 17 traffic stop. Police noted the officer cursed and struck the motorist dozens of times in the leg.

The Kent County prosecutor’s office earlier declined to bring criminal charges against the officer. Brown faces an Oct. 28 trial on a charge of resisting police.

The Grand Rapids Police Department has faced recent scrutiny, including an investigation by Michigan’s Civil Rights office into complaints of discrimination.

___

POWER FACILITY-MICHIGAN

Plans slowed for $400M power generation facility in Michigan

(Information from: Battle Creek Enquirer, http://www.battlecreekenquirer.com)

MARSHALL, Mich. (AP) — Plans for a new $400 million natural gas-fired power generation facility in southern Michigan are moving forward more slowly than previously expected.

White Plains, New York-based Development Partners announced two years ago that it would build the Marshall Energy Center at Brooks Industrial Park in Marshall.

The Battle Creek Enquirer reports construction was supposed to begin late this year, but Marshall Area Economic Development Alliance CEO Scott Fleming says it’s been pushed back to late spring of 2020 due to environmental studies. Two plants are planned at the energy center site.

Development of the facility is expected to bring between 300 and 500 construction jobs and create between 20 and 25 direct jobs. Fleming said the energy center should be operational by 2022.

___