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ITALY-FIAT CHRYSLER-PEUGEOT

Fiat Chrysler, PSA Peugeot boards approve merger

MILAN (AP) — The boards of Fiat Chrysler and PSA Peugeot have approved merging the two companies to create the world’s fourth-largest automaker with a value of about $50 billion.

The formal announcement that the companies have agreed “to work towards a full combination of their respective entities by way of a 50/50 merger” came early Thursday.

The combined companies will be able to share in the cost of developing electric and autonomous vehicles. They’ll also share vehicle technology and save money with greater purchasing power.

The merger decision comes about five months after a similar deal with French automaker Renault fell apart.

ELECTION 2020-BUTTIGIEG-MAYORS

Mayors for Pete: Buttigieg hunts for support in city halls

WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Pete Buttigieg (BOO’-tuh-juhj) is turning to his fellow mayors as he works to prove the mayor of a city of roughly 100,000 people is ready to assume the American presidency.

The mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has a list of roughly 60 “Mayors for Pete” who are pushing for his underdog bid. They include mayors from former industrial cities undergoing revitalization and metros experiencing demographic shifts.

Several mayors lead tiny towns of fewer than 1,000 people.

The mayors bring a network of support and donors to his presidential campaign. The campaign also believes they add credibility to the 37-year-old Buttigieg’s promise to usher in the next generation of Democratic politics and a more pragmatic, no-excuses style to governing.

GREAT LAKES-EROSION

Michigan promises faster review of erosion control permits

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Michigan environmental regulators are promising faster reviews of applications to protect homes or structures threatened by rising Great Lakes levels.

The Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy said Wednesday it will expedite permits for actions such as placing rocks or building seawalls to prevent erosion.

Director Liesl Clark said permit consideration requires a balance between protecting property and safeguarding environmental features such as dunes, shorelines and bluffs.

She said excessive or poorly designed shoreline protection structures can disrupt natural processes and damage neighboring properties.

It usually takes 60-90 days to process shoreline permits. EGLE says it will act much faster where homes or infrastructure are at risk.

The number of shoreline protection permits granted has risen sharply in recent years.

In many cases, permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also are required for placing materials along the water.

PASSENGER KILLED-ROCK

Man gets prison for throwing rock that killed Michigan rider

FLINT, Mich. (AP) — A 19-year-old man has been sentenced to more than three years in prison for the death of a man whose windshield was smashed by a rock on Interstate 75 in Michigan.

Kyle Anger was one of five males charged in the death of 32-year-old Ken White, who was killed while riding as a passenger on I-75 in Genesee County. Investigators say Anger threw the rock in 2017.

Anger apologized to White’s family on Tuesday and said he’s “deeply saddened” by their “heartache.” He had pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

White’s mother, Teresa Simpson, says the sentence is a “great injustice.” She wanted a longer prison term and pledged to oppose Anger’s first opportunity at parole after the minimum sentence, 39 months, is served. He’ll get credit for two years in jail.

HOUSE FIRE-CHILDREN KILLED

3 children die, another critical after Michigan house fire

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — An early morning fire that engulfed a home in the Michigan capital has killed three children, left a fourth in critical condition and injured three more people.

Firefighters responded to the blaze in north Lansing at about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday. Authorities say relatives told firefighters that three children were trapped inside. First responders rescued the children ages 8, 5 and 3 years, and rushed them to a hospital where they were declared dead.

Authorities say a 5-year-old child is in critical condition and a 31-year-old man is being treated at the University of Michigan Burn Center. A 26-year-old woman and an 18-month-old are stable.

The names of those killed and injured have not been released.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

TEEN SLAIN-HOTEL

Man convicted in slaying of 14-year-old at Michigan hotel

HOLLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — An 18-year-old western Michigan man has been convicted in the fatal shooting of a 14-year-old boy at a western Michigan hotel.

Juan Cabrera was found guilty Wednesday by an Ottawa County jury of first-degree murder and gang membership. He faces mandatory life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Troy “TJ” Wells Jr. of Holland was fatally shot Feb. 16 in Holland Township, southwest of Grand Rapids. The shooting happened after authorities say two groups rented rooms for parties.

Assistant Ottawa County Prosecutor JoEllen Haas has said an assault rifle was used to shoot Wells “no fewer than six times from a few feet away.”

ABSENTEE BALLOTS-LAWSUIT

Suit opposes signature-matching check of absentee ballots

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A Democratic group is challenging a Michigan law that requires election officials to reject absentee ballots with signatures that don’t match what’s on file.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in federal court in Detroit by Priorities USA, a political action committee. It says Michigan’s signature-matching law is “arbitrary and standardless” and has disenfranchised hundreds of voters in recent elections.

The suit says Michigan law does not require election officials to be trained in signature or handwriting analysis, yet they have “unfettered discretion” to toss absentee ballots and applications. The suit says the law provides no mechanism by which voters whose ballots are wrongfully discarded can appeal.

MILITARY VOTERS

Senate OKs letting military vote electronically overseas

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Members of the military serving overseas could cast an electronic ballot in Michigan elections under bipartisan bills advancing in the Legislature.

The state Senate voted 36-1 for the legislation Wednesday and sent it to the House for consideration.

Currently, clerks mail or email absentee ballots to overseas military members if they apply at least 45 days before an election. The voters must print the ballot and return it by mail — prompting concerns that it’s too difficult for them to receive the ballot and send it back in time.

Under the bills, military members overseas could vote using an electronic ballot if they use a Department of Defense-verified electronic signature via a special card that is already issued to military members.

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Online:

Senate Bills 117 and 297: http://bit.ly/2N0P19q

POOL DEATH-DAD CHARGED

Michigan dad charged following autistic son’s pool drowning

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

GEORGETOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — A college professor in western Michigan has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of his 16-year-old autistic son who drowned in an icy backyard pool.

MLive.com reports that 50-year-old Timothy Koets of Georgetown Township also was arraigned last week on child abuse charges.

Samuel Koets was found face down in March in the above-ground pool behind the family’s home after his father had left him outside and gone to work at Grand Rapids Community College. The teen’s mother, Michelle Koets, was asleep inside the home after working a third shift as a registered nurse.

The teen’s arms were bound when found in the pool. The newspaper reports that he had severe autism and his parents restrained his arms to prevent the teen from harming himself or others.

Court records did not list an attorney for Timothy Koets.

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