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GM reverses course, says strikers will keep health coverage

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors now says striking workers will get company-paid health insurance, nine days after saying coverage would be cut off.

The company says in an email to the United Auto Workers union that it will keep benefits in place due to significant confusion among members. The letter says employee health and well-being are GM’s top priorities.

Workers howled and politicians criticized GM after the company said it would end benefits the day after the strike began Sept. 16.

It’s standard procedure for health care costs to shift to the union in a strike. The United Auto Workers’ website says the union would pick up the cost of premiums.

The strike by about 49,000 factory workers has shut down production at more than 30 GM factories. Talks continued Thursday.


The Latest: Prosecutor: ‘Satanist’ soldier sought overthrow

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A prosecutor says an Army soldier charged with distributing information about making explosives online is a Satanist who wanted to overthrow the U.S. government.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Mattivi said during a federal court hearing Thursday in Kansas that 24-year-old Jarrett William Smith had a specific plan to overthrow the government and told the FBI he was distributing information on explosives “for the glory of his Satanist religion.”

But an attorney for Smith said he is only an internet “troll” who was “spouting off online” and sharing widely available information.

Smith pleaded not guilty to two federal charges of distributing explosives information and a third alleging he threatened to set fire to the home owned by a far-left-leaning “antifa” member. A federal magistrate ordered him detained until his trial.


Judge blocks deal to bar LGBT discrimination in adoptions

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A federal judge says Michigan cannot stop faith-based adoption agencies that have state contracts from refusing to put children in LGBT homes for religious reasons.

District Judge Robert Jonker issued a preliminary injunction Thursday. He says Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel’s position targets the religious beliefs of St. Vincent Catholic Charities, and such agencies can continue working with the state while a lawsuit is litigated.

In March, Nessel and the American Civil Liberties of Michigan announced a settlement to resolve a suit filed by lesbian couples who alleged they had been turned away. Nessel says such denials are illegal discrimination.

Jonker said past statements by Nessel “raise a strong inference of a hostility toward a religious viewpoint.” Nessel’s office said she hadn’t reviewed the ruling or determined next steps.


NY could add menthol to flavor ban as vaping groups sue

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York’s governor wants to add menthol to the state’s first-in-the-nation ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes as the vaping industry sues to nullify it.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo says Thursday he’s directing his administration to take steps to include menthol in a ban that currently excludes tobacco and menthol flavors.

The vaping industry’s trade group and two New York vaping companies aim to block the ban with a lawsuit filed Tuesday in state court.

Bans in New York, Michigan and Rhode Island come as health officials investigate severe breathing illnesses linked to vaping.

The Vapor Technology Association’s executive director says New York’s ban unfairly targets former smokers who rely on flavors while failing to address marketing to youth.

Cuomo’s spokesman says children’s future is at stake.


$400M shift to Michigan roads would impact other spending

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — To help pave roads and fix bridges, the Republican-led Legislature has passed a state spending plan that would shift $400 million in general funds to the transportation budget.

GOP lawmakers say it could prevent a gasoline tax increase and would spend a record amount on infrastructure. It’s a temporary move that lacks a permanent, dedicated revenue stream for deteriorating roads, however, one that would provide just 20% of the minimum $2 billion experts say is needed annually.

The fund shift, while not a new trend, would impact a variety of spending in other parts of state government. It is drawing criticism from Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as she decides what to sign or veto in the budget after she had little input following a breakdown in talks.


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.


Southwestern Michigan police chief dies in vehicle crash

NASHVILLE, Mich. (AP) — A southwestern Michigan police chief has died after crashing his vehicle into a tree.

Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Sgt. Craig Schmaltz says 59-year-old Nashville Police Chief Chris Allen Koster died in the crash about 8:30 a.m. Thursday in Richland Township.

Investigators say Koster’s vehicle went off a road and struck a tree. No other passengers were in Koster’s vehicle at the time of the crash, and police say alcohol isn’t believed to have been a factor.

Nashville is a village of about 1,600 people in Barry County.

Nashville Village President Mike Kenyon said Koster was police chief for about five years. He tells WILX-TV the crash appeared to happen while Koster was driving to work.


Army medic based in Colorado dies during overseas training

(Information from: The Gazette,

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — An Army medic posted at a Colorado base has died during a training competition in South Korea.

The Gazette reports 32-year-old Staff Sgt. Kelly L. Richards died Wednesday while competing for an Expert Field Medical Badge at Camp Casey.

The Army did not release details of Richards’ death at the American base 40 miles (64 kilometers) north of Seoul. The death was not considered suspicious.

An Army statement says Richards was posted to the 3rd Brigade Combat team at Fort Carson, 11 miles (18 kilometers) south of Colorado Springs.

The native of Grayling, Michigan, was a 14-year Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Army says competition for the badge includes physical fitness trials and tests of medical knowledge and soldiers’ skills.



The Latest: San Francisco mayor fed up with Trump’s swipes

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco’s mayor has rejected a federal claim that there is a link between homelessness and water quality in the area.

Mayor London Breed also said Thursday that she’s “sick” of President Donald Trump taking political swipes at the largely Democratic city.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says California is failing to prevent water pollution, largely because of problems with homelessness in cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Trump warned last week of a potential violation notice for San Francisco involving needles and waste being allowed to go through storm drains into the Pacific Ocean.

Breed says there are no needles washing out into San Francisco Bay or the ocean.