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Gas prices continue to fluctuate

Monday, 17 February 2014 10:34 Published in Local News
Average retail gasoline prices in St. Louis have risen 3.8 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $3.19 a gallon on Sunday.
This is according to GasBuddy.com's daily survey of nearly one thousand gas outlets in St. Louis. This compares with the national average that has increased 5.0 cents per gallon in the last week to $3.34 a gallon.
Gas prices in St. Louis yesterday were 53 cents per gallon lower than the same day one year ago, but 13 cents per gallon higher than a month ago.
The national average has increased 6 cents per gallon during the last month and stands 34 cents per gallon lower than this day one year ago.
 

AFTER UAW DEFEAT, CAN GOP FULFILL PROMISE OF JOBS?

Monday, 17 February 2014 06:55 Published in National News

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) -- Republicans fighting a yearslong unionization effort at the Volkswagen plant in Tennessee painted a grim picture in the days leading up to last week's vote. They said if Chattanooga employees joined the United Auto Workers, jobs would go elsewhere and incentives for the company would disappear.

Now that workers have rejected the UAW in a close vote, attention turns to whether the GOP can fulfill its promises that keeping the union out means more jobs will come rolling in, the next great chapter in the flourishing of foreign auto makers in the South.

Regardless of what political consequences, if any, Republicans would face if that fails to happen, the Volkswagen vote established a playbook for denying the UAW its goal of expanding into foreign-owned plants in the region, which the union itself has called the key to its long-term future.

On the first of three days of voting at the Chattanooga plant, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker all but guaranteed the German automaker would announce within two weeks of a union rejection that it would build a new midsized sport utility vehicle at its only U.S. factory instead of sending the work to Mexico.

"What they wanted me to know, unsolicited, that if the vote goes negative, they're going to announce immediately that they're going to build a second line," Corker told The Associated Press of his conversations with unnamed Volkswagen officials.

The company reiterated its longstanding position that the union vote would not factor into the decision, and Corker acknowledged that he had no information on whether the company would also expand if the union won.

But the implication was clear, and union leaders said after the vote that the senator's statements - coming in concert with threats from state lawmakers to torpedo state incentives if the UAW won - played a key role in the vote.

The UAW was defeated in a 712-626 vote Friday night.

UAW President Bob King called it unprecedented for Corker and other elected officials to have "threatened the company with no incentives, threatened workers with a loss of product."

"It's outrageous," King said.

Corker, who had originally announced he would refrain from making public comments during the election, changed course last week after he said the union tried to use his silence to chastise other critics. Corker said after the vote that he was happy he joined the fray.

"I have no idea what effect we may or may not have had," Corker said. "But I think I would have forever felt tremendous remorse if ... I had not re-engaged and made sure that people understand other arguments that needed to be put forth."

Corker's claim that a no vote would quickly mean more jobs actually fit in with an assertion Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam leveled days earlier, when he said a union win would hurt the state's ability to attract auto parts suppliers and other future business.

"From our viewpoint, from what we're hearing from other companies, it matters what happens in that vote," he said.

Corker said the day after the vote that he and other state officials planned to restart discussions with Volkswagen officials this week about state subsidies for expanded production in Chattanooga.

Many viewed VW as the union's best chance to win in the South because other automakers have not been as welcoming to organized labor as Volkswagen.

Labor interests make up half of the supervisory board at VW in Germany, and they questioned why the Chattanooga plant is the company's only major factory worldwide without formal worker representation.

VW wanted a German-style "works council" in Chattanooga to give employees, blue collar and salaried workers, a say over working conditions. But the company said U.S. law won't allow it without an independent union.

Several workers who cast votes against the union said they still support the idea of a works council - they just don't want to have to work through the UAW.

Frank Fischer, the CEO and chairman of the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, said the vote Friday wasn't a rejection of a works council. He said the goal remains to determine the best method for establishing a works council that serves employees' interest, and Volkswagen America's production in accordance with U.S. law.

Fischer did not address what the vote means for potential expansion at the plant other than to say "our commitment to Tennessee is a long-term investment."

The German automaker's CEO, Martin Winterkorn, announced at the Detroit auto show last month that the seven-passenger SUV will go on sale in the U.S. in 2016. Winterkorn said the new model will be part of a five-year, $7 billion investment in North America.

Winterkorn said Volkswagen is committed to its goal of selling 1 million vehicles per year in the U.S. by 2018. The company sold just over half that many in 2013.

---

Krisher reported from Detroit.

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

THICK FOG CAUSES DELAYS AT SOCHI OLYMPICS

Monday, 17 February 2014 06:47 Published in Sports

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) -- Thick fog lingering over the mountains Monday caused the biggest weather disruptions of the Sochi Olympics so far, with a biathlon race and a snowboard event both postponed until Tuesday.

The fog rolled in over the mountains in Krasnaya Polyana on Sunday night and was still shrouding some of the Olympic skiing venues in a cloud-like mist by late Monday afternoon. That prompted organizers to call off the men's biathlon mass-start race and men's snowboardcross almost simultaneously.

The rescheduling didn't seem to be a major concern for the athletes, though.

"This is standard for snowboarding and ski events. Mother Nature doesn't always cooperate," American snowboardcross rider Nate Holland said.

The biathlon race had already been pushed back from Sunday evening to Monday morning, and was then postponed to mid-afternoon before being called off for another day. It will now be held Tuesday at 2:30 p.m., organizers said. A decision on the women's mass-start race still scheduled for its original 7 p.m. start was set to be made later Monday.

"Well, I am going to sleep again," double Olympic champion Martin Fourcade tweeted in French after the race was postponed. "We'll see each other tomorrow!"

At the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, the snowboardcross was also first delayed then postponed. Organizers first canceled the seeding runs for the event, then pushed back the elimination races before calling it a day. The elimination races will now start at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, with the seeding runs scrapped.

The Alpine events were not affected because Monday was an off-day, but organizers called off a free skiing session to keep the course intact for Tuesday's women's giant slalom.

Women's race director Atle Skaardal said the fog could still affect that event if it remains.

"I don't know if they'll see anything," Skaardal said.

The ski jumping venue is at a lower altitude and was not shrouded in the thick fog. A training round for Nordic combined athletes was held without disruptions, and the ski jump team event was also expected to go ahead as scheduled.

The fog is causing a new challenge for the athletes following days of sunshine and unseasonably warm weather. At the Laura Cross Country Ski and Biathlon Center, the high temperatures toward the end of last week had softened the snow and led to some cross-country skiers cutting off the sleeves on their suits.

In biathlon, fog is an even bigger problem because it limits the visibility on the shooting range.

"You have to be able to hit the targets," said Jerry Kokesh, the editor of the International Biathlon Union's official website, adding that the course becomes more dangerous as well. "Uphills are not a problem, but downhills are. ... That can be a serious safety concern."

The first week of the games went by without any major disruptions to the schedule before Sunday's biathlon race was postponed, despite concerns going into the Olympics about the warm climate in Sochi. IOC spokesman Mark Adams said every Winter Olympics normally faces some rescheduling because of the weather, and that Sochi has been relatively unaffected.

"In terms of what's going on there, I think it's actually quite ironic that the biggest issue we've had so far is due to winter fog," Adams said. "Winter sports is very unpredictable. It's a very dynamic field of play. At present, the conditions are good and we are continuing. We haven't had any major complaints up there."

Certainly not from Holland, the snowboarder, who said it was better to wait another day than to compete in poor conditions.

"It's the Olympics, we want to have the best rider win and not have anything screwy," Holland said. "So we'll be back tomorrow and let her roll from there. It's time to drop the hammer and the sickle on this course."

---

AP Sports Writers Will Graves, Jon Krawczynski, Andrew Dampf and Pat Graham contributed to this report.

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

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