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China issues warning on tariffs

BEIJING

China said Sunday it wouldn’t step up its purchases of American products if President Donald Trump goes ahead with his threat to tax billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese imports. White House advisers insisted on fundamental changes in ties between the world’s two biggest economic powers.

China’s warning came after delegations led by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and China’s top economic official, Vice Premier Liu He, wrapped up a meeting on Beijing’s pledge to narrow its trade surplus. Ross said at the start of the event they had discussed specific American exports China might purchase, but the talks ended with no joint statement and neither side released details.

“Both sides appear to have hardened their negotiating stances and are waiting for the other side to blink,” said Eswar Prasad, professor of trade policy at Cornell University. “Despite the potential negative repercussions for both economies, the risk of a full-blown China-U.S. trade war, with tariffs and other trade sanctions being imposed by both sides, has risen significantly.”

Asked specifically on Fox’s “Sunday Morning Futures” if the U.S. is willing to throw away its relationship with China by proceeding with threatened tariff hikes, Peter Navarro, director of the White House National Trade Council, pointed in part to an unfair relationship involving a multi-billion dollar trade deficit, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ warning of China’s activities in the South China Sea and the threat of China stealing U.S. intellectual property.

“That’s a relationship with China that structurally has to change,” he said. “We would love to have a peaceful, friendly relationship with China. But we’re also standing firm that the president is the leader on this.”

The United States has threatened to impose tariffs on up to $50 billion of Chinese products in a dispute over Beijing’s aggressive tactics to challenge U.S. technological dominance; Trump has asked U.S. Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer to look for another $100 billion in Chinese products to tax. China has targeted $50 billion in U.S. products in retaliation.

Tensions temporarily eased on May 19 after China promised to “significantly increase” its purchases of U.S. farm, energy and other products. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said then that the U.S. tariffs were suspended and the trade war “on hold.” The purchases are meant to reduce America’s massive trade deficit in goods and services with China, which last year came to $337 billion, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

After the apparent cease-fire, global financial markets rallied in relief.

But Trump upended the truce last Tuesday by renewing his threat to impose 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese high-tech goods. The tariffs are meant to pressure Beijing for allegedly stealing trade secrets and forcing foreign companies to hand over technology in exchange for access to the Chinese market. Navarro later called Mnuchin’s conciliatory comments “an unfortunate soundbite.”

Ross nonetheless journeyed to Beijing Friday to work out details of the vague agreement Mnuchin had earlier cobbled together with the Chinese vice premier. China balked at making concessions unless the U.S. lifted the tariff threat.

“If the United States introduces trade sanctions including a tariff increase, all the economic and trade achievements negotiated by the two parties will not take effect,” said a Chinese government statement, carried by the official Xinhua News Agency.

The negotiating process should be “based on the premise” of not fighting a “trade war,” the statement said.

The dispute with China comes at the same time Trump has riled some of America’s closest allies with the imposition of tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

After a three-day meeting of finance ministers from the G7 industrial nations that ended Saturday in Canada, Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau issued a summary saying the other six members want Trump to hear their message of “concern and disappointment” over the U.S. trade actions.

Allies including Canada and the European Union are threatening retaliatory tariffs.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday that the reciprocal tariffs would hurt both U.S. and Canadian workers and consumers. He also pushed back against the argument that Canadian steel poses a U.S. security threat.

“The idea that we are somehow a national security threat to the United States is quite frankly insulting and unacceptable,” he said.

Bruno Le Maire, France’s finance and economy minister, also called the U.S. tariffs unjustified.

“We regret that our common work together at the level of the G7 has been put at risk by the decisions taken by the American administration on trade and on tariffs,” he said.

Trade analysts had warned Ross’s hand might be weakened if the Trump administration alienated allies who share complaints about Chinese technology policy and a flood of low-priced steel, aluminum and other exports.


Anthony Wahl 

Brinn Blum, center, celebrates with his classmates at the end of the commencement ceremony for Beloit Turner’s Class of 2018 on Sunday, June 3. The Class of 2018 graduated 101 students.


Crime
top story
Janesville trucker accused of shooting passing vehicles with slingshot

PESOTUM, ILL.

A Janesville man was arrested Friday in central Illinois on suspicion that for weeks he’s been shooting vehicles from his moving semitrailer truck using a slingshot and ball bearings.

Kevin L. Casey, 53, Janesville, was taken into custody Friday on one count of aggravated battery to a child, one count of aggravated battery on a public way and criminal damage to property, according to a news release posted on the Facebook page of the Illinois State Police District 10 headquarters in Pesotum, Illinois,

Casey is being held on a $2 million bond in Champaign County Jail, Champaign County authorities said Sunday. He faces an arraignment hearing today.

Police believe Casey was using a slingshot from his moving semitrailer truck to fire ball bearings at vehicles. Based on an investigation, Casey appeared to have been targeting mini vans and trying to blow out the vehicles’ windows, according to a release posted to Facebook on Sunday by Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz.

Illinois State Police had been investigating a series of reports of car damage along I-74 since March 30, when police found one person’s car had a “10 mm ball bearing” inside it, Rietz wrote.

Between March 30 and last week, police had received “multiple” reports from four counties along the I-74 corridor in the Champaign area. Police said most witnesses reported the incidents happened on Wednesdays and Fridays, Rietz wrote.

Police picked up on another pattern: Victims who reported car damage on Wednesdays were traveling west on I-74, and on Fridays most of the victims reported traveling east.

Police said they pieced together similar vehicle damage incidents on May 8, May 11 and May 18 using camera images collected by the Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois State Police and local businesses along the I-74 corridor.

Investigators noticed that on those videos, a white semitrailer truck with plates matching a semitrailer truck Casey is known to drive was passing the victims’ vehicles at the time of the car damage, Rietz wrote.

The May 8 incident left a child injured by flying glass from a broken vehicle window, Rietz wrote.

Police canvassed sections of I-74 to locate Casey. Investigators spotted Casey’s semitrailer truck at 7:05 p.m. Friday traveling west on I-74 near Champaign. Rietz wrote that police stopped Casey, and Casey had a slingshot, slingshot-making materials and several types of ball bearings in his truck.

Casey admitted he’d been shooting at vehicles with a slingshot and metal ball bearings while driving his truck, Rietz wrote. Casey indicated he’d aimed for minivan windows because they “provided a bigger target,” Rietz wrote.

Rietz said Casey was previously convicted of sexual assault of a child in Wisconsin in 1998. He served a 15-year prison sentence in a Wisconsin state prison.

In an earlier set of Facebook posts Wednesday, state police released alerts and shared a local TV news station’s report on a string of car windows being blown out by unknown objects on a 15-mile stretch of I-74 between Champaign and Ogden.

The state police at the time said the incidents were being investigated, although many of the reports were coming in hours after the incidents were thought to have occurred.

According to the state police’s most recent release, authorities believe incidents of vehicle damage also had been occurring “in numerous states to the east of Illinois, along the I-74 corridor and other associated Interstates.”

An Illinois State Police official on Sunday told The Gazette the agency would release more information at a press conference that’s planned Monday morning in Pesotum.


Big study: Many breast cancer patients can skip chemo

CHICAGO

Most women with the most common form of early-stage breast cancer can safely skip chemotherapy without hurting their chances of beating the disease, doctors are reporting from a landmark study that used genetic testing to gauge each patient’s risk.

The study is the largest ever done of breast cancer treatment, and the results are expected to spare up to 70,000 patients a year in the United States and many more elsewhere the ordeal and expense of these drugs.

“The impact is tremendous,” said the study leader, Dr. Joseph Sparano of Montefiore Medical Center in New York. Most women in this situation don’t need treatment beyond surgery and hormone therapy, he said.

The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute, some foundations and proceeds from the U.S. breast cancer postage stamp. Results were discussed Sunday at an American Society of Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago and published by the New England Journal of Medicine. Some study leaders consult for breast cancer drugmakers or for the company that makes the gene test.

Moving away from chemo

Cancer care has been evolving away from chemotherapy—older drugs with harsh side effects—in favor of gene-targeting therapies, hormone blockers and immune system treatments. When chemo is used now, it’s sometimes for shorter periods or lower doses than it once was.

For example, another study at the conference found that Merck’s immunotherapy drug Keytruda worked better than chemo as initial treatment for most people with the most common type of lung cancer, and with far fewer side effects.

The breast cancer study focused on cases where chemo’s value increasingly is in doubt: women with early-stage disease that has not spread to lymph nodes, is hormone-positive (meaning its growth is fueled by estrogen or progesterone) and is not the type that the drug Herceptin targets.

The usual treatment is surgery followed by years of a hormone-blocking drug. But many women also are urged to have chemo to help kill any stray cancer cells. Doctors know that most don’t need it, but evidence is thin on who can forgo it.

The study gave 10,273 patients a test called Oncotype DX, which uses a biopsy sample to measure the activity of genes involved in cell growth and response to hormone therapy, to estimate the risk that a cancer will recur.

What the study found

About 17 percent of women had high-risk scores and were advised to have chemo. The 16 percent with low-risk scores now know they can skip chemo, based on earlier results from this study.

The new results are on the 67 percent of women at intermediate risk. All had surgery and hormone therapy, and half also got chemo.

After nine years, 94 percent of both groups were still alive, and about 84 percent were alive without signs of cancer, so adding chemo made no difference.

Certain women 50 or younger did benefit from chemo; slightly fewer cases of cancer spreading far beyond the breast occurred among some of them given chemo, depending on their risk scores on the gene test.

Will people trust results?

All women like those in the study should get gene testing to guide their care, said Dr. Richard Schilsky, chief medical officer of the oncology society. Oncotype DX costs around $4,000, which Medicare and many insurers cover. Similar tests including one called MammaPrint also are widely used.

Testing solved a big problem of figuring out who needs chemo, said Dr. Harold Burstein of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Many women think “if I don’t get chemotherapy I’m going to die, and if I get chemo I’m going to be cured,” but the results show there’s a sliding scale of benefit and sometimes none, he said.

Dr. Lisa Carey, a breast specialist at the University of North Carolina’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, said she would be very comfortable advising patients to skip chemo if they were like those in the study who did not benefit from it.

Dr. Jennifer Litton at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, agreed, but said: “Risk to one person is not the same thing as risk to another. There are some people who say, ‘I don’t care what you say, I’m never going to do chemo,’” and won’t even have the gene test, she said. Others want chemo for even the smallest chance of benefit.

Adine Usher, 78, who lives in Hartsdale, New York, joined the study 10 years ago at Montefiore and was randomly assigned to the group given chemo.

“I was a little relieved. I sort of viewed chemo as extra insurance,” she said. The treatments “weren’t pleasant,” she concedes. Her hair fell out, she developed an infection and was hospitalized for a low white blood count, “but it was over fairly quickly and I’m really glad I had it.”

If doctors had recommended she skip chemo based on the gene test, “I would have accepted that,” she said. “I’m a firm believer in medical research.”


Education
As Delavan-Darien faces financial turmoil, new officials look to the future

DELAVAN

On the last day of school Wednesday, 263 students will file out of Darien Elementary School, leaving behind classrooms filled with desks, shelves stocked with books and a 114-year-old building scheduled to be shuttered.

For the Delavan-Darien School District, Wednesday will signal the end of a financially troublesome year. In the past two months, 39 teachers have been laid off, 154 students have applied to leave the district and the school board has voted to temporarily close Darien Elementary.

Even as the district’s financial woes linger—officials are anticipating a $5.4 million loss from open enrollment next year, a $1 million jump from the previous year—new administration officials are eager to tout the district’s academic progress, which they say has been overshadowed by a storm of cuts and misconceptions about the district.

Jill Sorbie

“We aren’t a district that’s failing,” incoming interim Superintendent Jill Sorbie said. “We’ve had a bout of struggles, but that doesn’t mean were aren’t going to pave a new pathway that will be successful.”

Much of the district’s rebranding in the coming months will fall on Sorbie’s shoulders. She is the district’s director of curriculum, and her transition to superintendent has slowly begun. She will officially start her new role July 1.

This summer, Sorbie said, the district will host an administrative retreat to rebuild the district’s public relations. The retreat will include discussions with staff on ways to combat open enrollment, identify unfounded rumors and highlight district successes.

When asked about the district’s noteworthy programs, Sorbie said, “I wouldn’t even begin to fathom to come up with a list because there are so many. The district is doing so many fine things.”

Despite the ongoing funding storm, Sorbie said the district’s academic programs next year will not be impacted. While class sizes are likely to increase in Phoenix Middle School because of the addition of fifth grade moving from Darien Elementary, no programs will be cut, Sorbie said.

What will change is teacher workload.

“The cuts … are certainly going to require our teachers to work harder. I worry about how much we are pushing our teachers,” Sorbie said. “I think more will be asked of them. But they’re up to the task and are devoted to the school.”

Sorbie said the district is “finding solutions” to its recent teacher layoffs, saying the district will look at using more volunteers. Already, the early elementary schools—Wileman and Turtle Creek—use about 60 volunteers for its READS program, which is a one-on-one reading-based curriculum led by volunteers.

“It’s an absolutely lovely program,” Sorbie said. “That kind of idea could potentially be fleshed out. We’re looking at various options on that, and we’re looking at investigating that.”

Over the past few months, officials have touted the district’s 2016-17 state report card score of 82.3, which was the highest of any school district in Walworth County and 20 points higher than its previous score.

Officials said much of that was the result of a successful $1.25 million nonrecurring referendum in 2015 which expired before the 2017-18 school year and lowered the district’s funding by almost 2 percent per student.

As a way to increase funding and maintain its services, the district pitched a $3.5 million operational referendum in April that would have bumped the district’s funding. Voters rejected it by about 500 votes.

The district could continue hemorrhaging money from open enrollments and a shrinking student population. Each student who enrolls out costs the district about $7,372, Business Administrator Anthony Klein has said. The district last year lost $4.32 million to open enrollments. Next year, Klein estimates the district will lose about $5.4 million.

Klein, who joined the district in March, told The Gazette in an email he is “hopeful that we will not see this many students choose to leave. ... But it is also important that we do not let these challenges overshadow the great things that are taking place in our classrooms.”

The future for Darien Elementary School remains unknown. The school board voted April 23 to close the school for the 2018-19 school year, a move that has sown discord between the school board and the Darien community.

Many of Darien’s residents expressed shock at the closure. Doriann Volmar, who moved to Darien largely because of the school, said in April she “didn’t see Darien closing coming. At all.”

“I’ve been in tears since hearing the news. My heart breaks,” Volmar said in April. “It was one of the reasons we bought the house that we bought. We fell in love with the staff. It was like a family. I cooked lunch for all the teachers and brought it in. That’s how much I loved that school.”

Despite her affinity for the school, Volmar said her and her husband, William—a village of Darien trustee—have enrolled their three boys in neighboring districts since 2016. Two of their sons go to Fontana Elementary School and another goes to Big Foot High School in the village of Walworth.

Their decision to enroll out came after the board voted 4-3 in 2016 to move to a “center schools” model that disperses grades throughout the district and consolidates all fourth- and fifth-graders at Darien Elementary.

“When you have four children like I do, it’s really difficult to shuffle around,” Volmar said. “Children aren’t getting home until about 4:30. And we just couldn’t see where money would be saved.”

Though Volmar said she voted against the district’s April referendum, which likely would have kept Darien Elementary open, she said she didn’t know 39 teachers would be laid off if the referendum failed. She said she never knew the severity of district’s financial troubles.

“Those teachers are amazing. Had I know this many were going to lose their jobs … I don’t know,” Volmar said.

Since the announcement of Darien Elementary’s closing, the Darien Village Board and the Darien Town Board have explored detaching from the school district. Though the process would take years and many questions remain, village board President Kurt Zipp said the village will put an advisory referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot to gauge interest in pursuing detachment.

On the same ballot in November, the school board will likely attempt a another referendum—one that would reopen Darien Elementary for the 2019-20 school year. The details of that referendum are still being considered, but in regard to Darien Elementary, Sorbie said, “our goal is to open it back up.”

Just in case, the desks, chairs and books will be left in Darien Elementary after it closes Wednesday.

Robert Crist

Much of the blame for the district’s recent turmoil has fallen on Superintendent Bob Crist. Many in the community pointed to him for the referendum’s failure, claiming he should have more clearly indicated the gravity of the district’s funding slump.

But even Crist said he wasn’t aware of the district’s funding dilemma. In the same week the referendum failed, the district realized its budget had to be lowered by $506,030. An accounting error from the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years did not correctly record payroll expenses, leaving the money unaccounted for and further imperiling the district’s finances.

That same week, the district learned of 103 new open enrollment applications—about $680,000 in losses.

As a result, the board voted May 8 to send Crist to retirement, ending his six-year tenure with the district. His last day is June 30.

“It’s hard to know what to think,” Crist said. “The person we hired to help us organize the referendum … she felt that it was more than sufficient. We sent a mailer. Our website continually gets updated. Our Facebook page, too. I don’t know what else could’ve happened … maybe that’s why I’m not going to be here.

“We put in there that there would be a lot of teacher cuts. Could we have worded that different? Sure.”

Asked how the district should conduct itself in the coming months, Crist said it should “focus on meetings with people.”

“Somehow you got to have more meetings so people can become part of the solution. Be very forward and succinct. The operational (referendum) is crucial if this district is going to move forward and survive.”

Sorbie added: “My biggest challenge will be to regain the trust of our community. I beg of everybody to give the district a chance.”


glance

state • 6A

Bryce, Myers seek party unity

Democratic candidates running to replace Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan in Congress called for party unity Saturday to capture the seat, a victory they argued could be key to flipping majority control of the House. Union iron worker and Army veteran Randy Bryce leads in fundraising and organization, but Janesville teacher Cathy Myers has mounted a spirited primary challenge and argued that a “progressive woman” is needed to win the seat.

sports • 1B-3B

Edgerton enjoying late surge

The Edgerton High School baseball team began the season 2-10 but has won nine of its last 10 games heading into Tuesday’s WIAA Division 2 Brodhead Sectional semifinal game against Mount Horeb. “The way we’re playing right now is the way I anticipated we would coming into the season,” coach Mike Gregory said. “After the poor start, and the lousy weather we dealt with early on, we just had to get some stuff straightened out.”

nation/world • 6B

Trump request unprecedented

President Donald Trump wants North Korea to do something unprecedented in the history of arms control—to reveal all the secrets of a nuclear weapons complex it has spent decades concealing and billions to build. No one expects that kind of breakthrough when Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June 12 in Singapore. Even Trump has acknowledged the summit will start “a process.”

Tea party era is long gone

Republican newcomers stunned Washington in 2010 when they seized the House majority with bold promises to cut taxes and spending and to roll back what many viewed as Barack Obama’s presidential overreach. Eight years later, the House Tea Party Caucus is long gone. So, too, are almost half the 87 new House Republicans elected in the biggest GOP wave since the 1920s.


Jill Sorbie