12/15/17 – Firefighter assigned to largest California blaze dies 

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) — A 32-year-old firefighter assigned to the largest wildfire burning in Southern California has died.

Officials wouldn’t say how Cory Iverson was killed Thursday.

The massive blaze he was working on northwest of Los Angeles has become the fourth-largest in California history. And the dry, windy conditions that helped its spread aren’t going away.

Iverson was an engineer with a state fire engine strike team based in San Diego. He is survived by his pregnant wife and a 2-year-old daughter.

 

 

 

 

 

12/15/17 – Holiday Travel

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — AAA projects that nearly 3.5 million people from Michigan are expected to travel over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

The auto club released its annual forecast this week, saying Michigan will see a 3.4 percent increase from last year’s holiday period. It’s the highest total volume since AAA began tracking such data in 2001.

Mirroring national estimates, AAA says most will travel by personal vehicle. Those motorists are expected to see higher gas prices than last year. Michigan’s average price for a gallon of self-serve regular unleaded gasoline is around $2.49, up 20 cents from a year ago.

The holiday travel period runs from Dec. 23 to Jan. 1. AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting by research firm IHS Markit.

 

 

 

 

 12/15/17 – Michigan police probe remains of 3 children found in Montana

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan State Police are investigating whether the remains of three children found in Montana could be linked to the 2010 disappearance of three Michigan brothers.

The bones and teeth of three children were found in September in a shed in Missoula, Montana. An anthropologist estimated the children’s ages to be 2-4 years old, 5-8 years old and 6-10 years old.

Tanner, Alexander and Andrew Skelton were 5, 7 and 9 when they were last seen at their father’s Morenci, Michigan, home in November 2010.

Michigan State Police Detective Lt. Jeremy Brewer tells WTVG-TV in Toledo, Ohio, the agency has requested more information from Montana police but the only current connection between the cases is the victims’ approximate ages.

KECI-TV in Missoula reports the remains are undergoing DNA testing in Texas.

 

 

 

 

 

12/14/17 – As ‘net neutrality’ vote nears, some brace for a long fight

NEW YORK (AP) — The federal government is preparing to unravel sweeping net-neutrality rules that guaranteed equal access to the internet. And advocates of the regulations are bracing for a long fight.

The Thursday vote scheduled at the Federal Communications Commission could usher in big changes in how Americans use the internet. It’s a radical departure from more than a decade of federal oversight.

The broadband industry promises that the internet experience isn’t going to change, but protests have erupted online and in the streets as everyday Americans worry that cable and phone companies will be able to control what they see and do online.

Opponents of the FCC’s move plan legal challenges. Some net-neutrality supporters hope to ride that wave of public opinion into the 2018 elections.

 

 

 

 

12/14/17 – Michigan Legislature OKs $23M for contamination response

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Legislature has approved spending $23 million to address what state regulators say is an emerging problem of contamination caused by toxic chemicals used in industrial products.

The funding is included in a supplemental budget bill passed quickly Wednesday.

Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are used in many industrial applications and products including firefighting foams. There are 14 known communities with 28 contamination sites in Michigan.

The money would be used for response activities, including to buy lab equipment instead of sending samples out of state.

A contamination in Kent County has drawn intense scrutiny recently. Waste sludge from footwear company Wolverine World Wild was dumped into unlined trenches and lagoons decades ago.

 

 

 

 

12/14/17 – Michigan Legislature cuts fines after jobless fraud scandal

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Legislature has unanimously voted to cut high financial penalties for collecting excessive unemployment benefits while easing the ability for employers and claimants to report cases of identity theft.

The legislation was approved Wednesday and will soon reach Gov. Rick Snyder. The bills are a response to thousands of people being wrongly accused of fraudulently receiving benefits.

In many cases between 2013 and 2015, claimants did not commit fraud and were hit with interest along with penalties above the overpayment.

Under the legislation, first-time offenders who receive an overpayment under $500 would have to pay it back instead of being required to refund the overpayment plus a penalty equal to four times the amount that was improperly obtained. Large fines would stay in place for “impostor” claimants.

 

12/14/17 – Michigan lawmakers target ‘doc shopping’ by opioid addicts

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Doctors will be required to check a prescription database before prescribing painkillers and other powerful drugs under legislation that has won final approval in Michigan’s Legislature.

The bill was passed Wednesday. Other bills winning passage would limit the amount of opioids that can be prescribed and require a “bona fide” physician-patient relationship to dispense drugs.

The measures are lawmakers’ latest attempt to combat a deadly opioid epidemic in a state with the 10th-highest per-capita rate of opioid pain reliever prescriptions in the country.

 

 

 

 

 

12/14/17 – Disney’s deal for large part of Fox

Analysts say Disney’s $52.4 billion deal to buy a large part of 21st Century Fox will put it in a better position to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon.

Paolo Pescatore of CCS Insight says that “even a giant like Disney has not been immune” to changes in how consumers watch TV shows and movies. The deal, he says, will give Disney greater control of all aspects of content, from creation to distribution. That would lead to greater sources of revenue.

Disney already has announced plans to create its own streaming service in 2019 to compete with Netflix. Disney will now be able to beef up that offering with additional video from Fox.

Daniel Ives, head of technology research at GBH Insights, calls the announcement a “home run deal” for Disney, one that will give the company and its upcoming streaming service “a clear runway to gain market and mind share” from Netflix and others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

12/13/17 – Would-be suicide bomber in New York City faces court hearing

NEW YORK (AP) — A Bangladeshi immigrant is expected to appear before a federal magistrate to face terrorism charges accusing him of setting off an explosive strapped to his body in a New York City transportation hub.

Akayed Ullah remains hospitalized with burns from a pipe bomb that failed to fully detonate. Authorities are determining whether his initial appearance Wednesday will need to take place through closed-circuit video from the hospital.

Investigators say the 27-year-old Ullah has admitted he wanted to cause carnage with his homemade pipe bomb to avenge U.S. aggression toward the Islamic State group.

Ullah faces life in prison if convicted on charges of providing material support to a terrorist group, use of a weapon of mass destruction and three bomb-related counts. There was no response to a message left with his attorney.

 

 

 

 

 

12/13/17 – Michigan police open investigation after child detained

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan police department has opened an internal investigation after officers held an 11-year-old girl at gunpoint, handcuffed her and put her in the back of a cruiser.

The incident happened Wednesday as the girl leaving her Grand Rapids home to go to a store. Police say they were at the home looking for the girl’s 40-year-old aunt, who had allegedly stabbed a relative nearby.

Grand Rapids police also detained two other women who exited the house with the girl.

Police issued a statement Monday saying officers detained the women and the girl because they hadn’t determined if they were the suspect. Police say neither the woman nor the girl was armed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

12/13/17 – Ballot drive launched to keep prevailing wage law intact

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Construction trade groups are launching a ballot drive to keep intact Michigan’s law that requires better wages and benefits for workers on state-financed building projects.

The Republican-led Legislature could vote early next year to repeal the law, despite opposition from GOP Gov. Rick Snyder, who supports it as a way to promote in-demand jobs in the trades. A group has turned in signatures for veto-proof initiated legislation.

That prompted supporters of the law to announce their own initiative Tuesday. If they collect enough signatures, voters ultimately would decide the fate of the wage law next November.

Labor leaders say they are lobbying Republican legislators to not vote on the first initiative and instead let voters decide. But they want a backup plan in case the Legislature passes it.

 

 

 

 

 

12/13/17 – Michigan gets its first black woman VFW post commander

SAGINAW, Mich. (AP) — A Saginaw woman has become the first black woman in Michigan appointed commander of a Veterans of Foreign Wars post.

Kimberly Napoleon was installed Saturday as a commander of VFW Post 9931 in Bridgeport.

The 49-year-old Army veteran served in three military operations between 1987 and 1996, including the Persian Gulf War. She was medically retired in December 1996 because of injuries she sustained in the service that earned her a Bronze Star.

Napoleon tells MLive.com that once she learned she would become the first black woman commander of a VFW post in Michigan she realized her new leadership role “was a big deal.”

Michigan Department of Foreign Wars senior vice commander Phil Patterson says Napoleon “is a great asset to the post and the organization.”

 

 

 

12/13/17 – Man sentenced to jail in Michigan fire that killed 13 horses

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A man who pleaded guilty to setting a fire that killed 13 horses in western Michigan has been sentenced to a year in jail and three years at a mental health facility.

Payton Mellema learned his punishment Tuesday. He lived near The Barn for Equine Learning in Kent County’s Lowell Township, where the horses died in April. The horses were used as therapy for children and young adults with a variety of special needs.

Mellema earlier pleaded guilty to arson and animal cruelty. He’s already served about eight months in jail, so officials have a few more months to find a mental-health facility. If an appropriate facility can’t be found, Mellema will be behind bars longer.

Prosecutors and Mellema’s lawyer say he has mental health issues and needs treatment.

 

 

12/13/17 – Jones wins Alabama Election

-Democrat Doug Jones has won the Senate election in Alabama.  Jones’ come-from-behind victory was against the former state supreme court justice Roy Moore.  Alabama had not elected a Democrat to the Senate in 25 years before last night.

The election was to fill the spot left open by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12/12/17 – Voters line up to cast ballots in Birmingham

More than two dozen people stood in line in the chilly morning air at Legion Field, a predominantly black precinct in Birmingham, after polls opened at 7 a.m.

Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones have both reached out to minority voters during their contentious campaign for a U.S. Senate seat.

Political observers believe that Jones needs heavy turnout among African-American voters in order to win on Tuesday.

The special election is to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Senate seat.

 

 

 

 

 

12/12/17 – NYC bombing

NEW YORK (AP) — A passageway connecting New York City’s Port Authority bus terminal and the Times Square subway station is back in use the day after a bomb went off there.

Security remains tight citywide on Tuesday.

An NYPD official says the man accused of detonating the bomb was not previously known to authorities.

Deputy Commissioner for Counter-terrorism and Intelligence John Miller said on CBS “This Morning” that Akayed Ullah wasn’t on police or FBI’s radar before the Monday morning bomb in Times Square.  He is now being charged with terrorism.  Ullah and several others were injured after yesterday bomb went off.

Miller says it’s getting harder and harder to defend against such acts because would-be terrorists are going online to read propaganda without speaking with any larger group.

 

 

 

 

 

12/12/17 – Ex-Congressman Hoekstra sworn in as Netherlands ambassador

HOLLAND, Mich. (AP) — Former Republican Congressman Pete Hoekstra  is the new U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands.

White House spokeswoman Vanessa Morrone says Hoekstra was sworn in Monday afternoon by Vice President Mike Pence.

Hoekstra was confirmed last month by the U.S. Senate. He previously served as chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and was the ranking Republican on the Committee until 2011.

First elected to Congress in 1992, Hoekstra was born in the Netherlands and moved to the U.S. with his family when he was 3. He was an executive with Michigan-based office furniture maker Herman Miller and later ran unsuccessful campaigns for Michigan governor and U.S. Senate.

President Donald Trump nominated Hoekstra for the ambassador post earlier this year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

12/12/17 – 80 parcels of Michigan land for sale in sealed-bid auction

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The state of Michigan is auctioning off 80 parcels of surplus public land, mostly in the central and northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula.

The sealed-bid auction begins Tuesday and runs through Jan. 10.

Properties range in size from less than 1 acre (0.4 hectares) to 146 acres (59 hectares). The Department of Natural Resources says they’re isolated from other state land, are hard to manage and provide limited outdoor recreation benefits.

Several parcels are forested and have riverside or lake frontage. Large-acreage properties are available in Alpena, Arenac, Gladwin, Menominee, Montmorency, Osceola and Roscommon counties.

Information such as minimum bid price and property descriptions are available online . All bids will be opened Jan. 24.

The DNR says proceeds from the sale will help provide future outdoor recreation opportunities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

12/12/17 – Should counties keep windfalls in tax foreclosures?

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Supreme Court is being asked to look at the windfalls enjoyed by counties when they sell a property because of unpaid taxes.

Local governments are keeping the cash — even if a sale exceeds the taxes and penalties owed.

Because of a mistake, Uri Rafaeli owed $8.41 on a rental property in Southfield. The bill grew to $285 with penalties and interest. Rafaeli says Oakland County sold the house for $24,500 and kept the balance.

The Pacific Legal Foundation calls it an unconstitutional taking, even if Michigan law allows it. The foundation is asking the Supreme Court to hear an appeal, although the court could say no. The group says thousands of people have been affected.

Oakland County says Rafaeli forfeited the house by not paying his bill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12/11/17 – Major Ministries Combining Services

Two major ministries addressing homelessness in West Michigan are combing some services.  Mel Trotter and Degage Ministries will combine the day center, moving workers to the ministry on Division Avenue in Grand Rapids.  Mel Trotter will also close their food pantry but will still accept food donations.  They’ll use them in the cafeteria and any excess will be distributed to food pantries in the local community.

The buildings that housed the day center and food pantry were sold to Western Michigan University after almost a year of evaluation.  The last day for operations at the food pantry will be December 14.  Western will take full possession of the buildings on January 1, 2018.

Mel Trotter Executive Director Dennis VanKampen doesn’t anticipate any layoffs due to the move.  He says MTM staff that previously worked in the day center will now work out of the joint Heartside Community Center with and at Degage and remain MTM employees. Pantry staff will now work with the food service team on meal preparation inside the Mission.  The mission serves around 400 meals each day.

Van Kampen says they have been working together with various partners to avoid duplicate services as well as to create an environment where partnerships are being utilized to stretch donation dollars.

Van Kampen reiterated the changes are not the result of diminished services or support and the realities of homelessness in West Michigan are still prevalent.

12/11/17 – NY subway bombing

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City police say they are combing through video of the bombing in the subway system.

They say the suspect meant to set off the bomb, but it’s not clear if he meant to do so in a passageway in the Times Square area where it went off Monday during the morning rush hour.

Twenty-seven-year-old Akayed Ullah is in police custody. Officials say he sustained burns to his abdomen and hands and cuts after the crude pipe bomb exploded.  4 people, including the suspect, were hurt following the pipe bomb explosion.  None of the injuries were believed to be life threatening.

Law enforcement officials say Ullah was inspired by the Islamic State, but apparently had no direct contact with the terrorist group. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the suspect or incident.

 

 

 

 

 

 

12/11/17 – Fires burn out of control out West

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Officials say the largest, most destructive wildfire burning in Southern California is expected to grow as it enters its second week.

The Thomas Fire north of Los Angeles has burned more than 270 square miles, prompted tens of thousands of evacuations and destroyed nearly 800 structures.

The fire that started Dec. 4 is 15 percent contained. It was fanned by dry Santa Ana winds that spit embers ahead of fire lines.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown says the containment number will likely go down not because of a lack of progress, but because of the fire’s expected growth.

The National Weather Service says gusts up to 40 mph are expected through Monday.

 

 

 

 

 

12/11/17 – Storms in the South

ATLANTA (AP) — The lingering threat of icy roads is keeping some schools closed in Georgia days after a winter storm covered parts of the Deep South with snow.

News outlets report schools in several metro Atlanta counties were closed Monday as well as in other parts of northern Georgia. They included Cobb and Paulding counties, where about 12 inches (30 centimeters) of snow fell Friday and Saturday.

While the snowfall ended early in the weekend, overnight temperatures have remained below freezing. The National Weather Service says black ice on roads will remain a threat Monday morning, with temperatures warming before noon.

The unusually heavy December snow storm caused flurries in New Orleans and dumped several inches in portions of Mississippi and Alabama.

 

 

 

 

 

 

12/11/17 –  Statewide average gas prices rise 7 cents

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — AAA Michigan says gas prices statewide have risen by about 7 cents per gallon in the past week.

The Dearborn-based auto club says early Monday the average price for self-serve regular unleaded gasoline was about $2.51 per gallon. Prices are about 24 cents more than at the same point last year.

Michigan’s lowest average price was about $2.45 per gallon in the Traverse City area. The highest was about $2.62 per gallon in the Marquette area. It was the second consecutive week that the Marquette area had the highest average.

The Detroit-area’s average rose about 1 cent to $2.50 per gallon.

AAA Michigan surveys daily fuel prices at 2,800 gas stations across the state.

 

 

 

 

 

 

12/11/17 –  Future of underwater oil pipelines 

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A government panel is scheduled for a briefing on a recent agreement between Michigan officials and the company that operates twin oil pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac.

The Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board will discuss the deal during its quarterly meeting Monday in Lansing. It calls for the state and Canadian pipeline operator Enbridge Inc. to decide the future of Line 5 by Aug. 15.

Line 5 carries 23 million gallons (87 million liters) daily between Superior, Wisconsin, and Sarnia, Ontario. Long-term options include placing the lines in an underground tunnel or shutting them down.

Enbridge officials also will update the advisory board on recently discovered gaps in the pipelines’ protective coating.

Environmental groups plan to use a public comment period to continue their push for decommissioning Line 5.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12/8/17 – Winter Weather-Deep South

Nearly two dozen school districts in north Georgia have closed as snow continues to fall in the area.

Schools are closing due to the winter storm warning issued in an area where up to 2 inches (50 millimeters) are expected from Carrollton in west Georgia northeast to the mountains, with 3 to 4 inches (76-102 millimeters) at higher elevations.

In metro Atlanta, some school districts are staying open for classes, but all extracurricular activities Friday night and Saturday have been canceled.

Meteorologist David Nadler, at the National Weather Service’s office near Atlanta, says it would be the season’s first snow. His agency issued winter weather advisories for parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas.

Affected areas include such cities as Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Hattiesburg, Mississippi; and Birmingham, Alabama.

 

 

 

 

12/8/17 – Ford shifts production of electric SUV to Mexico

DETROIT (AP) — Ford says that shifting production of an electric SUV from the U.S. to Mexico will allow the company to make more self-driving vehicles in Michigan.

Ford announced last January that it would invest $700 million and hire 700 workers to make electric and autonomous vehicles at its Flat Rock plant near Detroit. Among those vehicles is an all-electric SUV that will go on sale in 2020.

Ford said Thursday it now plans to make the SUV at its Cuatitlan, Mexico, factory.

Ford said it plans to add a second autonomous vehicle to the Flat Rock plant. It will increase its investment there to $900 million and hire a total of 850 workers.

Ford Motor Co. wants to have an autonomous vehicle on the market in 2021.

 

 

 

 

 

12/8/17 – Michigan urban forestry projects

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has awarded grants totaling $90,525 for urban forestry projects around the state.

The grants are being divided among 21 recipients in 17 counties.

Officials say they were awarded for community tree plantings, inventories, management plans, education, and training projects that enhance and promote urban and community forestry.

The program is a cooperative effort between the DNR and the U.S. Forest Service, which provides the funding. The grants require one-to-one matching funds for projects on non-federal, public lands or lands open to the public.

Grant awards have been distributed for projects to be completed by Sept. 1, 2018.

 

 

 

 

12/8/17 – Michigan Indian tribe getting into cigarette business

BARAGA, Mich. (AP) — An Indian tribe in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula says it has federal approval to get into the cigarette business.

The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Tobacco Co. says it received a permit to process tobacco. Tribal Council vice president Jennifer Misegan tells The Daily Mining Gazette that it’s an “economic development opportunity.”

The tribe will be working with a subsidiary of Seneca Manufacturing, which makes cigarettes on Seneca Nation land in New York.

Misegan says equipment has been installed at an industrial park and work could start in eight weeks.

The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community is based in Baraga (BEAR’-uh-guh) in the western Upper Peninsula.

 

 

 

 

 

12/8/17 – Senate approves bill to avert shutdown

WASHINGTON (AP) — No government shutdown — for now.

The Senate has voted 81-14 for a spending bill to keep the government open until Dec. 22. The Senate approval comes about an hour after the House backed the measure.

The bill now heads to President Donald Trump for his expected signature.

The measure provides funds to government agencies, from the Defense Department to the IRS. The two-week spending bill also makes money available to several states that are running out of funds for the Children’s Health Insurance Program. That widely popular program provides medical care to more than 8 million children.

Passage of the measure gives Republicans and Democrats more time to negotiate some of the other end-of-year agenda items, including immigration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

12/8/17 – Homes, horses burn in newest California wildfire

FALLBROOK, Calif. (AP) — California’s newest wildfire tore through retirement communities built on golf courses and killed elite thoroughbred horses in its first destructive day.

The new blaze in San Diego County means a huge swath of Southern California is now in flames. December’s shockingly dry, hot and windy conditions brought on unprecedented fire danger.

The San Diego-area fire quickly grew to more than 6 square miles and burned dozens of homes at Rancho Monserate Country Club.

Flames engulfed a horse training center, prompting trainers to unlock stables and encourage hundreds of race horses to run for their lives. It’s not clear how many died.

The region’s biggest fire, which is 200 miles north, keeps growing and has destroyed more than 400 homes and buildings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12/7/17 – US Senator Al Franken Resigns Amidst Assault Allegations

Minnesota Senator Al Franken stood in the well of the Senate and announced his resignation.  It will take place in the next few weeks.

Franken, who is facing assault allegations from multiple women, stated that he has done nothing to bring disrepute to the institution but that he cannot undergo an ethics investigation and serve the people of Minnesota.

Franken claims some of the allegations are untrue and others are not as he remembers them.

It comes one day after an article ran in The Atlantic in which a Democrat staffer accused Franken of groping her during a party to celebrate the inauguration of President Barack Obama.  Franken won office during the same election.

Franken lost support from dozens of fellow Democrats in the Senate as well as multiple leaders in the party.

During his announcement Franken states that he believes the situation is ironic stating that he was leaving while a person with a “history of sexual assault” sits in the Oval Office.

12/7/17 – More cases of chronic wasting disease found during deer hunt

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Officials say a number of deer believed to have been infected with chronic wasting disease were found during Michigan’s recently completed firearms hunting season.

The latest cases bring the tally of confirmed or suspected infections in the state to 30 whitetail deer since 2015.

The state Department of Natural Resources encourages hunters to bring their deer to check stations. It says several thousand samples await testing by Michigan State University, so the number of chronic wasting disease cases still could rise.

The infected deer have turned up in Clinton, Ingham, Kent and Montcalm counties.

The DNR has established a “core and management zone” where the disease has been detected. All deer taken by hunters in that area must be checked, while feeding and baiting deer there are prohibited.

 

 

 

 

12/7/17 –  Senate votes to boost 911 fees in phone bills

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Bills advancing in Michigan’s Legislature would boost 911 fees that are included in phone bills.

The legislation approved 30-6 Wednesday by the Senate goes to the House for consideration next.

It would increase a 19-cent monthly state 911 surcharge to 25 cents and let counties raise 42-cent surcharges to 48 cents. Surcharges also would rise for prepaid phones.

The bill would boost revenue by $20 million annually and change how the money is distributed for 911 emergency services.

 

12/7/17 –  Lawmakers pass retirement bills after changes

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan lawmakers have approved legislation aimed at underfunded municipal retirement plans, after deciding to abandon a contentious proposal for state intervention in communities that are unwilling or unable to resolve their liabilities.

New versions of the bills were passed early Thursday, capping a marathon session. Lawmakers will give a final OK to the legislation next week.

Gov. Rick Snyder and Republican legislative leaders agreed to changes after hitting resistance from police and firefighter unions, Democrats and many Republicans.

The bills now closely reflect recommendations from a task force and stop short of creating new emergency financial teams to possibly intervene in some municipalities with severely underfunded pension or retiree health care plans.

There would still be reporting requirements and some state involvement in guiding communities to shore up their systems.

 

 

 

 

 

 

12/7/17 – California in the “purple”

VENTURA, Calif. (AP) — Southern California has felt yellow wind, orange wind, and red wind. But never purple wind. Until now.

The color-coded system showing the expected strength of the wild winds driving the region’s fierce wildfires has reached uncharted territory. It has pushed past red, which means “high,” into purple, which means “extreme.”

State fire Director Ken Pimlott said Wednesday that purple has never been used before.

He says that means winds could blow at an astonishing 80 mph, a speed reaching hurricane strength.

The three major wildfires burning in Los Angeles and Ventura counties have already put tens of thousands of people under evacuation orders and destroyed nearly 200 homes and buildings.

Officials fearing things could get far worse issued a rare wind warning late Tuesday night to millions of cellphones from San Diego to Santa Barbara.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12/6/17 – President Trump Moves Embassy in Israel

Speaking in front of a portrait of George Washington, President Donald Trump announced at the White House that the US will move its embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognize the city as the capital of Israel.

Since 1995, every President has signed a waiver twice a year delaying the Jerusalem Embassy Act.  Today, President Trump upended history.

“Old challenges demand new approaches.”  President Trump pointed to the decade’s long attempt to produce a peace deal but that this move was overdue.  Trump says that while noble efforts were made to produce a peace deal, every President was never able to accomplish it.  While recognizing the difficulties and problems with making the change, Trump reiterated the reality of the situation as Israel claims Jerusalem as its capitol.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a televised statement praising the President’s decision saying the people of Israel would “forever be grateful.”

Critics have labeled the move as merely symbolic with others feeling it will promote distrust and result in violence.

Trump made the point that the world’s three major religions value the city as a critical location of their faith.  Making no illusions about the conflicts, he emphasized that the relocation of the embassy and recognition of Jerusalem as capital, would not inhibit any groups efforts to practice their faith.

The President also mentioned his support for a two-state solution. “This should call for the best in humanity, not pulling us back and down to the old fights.  Peace is never beyond the grasp those willing to reach.”

While countries that recognize Israel have their embassies in Tel Aviv, the US will not be the only country to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capitol.

The President is expected to sign the 1995 act waiver this year but planning will get underway to build the new embassy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

12/6/17 – California Wildfires

VENTURA, Calif. (AP) — The same vicious winds that made three Southern California wildfires so destructive are also making the firefight itself more difficult.

The water-dropping planes and helicopters essential to fighting massive fires have been mostly grounded because it’s too dangerous to fly in the strong gusts.

Commanders hoped to have them back in the air on Wednesday morning, but all indications are the winds will be whipping then too.

The blazes brought evacuation orders for nearly 200,000 people, destroyed nearly 200 homes and have remained mostly out control.

The largest and most destructive of the blazes, an 85-square-mile wildfire in Ventura County northwest of Los Angeles, had nearly reached the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday night after starting 30 miles inland a day earlier.

 

 

 

 

12/6/17 – Michigan is 1 of 2 states where lawmakers’ finances unknown

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan could end up being the only state where legislators pass and reject laws without the public knowing about their personal finances.

It’s a distinction good government watchdogs say is an embarrassment that must be changed.

Forty-seven states require lawmakers to file some type of financial disclosure that lists their occupation, income or business associations — information that indicates if a legislator might benefit personally from supporting or opposing legislation.

Vermont will begin mandating disclosure reports next year. And in Idaho, lawmakers recently agreed that elected officials should disclose financial information and forwarded a proposal to the full Legislature.

An analysis by The Associated Press and Center for Public Integrity found examples around the country of lawmakers voting on bills that ended up benefiting their own business interests.

 

 

 

 

 

12/6/17 – Senate votes to expand tax-free accounts for K-12 expenses

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Parents could use tax-free savings accounts to pay for students’ school-related expenses including extracurricular activities under legislation that has cleared a divided Michigan Senate.

The Republican-led chamber approved the bills 23-14 Tuesday, with Democrats and some Republicans in opposition. The legislation goes to the House for consideration next.

It would create an expanded Michigan Education Savings Program, through which families currently contribute money tax-free to pay for college expenses.

The main bill sponsor, Republican Sen. Patrick Colbeck of Canton, says the contributions could pay for special education services, extracurricular activities currently not funded by schools and skilled trades preparation. He says they would help schools get additional funding.

Critics say the legislation is a tax break for the wealthy and would cost the state up to $100 million to implement.

 

 

 

 

12/6/17 – High waves cause temporary shutdown of Michigan oil pipeline

ST. IGNACE, Mich. (AP) — State officials say the flow of crude oil through twin underwater pipelines has been halted temporarily because of high winds and waves in the channel where Lakes Huron and Michigan meet.

The Michigan Agency for Energy says the temporary shutdown of Enbridge Inc.’s Line 5 is in keeping with a November agreement between the state and the Canadian oil transport company.

Under the deal, operation of the line will stop when bad weather causes wave heights of 8 feet (2.4 meters) or higher for longer than an hour.

Waves exceeded 9 feet (2.7 meters) Tuesday.

The state agency says Enbridge shut down the lines at 11:37 a.m. EST and will resume the oil flow when conditions improve.

Line 5 carries oil from Superior, Wisconsin, to refineries at Sarnia, Ontario.

 

 

 

 

 

12/6/17 – Public meetings planned on Michigan underwater oil pipelines

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — State officials are kicking off a series of public discussions about the future of twin oil pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac.

They’ll take feedback on a consultant’s report analyzing options for Enbridge Inc.’s Line 5, which runs between Superior, Wisconsin, and Sarnia, Ontario. A nearly 5-mile-long segment lies beneath the Straits of Mackinac, which links Lakes Huron and Michigan.

The first meeting is scheduled for Wednesday at 6 p.m. in Taylor. The others will be Dec. 12 in St. Ignace and Dec. 13 in Traverse City.

Hosting the meetings are the Michigan Agency for Energy, the state attorney general’s office and the departments of Environmental Quality and Natural Resources.

The report by Dynamic Risk Systems Inc. analyzes six alternatives, including putting the pipelines in a tunnel beneath the straits.

 

 

 

 

 

12/5/17 – Storm system brings high winds

GRAND RAPIDS, MI (Mlive)– More than 11,000 West Michigan residents are waking up without power Tuesday, Dec. 5, as a result of strong overnight winds knocking down power lines.

At least 3,664 Consumers Energy customers in Kent County were reported to be in the dark as of 6:30 a.m. Tuesday. The energy company also estimated more than 2,500 customers were affected in Kalamazoo, and more than 1,000 in Allegan and Ottawa counties.

In total, the state had just shy of 60,000 without power as of 6:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Areas in Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon counties are expected to see wind gusts up to 40 mph throughout the morning, with surrounding areas seeing slightly lesser gusts.

Consumers Energy and local emergency response crews spent the morning responding to reports of downed trees and power lines, as well as some resulting fires.

Estimated restoration times vary throughout the day, with power expected to be restored in some areas as late as 11 p.m.

 

 

 

 

 

12/5/17 – Wildfire burns 150 structures; winds increasing

SANTA PAULA, Calif. (AP) — A wind-whipped wildfire in Southern California has scorched 48 square miles, destroyed 150 structures and left one firefighter injured, and officials say winds are increasing.

Authorities say the blaze broke out Monday evening east of Santa Paula, which is about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

By early Tuesday, more than 27,000 people have been evacuated. It wasn’t clear if the structures burned were homes or businesses. There was no immediate word on the extent of the firefighter’s injury.

Earlier, evacuation orders were expanded to include homes in Ventura, a city with over 100,000 residents.

Officials say one person has died in an auto accident related to the fire, but did not give any details.

Southern California Edison says nearly 180,000 customers in the Ventura county area were without service.

 

 

 

 

12/5/17 – Justices take up dispute over wedding cake 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is taking up the highly anticipated case of the Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

Tuesday’s clash at the high court pits baker Jack Phillips’ First Amendment claims of artistic freedom against the anti-discrimination arguments of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, and two men Phillips turned away in 2012.

The commission ruled that Phillips violated the state’s anti-discrimination law when he refused to make a wedding cake for Charlie Craig and David Mullins.

The Trump administration is supporting Phillips in his argument that he can’t be forced to create a cake that violates his religious beliefs.

 

 

 

 

 

12/5/17 – Relative says Conyers won’t seek re-election

DETROIT (AP) — A relative of John Conyers says the longest-serving current U.S. House member won’t seek re-election amid allegations that he harassed female staff members.

Michigan state Sen. Ian Conyers, a grandson of John Conyers’ brother, told The New York Times early Tuesday that the decision comes after the 88-year-old Democrat’s doctor “advised him that the rigor of another campaign would be too much for him, just in terms of his health.”

Ian Conyers told the newspaper that his great-uncle “is not resigning. He is going to retire.” The report didn’t specify how Ian Conyers knew of the congressman’s plans.

The Associated Press left the younger Conyers a message Tuesday.

John Conyers’ attorney Arnold Reed has said the congressman plans to speak on a Detroit radio show Tuesday morning about his political future.

 

 

 

 

12/5/17 – Rules issued before Michigan marijuana licensing begins

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Rick Snyder has issued temporary rules less than two weeks before Michigan’s new medical marijuana licensing system begins.

The regulations released Monday flesh out guidance that has been published by state officials in recent months.

Starting Dec. 15, the state will begin accepting license applications to grow, process, sell, transport or test marijuana.

The emergency rules include requirements that businesses have video surveillance, conduct employee background checks and meet minimum capitalization requirements to open.

Existing medical marijuana businesses can stay open while seeking a state license as long as they have been operating with the approval of their local community.

Michigan currently lets patients obtain marijuana from caregivers who grow plants, but the legal status of dispensary businesses has been in doubt.

 

 

 

 

12/5/17 – 5 ruffed grouse test positive for West Nile Virus

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — State officials say five ruffed grouse have tested positive for the West Nile Virus.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says it marks the first time the disease has been confirmed in the state’s ruffed grouse population.

The five birds were collected from August through October in Iron, Delta, Roscommon and Missaukee counties. Two were found dead and three were shot by hunters.

The state says there is no evidence of human infection from properly cooked game.

West Nile Virus primarily is transmitted to humans through the bites of infected mosquitoes. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says there have been 39 human cases of the virus reported this year in Michigan.

Just over 200 animals have been confirmed with West Nile Virus in Michigan.

12/5/17 –  Roadway reopening at site of massive Michigan sinkhole

FRASER, Mich. (AP) — A roadway that was closed after a sewer line collapse caused a massive suburban Detroit sinkhole is reopening to traffic.

A ribbon-cutting is planned Tuesday for 15 Mile Road in Fraser at the site of the Christmas Eve collapse. Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel are among those expected for the event.

The county says it’s the last major step in the completion of the repair project.

Sewage earlier began flowing again through the major interceptor line and officials marked the milestone during a September ceremony.

The line 60 feet (18 meters) below ground serves roughly 500,000 Macomb County residents.

Families from roughly two dozen homes were displaced for about three weeks after the collapse and three houses were condemned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

12/5/17 – Legislature starting hearings on bills to fund retiree plans

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan’s Legislature is beginning hearings on legislation that would force local governments to boost funding for employee retirement plans or face the possibility of a state intervention.

The bills are being debated Tuesday in House and Senate committees controlled by Republicans. Legislative leaders hope to enact the measures this month to shore up underfunded municipal systems, but opposition is building from police and firefighters worried about cuts to benefits.

The legislation would require local pension and retiree health care plans to report financial information to the state. They would have to meet gradually higher minimum funding thresholds over time.

If corrective actions weren’t taken, the state could appoint a three-person team to act as an emergency manager.

The leaders of Oakland and Macomb counties came out against the bills Monday.

 

 

 

 

12/4/17 – Conyers supporters to hold Monday rally

DETROIT (AP) — Supporters of U.S. Rep. John Conyers are planning a Monday rally in Detroit for the embattled congressman.

Dozens of political, religious and civil rights leaders are scheduled to gather at 11 a.m. Monday for the rally at Hartford Memorial Baptist Church.

The 88-year-old faces harassment allegations from former staff members. Conyers has denied any wrongdoing.

The Democratic lawmaker has been hospitalized since he reported feeling lightheaded last week.

Conyers’ attorney said Friday the congressman will decide in the next few days whether to resign, stay in office through the end of his term, or seek re-election next year.

 

 

 

 

 

12/4/17 – Michigan task force suggests drone use limits to lawmakers

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A new report by a Michigan task force says the state Legislature should limit the operation of drones around areas such as correctional facilities, tourist destinations and prominent bridges.

The 27-member Unmanned Aircraft Systems Task Force was created earlier this year to form statewide policy on the operation and regulation of unmanned aircraft systems.

The panel said in a report released last month that it worked to balance safety needs while respecting the Federal Aviation Administration’s authority over airspace.

The task force’s report also recommends the creation of an Unmanned Aerial System Joint Program Office, developing education and outreach strategies, and expanding the American Center for Mobility to include unmanned aircraft. The center is a test site for autonomous vehicles.

Gov. Rick Snyder and the Legislature will review the recommendations.

 

 

 

 

 

12/4/17 – Blasts fails to bring down upper section of Silverdome

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — A partial implosion of the Silverdome has failed to bring down the upper section of the Detroit Lions’ former home.

Demolition company Adamo says that Sunday morning’s blasts in Pontiac, Michigan, did weaken the Silverdome and it could still fall, but it’s unclear when that might happen.

Rick Cuppetilli is executive vice president with Adamo. He tells the Detroit Free Press that 10 percent of the explosive charges failed to detonate due to wiring issues that crews are investigating.

Cuppetilli says that unless gravity causes the building to fall on its own, excavators will start taking down the structure this week.

The Lions played in suburban Detroit from 1975 through 2001. The Silverdome also was the home of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons and hosted the Super Bowl in 1982.

 

 

 

 

12/4/17 – CVS Health-Aetna deal may mean more services

CVS Health wants to do much more than fill your prescription or jab your arm with an annual flu shot.

The second-largest U.S. drugstore chain is buying the health insurer Aetna in order to push deeper into customer care. The evolution won’t happen overnight, but in time, shoppers may find more clinics in CVS stores and more services they can receive through the network of nearly 10,000 locations that the company has built.

Wall Street analysts say the $69 billion deal announced Sunday evening pushes CVS in a direction the company has been heading for years. It already runs about 1,100 clinics and has been steadily expanding the health care it offers.

In 2014, the company stopped selling tobacco products to further burnish its health care image.

 

 

 

 

 

12/4/17 –  United States, South Korea start massive air force drills

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The United States and South Korea have started their biggest-ever joint air force exercise with hundreds of aircrafts including two dozen stealth jets.

South Korea’s defense ministry said Monday the five-day drill called Vigilant Ace will improve their capabilities in wartime.

The U.S. 7th Air Force deployed major strategic military assets including six F-22 and 18 F-35 stealth fighter jets for the regular exercise in the Korean Peninsula. About 12,000 U.S. military personnel are participating.

It takes places a week after North Korea test-launched its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile that puts most of the U.S. within range.

On Sunday, Senator Lindsey Graham said it is time for U.S. military families in South Korea to leave the country because the conflict with North Korea is getting close.

 

 

 

 

12/4/17 – Statewide average gas prices fall 8 cents

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — AAA Michigan says gas prices statewide have fallen by about 8 cents per gallon in the past week.

The Dearborn-based auto club says early Monday the average price for self-serve regular unleaded gasoline was about $2.44 per gallon. It’s the third consecutive week of declines, but AAA Michigan notes prices still are about 23 cents more than at the same point last yer.

Michigan’s lowest average price was about $2.33 per gallon in the Bay City, Midland and Saginaw areas. The highest was about $2.64 per gallon in the Marquette area.

The Detroit-area’s average fell about 8 cents to $2.49 per gallon.

AAA Michigan surveys daily fuel prices at 2,800 gas stations across the state.

 

 

12/1/17 – Homicide and arson suspected in fatal fire

DECATUR, MI (Mlive) — Police say they suspect arson and homicide after finding a body in a house in Decatur following a fire Thursday morning.

A fire was reported at about 8 a.m. at 201 E. St. Mary’s Street in the village of Decatur. While the flames were being extinguished, police found a body in the living room of the home, Van Buren County Sheriff Daniel Abbott said.

Abbott said that based on the “crime scene” in the living room, authorities suspect the fire was deliberately set and are treating it as an arson and homicide investigation.

The home had limited exterior damage, but “quite a bit” of damage on the inside, the sheriff said.

He declined to give further details on the investigation, including the identity of the person who died.

The house is a rental, and it is presumed that the victim was one of the renters, he said.

 

 

 

 

12/1/17 – Trump considers replacing Tillerson with Pompeo

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senior U.S. officials say President Donald Trump is considering replacing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to lead off a realignment of his national security team.

The officials say such a plan calls for Tillerson to be replaced by the director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, who would then be replaced by Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas. The officials spoke about the possible changes on condition of anonymity.

Publicly, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders didn’t confirm or deny that Trump was considering replacing Tillerson. Trump himself wouldn’t directly answer when asked if he wanted Tillerson to stay on the job.

Tillerson left Exxon Mobil as CEO to join the administration. Replacing the understated former oil man could significantly shift the tone and direction of Trump’s foreign policy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

12/1/17 – Senate GOP hustles to meet tax bill holdouts’ demands

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans are stepping quickly to meet competing demands of holdout GOP senators for a tax overhaul package expected to add $1 trillion to the nation’s deficit over 10 years.

GOP leaders have been making major changes up to the last minute, including one that would roll back some of the tax cuts after six years.

The Republicans eye a crucial final vote Friday on the $1.4 trillion Senate bill carrying the hopes of President Donald Trump and the Republican Party to preserve their majorities in next year’s elections.

The overall legislation would bring the first overhaul of the U.S. tax code in 31 years. It would slash the corporate tax rate, offer more modest cuts for families and individuals and eliminate several popular deductions.

 

 

 

 

 

12/1/17 – GM to launch autonomous cars in big cities sometime in 2019

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors expects to have autonomous vehicles working commercially in big cities sometime in 2019.

The company made the prediction Thursday in slides posted on its website ahead of an investor presentation.

The company says that based on its current rate of change, it expects “commercial launch at scale” in heavily traveled urban environments in 2019. The slides mention delivery and carrying passengers.

GM’s Cruise Automation unit is currently testing autonomous Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles with human backup drivers in San Francisco, Detroit and Phoenix with plans to test in Manhattan next year. Presumably the backup driver would be removed at the time of the commercial launch.

The slides say that GM is focused on deploying self-driving vehicles safely but say the company is in the lead vs rival companies.

 

 

 

 

 

12/1/17 – Police, firefighters oppose retirement bills

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Police and firefighters are opposing newly introduced legislation that would force municipalities to address underfunded pension and retiree health care plans.

A coalition of unionized police officers, firefighters and police and fire chiefs said Thursday it had “some agreement” with Republican legislative leaders on conceptual issues, but the bills as introduced go “beyond those concepts.”

The unions and groups say letting the state impose benefit changes is contrary to recommendations made by a task force created by Gov. Rick Snyder.

Majority Republicans say many communities are adequately addressing their unfunded liabilities or are taking steps to do so, but some are not and risk going into bankruptcy. They say the bills are designed to ensure municipalities are acting because retirement costs are eating into 20 percent of budgets in many places.

 

 

 

 

 

 

11/30/17 – US, China hold low-key military talks amid N Korea tensions

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. and Chinese generals are working on how the mighty American and Chinese militaries might communicate in a crisis.

They engaged in an unusual set of security talks on Wednesday, just hours after North Korea’s most powerful missile test yet.

President Donald Trump greeted the North’s launching of another intercontinental ballistic missile with familiar demands for China to get tougher with its ally. At the same time, the low-profile meeting in Washington was taking place amid signs China is more willing to discuss how the two world powers would manage an even worse emergency on the divided Korean Peninsula.

The Pentagon stressed the talks were scheduled long before North Korea’s surprise missile launch in the early hours Wednesday in Asia.

 

 

 

 

 

11/30/17 – Students would get loan info under bill OK’d in Michigan

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan universities and colleges would be required to give students information about their federal loans each year under a bill advancing in the Legislature.

The House passed the legislation 91-14 Wednesday and sent it to the Senate for consideration.

Supporters say there is evidence from other states that providing students with more information about their debt leads to better financial planning.

Under the bill , students would receive estimates on how much they have borrowed, their future monthly loan payments and total payoff estimates.

The sponsor, Republican Rep. Thomas Albert of Lowel, has said student loan debt can be a serious problem and once students realize their debt and what they will have to pay, they’re less likely to borrow money they may not need.

11/30/17 – Competency cases move through Michigan court system slowly

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A newspaper investigation has revealed that competency cases for mentally ill defendants move through the Michigan criminal justice system slowly because of a lack of space at a state psychiatric facility.

A November list provided to MLive from the Department of Health and Human Services shows that there were 110 defendants awaiting mental health treatment. Many defendants wait an average of three to four months for treatment.

State health department officials say they’re working to address the problem.

The department spent $7 million last year to add 34 beds to the Center for Forensic Psychiatry.

A department spokeswoman says they’re helping regional hospitals train clinicians to conduct more efficient competency evaluations and restoration treatment. The spokeswoman says clinicians may begin conducting screenings to determine which defendants are most in need of care.

 

 

 

 

 

11/30/17 – Michigan police, firefighters rally

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Hundreds of police and firefighters have rallied at Michigan’s Capitol in a show of force against pending legislation they fear could lead to cuts in retiree benefits.

Bills haven’t been introduced, and Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and legislative leaders continue to meet.

But police officers and firefighters are in Lansing Wednesday to push lawmakers to not curtail retiree health benefits.

Republicans are concerned about $10.1 billion in unfunded liabilities for municipal retiree health care. Public safety officers agree it’s a problem, but say legislators should stick with consensus recommendations included in a task force report — not potentially interfere with collectively bargained contracts.

A spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof says the state should provide a “pathway” to resolve unfunded liabilities locally — through increased revenue or benefit changes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

11/30/17 – Officials take public feedback on Lake Michigan fish plan

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (AP) — Michigan officials are taking feedback on a long-term plan for managing Lake Michigan fish populations and future stocking activities.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is hosting the last of three public meetings on the topics Thursday in Grand Haven. Others were held this week in Manistique and Traverse City.

The DNR and other state and tribal agencies are trying to balance Lake Michigan’s predator fish with available prey. Michigan reduced Chinook salmon stocking in its waters by about 40 percent last year. Stakeholder groups this year recommended cutbacks in predators besides Chinook.

Among options are reducing brown trout, moving some coho salmon to the southern part of the lake and reducing second-priority lake trout stocking sites in northern Lake Michigan.

11/29/17 – Agency says US, Canada fall short on protecting Great Lakes

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — A joint U.S.-Canadian agency says untreated sewage releases, chemical pollution and algae blooms show that the two nations have a long way to go to meet their pledge to clean up the Great Lakes.

The International Joint Commission on Tuesday released its first progress report since the two countries approved an updated version of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement in 2012.

It credits them with moving forward on the cleanup of sites contaminated by industrial pollution and setting targets for reducing phosphorus runoff into Lake Erie that causes explosive growth of toxic algae.

But it says those targets aren’t enforced. And it faults both countries for failing to keep drinking water and sewage treatment facilities in good condition.

The report also says agencies are behind on identifying new contaminants such as fire retardants.

 

11/29/17 – Tax Reform Plan

(AP) – President Trump and congressional Republicans moved one step closer to meeting a Christmas deadline to pass a massive tax reform plan.

The Senate Budget committee advanced the bill to the floor on a party-line vote.

Pres. Trump met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill prior to the vote Tuesday and asked them to resolve their difference later.

 

11/29/17 – Michigan wants all lead pipes replaced

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration is planning to require the replacement of every underground lead service pipe in Michigan within 20 years while delaying by four years a deadline to implement the nation’s toughest lead limit for drinking water in the wake of the Flint lead crisis.

Under draft rules environmental regulators want to finalize next year, Michigan’s “action level” for lead in drinking water would gradually drop to 10 parts per billion by 2024. The current federal threshold is 15 parts per billion.

State officials plan to give communities 20 years to replace some 500,000 lead service lines statewide. That’s longer than a 10-year window that was envisioned earlier.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is holding a public information session on the draft rules Wednesday.

 

 

 

 

 

11/29/17 – Growing pressure on Conyers to resign

DETROIT (AP) — Pressure is growing from fellow Democrats for Michigan Rep. John Conyers to resign from the House after more allegations of misconduct.

A senior House aide says members of the Congressional Black Caucus met with Conyers Tuesday and explained to a founding member of their group why he should resign.

The aide says House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also is pressuring the 88-year-old Conyers behind the scenes to quit. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Conyers missed two House roll call votes late Tuesday and was photographed by a passenger boarding a flight to Detroit from Washington.

 

11/28/17 – Michigan police to test for drug-impaired drivers

NILES, Mich. (AP) — Michigan State Police officers are conducting roadside saliva tests on suspected drug-impaired motorists as part of a program spurring questions about the tests’ accuracy.

State Police Special First Lt. Jim Flegel tells the South Bend Tribune that the program uses a portable saliva-testing device that can tell officers if a driver has certain drugs in his system, such as marijuana or opiates.

Michigan Medical Marijuana Association president Michael Komorn says he’s concerned about the tests’ accuracy and the program’s experimental nature.

The $150,000 program is called the Preliminary Oral Fluid Analysis. Flegel says it aims to combat an increase in fatal crashes caused by drug-impaired drivers. He says officers must have a reason to suspect impairment before testing a driver.

The program is currently being used in five Michigan counties: Berrien, Delta, Kent, St. Clair and Washtenaw.

 

11/28/17 – Hundreds honor Michigan deputy 

INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Hundreds of police officers and others gathered for the start of services for a Michigan sheriff’s deputy who was fatally struck by a car being pursued by police.

Deputies in dress uniforms carried the flag-draped casket of 50-year-old Oakland County Deputy Eric Overall into Independence Township’s Mount Zion Church on Monday for visitation ahead of his funeral Tuesday.

Sonja Overall says she feels robbed by her husband’s death early Thursday, but that the outpouring of support has been a godsend.

Authorities say Overall was preparing to deploy “stop sticks” designed to deflate vehicles’ tires when he was hit. The 22-year-old driver Christopher Berak faces charges of first-degree homicide and murder of a peace officer.

Gov. Rick Snyder has ordered the lowering of U.S. and Michigan flags Tuesday on state buildings.

 

 

11/28/17 –  Environmentalists blast Michigan-Enbridge pact

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Environmental groups are attacking an agreement between Michigan and Canadian pipeline company Enbridge Inc. that sets a timeline for determining the future of twin oil pipelines beneath the waterway where Lakes Huron and Michigan converge.

Activists say the only foolproof way to safeguard the lakes is to decommission Enbridge’s Line 5, which includes a 5-mile (8-kilometer) segment in the Straits of Mackinac. They’re unhappy that the deal calls for Enbridge to evaluate ways to replace the lines with another that would run through an underwater tunnel or trench.

Lisa Wozniak, of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, says the state is putting too much trust in Enbridge.

The agreement is also drawing reaction from candidates for Michigan governor.

Democrats Gretchen Whitmer and Abdul El-Sayed say it includes temporary half-measures that leave the lakes vulnerable.

Republicans Bill Schuette and Jim Hines say the plan is a good first step.

 

 

 

 

 

 

11/28/17 – Senators complain about slow pace of Asian carp study

DETROIT (AP) — A group of U.S. senators is urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers not to fall behind on a study of how a key waterway chokepoint could be used to keep Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes.

The corps is considering ways to strengthen defenses against the invasive carp at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, Illinois. An August report estimated the upgrades could cost $275 million and take until 2025 to finish.

The corps recently announced it was extending a public comment period and scheduling another public hearing in New Orleans.

Senators from Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin complained about the delay in letters to the corps released Monday.

Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters of Michigan said the corps’ time frame was “unacceptable.”

 

 

 

 

 

11/28/17 – Lt. Governor Calley seeks promotion

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Lt. Gov. Brian Calley will seek a promotion to governor next year.

The Republican launched his long-expected candidacy Tuesday while vowing to continue an economic rebound that has resulted in the addition of more than a half million jobs in Michigan.

Calley touts the Michigan unemployment rate at a 17-year low this year and says the state leads the Midwest in job creation, ranks sixth nationally and is first in new manufacturing jobs.

He told The Associated Press he is running to “continue the comeback” and to “make Michigan the most prosperous state in the nation.”

Calley is the fourth man to enter the Republican primary and the second with a high profile, joining Attorney General Bill Schuette. Gov. Rick Snyder cannot run again due to term limits.

11/27/17 – Sports – college basketball

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Joshua Lanford made five 3-pointers and scored 23 points, Miles Bridges added 11 points and No. 4 Michigan State toppled No. 9 North Carolina 63-45 to win the “Victory Bracket” of the PK80 Invitational. Tom Izzo got the best of Roy Williams for the first time since Williams arrived in Chapel Hill, thanks to a dominating performance at the defensive end by the Spartans.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Moritz Wagner had 21 points and 10 rebounds, Charles Matthews had 17 points and 12 assists and Michigan cruised past UC Riverside 87-42. Duncan Robinson added 13 points for the Wolverines (6-1), who shot 54 percent for the game and raced to a commanding 41-17 halftime lead.

 

 

 

 

11/27/17 – Grand Rapids zoo, museum see visitor jump since tax approved

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Two visitor attractions in Grand Rapids say they’ve seen an attendance boost in the year since voters approved a property tax increase to support their operations.

That Kent County tax was expected to generate nearly $9 million a year for the John Ball Zoo and Grand Rapids Public Museum. The two publicly owned institutions are now giving several discounts to county residents, including free museum admission for youths and free zoo admission to county school groups.

The zoo has set a record with more than 530,000 visitors this year. The museum says its 230,000 ticketed visitors this year is up 15,000 from 2016’s attendance.

Zoo CEO Peter D’Arienzo tells The Grand Rapids Press that the stable tax funding is helping it expand educational programs and care for its animals.

 

11/27/17 – Conyers steps aside from top spot on Judiciary

WASHINGTON (AP) — Michigan congressman John Conyers is giving up his leadership position as top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. His decision comes ahead of a congressional probe into allegations of sexual harassment made against him.

Conyers says he doesn’t want the allegations to undermine his colleagues in the Democratic caucus or those who serve on the Judiciary committee or in the House in general.

The 88-year-old lawmaker indicates that he will not resign from Congress and will keep fighting the allegations that he sexually harassed female staff members.

In a statement Sunday, Conyers said he looks forward to vindication. He is the longest-serving active member of Congress, and the only African-American to have held the position of chairman or ranking member on the Judiciary panel.

11/27/17 – Justices ponder need for warrant for cellphone tower data

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is taking up a case about privacy in the digital age that tests whether police need a warrant to examine cellphone tower records. Such records can reveal a lot about where someone has been.

The justices are hearing arguments Wednesday in an appeal by federal prison inmate Timothy Carpenter. He is serving a 116-year sentence after a jury convicted him of armed robberies in the Detroit area and northwestern Ohio.

Investigators helped build their case by matching Carpenter’s use of his smartphone to cell towers near stores that had been robbed.

Police look at this information in thousands of investigations a year. Activists, media organizations and technology experts are among those arguing that it’s too easy for authorities to learn revealing details of Americans’ lives.

11/27/17 – Indonesia-Bali Volcano

Indonesia’s Disaster Mitigation Agency says evacuations are taking place as lava is welling up in a crater on Bali.

Ash from Bali’s volcano is disrupting life on parts of the tourist island that are outside the immediate danger zone.

At Buana Giri village, some residents said they were leaving because the area is now inhospitable for their livestock.

 

The eruption of Mount Agung has forced the closure of the island’s airport and authorities have ordered 100,000 people to evacuate from areas close to the volcano.

 

China says there were 17,000 Chinese tourists on Bali before the latest eruption of Mount Agung.

The Chinese consulate on the Indonesian island said on its website that airlines and travel services were arranging 100 buses to take tourists to catch ferries to neighboring Java.

The Chinese foreign ministry issued a statement urging travelers to be “vigilant about safety” when deciding whether to visit Bali.

China Eastern Airlines, one of the country’s biggest carriers, canceled flights Sunday and said passengers due to fly any time between then and Dec. 10 could obtain refunds.

 

11/27/17 – Cyber Monday deals

NEW YORK (AP) — After offering online deals for days, retailers are rolling out more promotions for Cyber Monday, hoping to keep people buying.

Shoppers are expected to spend $6.6 billion online on Cyber Monday, up more than 16 percent from a year ago, according to Adobe Analytics, the research arm of software maker Adobe. And more people will use their phones: Adobe says web traffic from smartphones and tablets is expected to top desktop computers for the first time this year.

Target and Toys R Us are offering 15 percent off most items on their sites. Walmart.com has tripled the amount of items available for sale from last year. And Amazon will have similar deals on its gadgets as it did on Black Friday but offer newer ones on toys and other items.

11/27/17 – FBI leaves US targets of Russian hackers in the dark

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Associated Press has found that the FBI failed to tell scores of U.S. officials about attempts to hack into their personal Gmail accounts — despite long having evidence those officials were in the Kremlin’s crosshairs.

The AP interviewed nearly 80 Americans targeted by Fancy Bear, a Russian government-aligned cyberespionage group, and turned up only two cases in which the FBI had provided a heads-up.

Even senior policymakers discovered they were targets only when the AP told them, a situation some described as bizarre and dispiriting.

The FBI has declined to answer most questions from the AP about how it’s responded to the spying operation.

An FBI statement says the bureau “routinely notifies individuals and organizations of potential threat information.”

EDITOR’S NOTE _ One in a series of stories on the findings of an Associated Press investigation of the Russian hackers who disrupted the U.S. presidential election in 2016

11/24/17 – Black Friday

NEW YORK (AP) — Stores are hoping deals and excitement bring shoppers to stores and to their sites for Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping days of the year.

But Black Friday has morphed from a single day when people got up early to score doorbusters into a whole season of deals, so shoppers may feel less need to be out. Some love the excitement. Others may check their phones and go back to sleep. But the Thanksgiving weekend, when stores go all-out to attract shoppers, can be an indication of how they’ll do through the season.

With the jobless rate at a 17-year-low of and consumer confidence stronger, analysts project healthy sales increases for November and December. Analysts at Bain say Amazon is expected to take half of the season’s sales growth.

 

 

 

 

 

11/24/17 – Argentine sub

MAR DEL PLATA, Argentina (AP) — Experts say the apparent explosion detected in the search for a missing Argentine sub could be especially ominous for hopes to rescue the 44 people aboard.

Argentina’s navy says it’s too early to say what might have produced the sound detected by U.S. and international monitors. They describe it as “short” and “violent.”

But some experts say there’s a fearsome possibility.

The search location straddles the edge of the continental shelf and depths reach about 10,000 feet (3,000 meters).

Retired Navy Capt. James H. Patton Jr. says that if a submarine went too deep, “it would just collapse.”

He says “It would sound like a very, very big explosion to any listening device.”

 

 

 

 

 

11/24/17 – Zimbabwe’s new leader vows elections next year

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe’s new president is vowing that “democratic” elections will be held next year as scheduled, and he declares that the country is renewing itself after 37 years of Robert Mugabe.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa is urging Zimbabwe to move beyond the poisoned politics of the recent past. “We dare not squander this moment.”

He also promises to reimburse the farmers whose land was seized under Mugabe, leading to international condemnation. But he says those actions cannot be reversed.

 

 

 

 

 

11/24/17 – Remains of WWII veteran to be laid to rest in Michigan

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. (AP) — The remains of a Michigan veteran killed during World War II have been recovered and will be returned home.

The (St. Joseph) Herald-Palladium reports that Navy Airman Albert Rybarczyk of St. Joseph was reported missing in action in 1944. He was 22 when his plane went down in the South Pacific during a bombing mission.

Project Recover and the BentProp Project have been trying to reach the wreckage for more than a decade. The volunteer organization aims to find the remains of World War II veterans who are missing in action. The group found the crash site in 2014 by using an underwater sonar system.

The Navy will pay for Rybarczyk to have a full military funeral. Rybarczyk will be buried next to his parents at St. Joseph’s Resurrection Cemetery in December.

 

 

11/24/17 –  Outdoor play alternative to Black Friday

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — If fighting the Black Friday shopping crowds isn’t your thing, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources encourages you to hit the trail.

The state is celebrating the day after Thanksgiving by waiving the usual Recreation Passport fee required for vehicle entry to state parks, trails and boating access sites.

It’s part of a nationwide initiative called #OptOutside that encourages spending at least part of Black Friday outdoors.

Parks and Recreation Chief Ron Olson says, in Michigan, you’re never more than a half-hour away from a state park, recreation area, state forest or campground.

Taking a hike, going for a run or riding a mountain bike can work off those extra calories while providing some peace and quiet.

Other outdoor activities this time of year include hunting, fishing and wildlife watching.

 

11/24/17 – Oakland County Sheriff’s deputy honored at vigil

BRANDON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — A Thanksgiving night candlelight vigil drew more than 100 people to honor an Oakland County sheriff’s deputy killed when he was struck by a vehicle that was being pursued by police.

Deputy Michelle Miller said Thursday that her colleague, Eric Overall, was “even-keeled,” ”compassionate” and driven by integrity. His wife, Sonja Overall, said he would help anybody — “even the bad guys.”

Authorities say the 50-year-old Overall was outside his squad car shortly after midnight on Thursday preparing to deploy what are called “stop sticks” designed to deflate vehicles’ tires at an intersection in Brandon Township when he was struck by the fleeing suspect’s vehicle. The suspect’s vehicle rolled over and the driver was taken into custody at the scene.

He had been with the department for 22 years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

11/22/17 – Navy says 8 people recovered in good condition

TOKYO (AP) — The U.S. Navy says eight people who were recovered from the crash of a transport aircraft in the Pacific are in good condition and the search continues for three other missing personnel.

The Navy says in a tweet that the eight are on board the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier.

Their C-2 “Greyhound” transport plane crashed while on its way to the carrier on Wednesday in the Philippine Sea, where the U.S. and Japanese navies are holding exercises.

 

 

 

 

 

 

11/22/17 –  Zimbabwe’s new leader to be sworn in Friday

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — The Zimbabwe ruling party’s chief whip says new leader Emmerson Mnangagwa will be sworn in Friday at 10:30 a.m. at the 60,000-seat National Sports Stadium on the outskirts of the capital, Harare.

Lovemore Matuke tells the state-run broadcaster that until then Mnangagwa will not be speaking to the media.

Singing and cheering crowds are gathering at a military air base in Harare for Mnangagwa’s arrival. He fled the country shortly after his firing earlier this month by Robert Mugabe, who resigned Tuesday amid impeachment proceedings.

Mnangagwa is expected to go to ruling party headquarters for a briefing upon his arrival. He will be just the second president in Zimbabwe’s history. Mugabe ruled for 37 years.

Signs in the welcoming crowd read “Welcome back, our hero” and “True to your word, you’re back. Welcome.”

A man in the crowd, Godwin Nyarugwa, says he is “very ecstatic” and that “we need change in this country, change in everything.”

 

11/22/17 – Thanksgiving travel will be up

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — More than 1.6 million Michigan residents will travel 50 miles or more for turkey and all the trimmings.

The Thanksgiving projection comes from AAA Michigan, the leisure travel organization. The group says it’s roughly a 3.5 percent increase over 2016 and the most travelers since 2007.

The Thanksgiving travel period is considered Wednesday through Sunday. Driving is the most popular mode of travel. Michigan’s average gas prices are up about 50 cents per gallon compared to a year ago.

Vicky Evans, assistant vice president in travel sales, says the end-of-year holiday season could be the busiest in more than a decade. She says there’s confidence among consumers because of a stable economy.

 

 

 

 

 

11/22/17 – Great Lakes cleanup

DETROIT (AP) — A wide-ranging Great Lakes cleanup program would receive $300 million next year under a spending bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The measure cleared the committee this week and now goes to the full Senate.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative focuses on the region’s most longstanding environmental problems, such as toxic pollution, farm and urban runoff, invasive species and declining wildlife habitat.

President Donald Trump’s budget called for eliminating the program’s funding. But lawmakers in both parties from the Great Lakes region fought to retain the $300 million it has received most years since 2010.

Todd Ambs of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition says he’s happy about the funding, but worried that the bill cuts spending for the Environmental Protection Agency and other departments that administer the program.

 

 

 

 

11/21/17 – Court-ordered talks lead to breakthrough on Flint water

DETROIT (AP) — The Flint City Council is expected to support a 30-year agreement to get drinking water from a regional agency after an afternoon of court-ordered negotiations.

The deal means the Great Lakes Water Authority would continue to serve Flint. It has been providing water since fall 2015 when Gov. Rick Snyder acknowledged a lead crisis related to the city’s use of the Flint River.

The council is expected to vote Tuesday night. Mayor Karen Weaver already is on board.

Under the deal, a Flint resident would be appointed to the governing board of the Great Lakes Water Authority. The city would also be relieved of debt payments owed to the Karegnondi Water Authority.

All sides worked with a mediator Monday under orders by Detroit federal Judge David Lawson.

 

11/21/17 – Big Mac Bridge walk still on Labor Day

MACKINAW CITY, Mich. (AP) — The annual Mackinac Bridge Walk will remain a Labor Day tradition.

The Mackinac Bridge Authority says the date won’t change. But officials still haven’t determined details about how the 5-mile walk will take place.

With terrorists increasingly using cars and trucks as weapons, the bridge was closed to most vehicles during this year’s walk. Only about 25,000 people took part. Many were turned away because they couldn’t get in position before the walk ended.

The state Transportation Department transported people by bus to St. Ignace from Mackinaw City. People then walked to the southern end of the bridge.

The bridge authority is asking Mackinaw City, Mackinac Island and St. Ignace to help cover the costs. The topic will be discussed at a February meeting.

 

 

 

 

 

11/21/17 – Snowmobile Permits

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — With winter weather on its way, state officials urge snowmobilers to buy permits that will enable them to use Michigan’s vast trail network.

Michigan has more than 6,000 miles of designated trails. Snowmobilers also can use thousands more miles of public roads and lands.

The state’s snowmobile program is funded entirely with revenue from trail permits and registration fees.

Snowmobiles must be registered with the secretary of state unless they are used only on private property.

Trail permits cost $48. They’re available online through the Department of Natural Resources or in person at DNR customer service centers. The Michigan Snowmobile Association also offers them.

Upper Peninsula trails coordinator Ron Yesney says the permits help fund grooming, signage, maintenance and other services that keep the trails in order.

11/21/17 – Huge gas line fire forces evacuations

ORION TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Authorities in suburban Detroit called for evacuations following a massive gas line fire.

The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office says the fire broke out Monday night in Orion Township, about 30 miles north of Detroit. Township Fire Chief John Pender says the blaze occurred on vacant land.

Consumers Energy spokesman Roger Morgenstern says the fire eventually burned itself out. Video posted on Facebook by police in nearby Auburn Hills showed flames shooting several dozen feet into the night sky.

Morgenstern says the blaze occurred after a gas transmission line ruptured, but the specific cause of the fire is unknown.

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard says the office’s phone lines, including 911, were down as a result of the fire. Bouchard says no injuries have been reported.

11/21/17 –  Ikea Recall-Dressers

NEW YORK (AP) — Ikea has relaunched the recall of 29 million chests and dressers following the death of an eighth child.

CEO Lars Petersson said the company wants to increase awareness of the recall for several types of chest and dressers that can easily tip over if not anchored to a wall.

The death of a California toddler, who was found trapped underneath an Ikea Malm dresser in May, has raised questions about whether Ikea has effectively spread the word about the recall, which was first announced in June 2016.

Petersson said Ikea has had an “extensive communication” campaign through social media and its website. The Swedish company emailed 13 million people about the recall two months ago, he said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

11/21/17 – Airborne Deer-Fatal Crash

CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Authorities say a western Michigan woman died after a car hit a deer, it flew into the air and struck the windshield of her vehicle.

Kent County sheriff’s officials say 49-year-old Susan Fries of Ada Township died Monday evening in Cascade Township after the deer broke through her vehicle’s windshield. The animal was first struck by a car going the other direction, sending it airborne.

The driver of the first vehicle to hit the deer, a 23-year-old Lowell resident, wasn’t hurt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

11/20/17 – Statewide average gas prices fall 11 cents

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — AAA Michigan says gas prices statewide have fallen by about 11 cents per gallon in the past week ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

The Dearborn-based auto club says early Monday the average price for self-serve regular unleaded gasoline was about $2.63 per gallon. That’s about 51 cents more than at the same point last year.

Michigan’s lowest average price was about $2.52 per gallon in the Lansing and East Lansing areas. The highest was about $2.71 per gallon in the Ann Arbor area.

The Detroit-area’s average fell about 8 cents to $2.67 per gallon.

The decline comes as AAA projects more than 1.6 million people from Michigan will travel around the Thanksgiving holiday.

AAA Michigan surveys daily fuel prices at 2,800 gas stations across the state.

 

 

11/20/17 – White House open to striking health provision from tax bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House says it’s willing to strike a health-care provision from the Senate tax-cut bill if the provision becomes an impediment to passing one of President Donald Trump’s top priorities.

The provision would repeal a requirement that everyone in the U.S. have health insurance or pay a fine.

Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, says the White House would like to repeal the health care requirement and still have a good tax bill.

But he told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that “we’re OK” with removing it if keeping it becomes an impediment to passing the legislation.

11/20/17 –  46-year-old woman dies in fire at Kalamazoo motel

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) — A woman has died in a fire at a western Michigan motel.

The Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office says 46-year-old Aimee Sue Lambert died in the fire Saturday morning at the Comstock Motor Court Motel in Kalamazoo.

It says she was found dead inside the unit where the fire was reported about 2:45 a.m.

Damage to the motel was limited to that unit.

No other injuries were reported.

 

 

 

 

 

 

11/20/17 – Tribute room at Michigan airport honors President Ford

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Visitors to Gerald R. Ford International Airport in western Michigan now have a new place to remember President Gerald Ford and learn about his legacy.

The airport and Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation officials joined Ford’s son, Steve Ford, and others last month for an official opening of the President Gerald R. Ford Tribute Room at the Grand Rapids airport. Steve Ford says his father would’ve been “extremely proud.”

The airport worked with the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation to incorporate an exhibit space. It’s located before going through security and is open around the clock. Exhibits include photos, an aircraft carrier model, displays and rotating historical pieces.

Ford, who died in 2006, was a Grand Rapids congressman before becoming vice president and then president following Richard Nixon’s 1974 resignation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

11/20/17 – Anti-gerrymandering group defies odds with 2018 ballot drive

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — An all-volunteer group of activists has defied the odds by collecting hundreds of thousands of voter signatures for a 2018 initiative to overhaul redistricting in Michigan — without having to pay a dime for a signature.

It’s a rarity in state politics outside of anti-abortion ballot drives, which have had a large base of support within churches.

Voters Not Politicians, a ballot committee opposed to the partisan gerrymandering of congressional and legislative districts, is poised to turn in roughly 400,000 signatures by year’s end. About 315,000 valid ones are needed.

The Legislature and governor now control the once-a-decade redistricting process, which has led to seats that are drawn to guarantee as many comfortable, uncompetitive districts as possible.

Under the proposed constitutional amendment, a commission of citizens would handle redistricting.

11/20/17 – Group to submit signatures to legalize marijuana 

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A ballot committee proposing to legalize the use of marijuana for recreational purposes in Michigan is set to submit more than 360,000 voter signatures in a bid for a statewide vote in 2018.

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol will turn in the signatures to state election officials in Lansing on Monday.

Michigan already allows for the use of marijuana for medical reasons. The proposal would make it the ninth state to legalize the drug for recreational use.

Adults 21 and older could possess up to 2.5 ounces (71 grams) of marijuana and grow up to 12 plants at home. A 10 percent tax on marijuana would be assessed.

The ballot group needs roughly 252,000 valid signatures.

The state is expected to take a couple months reviewing the petitions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

11/17/17 – Calls for Harassment Training on Capitol Hill for Capitol Hill

Two members of congress are speaking out against sexual harassment – on Capitol Hill.  Democrat Senators Kristen Gillibrand and Rep. Jackie Speier introduced a bill to require more transparency and better reporting of incidents in Washington DC.  It would also require annual training for members of Congress and their staff.

Several members of congress have expressed concern after stories are emerging about harassment by Representatives and Senators sometimes within the hallowed halls of Congress.

Gillibrand, who represents the district formerly held by Hillary Clinton, has also garnered attention after stating in a newspaper interview that Bill Clinton should have resigned after the disclosure of an extra-marital affair with intern Monica Lewinski.

11/17/17 HS Principle Resigns Over Harassment Allegations

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) — A southwestern Michigan high school principal who is facing a federal sexual harassment lawsuit has resigned. The resignation of Rodney Prewitt as principal of Loy Norrix High School was announced at a Thursday meeting of the Kalamazoo Public Schools’ board. It comes less than a month after he was placed on paid administrative leave pending a district investigation.

11/17/17 – $20 Mil Flint Water Loan Forgiven

The state, with your tax dollars, has forgiven 20 million dollars in loans to Flint.  The money was connected to Flint’s Drinking Water Revolving Fund debt, cash that was supposed to be used to upgrade Flint’s water treatment plant.  It comes on the same day Flint leaders were to vote on a long term plan on where they’ll buy their water.

11/17/17 Hep A Outbreak Spreads into West MI

If you are currently in a ministry that has contact with people who engage in high risk behaviors, are homeless or use illicit drugs you need to be aware; a Hepatitis A outbreak in southeast Michigan is believed to have now spread into Calhoun County.  Figures from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services show 19 people have died of the disease and 500 cases have shown up since the outbreak began in August of last year.

 

 

11/16/17 – Museum of the Bible, opens in DC

WASHINGTON (AP) — The long-awaited Museum of the Bible is opening in Washington.

The $500 million museum traces the history and extensive influence of the Bible. The building includes restaurants, a theater and clear views of the Washington Monument and Capitol.

The project is largely funded by the conservative Christian owners of the Hobby Lobby crafts chain. Hobby Lobby president Steve Green says the aim is to educate not evangelize. But skeptics call the project a Christian ministry disguised as a museum.

Green has amassed a collection of biblical artifacts. He paid a $3 million fine this year after federal prosecutors say he was caught up in an antiquities smuggling ring. Museum officials say the items involved were never destined for the museum.

The Museum of the Bible opens Friday. Admission is free.

 

11/16/17 – Michigan unemployment rate

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan’s unemployment rate rose by two-tenths of a percentage point to 4.5 percent in October as the number of people in the state’s workforce saw a slight decline of about 2,000.

Figures released Wednesday by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget show Michigan’s October unemployment rate was four-tenths of a percentage point above the national rate but a half percentage point below the state’s October 2016 rate of 5.0 percent.

Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives Director Jason Palmer says that 10 months into 2017 the state’s jobless rate has declined moderately from 2016, while payroll job gains remain steady.

The department says October’s jobless rate increase was the third consecutive monthly rate gain since Michigan’s unemployment rate fell to 3.7 percent in July.

 

11/16/17 – Grand Rapids city staff won’t ask about immigration status

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A western Michigan city has adopted a new policy that says city officials and staff won’t ask residents about their immigration status.

The Grand Rapids Press reports that the Grand Rapids City Commission adopted the policy Tuesday.

The ordinance was drafted over the last year by the Community Relations Commission, the city’s diversity and inclusion manager, local police and the city’s lawyers.

The policy doesn’t bar police officers from asking about immigration status. But the policy says police must follow the Grand Rapids Police Department’s Impartial Policing Policy, which prohibits racial profiling but doesn’t explicitly stop officers from inquiring about immigration status.

Police Chief David Rahinsky says the department doesn’t ask about immigration status. But he says the policy doesn’t stop Kent County, the Michigan State Police or federal authorities from enforcing federal immigration laws.

11/16/17 – GM says next-gen electric cars will cost less, go farther

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors is telling investors its next generation of electric vehicles will cost the company 30 percent less than current ones, making them profitable after the new version debuts in 2021.

CEO Mary Barra made the forecast at an investor conference Wednesday. She expects to cut battery cell cost from $145 per kilowatt hour of electricity to under $100, yet produce a range of over 300 miles. The company also plans to reduce manufacturing costs and gain sales as electric vehicle demand rises worldwide.

GM has pledged to roll out 20 new zero-emissions vehicles by 2023 with two new ones coming in 18 months. Currently most automakers lose money on electric vehicles.

Barra says GM generates enough capital to finance electric and autonomous vehicle research as well as traditional vehicles.

 

11/16/17 – Cornerstone University-President

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Cornerstone University officials say longtime President Joseph Stowell will step down from the Christian university in 2019.

School officials announced Wednesday that Stowell, who’s led the Grand Rapids school since 2008, informed its trustees of his plans earlier this fall. He’ll step down when his contract expires in May 2019.

The trustees voted unanimously for Stowell to serve in the role of chancellor once his successor is chosen.

Stowell says that role will allow him to serve the school’s next president by representing the university in various venues and helping with fundraising activities.

The university has about 1,200 undergraduates and a total population of about 2,500 students that includes graduate and seminary students.

 

 

 

 

11/15/17 – W. Michigan district ends Bible talks

HUDSONVILLE, Mich. (AP) — A western Michigan school district has ended a teacher’s faith-based discussions with elementary school students following complaints by a civil rights group.

Hudsonville Public Schools’ assistant superintendent, Scott Smith, says the district didn’t know a fifth-grade teacher had been meeting with students for lunchtime Bible studies until the Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists contacted the district on Nov. 6.

Smith says officials met with the Alward Elementary School teacher the same day and ended his talks. Smith tells MLive.com the teacher “thought it was okay because it was occurring during a non-instructional time.”

Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists spokesman Mitch Kahle says “every public-school teacher, principal, and superintendent should know that they are prohibited from engaging in any activity with students that involves religious beliefs, rituals, or doctrines.”

 

 

 

11/15/17 –  Hunters hitting the woods

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Hunters are flocking to Michigan woods and fields for what wildlife biologists say should be a productive firearms deer season.

The season runs from Wednesday through Nov. 30.

Chad Stewart of the Department of Natural Resources says relatively mild weather over the past year is a good sign for deer fitness and fawn survival. He says hunter success rates should be as good as those of 2016, or even slightly better.

Stewart says deer numbers are rebounding in parts of the Upper Peninsula after recent harsh winters. But because they remain low in some areas, a few additional U.P. management units will be open to antlerless hunting.

A bigger harvest also is expected in the northern Lower Peninsula.

An online tool at www.mi.gov/mihunt can help locate good deer hunting spots.

 

 

 

11/14/17 – Threat Closes W MI Church

A West Michigan church appears to have been a “target” according to local police.  The Westminster Presbyterian Church off of Jefferson was found on a “target list” inside a bag dropped off in the Detroit area.  Police say they don’t believe the church is in imminent danger but the church closed several of their ministries today but do expect to open tomorrow.  Police say they were concerned because the bag also contained a handgun, a map with several churches and mosques circled.

Police and the FBI are continuing their investigation.

 

 11/8/17 – Election Night Support for Schools and Transportation

Last night’s election results show support for local schools and a major transportation issue in West Michigan.

You can find results for Kent County elections here: Kent County

You can find results for Ottawa County elections here: Ottawa County

 

 

What You Can Do If Your Personal Information Was Compromised

An estimated 143 million Americans may have had their personal information compromised due to a breach at Equifax.  The company is one of the three largest credit bureaus used to determine credit worthiness.  Equifax has set up this website to address the problem: https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com

    • Once you are at the website click on the link “Potential Impact”
    • On this web page you’ll see a large red button that says, “Check Potential Impact” – click on that link and follow the directions.

If you do find that your information may have been compromised, contact Equifax.  They are offering a free year of credit monitoring but do remember you are free to choose another monitoring service.

 

 

December 17

Malachi 3:1

Sunday, December 17, 2017 “Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly […]
December 16

WCSG Christmas Top 10 (#20- #11)

The WCSG Top 10 Countdown has had a Christmas Music makeover! Every week leading up to Christmas, we’re counting down 10 of your Top 50 Christmas […]