Friday Afternoon State News Summary
Fri, 18 Jan 2013 11:49:49 EST
The latest information from the Michigan Department of Community Health released today (Friday) shows 445 confirmed cases of the flu. Thats more than 100 more cases than a week ago.
The health department says there is widespread flu activity in Michigan. So far, at least four children have died of complications from the respiratory illness. The state does not track adult deaths.
The latest state numbers come just days after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control announced the flu had reached epidemic level across 47 states. As of this week, the only states that werent reporting flu outbreaks are California, Mississippi and Hawaii.
Health officials recommend everyone age 6 months and up get a flu vaccine and note that its not too late.
Health officials say you can help prevent the spread of flu by following several guidelines such as: avoiding close contact with people who are sick; staying home and away from work, school and public places when sick; covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and frequent hand washing.
(Help from: WWJ, Detroit)

(MI-Wolf Petition Approved)
The Board of State Canvassers has approved a petition form submitted by a group that wants to ask voters to block a gray wolf hunt in the state.
The group "Keep Michigan Wolves Protected" is seeking to gather 225,000 signatures of Michigan voters by late March in order to qualify for the November 2014 ballot. The signature threshold is 161,305.
The coalition was formed after the Michigan Legislature and Governor Rick Snyder approved a new law that designates the gray wolf as a game animal, which gave the state's Natural Resources Commission the authority to decide whether there should be a hunt.
Wolves are no longer on the endangered species list in Michigan.
Farmers and others say wolves have recently threatened livestock.
The Department of Natural Resources says there are likely at least 700 in the Upper Peninsula and the count could be higher than that.

(Detroit-Transportation Funds)
Governor Rick Snyder today (Friday) joined U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and other dignitaries in announcing more than $31 million in federal funds to jump-start the Regional Transit Authority and begin improvements to public transportation in southeastern Michigan.
A $6.5 million planning grant will provide funding to develop a bus rapid transit system that serves four counties and Detroit.
Specifically, the dollars will fund alternative analyses and environmental studies on Gratiot and Michigan avenues as well as a cross-country route through northern Oakland and Macomb counties.
The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments estimates that building and operating the bus rapid transit system will generate more than 5,400 jobs in the region.
In addition, creation of the Regional Transit Authority paved the way for a $25 million grant to help fund construction of the Woodward rail system linking downtown Detroit and New Center, a cultural, medical and educational center a few miles north.
The 3.3 mile streetcar line along Woodward Avenue is expected to include 11 stations, with connections to Campus Martius, Comerica Park, the Detroit Medical Center area, and Wayne State University. The plan calls for six cars, traveling from 6 a.m. - 10 p.m., at 12 mph.
Construction of the Woodward streetcar system will begin this summer and is expected to employ more than 2,000 workers during the project. Officials hope to complete the effort by late 2015.
(Help from: WWJ, Detroit)

(SUPCO-E.M. Removal Denied)
The Michigan Supreme Court has refused to overturn the state Court of Appeals ruling on the question of whether Detroit Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts can hold office.
The state's high court considered a motion by union activist Robert Davis but did not get involved in the matter. A statement from the court said the request to intervene was denied "because we are not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed by this court."
Davis sued to have Roberts removed from office after voters overturned the state's Emergency Manager law. The Appeals Court ruled Roberts legally held office under the original E.M law known as Public Act 72 that remained in effect after the election.
(Metro Source)

(MI-Health Marketplace Grant)
Michigan received a nearly $31 million federal planning grant to create a website where individuals could shop for health insurance, but state officials haven't spent the first $9.8 million the feds gave Michigan for a healthcare insurance exchange more than 15 months ago.
The state has now received a combined $40.5 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to lay the groundwork for the marketplace under the Affordable Care Act.
But Chris Priest, the manager for Michigan's healthcare exchange project, said state government can't spend a penny of the money until the state legislature appropriates the funding.
Majority Republicans blocked creation of a Michigan health exchange last year because they felt doing so would endorse President Obama's healthcare reforms.
Priest says if the Legislature doesn't appropriate the money, the federal government, with no input from the state, will operate the portion of the partnership exchange that is utilized to advise Michiganders on their health care choices.

(Detroit-Casket Theft-UPDATE)
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy has filed charges against a Detroit man who allegedly stole a casket from a Detroit cemetery that contained the remains of his father.
Officials say Vincent Bright took the casket containing 93-year-old Clarence Bright with the help of another man on Monday. Police say they recovered the casket and van at a gas station Tuesday morning, but the body was removed.
Investigators located the remains in a freezer in the basement of Vincent Bright's home. He is charged with disinternment of a dead body, which carries a maximum sentence of ten years in prison.
A 49-year-old man, who was taken into custody along with Bright during the investigation, was not charged due to insufficient evidence.
(Metro Source)

(Marquette Co-Hit-Run Crash Plea)
A Marquette County man faces five years in prison after agreeing to a plea in a hit and run accident last summer that killed a Marquette woman and seriously injured her husband.
30-year old Luke Huotari of Gwinn pleaded guilty to two counts of failure to stop at the scene of an accident that caused serious impairment of a bodily function or death.
42-year-old Karin LaChapell and her 39-year-old husband, Bryan, were struck by a car driven by Huotari as they were crossing a street on their way to watch the citys Fourth of July fireworks display.
Karin LaChapell died from her injuries. Bryan was released from the hospital a few days later.
Huotari is scheduled to be sentenced February 15.

(MI-Climate Assessment)
A new national report from the federal government says that climate change will lead to more frequent and more intense Midwest heat waves while degrading air and water quality and threatening public health.
Intense rainstorms and floods will become more common, and existing risks to the Great Lakes will be exacerbated.
Those are some of the conclusions contained in the Midwest chapter of a draft report released last week by the federal government that assesses the key impacts of climate change on every region in the country and analyzes its likely effects on human health, water, energy, transportation, agriculture, forests, ecosystems and biodiversity.
Authors of the report include several from Michigan. The report included contributions from more than 240 scientists.
Examples of the changes in Michigan includes many northern Michigan trees migrating to Canada and the Buckeye tree, which is prominent in Ohio and some other states to the south, moving into Michigan because of a friendlier climate.
They also say the agricultural and shipping seasons will be extended in the great lakes, but the likelihood of more invasive species coming into the lakes will also increase due to the increased shipping.

(Montcalm Co-Fatal Crash Charges)
A West Michigan man is accused of killing another man with his car last summer.
24-year old Ryan Bennett of Howard City was arraigned Thursday in Montcalm County on charges of operating while intoxicated causing death and reckless driving causing death.
25-year old Scott Gregory of Howard City was said to have been found lying in a street in Howard City after having been hit by a vehicle July 20.
Bennett told deputies that he found Gregory's body and asked his father to call 9-1-1. But investigators determined that Bennett may been the one who actually hit and killed Gregory, then tried to pass off that responsibility.
Evidence recovered from Bennetts vehicle has been analyzed by the Michigan State Police crime lab and connected Bennetts vehicle to the crash.
He is currently free on bond.
(Help from: John Bry, WOOD, Grand Rapids)

(Keweenaw Co-Fatal Crash Trial)
The trial continues today in the Upper Peninsula's Keweenaw County against a man accused of fleeing a car accident that killed a passenger.
39-year-old David Simons of Calumet crashed his car on 5 Mile Point Road in Allouez Township in Novermber 2011. 53-year-old Jeffrey Brusso was killed in the accident.
Simons fled the scene and was later arrested at his mothers house. Police say Simons was drunk at the time of the accident.
Simons attorney has argued that he had very little to drink prior to the accident and that the crash was a result of a struggle between Simons and Brusso inside the vehicle.
Simons is charged with operating a vehicle causing death, failure to stop after an accident causing death, and driving while license is suspended or revoked during an accident causing death. Each carries a 15 year prison term.
The trial is expected to wrap up later today (Friday).
(Rick Allen, WCCY/WOLV, Houghton)

(Marquette-NMU Drowning Autopsy)
An autopsy has confirmed that a Northern Michigan University soccer player died of an accidental drowning last November.
18-year-old Arianna Alioto (ALL-ee-AH-toe) of Columbia, Missouri drowned November 30th in the Physical Education Instructional Facility Pool of the NMU Sports Complex on the Marquette campus as the soccer team was concluding a workout in the pool.
Mike Bath, director of NMU Public Safety and Police Services, says the autopsy report by the Marquette County Medical Examiners Office confirmed their earlier statements, that there was no physical trauma to the body. However, it did not have any other conclusive findings related to Aliotos death.
According to Bath, Alioto never left the pool and no one in the pool or Sports Complex workout areas saw anyone in distress during or at the conclusion of the practice.
Bath says Alioto's body was spotted by a Northern student working out in an area overlooking the pool about 30 minutes after the practice was scheduled to end. Alioto was pronounced dead on arrival at Marquette General Hospital.
NMU President David Haynes says while the investigation is completed as far as the police report goes, he doesnt know yet what kind of changes might come out of ongoing discussions about the drowning.

(MI-Phony Auto Insurance)
State regulators are warning Michigan motorists that they may have bought fraudulent automobile insurance certificates from an unlicensed individual issued through Tennessee Christian Motorist Aid.
The focus is on an individual named Marvin Garber, who was selling bogus policies through Tennessee Christian Motorist Aid. The Michigan Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation ordered Graber and Tennessee Christian Motorist Aid to cease and desist from selling the phony insurance.
The OFIR's Kevin Clinton says any driver who bought the fake insurance needs to buy legitimate coverage immediately, because (quote) "right now, they're driving without insurance."
Auto insurance coverage is required under Michigan Law.
Drivers are urged to contact OFIR toll-free at 877-999-6442 if they believe they may have bought a fraudulent policy from Marvin Graber.
OFIR can assist consumers in determining whether they have proper auto coverage.
All insurance producers (agents) and agencies in Michigan are required to be licensed to sell insurance and all insurance companies must be authorized to write in Michigan.

(Arenac Co-Fatal Tractor Accident)
Police in northeast Lower Michigan are investigating a tractor accident which left a 36-year-old Standish man dead.
Arenac County Sheriff deputies say Brian Petri had been operating a front end loader type tractor Thursday afternoon at Turner Bean and Grain in Turner when it rolled over into a drainage ditch and pinned him underneath.
Petri was pronounced dead at the scene in northern Arenac County.
(WSGW, Saginaw)

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