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Chemical contaminant found at sites across Michigan poses health and environmental risk

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They come from everyday products ranging from nonstick pan surfaces, carpet stain-proofing and water-resistant clothing. And they’re in almost every American’s blood: highly fluorinated toxic chemicals known as PFCs.
Keith Matheny, Detroit Free Press

Twenty-eight locations across Michigan, and rising, have been found contaminated with potentially health-harming chemicals once used in nonstick surfaces and firefighting foam.

Gov. Rick Snyder last month launched a coordinated, statewide effort to find and begin addressing polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, which includes a group of man-made chemicals that were commonly used since the 1950s in stain-resistant carpeting, nonstick pots and pans, waterproof shoes and other household products. PFAS was also used in firefighting foam, particularly at military bases. Use of the chemicals was largely phased out by 2015.

In Kent County, lawyers on Tuesday announced a class-action lawsuit against shoe manufacturer Wolverine World Wide, 3M Corp. and Waste Management Inc., for allegedly dumping PFAS and polluting groundwater in Belmont, Rockford and other areas of the county. 3M’s Scotchgard was used in waterproofing boots and shoes made by Wolverine since the 1950s, and contained the chemical. 

Environmental activist Erin Brockovich, made famous by actress Julia Roberts’ Oscar-winning portrayal , is working with the legal team on the Kent County litigation.

“The scope of this contamination is alarming, and thousands in Kent County are now faced with unsafe drinking water and increased health risks,” Brockovich said in a statement.

According to the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, studies have shown PFAS increases the risk of some cancers, can harm fetal development; decrease fertility and interfere with the body’s hormones; cause high cholesterol; and affect the immune system.

The chemicals don’t easily break down in nature, and were so common, avoiding exposures is near-impossible.

“Using very sensitive measurements, you can find it in the blood of everybody in the United States — and, really, a high proportion of people in the world,” said Dr. David Savitz, a Brown University epidemiologist who’s serving as an academic adviser to Snyder’s Michigan PFAS Action Response Team, in an interview with WOOD Radio on Wednesday.

The Kent County class-action suit seeks immediate blood-testing, health and environmental monitoring and damages for residents who have been harmed by the pollutants, uncovered in DEQ groundwater testing this past summer.

The companies named in the lawsuit “knew or should have known,” said Sharon Almonrode, a Rochester attorney with the Miller Law Firm, who is part of the legal team representing the proposed class-action participants.

“These residents are obviously facing a great deal of uncertainty. Parents are worried about their children. (And) property values have been diminished as a result of being within the zone of the contamination.”

More on freep.com:

 

Military bases often source

At least five contaminated areas in Michigan are connected to current and former military facilities, where the firefighting foam was used in training and fire suppression for decades: contamination of the Clinton River and northern Lake St. Clair, believed connected to Selfridge Air Force Base; near Camp Grayling; near the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, and the now-shuttered Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda and K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base in Marquette.

The DEQ and U.S. Air Force have spent the past five years dealing with a PFAS-containing groundwater plume emanating from the former Wurtsmith base into other parts of Oscoda. The legacy from years of firefighting foam use on the base is so pervasive, the DEQ has yet to determine the outermost boundary of the contamination plume.

More:Air Force snubs Michigan law on tainted well fixes
More:Did Wurtsmith Air Force Base cause health woes?

And now, a new manifestation of the harmful chemicals has emerged — in surface foam on Van Etten Lake, just northeast of the former Wurtsmith base. Samples of the foam tested this summer and fall by the DEQ had PFAS at up to 110,000 parts per trillion, more than 1,500 times the EPA advisory level.

“Frankly, we didn’t think to check the foam,” said DEQ external relations director Sue Leeming, adding that the foam was thought to be naturally occurring and not related to PFAS. 

DEQ officials are still trying to determine whether the foam is from the chemical, or whether naturally occurring lake foam in some way concentrates PFAS, Leeming said.

“This is an emerging issue,” she said.

The local and state health departments, in late September, advised visitors to the lake to avoid ingesting the foam.

The Van Etten Lake Association, a property owners’ group, has called on the Air Force to immediately address the lake foam problem.

“It certainly impacts the use of property,” said Anthony Spaniola, a Troy attorney whose family has owned frontage on Van Etten Lake for years.

“Common sense tells you you’re not going to let your kids go out and play in that. You’re not going to let your dogs drink that water. And what’s it doing to the fish?”

The DEQ has also sampled foam from Lake Margrethe in Crawford County, where the Michigan National Guard’s Camp Grayling Joint Maneuvering Training Center has long operated on the southern end of the lake. 

Municipal wells in Grayling are showing low levels of PFAS, according to the DEQ, and eight residential wells in the area have tested for PFAS levels above the EPA’s 70 parts-per-trillion advisory guideline.

“Filters are being provided to approximately 90 homes in the area, and ongoing discussions are needed to determine if filters should be provided to additional homes until a long-term solution is identified,” the state PFAS Action Response Team states on its website.

Damage done years ago

PFAS chemicals were detected in water samples taken from the Clinton River and Lake St. Clair on Aug. 31. The samples were taken near the city of Mt. Clemens and along the lake shoreline just north of the Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township.

As a follow-up to the initial findings, fish and surface water samples were collected from Lake St. Clair north and south of Mt. Clemens last month. Water samples were also taken from four sites along the Clinton River, and at a drain near the north perimeter of the Selfridge base “to determine the distribution and magnitude of contamination,” the state PFAS Task Force website states.

The DEQ has also asked water treatment plants in the area to sample for PFAS.

Harrison Township Supervisor Kenneth Verkest said the DEQ has not yet discussed the contamination finding with township officials, but speculated that may because they don’t yet fully understand what they are dealing with.

“If you’re discovering something that goes back God knows how many years, and there are questions about the potential impact, it may be unwise to take an overly alarming (approach),” he said.

“Throughout our history, we’ve made ecological mistakes. Certainly not in every case did we know we were making ecological mistakes.

“We’ve treated the lake horribly for decades. The good news is, people are paying more attention to these issues. The bad news is, every day, it seems, we find out we did something in the past that we thought was OK, and we found out it wasn’t.”

Drinking water a top concern

The state’s new PFAS Action Response Team combines the departments of Environmental Quality, Health and Human Services, Military and Veterans Affairs, and Agriculture and Rural Development. Its priority: to put government in the best position to respond quickly and effectively to the emerging contaminant, said Carol Isaacs, executive director.

“It pulls together a team at the state level that allows for really enhanced coordination,” she said. 

The state’s short-term strategy on PFAS has focused on drinking water — getting those with affected residential wells a different water source. 

“There’s quite a bit of science that went behind that (EPA 70 parts-per-trillion) action level,” said Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

“Seventy is a pretty conservative number. It does take into account pregnant women, fetuses. And it’s a lifetime advisory level — if I have a water level of 60 in my home, I could probably drink from that water for the rest of my life, without any untoward health effects.”

But some Oscoda residents say more is required than addressing residential and municipal wells — particularly with the emerging issue of contaminated foam on area lake surfaces.

“The Air Force didn’t do anything wrong in using this (firefighting) foam, based on what they were told by the manufacturer. As a veteran, I don’t say they are the bad guys,” said Van Etten Lake Association member Arnie Leriche, who serves as a civilian member on the Former Wurtsmith AFB Restoration Advisory Board.

“But now that they know they have to clean it up, I want them and their budget people to push Congress and get the funding they need with the same force with which they won the Cold War.”

Messages left with the Air Force’s Civil Engineer Center weren’t immediately returned Friday afternoon.

A military spending bill approved by both the House and Senate last month includes $7 million for a 5-to-7-year health study of citizens exposed to PFAS in firefighting foam; and $72.2 million for Navy and Air Force firefighting foam-related contamination remediation. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill, but has not yet taken action on it.

Contact Keith Matheny: (313) 222-5021 or kmatheny@freepress.com. Follow on Twitter @keithmatheny.

‘Jeopardy!’ Winner Charged With Computer Crimes In Michigan …

‘Jeopardy!’ Winner Charged With Computer Crimes In Michigan

Internet users wrongly accuse Michigan bus driver of racist email, school says

Editor’s note: The social media post in question and some of the comments in response include strong language.

GENESEE COUNTY, MI – A Genesee County school bus driver has been “wrongly associated” with sending a racist email to a television news anchor in Atlanta, Georgia, school officials say.

The Genesee Intermediate School District issued a statement on Thursday, Dec. 7, saying that a personnel investigation has determined that GISD transportation employee Kathy Rae Szuch is not the author of an email calling CBS Atlanta anchor Sharon Reed a racial slur.

The email to Reed went viral on Twitter and Facebook this week after the Georgia anchor responded to the message on-air, saying that she will let Kathy Rae’s words “speak for themselves,” BuzzFeed News reported

Individuals on social media then incorrectly tied the email message to Szuch, a Flint-area school bus driver with a similar name and email address, the GISD’s letter claims.

“Through (the personnel investigation) in which our employee thoroughly cooperated, it has become clear that the email used to send these disparaging remarks to Ms. Reed in Atlanta is not owned by, or associated with, our employee,” the district’s statement said. “The results of this misidentification have been terribly difficult for our employee who has been inundated with hurtful messages via social media.”

GISD Superintendent Steve Tunnicliff said that through the “thorough investigation,” the district is “extremely confident” that its employee was not the sender of the email. He declined to elaborate on the details of the investigation. 

“As an institution of nearly 1,700 educators working to positively impact children and families in Flint and Genesee County, Michigan, we share the outrage with the comments made to Ms. Reed,” the district’s statement said. “We would never condone such comments, and especially would never stand behind someone who would make such comments and serve children as an educator. However, it is clear to us that Kathy Rae Szuch has been wrongly associated with this act via social media.”

Since Tuesday night, the GISD’s Facebook page has been flooded with comments calling for the bus driver to be fired.

On a quest to find the sender of the email, social media users have linked Szuch and others across the country to the message.

Michigan legislature passes pared-down retiree health care changes in late-night session

LANSING, MI — For the second year in a row, first responders in Michigan celebrated a victory as the state legislature moved to pare down legislation on retiree health care changes affecting police and firefighters.  

The legislature started considering changes after the Responsible Retirement Reform for Local Government Task Force found a collective $7.46 billion in unfunded pension liabilities and $10.13 billion in unfunded health care liabilities lurking in local governments’ finances in a July report. 

The House and Senate, after failing to gather enough votes on a plan with more teeth, took away the most controversial portions of the bill and reverted to the recommendations from Snyder’s Responsible Retirement Reform for Local Government Task Force, which met for months and issued recommendations in July.  

Those recommendations were a broad outline, and the legislation is, too. It would:  

  • Require local units of government to thoroughly report financial information including funding of pension and retiree health care plans.  
  • The Treasury department will then evaluate plans to determine which are underfunded. For retiree health care, a plan is considered underfunded if its obligations are less than 40 percent funded and if its annual contribution is more than 12 percent of the unit’s revenue. A pension plan is considered underfunded if it’s under 60 percent funded and if the unit’s annual contribution is more than 10 percent of its revenue. 
  • The treasurer will give waivers to communities with underfunded pensions if they have approved plans to rectify the situation.  
  • Creates a “Municipal Stability Board” comprised of three experts; one from local government, one from state  underfunded and haven’t self-implemented a plan to fix it. It will be comprised of three experts appointed by the governor; one from local government, one from state government and one representing employees and retirees, all with relevant financial experience. It will assist communities in coming up with and ultimately approve or disprove corrective action plans.  

The final package did away with a “Financial Management Team” included in the original legislation that proved controversial due to its emergency management powers, including going into a local government’s budget. That and other provisions in the original bill were opposed by police and firefighters.  

Police, Firefighters rally for retiree health care at capitol  

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, said the revised bills weren’t a total solution but a step in the right direction.  

“You didn’t get the touchdown but you got a couple first downs. Let’s keep going, move the ball,” Meekhof said.  

The changes swayed lawmakers like Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, a former Sheriff who was a hard “no” on the legislation as introduced. As amended, sticking to the task force’s report, he supported it.  

“It’s everybody working together, employees and employers, and I think it’s a good thing,” Jones said.  

Rep. Andy Schor, D-Lansing, served on the task force and supported the bills as passed. 

“We did put out the task force report. This is labor and business and CPAs and really everybody who was involved. I thought we came up with a great product, and today that product was put up for a vote,” Schor said. 

The bills passed unopposed in the Senate, but drew a scattering of opposition in the House – including from the House sponsors of the bills, Reps. James Lower, R-Cedar Lake, and Tom Albert, R-Lowell. There the main bill passed 105-5.  

Joe Adams, state president of Michigan Fraternal Order of Police, was among dozens of police and firefighters gathered in the Senate lobby as members entered the chamber at 10 a.m., the start of a session that would last more than 15 hours.  

“We were here a year ago today, we were here on the capitol steps rallying against it last year when something tried to get slammed through. And it worked last year,” said Adams, a police officer in Grosse Pointe.  

It was after a last-minute push and failure in December of 2016, the governor formed the task force. The Fraternal Order of Police were represented on that task force, and want the legislature to follow its recommendations.  

The bills passed today were mirror images in both chambers. They passed just after 2:30 a.m. To become law, one of the versions would have to pass the opposite chamber and be signed by Gov. Rick Snyder, who is supportive of changes to address retiree health care liabilities.  

Digital distress: Affordable Internet an equity issue in Michigan

That means, in a typical Detroit household, if a few tablets, computers or smartphones try to access the Internet at the same time, they likely won’t be able to perform simple tasks such as checking email or streaming video, experts said.

Both ATT and Xfinity, the major internet service providers in Detroit, provide $10-per-month Internet plans for low-income families.

But the less expensive Internet service is slow.

About 14,000 households in Detroit connect to the Internet using Comcast’s program for low-income families. This year, Comcast increased the speeds it offers through the program from 10 mbps to 15 mbps, said Michelle Gilbert, a spokeswoman for Comcast.

But the company can’t make money off offering its highest speeds for $10 per month, Gilbert said.

“(The package) is intended to provide access to low-income families so kids can do homework, people can pay bills and rely on the Internet for everyday things we’ve come to use it for.

“Does that mean you can stream 4k HD? No, but that wasn’t the intention,” she said. “There’s a delicate (price) balancing act we have to play.”

Having no or slow Internet connections will hamstring Detroiters as more governmental services are going online, said Wiley, the researcher at The New School.

In 2020, Americans will be able to fill out U.S. Census forms online in addition to by phone and on paper.

An online Census process could be disastrous for Detroit, Wiley said.  

“If people are not counted, that impacts federal grants that Detroit desperately needs. (The census) is just another way broadband access is deeply impacting us.”

What is high-speed broadband?   

Fixed broadband allows homes or businesses to connect to the Internet through a cable or a fixed wireless signal as opposed to a satellite or cellular link. In Michigan, the biggest Internet companies include ATT, Xfinity and WOW.

The minimum speed for what’s considered high-speed fixed broadband is 25 megabits per second (mbps) for downloads and 3 mbps for uploads, according to 2015 Federal Communications Commission standards.

In Michigan, nearly all of urban residents have access to broadband, while  900,000 rural residents do not. In some of Michigan’s rural counties, 90 percent of people or more lack access to fixed broadband, compared to 3 percent without access to broadband in urban areas.

Jameson Zimmer, director of content for BroadbandNow.com, said local governments can help ensure better high-speed Internet access for low-income residents by creating incentives for more competition from fiber providers like Google Fiber to set up shop and drive down prices.

“Ultimately, the main problem with Detroit is that it’s a ‘duopoly’ system where Xfinity and ATT are the only realistic options for most people,” Zimmer wrote in an email.

An exception in Detroit is Rocket Fiber, one of Dan Gilbert’s Rock Ventures companies, that is bringing rocket fast gigabit Internet service to residents and businesses in downtown and Midtown.

“We would love to see more (internet service provider) startups like this, but they are quite rare,” Zimmer wrote.

Cities across the nation are grappling with the digital divide and adopting different strategies such as creating municipal networks.

In 2010, In Chattanooga, Tenn. became the first city to get into the high-speed Internet market, offering 1 gigabit-per-second fiber-optic Internet service. It resulted in an influx of new tech-based firms to the area. The city provided cheaper, faster service than the cable companies did, and now serves about half the area’s Internet customers. More than 450 other municipalities nationwide now offer some form of public Internet service.

The drawback is that, while gigabit fiber optic service is far faster, it is costly. Instead, Detroit may need to figure out a way to attract more broadband companies.

“We need to think about a public option,” Wiley said. “In absence of that, states and cities have to see it as Job One to create affordable access with more franchise agreements … incentives to bring in more competition with more price points,” she said.

Tiny fixes

In Detroit, community groups and nonprofits have stepped up to fill the gaps, providing low-income residents shared high-speed networks and computer labs.

The Equitable Internet Initiative, which includes groups called the Digital Community Technology Project and Allied Media Projects, is a grassroots effort that is setting up and sharing gigabit Internet wireless connections in three underserved neighborhoods. The projects use antennas on the tops of buildings in the communities to beam out the signals.

The project has been lauded in national media as Detroiters fighting digital inequity by setting up their own Internet access.

On the far east side, on the second Saturday of each a month, the Eastside Community Network has a “bring your own device” workshop that has been attracting mostly older residents who want to learn how to use technology and the Internet, said Suzanne Cleage, the group’s director of neighborhood growth.

But that’s not enough, she said.

Neighbors come to the classes asking to learn how to access social service websites, use Google and log on City of Detroit websites that allow residents to file complaints. But some people can’t afford the Internet connection.

“If it’s a choice between the Internet and groceries, they choose groceries,” Cleage said.

So the group got a $75,000 grant from the Knight Foundation and by next spring expects to open a “tech equity” computer lab.

“Our community is really coming to terms with the fact that everything in our world is connected with a box that has the Internet it in it,” she said. “We have to provide a means.”

Opioid Reduction After Surgery At University Of Michigan : Shots …

02712_pills-32-0aa37f2904b91e3cab2a45707fd261de224336af-s1100-c15 Opioid Reduction After Surgery At University Of Michigan : Shots ...

Surgeons at the University of Michigan are prescribing fewer opioids to reduce the risk of addiction.

John Moore/Getty Images


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Surgeons at the University of Michigan are prescribing fewer opioids to reduce the risk of addiction.

John Moore/Getty Images

It may not be rocket science, but a group of surgeons at the University of Michigan has devised an approach to help curb the nation’s opioid epidemic — starting at their own hospital.

Opioid addiction has been deemed a “public health emergency” by the White House. It’s estimated to have claimed 64,000 lives in 2016 alone. And research shows that post-surgical patients are at an increased risk of addiction because of the medicine they receive to help manage pain during recovery.

To lower the risk, there’s a simple remedy: Surgeons should give patients fewer pills after surgery — the time when many people are first introduced to what can be highly addictive painkillers. They should also talk to patients about the proper use of opioids and the associated risks.

That seemingly small intervention could lead to significant changes in how opioids are prescribed and make inroads against the current epidemic, said the researchers. Their findings were published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Surgery.

“The way we’ve been prescribing opioids until this point is we’ve basically been taking a guess at how much patients would need,” said Jay Lee, a research fellow and general surgery resident at the University of Michigan, and one of the paper’s authors. “We’re trying to prevent addiction and misuse by making sure patients themselves who are receiving opioids know how to use them more safely — that they are getting a more consistent amount and one that will reduce the risk of them getting addicted.”

The researchers identified 170 patients who underwent gallbladder surgery and surveyed them within a year of the operation about how many pills they actually used, what pain they experienced after surgery and whether they had used other painkillers, such as ibuprofen.

They used the findings to create new hospital guidelines that cut back on the standard opioid prescription for gallbladder surgeries.

Then, they analyzed how patients fared under the new approach, tracking 200 surgery patients who received substantially fewer pills — an average of 75 milligrams of opioid painkillers, specifically oxycodone or hydrocodone/acetaminophen. Previously, the average dose was 250 milligrams.

Despite getting less medication, patients didn’t report higher levels of pain, and they were no more likely than the previously studied patients to ask for prescription refills. They were also likely to actually use fewer pills.

The takeaway: After surgery, patients are getting prescribed more opioids than necessary and doctors can reduce the amount without patients experiencing negative side effects.

Within five months of the new guidelines taking effect at Michigan’s University Hospital, surgeons reduced the volume of prescribed opioids by about 7,000 pills. It’s now been a year since the change took effect, and the researchers estimate they have curbed prescriptions by about 15,000 pills, said Ryan Howard, a general surgery resident and the paper’s lead author.

The reduction has real implications.

“This really shows in a very methodological way that we are dramatically over-prescribing,” said Michael Botticelli, who spearheaded drug control policy under the Obama White House, including the administration’s response to the opioid crisis.

“Not only do we have to reduce the supply to prevent future addiction, but we really have to minimize opportunities for diversion and misuse,” he said.

More hospitals are starting to turn in this direction, Botticelli said. He now runs the Grayken Center for Addiction at Boston Medical Center, which is also trying to systematically reduce opioid prescriptions after surgeries.

Meanwhile, 24 states have passed laws to limit how many pills a doctor prescribes at once, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The researchers also created “common sense” talking points for doctors and nurses to use with patients. They include:

  1. Encouraging patients to use lower-strength, non-addictive painkillers first;
  2. Warning them about the risks of addiction; and
  3. Reminding them that even a sufficient opioid prescription would leave them feeling some pain.

The talking points also offer tips for patients on safely storing and disposing of extra pills.

“So much of this problem can be addressed with solutions that are not complicated,” said Julie Gaither, an instructor at Yale School of Medicine. Gaither has researched the opioid epidemic’s consequences, though she was not involved with this study.

Kaiser Health News is a nonprofit news service covering health issues. It is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation that is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

‘Jeopardy!’ winner charged with computer crimes at small Michigan …

Jeopardy! champion Stephanie Jass.

 (Jeopardy!)

A former “Jeopardy!” winner — and one-time record holder — has been charged with two felony counts after an intensive investigation into alleged cyber crimes.

Stephanie Jass, 47, appeared in Lenawee County court in Michigan on Tuesday to face charges of unauthorized access to a computer and using a computer to commit a crime. According to The Daily Telegram of Adrian, the first charge alone carries with it a potential penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

The former game show champ allegedly accessed email accounts of co-workers at Adrian College, where she used to work. Representatives for the college declined to say when Jass stopped working at the school.

In 2012 she held the record for most consecutive wins by a woman on “Jeopardy!” winning seven games in a row. She was dethroned by Julia Collins in 2014.

Police allegedly started investigating Jass after staff members at the college complained. The charges were authorized after a forensic examination of the digital evidence determined there was cause.

“Adrian College wants to sincerely thank the Michigan State Police and the Lenawee County Prosecutor’s Office for their thorough investigation and for ultimately bringing charges in this crime,” the college told the outlet in a statement. “Privacy rights are a fundamental principle of our American democracy, and Adrian College stands with those who protect these rights.”

In 2014, Jass performed at Croswell Opera House in Adrian, singing songs and sharing stories about playing “Jeopardy!”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

‘Jeopardy!’ winner charged with computer crimes at small Michigan college

Jeopardy! champion Stephanie Jass.

 (Jeopardy!)

A former “Jeopardy!” winner — and one-time record holder — has been charged with two felony counts after an intensive investigation into alleged cyber crimes.

Stephanie Jass, 47, appeared in Lenawee County court in Michigan on Tuesday to face charges of unauthorized access to a computer and using a computer to commit a crime. According to The Daily Telegram of Adrian, the first charge alone carries with it a potential penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

The former game show champ allegedly accessed email accounts of co-workers at Adrian College, where she used to work. Representatives for the college declined to say when Jass stopped working at the school.

In 2012 she held the record for most consecutive wins by a woman on “Jeopardy!” winning seven games in a row. She was dethroned by Julia Collins in 2014.

Police allegedly started investigating Jass after staff members at the college complained. The charges were authorized after a forensic examination of the digital evidence determined there was cause.

“Adrian College wants to sincerely thank the Michigan State Police and the Lenawee County Prosecutor’s Office for their thorough investigation and for ultimately bringing charges in this crime,” the college told the outlet in a statement. “Privacy rights are a fundamental principle of our American democracy, and Adrian College stands with those who protect these rights.”

In 2014, Jass performed at Croswell Opera House in Adrian, singing songs and sharing stories about playing “Jeopardy!”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Michigan: Outback Bowl will help health of players, resiliency of program

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan will get another chance to match wits with a Southeastern Conference opponent.

Michigan (8-4) learned Sunday that it will face South Carolina (8-4) in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1 in Tampa, Fla.

Despite ending the regular season with losses against top-10 opponents Wisconsin and Ohio State, Michigan has a chance to close with a bowl win and will get the opportunity to redeem itself with a win against an SEC foe.

Michigan’s recent run against SEC teams hasn’t been spectacular. The Wolverines defeated Florida 33-17 in its season opener Sept. 2 in Arlington, Texas, but lost to Alabama in the 2012 season opener and lost to Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl in January 2011.

A win against an SEC opponent also would be a demonstration of Michigan’s resiliency and health. Michigan can avoid a 3-game losing streak and likely will field a healthy roster as it makes its seventh bowl appearance since 2010.

Michigan also earned its third consecutive bowl berth under coach Jim Harbaugh. Continuity is one thing, but winning bowl games is another. Michigan is 1-1 in bowl games with Harbaugh but there’s a fine line between finishing 8-5 and 9-4 — and Michigan doesn’t want to end its season on a three-game slide.

Michigan closed its 2016 slate by losing three of its last four games and cannot afford another late-season swoon. A bowl game would be a prime opportunity to make an impact in the final stretch of its schedule.

Because Michigan doesn’t play again until Jan. 1, the health of the team will have time to improve prior to the bowl game. The Wolverines could welcome back quarterback Brandon Peters, who was knocked out of the Wisconsin game on Nov. 18 with a concussion and did not play against Ohio State the following week.

Wide receiver Tarik Black also could return, which would boost the Wolverines’ inexperienced receiving corps. The freshman wide receiver has missed the past eight games after undergoing surgery to repair a broken left foot. Black was one of Michigan’s top receivers when he sustained the injury Sept. 16 in a win against Air Force.

While Michigan faces questions regarding its starting quarterback and the aptitude of its receivers, South Carolina has shown an ability to move the ball through the air. Quarterback Jake Bentley is fourth in the SEC with 2,555 yards and 16 touchdowns on 226-of-362 passing with 11 interceptions. However, Bentley has been sacked 26 times and faces a Michigan defensive line that has recorded 39 sacks.

The Outback Bowl also could bring about a defensive look: Michigan enters the game with the No. 3 defense in the nation (268.7 yards), while South Carolina’s offense is No. 109 (340.2 yards) and has relied primarily on the pass (212.9 yards).

North Carolina vs. Michigan odds: ACC-Big Ten picks from proven computer model

The ACC/Big Ten Challenge continues Wednesday night with a marquee game, as North Carolina hosts Michigan at 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN). The Tar Heels are 9.5-point favorites, up a half-point from an open of nine.

The over-under, or total number of points Vegas thinks will be scored in the game, is 146.

Before you lock in your picks, start with the computer model that’s dominated sports books all season long. This model would have won over 96 percent of CBS Sports office pools in football last season and has put together a 35-24 run on its A-rated college basketball picks this season.

Now, the model has broken down the matchups and trends and locked in against-the-spread, over-under and money-line picks for the Wolverines-Tar Heels clash. And you can only see them over at SportsLine.

We can tell you that the computer has the Under hitting in 60 percent of simulations. It has an even stronger point-spread pick for this one.

North Carolina was dominating the opposition through five games, scoring no fewer than 86 points, with all five wins by double-figures.

But a matchup with Michigan State changed that. The Tar Heels were humbled 63-45 by the Spartans in the title game of the PK80 Invitational, setting school records for shooting futility (24.6 percent overall, 1-of-18 on threes).

Despite the setback, UNC still ranks 12th nationally in scoring and first among ACC teams (84.4 ppg). Four players average double-figures for the defending national champion, led by 19.0 from junior Luke Maye and 15.0 from senior Joel Berry II.

Michigan (6-1), conversely, has played in several close games and is led by a defense that allows only 66.4 points per game.

UNC will be Michigan’s first ranked opponent this season. The Wolverines’ lone loss was a 77-75 defeat against LSU in the Maui Invitational.

They’re led by a 1-2 punch of 6-6 sophomore Charles Matthews (16.7 ppg), a Kentucky transfer, and 6-11 junior from German Moritz Wagner (15.3).

So what side of Michigan-North Carolina should you back? Visit SportsLine now to see what side of North Carolina-Michigan is a virtual lock, all from the model that has been crushing football and is on a 35-24 run in college basketball, and find out.

Michigan State vs. Connecticut: PK80 picks from proven computer model

Two college basketball powerhouses face off in the PK80 semifinal at midnight ET to wrap up a full slate of hoops on Black Friday. No. 4 Michigan State is a seven-point favorite against UConn. The over-under, or total number of points Vegas thinks will be scored in the game, is 144.

Before you lock in your picks for Michigan State-UConn, you’ll want to see what SportsLine’s advanced computer model has to say.

Anyone who bet $100 on each of the model’s A-rated against-the-spread and over-under picks last season raked in over $5,700. Needless to say, they were quite thrilled. And it’s already profitable against the spread this season.

SportsLine’s advanced computer model simulated Michigan State against Connecticut 10,000 times, and the results were surprising.

We can tell you the model loves under 144, with a whopping 63 percent of simulations hitting on that side of the total. It also has a strong pick for which side to take against the spread. 

The model knows Michigan State (3-1) beat DePaul and Stony Brook by 22, and rolled North Florida by 32. Its only hiccup was an 88-81 loss against top-ranked Duke in Chicago.

Michigan State is scoring over 85 points per game but might be without its top scorer, Miles Bridges. Bridges, who is averaging 19.7 points, missed the Spartans’ PK80 opening-night victory over DePaul with an ankle injury. 

Still, MSU is one of the most experienced and dangerous teams in the nation. And any team coached by Tom Izzo will always be a tough out in tournament play, when coaches must quickly put together an effective game plan on a night-to-night basis.

But that doesn’t mean the Spartans will cover a seven-point spread.

UConn has started the season 4-0 behind its stingy defense. The Huskies are only allowing 62.8 points. And they have a complete stud in 6-foot-8 wing Terry Larrier, who is shooting just under 44 percent on 3-pointers. Especially if Bridges is out, the Spartans could struggle to defend him.

So which side should you back in this heavyweight battle in Portland between UConn and Michigan State? Visit SportsLine to see the strong point-spread pick for UConn-Michigan State, and see which side the model is backing 60 percent of the time, all from a proven model that returned nearly $6,000 in profit last year on its A-rated picks.

Increasing competition in Michigan’s health care must be team effort

The American Medical Association released its annual review of health insurance competition and, again, Michigan ranks among the 10 least-competitive states in the nation for health insurance.

The HHI Index, utilized by the Department of Justice to review mergers for prevention of monopolies, ranks any state with a score above 2500 as “uncompetitive.” Michigan’s score was 4562 this year.

The HHI Index is a calculation that measures percentage of market share. Our dominant carrier in Michigan maintains a 66 percent overall market share and a 78 percent market share in the PPO market, which is most utilized by employers, even after state regulatory, tax, and structural changes intended to improve competition.

Michigan historically has thrived on competition. Competition in Michigan has helped our auto industry become more efficient and innovative. In recent years, Michigan has made policy changes to encourage competition in the trucking, natural gas and telecommunications industries, benefiting consumers. The statewide focus on competition needs to reach our health insurance area.

What do we do when such dominance exists by one carrier in a market that needs competition to innovate in uncertain times? It is time to shop and shop smart.

Michigan’s Health Insurance Exchange opened on Nov. 1 and closes Dec. 15. There are nine health plans participating on the exchange to deliver high-quality, affordable health care. Shop them all with an eye on customer satisfaction and quality. The National Council for Quality Assurance delivers neutral health plan rankings to help.

As an employer or employee, ask your agent partner to bid out and shop your benefits. See the innovative approaches and network strengths of all plans in the state. Bring plan representatives in and listen closely to how they may best serve your employees. A few minutes of your time could mean lower costs or a better fit for your needs — or both.

In a state that historically thrives on competition, consumers’ and employers’ focus needs to shift to the health insurance market. The “easy button” solution is to select the same PPO over and over. We ask you hit the “smart button” and shop value. Without your help, we cannot fix the health insurance quagmire in this state.

Choices exist. Partner with your broker to shop for high quality, affordable health care that meets your needs this, and every, year and help make our market competitive. As Michiganders who compete worldwide in markets, increasing competition in health care must be a team effort from the consumer, agent, and employer.

St. Joseph Mercy and Mercy Health announce big merger in Michigan

LIVONIA, MI – Two major Catholic health systems in Michigan are merging to create a statewide system that will operate 10 hospitals and employ more than 22,000 people working in the medical field.

St. Joseph Mercy Health System and Mercy Health announced the merger in a joint statement Wednesday, Nov. 15. Both entities are members of Trinity Health, a Catholic health care system based in Livonia with annual operating revenues of around $17 billion.

According to the statement, Trinity Health employs about 131,000 people across 22 states and is the second-largest Catholic health system operating in the United States.

“Our new statewide system will enable our ministries to integrate our leadership in clinical and business operations throughout Michigan,” said Mike Slubowski, president and COO of Trinity Health. “For the communities we serve, this means it will enhance our clinicians’ ability to share resources and ideas that people need in their care journeys.”

Located in southeast Michigan, St. Joseph Mercy Health System serves seven counties with hospitals in Ann Arbor, Pontiac, Livonia, Howell and Chelsea and more than 15,000 employees.

Located in west Michigan, Mercy Health has five hospitals serving the areas of Grand Rapids, Muskegon and Holland with more than 7,000 employees.

Mercy Health tops off now 10-floor, $271M Muskegon medical center

Rob Casalou, regional president and CEO of St. Joseph Mercy, will take over as president and CEO of the combined health care system January 1, 2018.

Roger Spoelman, president and CEO of Mercy Health, is taking over as as senior vice president of strategic and operational integration for Trinity Health to “support accelerated development and effective integration efforts,” the statement said.

The merger is part of a national strategy by Trinity Health to integrate teams and resources to better serve communities, the statement said.

The health system recently formed Trinity Health of New England with mergers in Connecticut and Massachusetts, and has been implementing partnerships and affiliations with Michigan health systems like Michigan Medicine and the Together Health Network.

Saint Joseph Mercy Health, Michigan Medicine plan joint venture at Chelsea hospital

The newly-combined health system will include:

  • 10 hospitals
  • 2,357 licensed beds
  • Nine outpatient health centers
  • 12 urgent care facilities
  • 35 + specialty centers
  • More than 4,000 physicians  

“This statewide focus will enable the regional health systems to combine their strong care delivery networks while establishing a highly visible and recognizable brand within the communities they serve – going to market as one, unified system for people-centered care,” the statement said.

Trinity Health said information on the combined system’s leadership, structure and governance would be released as it becomes available.

St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor hiring registered nurses

700 Priority Health customers hit by loss of Michigan Medicine in network

ANN ARBOR, MI – Michigan Medicine will no longer be a part of Priority Health’s individual health plan networks, beginning in 2018.

The change to Priority Health’s 2018 MyPriority individual health plans take effect Jan. 1, impacting around 700 customers, Priority Health Senior Marketing Specialist Leslie Wurm said. The change directly impacts less than 1 percent of Priority Health’s entire membership.

“Priority Health serves nearly 1 million people across Michigan and roughly 104,000 of those have individual health insurance, through MyPriority (individual) health plans,” Wurm said. “We recently notified a small number of members on our MyPriority (individual) plan that UMHS will no longer be considered in-network for 2018 MyPriority plans.”

The change does not impact commercial employer groups or Medicare plans, Wurm noted.

MyPriority plans are individual products for those who buy health care insurance without the help of their employer and are not eligible for Medicare or Medicaid. Priority Health Spokesperson Amy Miller said cost was an issue in making the decision to remove Michigan Medicine from being in-network for those individual plans.

“Cost is certainly an issue for the individual market plans as premiums continue to rise,” Miller said. “We are always trying to manage costs for our individual members and keep premiums affordable.”

Michigan Medicine Spokesperson Mary Masson confirmed the health system will no longer be in-network for Priority Health’s individual marketplace.

“Michigan Medicine continues to be a participating in network provider for Priority Health commercial and Medicare Advantage products,” Masson said. “What is changing Jan 1, 2018 is that Priority is introducing narrow network products on the individual marketplace (MyPriority) and Michigan Medicine will not be part of the network.”

The individual product market represents nearly 500,000 Michigan residents overall, with around 3 percent of Michigan residents get insurance through the Affordable Care Act federal marketplace, Wurm noted.

Additionally, the St. Joseph Mercy Health System narrow network has been added to Priority Health’s individual market, Wurm said, offering “more competitive rates to members who live in that area.”

“Health insurance companies update their provider contracts regularly to ensure we can offer members affordable products and high quality care,” Wurm said. “This change is the result of our regular evaluation and efforts to offer competitively priced plans in the individual market.”

Michigan’s Kettering University suing Kettering Health University

The lawsuit, filed in Dayton’s U.S. District Court, claims federal trademark infringement. In its complaint, Kettering University claims Kettering Health’s willful, deliberate and intentional effort “to confuse consumers and profit from the goodwill and consumer recognition associated with the well-known “ ‘Kettering University’ mark for educational services.”

Michigan-based health system buying Indiana insurer

University of Michigan study: Child spankings can affect mental health later


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 University of Michigan study: Child spankings can affect mental health later

 University of Michigan study: Child spankings can affect mental health later

(WXYZ) – Children who receive spankings could have an increased risk of suffering from mental health problems when they get older, according to a University of Michigan study. 

Researchers reportedly found that spanking can lead to depression and moderate to heavy alcohol use and drug use in adulthood. 

The study collected data from more than 8,300 people who completed self-reports and received routine health checks, according to the university. The participants ranged from 19 to 97 years old. They were reportedly asked about their childhood household environment and how often they were spanked during their first 18 years of life. 

U-M notes that the study showed those who reported being spanked had a higher risk for depression and other mental health-related issues. 

“Placing spanking in a similar category to physical/emotional abuse experiences would increase our understanding of these adult mental health problems,” said Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, U-M associate professor, in a statement. 
 
Read the full study here. 

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University of Michigan study: Child spankings can affect mental health later


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 University of Michigan study: Child spankings can affect mental health later

 University of Michigan study: Child spankings can affect mental health later

(WXYZ) – Children who receive spankings could have an increased risk of suffering from mental health problems when they get older, according to a University of Michigan study. 

Researchers reportedly found that spanking can lead to depression and moderate to heavy alcohol use and drug use in adulthood. 

The study collected data from more than 8,300 people who completed self-reports and received routine health checks, according to the university. The participants ranged from 19 to 97 years old. They were reportedly asked about their childhood household environment and how often they were spanked during their first 18 years of life. 

U-M notes that the study showed those who reported being spanked had a higher risk for depression and other mental health-related issues. 

“Placing spanking in a similar category to physical/emotional abuse experiences would increase our understanding of these adult mental health problems,” said Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, U-M associate professor, in a statement. 
 
Read the full study here. 

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Michigan health chief back in court in Legionnaires’ case

FLINT, Mich. (AP) — Testimony is resuming in a criminal case against Michigan’s health director, who is accused of keeping the public in the dark about Legionnaires’ disease during the Flint water disaster.

Nick Lyon is charged with involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office. A judge must decide whether there is enough evidence to send him to trial. The case picks up again Wednesday.

Judge David Goggins hasn’t heard testimony since Oct. 6. That’s when urban affairs adviser Harvey Hollins said he told Gov. Rick Snyder about a Legionnaires’ outbreak a few weeks before the governor made it public in January 2016.

Hollins’ testimony contradicts what Snyder has said publicly. Nonetheless, the governor is sticking to his timeline.

Lawyers for Lyons say it’s all irrelevant in the case against him.




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