The Detroit News. September 21, 2017
Flint water safe, but fall-out continues
Two years after scientists from Virginia Tech revealed the lead poisoning of Flint’s water, the same researcher has declared the city’s drinking water safe to drink. That marks an important milestone in this disaster, but not yet its end.
Mark Edwards of Virginia Tech’s college of engineering says the final tests of Flint’s water reveal lead levels of 8.3 parts per billion, safely under the federal standard of 15 parts per billion.
The results are roughly the same as those from an August, 2016 test, prompting Edwards to issue an all-clear message.
Residents are still advised to use filters on their taps or to drink bottled water as a precaution. But in terms of actual risk, Flint’s is no greater than in any city with old, lead water lines.
The fact that so many of those lines are still in service works against re-establishing trust in the drinking water, however.
Although Flint could safely operate with the water system as it is, continuing work on replacing 20,000 lead service lines is essential to convince present and future residents that Flint is a safe place to live. The city hopes to have them all gone by 2020, but is off to a slow start, replacing just about 2,200 lines so far.
There are other challenge for the city.
Just this week, researchers looking at birth rates in Flint say the data suggests lead in the water impacted the fertility of Flint residents and may have led to an increase in miscarriages.
Clearly, the full impact on the health of those who drank the water is not yet known, and ongoing research is needed.
The water crisis also triggered a rise in blight, as residents abandoned homes that had lost much of their value because of the tainted water. Refilling those houses, or tearing them down, will be expensive.
In addition, some residents faced foreclosure because they stopped paying for water that was unfit to use.
There’s also the matter of a City Hall that hasn’t yet proved it can manage the flood of money coming into Flint to address the water crisis. The federal and state governments have committed $100 million each to fix the water lines, and other funds are arriving from public and private sources.
Spending money in an efficient and timely fashion is something Flint has not been very good at in the past. It must do better now.
Perhaps the biggest future mission is to track the children who drank the tainted water to see whether and how they were impacted. Increased blood lead levels can stunt brain development and lead to behavioral problems later in life.
Providing those children the ongoing monitoring and assistance necessary to deal with any consequences that arise should get top priority, and first claim on funds.
Many of the state officials whose decision-making contributed to the crisis are now facing criminal prosecution. Civil suits are also pending. And Flint is bound to be an issue in next year’s elections for statewide offices.
So while the water is back at safe levels, the fallout will continue for many years to come.
Lansing State Journal. September 21, 2017
Retirees could be the stop gap for unfilled jobs
A pilot program launched this summer will make it easier for companies to hire retirees as temporary or part-time labor, a move that could help address the growing jobs shortage and promote retention of talent.
The brainchild of AARP-Michigan is called ‘Experience for Hire’ and combines resources from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Michigan Works! and local chambers of commerce to make it easier for employers to connect to this new, old talent pool.
Launch of the program is currently taking place in four Michigan counties: Ingham, Jackson, Macomb and Wayne.
Meeting the existing demand for employees - currently more than 100,000 unfilled jobs in Michigan - with people already trained and work-ready is a smart solution to help address the immediate problem.
Coordination with and for businesses who need employees will make it easier and more efficient to connect with retirees, as well as with baby boomers who are reaching retirement age at an increasing rate.
And let’s face it: Many baby boomers are not ready to retire.
As life expectancy has increased over the years, retirement age has remained relatively the same.
This means that some who retire must continue to work to support the needs of their families. Others might choose to do so just for the satisfaction of continuing in the workforce, whether it be in their chosen career or doing something new.
Experience for Hire could help answer the question many retirees ponder, “Now what?”
Travel is great; so is spending time with family. But for some that’s not enough.
Experience for Hire will open doors for those who’d like an opportunity.
It will allow them flexibility while empowering them to help develop the next generation of skilled workers, laborers or executives.
More: Baby boomers can help plug the talent gap, AARP Michigan says
This group of workers - many of whom already receive retirement benefits through previous employers or other programs - are still highly skilled assets.
Continuing to use skills and experience with no threat to existing retiree benefits is a boon to retirees.
Employers and job-seeking retirees interested in taking advantage of the program should go to mitalent.org and create an account under the appropriate tab or call the customer contact center at (888) 522-0103.
Kudos to AARP-Michigan for hatching this plan and coordinating its implementation with businesses and talent-finding organizations.
Retirees: We want you back.
Times Herald (Port Huron). September 20, 2017
Michigan takes another step backward
It would be difficult to imagine a more transparent politician than Bill Schuette - transparent in his motives, that is. Schuette recently made official his intention to seek the governor’s office, although cynics have read it in every action his office has taken in the past eight years.
This week, his office announced it was joining a 41-state coalition intending to prove that the manufacturers and distributors of highly addictive opioid painkillers contributed to the epidemic of addiction and overdoses. Pinning the problem on a handful of pharmaceutical companies would be quite a feat, considering that everyone from doctors and patients to hospital accreditation agencies to health insurance companies to government agencies has had some role in the problem.
Democrats were immediately amused by Schuette’s new activism. They pointed out that he has received more than $67,000 in campaign donations from pharmaceutical companies. And they point out that he has been a strident defender of Michigan’s 1995 drug liability immunity law, which means even if the opioid investigation finds pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors culpable, Schuette couldn’t do anything about it. He sponsored the bill; he should know what it does.
We know about his links to the drug industry because of post-Watergate campaign finance reforms. How much money he and other Michigan candidates get from pharmaceutical firms and other industries and entities could soon be none of our business. That’s because, by the same party-line split that passed the 1995 immunity law, state Republicans have created another law that makes Michigan stand out.
Not only do we have the most far-reaching drug immunity law, we now also have the nation’s darkest black-money law. Lawmakers passed the law Tuesday, going beyond Citizens United decision to allow any entity - business, union, super PAC or other group - to spend as much as it wants to elect any candidate or pass any ballot issue, and largely avoid having to report it. Gov. Rick Snyder was quick to sign it Wednesday.
We should not have been surprised. Michigan is rock bottom when it comes to transparency, ethics and accountability in government. Why be last when you can be worse?
Petoskey News-Review. September 22, 2017
The headlines about natural disasters that have dominated a good deal of national news reports in recent weeks have been alarming to say the least.
If the parade of powerful hurricanes that have claimed many lives, damaged many millions in property and left many people without basic living needs weren’t enough, on Tuesday Mexico City was rocked by a powerful 7.1 magnitude earthquake that killed hundreds and caused extensive damage to that city.
Each year it’s also common to see reports from the southern and middle portions of the country about outbreaks of powerful tornados often also leading to major destruction and loss of life.
Fortunately for us, Northern Michigan is fairly safe from most of these natural disasters. We’re too far away from the tropics to worry much about tropical storms. Michigan - especially central and southern portions of the state - do experience severe thunderstorms and tornados, but seldom with the frequency and ferocity of storms that threatens “Tornado Alley” and other locations. And, although not immune from earthquakes, Michigan only rarely has them and they are typically low in intensity.
But that doesn’t mean we are completely free from all of Mother Nature’s threats.
An official at the National Weather Service office in Gaylord told the News-Review for a recent story that winter weather and wind are a much greater risk to residents in this area.
With all these natural disasters making headlines elsewhere and, despite our recent bout of unseasonably warm weather, winter is just weeks away. We think it’s a good time for folks to think about how prepared they are should for such situations.
One recommendation we regularly hear from officials here in Northern Michigan is to have an emergency kit in your car during the winter, in case you become stranded in a storm.
The Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division recommends keeping a kit in your vehicle that includes:
Small battery powered or hand-crank radio
- Extra batteries
- Cellular phone and charger
- Windshield scraper
- Jumper cables
- Extra blankets and clothes
- Non-perishable food and bottled water
- First aid kit
- Tire repair kit and pump
- “Call Police” or other “Help” sign
In the home, the department recommends creating an emergency preparedness kit for you home that includes the following items:
- Water, at least three gallons of water per person
- Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food per person
- Prescribed medications
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radio
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Whistle to signal for help
- Pet supplies
- A complete change of clothing and footwear for each person
- Important family documents
- Extra clothes and blankets
And while we’re on the subject of being prepared, home heating season is right around the corner, and it’s always a good idea to make sure your smoke detectors are all working, and that all members of your family know what do do and where to meet in the event of a fire.
The American Red Cross and the Centers for Disease Control have extensive recommendations for disaster and emergency planning on their respective websites, also. Visit www.redcross.org or emergency.cdc.gov/ for much more information.
A little planning and effort now could make a big difference in the future.
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