Offbeat

Offbeat

 January is Mentoring month in Michigan.   

A special event today at the state capitol honored more than 200 organizations that connect young people with adults willing to mentor them in a variety of fields. 

Lt. Governor Brian Calley spoke during ceremonies in the capitol rotunda about how all people need mentors to guide them.    

“At every important step I ever took," says Calley, "there was always somebody there who took a personal interest in my own success.”  

Calley says mentors can be anyone from parents to co-workers.

missmillions / flickr

You might remember the "Three Things" series we aired in 2010… we asked people from all walks of life what we could all do to help the state.  We wanted to air some positive stories in a time when many in the state were facing economic hardship. In 2011, the series morphed into “What’s Working.”  We highlighted various initiatives and projects that were trying to have a positive effect on the state...

Well, for 2012, we’re going to talk with people who are standing apart from the crowd, being and making the kind of change they want to see in the state.  Throughout the year you’ll hear from people making waves and going against the grain.  We’ll ask them why they’re working so hard on their projects, and try to see things from their perspective. This morning we speak with Reverend Sokuzan Robert Brown. He teaches meditation in Michigan prisons.

*This story was informed by the Public Insight Network. Share your story here.

Alan Cleaver / Flickr

It happens. Sometimes my newsroom misses a story, or we don’t staff a press conference. Every once in a while it’s because we didn’t know about it, but more often than not it’s because we have a small group of reporters to cover the state of Michigan, and we can get spread pretty thin.

Every news director or assignment editor has to pick and choose between coverage opportunities. While the occasional slow news days exist, on most days there are more stories than we can cover and choices are made.

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The Hudsonville Creamery and Ice Cream Company want to create a new ice cream flavor... one that captures the spirit of the Michigan outdoors.

Here's more from the Hudsonville Creamery:

The Department of Natural Resources and Pure Michigan are partnering with Hudsonville Ice Cream to create a unique flavor that best represents all that Michigan State Parks and the great outdoors have to offer.

And it has to be appetizing, so "black fly" and "pine tar" are likely not good options.

You can suggest flavors on their page, or suggest them below.

I believe "Moosetracks," and "Bear Claw" are already taken.

(LegalJuice.com)

The Michigan Supreme Court will hear arguments today over  whether a wrongful death lawsuit can proceed against a 911 operator.    

In 2006, a 5-year-old boy in Detroit called 911 seeking help for his mother who was unconscious. The first 911 operator who received the boy’s call didn’t believe him and told the boy to stop ‘playing on the phone’.    The operator told the boy she would send a police officer to the house, but she did not.    

A few hours later a second 911 operator accused the boy of playing a prank. The second 911 operator did send a police officer to the home. When the officer arrived, he discovered the boy’s mother dead on the floor.

The family sued claiming wrongful death and emotional distress.   

The 911 operators contended they are protected by laws which give 'immunity' to local governments. But lower state courts disagreed. The Court of Appeals found the 911 operators engaged in "extreme and and outrageous conduct" and so were not entitled to dismissal of the lawsuit.   

Earlier this week, a settlement was approved between one of the 911 operators and the family. An attorney described the settlement as ‘nominal’.

user gerrybuckel / Flickr

As Asian economies continue to expand, so do the tastes of Asian consumers, and as Maria Amante with the Grand Rapids Press reports, a steady increase in the overseas popularity of coats made from muskrat fur has meant Michigan trappers have been fetching higher prices for their catches.

Amante writes:

Asian countries are buying raw material for fur garments from Michigan trappers, and muskrats — one of the most popular furs with foreign buyers — are among the most abundant fur-bearing animals in the state.

“The Chinese can’t get enough of them,” said Kevin Syperda, owner of Sy’s Fur Shed, a fur buyer in Pierson. “We call (muskrat) the poor man’s mink.”

Syperda says muskrats defy economics: They are in high supply and their demand is high, yet the price for them is going up for the third consecutive year.

Amante explains that "muskrat pelts fetch as much as $10, depending on quality," and that "trappers, on average, catch between 50 and 100 each season."

For the less-squeamish, the story also includes a slideshow and video of the process of skinning and drying a muskrat pelt.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Immortal Poet / Flickr

Michigan Radio begins a new program on Morning Edition today. During the new series, Seeking Change, we'll explore the different ways that people are trying to help along change in their communities. This year’s presidential campaign is already taking up hours of air-time. 

Voters are seeing continuous TV ads and the candidates have begun disseminating their messages and campaign promises all over the place. But, Americans Elect wants to change that... at least the length of the campaign “season.” Americans Elect is a non-partisan group that is sick of the two-party system. Supporters would like to create a party by and for the people.

Brian Betts, an Americans Elect delegate, speaks with Michigan Radio's Christina Shockley for the first edition of Seeking Change.

In this Saturday's Week in Review, Michigan Radio's Rina Miller speaks with Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry about the latest national unemployment numbers and what they mean for the 2012 presidential campaign, what to expect from the upcoming North American International Auto Show, and the Michigan ACLU's suit against the state's new ban on health benefits for some public employees' domestic partners.

rap-up.com

The front man for the pop music group the Black Eyed Peas, William James Adams, Jr., more commonly known as Will.I.Am, announced that he will start a car company in East Los Angeles, the neighborhood he grew up in.

"I invested my money in building my own vehicle, because I want to bring jobs to the ghetto that I come from, so why not invest like I invested in making a demo to start the Black Eyed Peas," said Adams.

He's not building a car from the ground up - more like modifying a car with existing Chrysler parts.

Here he is announcing the new venture, IAMAUTO, on the Tonight Show (apologies if you have to suffer through a commercial):

Jalopnik, the Gawker website of the automotive world, didn't take the announcement too well.

Here's what Matt Hardigree wrote in his post "Will.I.Am Launches Crappy Car Company":

I didn't watch Leno last night, so all of this is coming via one online report attached to this picture. I'd like to think it's a hoax but it's so bad it seems like it could credibly be a BEP byproduct.

The vehicle will be built using "OEM parts from Chrysler" with a Beats by Dr. Dre audio system. Given he drives a Chrysler 300 in his new video it's likely this is the basis for the car. Lord help us if it's a Chrysler 200.

Will.I.Am wants Leno to test drive the car when it comes out.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - An employee of a Michigan market who was paralyzed from the waist down after being run over by a horse-drawn wagon during a hayride has filed a lawsuit.

AnnArbor.com reports 23-year-old Mary Armbruster of Ann Arbor sued Tuesday in Washtenaw County Circuit Court seeking more than $25,000 from Jenny's Dexter Market in Webster Township.

Armbruster claims the market gave her faulty equipment and didn't fix it when she complained.

Jennifer Lambers, who owns the market, declined to comment to Ann Arbor.com. A telephone listing for the market was busy when called Thursday morning by The Associated Press.

The market is a popular weekend destination in Washtenaw County near Dexter, about 40 miles west of Detroit.

Households and businesses in one section of Detroit lost power for a few hours Wednesday morning.

That’s because DTE Energy was performing what it calls “routine maintenance” on some underground power lines.

Mid-morning, generators were still humming at Holbrook Auto Repair in  Highland Park. Manager Jeff Worthy bought them this week, when he found out DTE planned the temporary power outage.

According to a report by Simon A. Thalmann with the Kalamazoo Gazette, a freight train derailed this morning in Kalamazoo when it encountered a damaged section of track, but Grand Elk Railroad officials say all rail cars remained upright and nothing was spilled as a result of the accident.

Thalmann reports:

"It gets cold and the rail gets brittle," a Grand Elk official said of the section of rail that broke. "The circumstances were right."

A section of rail about 60 feet long broke, with one rail protruding upward and the other snapped and lying in snow.

The train was carrying liquid clay to Graphic Packaging when it derailed at around 10 a.m., according to railroad officials.

Photos of the derailment by the Gazette's Fritz Klug can be found here.

Detroit Dog Rescue / via Facebook

The Detroit Dog Rescue, an organization devoted to Detroit’s estimated 50,000 stray dogs got a huge boost to start the New Year.

Detroit Dog Rescue received more than $1.5 million from an anonymous donor.

Early this year, Detroit officials quashed an effort to make a TV documentary about the city’s stray dog population.

But out of that effort, the Detroit Dog Rescue was born. The group rescues abandoned dogs from the streets, then works to place them in permanent homes.

Scone bandits eat Christmas present

Dec 26, 2011

When Rhonda Pillote’s brother-in-law received a call that his Christmas gift was incorrectly delivered across the street, he did not rush over.

Two days later he arrived to pick up the package and it was gone.

Pillote, an Ann Arbor resident, sent him  a box of scones, honey and coffee from Zingerman’s.

She says he told her the neighbor ushered him into the kitchen, and announced “Funny thing…we ate it!”

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

 Shopping malls won’t be the only retailers doing brisk business this weekend.  

The Mega Millions and Powerball lotteries have a combined jackpot of about $300 million.   

Andi Brancato is the Michigan Lottery’s spokeswoman.   She says big jackpots usually draw in people who don’t normally buy lottery tickets.   And Brancato says that’s good news to Michigan’s eleven thousand lottery retailers. 

Flickr/Tambako the Jaguar

A newspaper reports a tiger cub exhibit has closed at a Grand Rapids mall after public complaints and a planned protest. The Grand Rapids Press reported Friday that mall officials canceled the touring display that allows shoppers to play with and be photographed with the cubs for a price.

Sarah Hale tells the newspaper she had planned a protest for Saturday against the exhibit but called it off.

Yarn bombers have been "bombing" all across the country.

They knit their creations around trees, parking meters, light poles, and statues.

In Cincinnati, an entire city bus was "yarn-bombed" (see the slideshow above for a picture of that "bombing").

But along South Ashley Street in Ann Arbor recently, yarn has been put to a different kind of use.

A "yarn giver" has been leaving items for people to discover - or perhaps there are multiple "yarn givers."

Changing Gears reporter Kate Davidson recently spotted several parking signs draped with scarves.

The note attached to each scarf read "If you are cold take this."

When we came back to take a picture, one scarf was left.

And more than scarves are being left. Last month, my wife found a hat on a fence post along S. Ashley St.

Thinking someone lost it, she took a closer look to discover a note that read "FREE! Handmade wool and alpaca hat for YOU!" (photo in the slideshow).

The discovery totally lifted her spirit, and reminded her of the goodness in people.

Small gestures, either from "yarn-givers" or "layaway-payers," can be especially helpful in a world dominated by news of recession, conflict, and controversy.

travelwisconsin.com

Earlier this month, the Wisconsin Department of Tourism started using a mitten image to represent the shape of its state.

Michiganders took umbrage. In their mind, there is only one true "Mitten State."

Now, tourism officials in both states are working to convert the light-hearted flap over mittens into a donation drive.

More from the Associated Press:

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Tourism officials in Wisconsin and Michigan are trying to parlay their recent dust-up over mittens into a donation drive.

The two states' tourism departments got into a good-natured battle last week over whose state has the better claim to looking like a mitten. Now the states are trying to capitalize on the publicity with the Great Lakes Mitten Campaign, an effort to collect mittens for charities.

Wisconsin officials are urging people to drop off mittens at state travel centers around the state and participating chambers of commerce through Jan. 15. The mittens then will be donated to local charities.

Michigan officials, meanwhile, are asking people to donate mittens directly to their favorite charities.

jimmiehomeschoolmom's / Creative Commons

Strangers have paid off more than 30 layaway bills at a Kmart near Grand Rapids in the last week.

Dan Veenstra has been working there for more than 20 years and says he’s never seen anything like it.  “In the past we’ve had people come in that want to pay on somebody’s layaway - it’s usually a friend or neighbor or a family member. But it’s never been strangers like this,” Veenstra said.

Cascades Humane Society in Jackson, Mich. offers pet food and supplies to families who are having financial difficulties. The pet food pantry helps families keep their pets and reduces the number of animals in need of new homes.

As part of our What’s Working series, Michigan Radio’s Christina Shockley speaks with Debra Carmody, executive director of Cascades Humane Society, about the pet food pantry program. 

Sixty-two percent of US households have at least one pet. Yearly pet care costs can range from $500 to $800—an expense that might be out of reach for families that are forced to downsize. “When you see people coming to our agency and they have to relinquish their pets, it’s heartbreaking,” Carmody says. 

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