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DETROIT FREE PRESS — Michigan senators are pushing ahead with a series of new bills that would create a temporary summer tax pause when it comes to buying fuel.

The Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee made quick work of the measures Thursday morning, voting in less than 12 minutes to send four bills to the Senate floor. All seven Republicans approved of each bill, while the three Democrats on the committee largely passed, instead of voting for or against the measures.

The bills pause collections on the 6% sales and use taxes on gas purchases and the 27-cent-per-gallon excise gas tax. The pause would run from June 15 to September 15.

“It’s no secret to any of the members of the committee or members of the public that fuel has come to a nationally high level and is expected to go even higher,” said Committee Chairman Sen. Tom Barrett, R-Charlotte, noting some projections indicate prices may exceed $6 per gallon over the summer.

“A lot of our economy requires the use of fuels, whether that’s motorists driving themselves to and from work or other obligations they have, or for businesses that need to move goods around for sale to residents.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer previously suggested temporarily suspending sales tax collections on gas, so there may be room for a legislative compromise on the plan.

The proposal also mirrors legislation previously championed by Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, and comes amid projections for a massive budget surplus.

But a slew of Michigan education organizations continue to oppose any pause to tax collections on gas purchases, arguing the hundreds of millions potentially lost to the state may affect funding for schools. Barrett noted that the bill that pauses collecting the 27-cent tax also shifts $300 million from the state’s General Fund to make up for lost revenue that would typically go to local governments.

Previously, GOP efforts to repeal or pause taxes on gas have fallen flat. Whitmer already vetoed a plan that would repeal the state gas tax, noting that Senate Republicans failed to ensure the measure would take effect immediately.

The measures now go to the full Senate.


DETROIT NEWS — Michigan’s Board of State Canvassers is expected to decide Thursday whether five Republican candidates for governor who were entangled in an alleged wave of petition forgeries should make the Aug. 2 primary ballot.

The board’s meeting at 9 a.m. in downtown Lansing could overhaul the GOP primary race to challenge Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, cutting the field from 10 to five. The panel’s decision could leave on the sidelines former Detroit police Chief James Craig, whom many see as the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, and self-funding businessman Perry Johnson of Bloomfield Hills, who has spent millions of dollars on ads already.

On Monday night, the Bureau of Elections, citing the forgeries, found that Craig, Johnson, financial adviser Michael Markey of Grand Haven, Michigan State Police Capt. Michael Brown of Stevensville and entrepreneur Donna Brandenburg of Byron Center didn’t have the required 15,000 valid petition signatures to make the ballot.

At Thursday’s meeting, the Board of State Canvassers will examine the bureau’s findings. Three of the four board members would have to support certifying the five candidates for the ballot for them to make it.

“This takes away choice from the voters, and if you’re going to do that, you better be right,” Markey said in an interview on Wednesday of the bureau’s analysis. “And they’re not.”

The board’s meeting will take place in a Michigan Senate committee meeting room inside Boji Tower, a larger venue than the canvassers usually gather in.

The Board of State Canvassers features two Democrats, Mary Ellen Gurewitz and Jeannette Bradshaw, and two Republicans, Norm Shinkle and Tony Daunt.

In reviewing the candidates’ petition signatures, which were due April 19, the bureau said it had tracked 36 petition circulators “who submitted fraudulent petition sheets consisting entirely of invalid signatures” across its review of candidates’ filings.

“In total, the bureau estimates that these circulators submitted at least 68,000 invalid signatures submitted across 10 sets of nominating petitions,” the report said. “In several instances, the number of invalid signatures submitted by these circulators was the reason a candidate had an insufficient number of valid signatures.”

The campaigns of Markey, Johnson and Craig are expected to fight the bureau’s findings Thursday. They are also expected to challenge the board’s ultimate decisions in court if they’re left off the ballot.

The debate will likely focus on whether the bureau’s staff invalidated signatures individually by examining each one’s authenticity or rejected sheets of signatures wholesale because of the circulator associated with them.

John Yob, Johnson’s political consultant, said Monday that the bureau “does not have the right to unilaterally void every single signature obtained by the alleged forgers who victimized five campaigns.”

“We strongly believe they are refusing to count thousands of signatures from legitimate voters who signed the petitions and look forward to winning this fight before the board and, if necessary, in the courts,” Yob said.

The bureau’s review found that Johnson had submitted 23,193 signatures but 9,393 of them were invalid, leaving him 1,200 signatures short of the threshold. Johnson had 6,983 signatures that were submitted by “fraudulent petition circulators,” according to the bureau’s report.

The bureau’s staff found the signatures submitted by the “fraudulent petition circulators” were invalid, according to the Monday report.

As for Craig’s campaign, the bureau found 21,305 signatures were submitted, but 11,113 of them were invalid, meaning he was 4,808 signatures under the threshold. The bureau’s report said the former chief’s petitions included 9,879 from “fraudulent petition circulators.”

Experts have described the number of forgeries found in the petitions as unprecedented and officials from both sides of the aisle have called for criminal prosecutions.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office referred to Attorney General Dana Nessel the suspected signature forgery operation.

Candidates disqualified at Thursday’s canvassers meeting could appeal the decision in court, but they’re unlikely to succeed as state election law clearly places the onus of presenting sufficient nominating signatures on the shoulders of the candidates themselves, not those hired to help, said retired election lawyer John Pirich.

“They have the ultimate responsibility,” Pirich said.

If the disqualifications hold, the GOP primary field would feature conservative commentator Tudor Dixon of Norton Shores, real estate broker Ryan Kelley of Allendale, businessman Kevin Rinke of Bloomfield Township, Pastor Ralph Rebandt of Farmington Hills and chiropractor Garrett Soldano of Mattawan.

Democrats also challenged Dixon’s petition signatures, focusing on the heading of her petitions listing 2026 as the expiration date of the term she was running for as a gubernatorial candidate. However, Michigan election law says a governor’s term ends on Jan. 1 following a gubernatorial election, which would be Jan. 1, 2027.

The bureau didn’t agree with the challenge, describing “the defect in the Dixon nominating petitions” as harmless.


MLIVE — College enrollment across Michigan plummeted 15% during the spring semester this year, dragged down by a 20% hit to four-year public universities, a new report shows.

Spring enrollment across all sectors dropped to 360,220 students, a decrease of more than 62,000 from 2021 to this year, according to data released Thursday, May 26, by the National Student Clearinghouse.

Numbers dropped across all sectors, fueling the nation’s worst enrollment trend from spring 2021 to this season, the report states.

Michigan was the only state to experience a double-digit percentage decrease. Neighboring Indiana saw a nearly 11% increase, while Ohio and Wisconsin experienced 4% to 5% declines.

Michigan outpaced the national 4.7% decline in college enrollment this spring, the data shows.

“College enrollment declines appear to be worsening,” Doug Shapiro, National Student Clearinghouse Research Center executive director, said, adding that there could be a rebound in the fall based on preliminary data on applications for first-year students.

Michigan’s four-year public universities bled the most, as the 20% dip represented about 50,000 less students. This continues drops previously seen in the fall, as enrollment fell nearly 10% between 2020 and 2021, which was tacked on top of a 3.8% decrease from fall 2019.

This data reflects public enrollment issues reported at state universities such as Central MichiganWestern MichiganEastern Michigan and more. CMU and WMU saw 10% and 7% hits, respectively, in fall 2021 enrollments, while EMU and Ferris State each experienced a 25% decline during the last five years. This also continues a downward enrollment trend at the majority of Michigan’s public universities, except for the University of Michigan and Michigan Technological University. Michigan State University lost just 36 students in fall 2021, according to a report from the Michigan Association of State Universities. The state’s 12 other public universities lost students last year, with most doing so for five years or more.

Michigan’s community colleges, labeled two-year public institutions in the data, experienced a nearly 10% decline for the spring, or 11,786 less students. This is a return to previous downward trends for this sector, as fall 2021 saw a 19% increase from the previous year.

The reason for the decline is a combination of factors, including a smaller population of young people, increasing tuition, a changing economy and a job market that offers viable alternatives, such as apprenticeships, the report states.

The smallest decrease came from private 4-year institutions, which saw a 2% shrinkage from the previous spring. This represented a loss of 2,811 students, bringing the total enrollment at private colleges to less than 48,000.

Despite the enrollment issues at private Michigan colleges, such as Alma College and Albion College, diversity has seen an increase. Hillsdale College has seen a swell of enrollment and applications due to the appeal of its “classical education” curriculum and less stringent COVID-19 policies.


The full estimates from the National Student Clearinghouse, including national and state-by-state trends, can be found here.


DETROIT FREE PRESS — The tornado that ripped through Gaylord last week is expected to cost millions to repair — and, insurance companies warn, some survivors will be lucky to be able to make them in the next few months.

One insurer is estimating a damage payout of up to $10 million to its clients.

Local, state, and federal damage assessments are expected to begin Wednesday morning, and if they meet the criteria for federal help, the state likely will ask for it, according to Michigan State Police officials said.

The governor’s office will decide whether to make the request.

On Tuesday, state officials told the Free Press they had no damage estimates to offer.

The state, officials added, is trying to speed the federal aid request process by inviting Federal Emergency Management Agency to help with the damage assessment, which often is done first by just local and state officials.

Meanwhile, the Otsego Community Foundation — through its Tornado Response Fund — is seeking to raise $500,000 to provide immediate relief to survivors, short-term recovery assistance, and money to help the community rebuild.

If you want to help, the foundation is taking donations.

As of Tuesday, more than 500 people had contributed more than $85,000 to the fund. In addition, the Community Financial Credit Union pledged to match every dollar donated up to $30,000, starting on Tuesday.

The Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services said it also is “ready to assist the residents of northern Michigan as they begin to recover from the incredible devastation wrought by Friday’s tornado, hailstorm, and power outages.”

The Farm Bureau Insurance of Michigan, which sent a relief vehicle Saturday, warned that demand for services all at once, combined with existing supply chain problems, could lead to backups.

Auto body shops, for example, are “backed up five months because of their inability to get parts,” the insurance company said. As a result, agents are advising that “if your car is drivable, drive it.”

Repairs may take some time.

“This is the time to shine, to knuckle in, and to help out others,” Timothy Martin, Farm Bureau Insurance’s director of property claims, said. “We’ll get through this, and we’ll take care of everybody.”

Farm Bureau Insurance, based in Lansing, said it expects to handle up to 1,200 auto and home claims from the storm and estimated its clients would have auto and home damage of $5 million to $10 million.

The tornado, classified as an EF-3, touched down at 3:35 p.m. Friday, the National Weather Service reported, and in more than 20 minutes, the 150-mph twister cut a 17-mile swath as it downed powerlines and trees, ripped off roofs, and flipped cars.

It also killed 2 women in their 70s in a mobile home park and injured 44 others.

Most of the property damage appeared to be downtown, although farms also are facing storm and hail damage, the insurance company said.

Otsego County and Michigan already have declared local and state emergencies.

The local state of emergency activates local emergency response and recovery plans, and the governor’s declaration of a state of emergency for Otsego County allows state agencies to rush resources to affected areas.

In the state’s letter to FEMA, it said the tornado touched down at 3:38 pm, 10 minutes after a warning was issued, and was on the ground for 26 minutes. Michigan tornadoes are typically on the ground just a couple of minutes.

The last time an EF-3 tornado hit Michigan was in 2012 in Dexter.

A decade later, the southeast Michigan city still bears the scars, with missing trees and rebuilt homes. Damages in that disaster were estimated at about $12 million. No lives were lost.

Farm Bureau Insurance said that in addition to agents, it sent a vehicle to Gaylord loaded with water, snacks and generators to help offer residents relief and also has been “writing checks on the spot.”

And if you have insurance questions and need help with a claim, the state’s insurance department said it is available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 877-999-6442.

Contact Frank Witsil: 313-222-5022 or fwitsil@freepress.com.

Insurance claim tips 

The Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services offers some advice:

  • Contact your insurance company’s hotline and agent to report the claim.
  • Protect your property to prevent further loss. Keep receipts.
  • Document your loss. Take pictures and videos of the damage.
  • Review your policies to understand the coverage and discuss it with your agent.
  • If there is water damage, tell your insurance company. There may be additional causes for water damage, such as storm-related rain, sewer backup, or a failing sump pump that may be covered under the policy.
  • If there is damage to a vehicle, contact your auto insurance company.


DETROIT NEWS — Baby formula manufacturer Abbott announced Tuesday its plant in Sturgis, Michigan, where a recall has helped fuel a nationwide formula shortage, is expected to reopen next month.

“Abbott plans to restart production at the Sturgis facility on June 4 and will prioritize EleCare production, with initial EleCare product release to consumers beginning on or about June 20,” the company said in a statement.

The relaunch announcement came a week after the U.S. Department of Justice confirmed a tentative agreement with Abbott to resolve safety issues at its facility, considered the country’s largest manufacturing plant for infant formula.

Abbott’s recalled products included powder formula sold under the labels Similac, Alimentum and EleCare labels after four children became ill with bacterial infections and two died. Several Abbott employees are accused of manufacturing the baby formula under conditions that did not meet regulatory standards for quality and safety, according to a federal court filing.

Last week, the DOJ said it had filed a legal complaint against Abbott over allegations of quality and safety violations, and that the company had already agreed to a proposed consent decree to resolve the issues.

In its statement Tuesday, Abbott said the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan has amended the decree allowing the company to release limited quantities of its EleCare specialty amino acid-based formulas that had been on hold following the Feb. 17 recall.

“The consent decree was amended at the request of Abbott and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration … to enable the company to get EleCare to children in urgent medical need,” Abbott officials said. “These EleCare product batches were on hold pursuant to an agreement with the FDA. All products have been tested and meet all product release requirements.”

EleCare formulas are hypoallergenic and used by infants and children who have severe food allergies or gastrointestinal disorders that require amino acid-based formulas, the company said.

Abbott said it received permission from regulators to release 300,000 cans of its EleCare specialty formula. The product was not part of the February recall.

“While Abbott has limited inventory of these products, there should be enough to fulfill current patient needs until new product is available in the coming months,” Abbott’s release said.

Abbott said it expects to begin shipping product “within the next several days” to healthcare professionals, hospitals or consumers.

“Releasing this product immediately will help families impacted by the lack of availability of EleCare,” said Robert B. Ford, chairman and chief executive officer at Abbott. “When we restart our Sturgis facility the first week in June, we will produce EleCare first and make enough so that several months of supply will be available.”

Abbott’s February recall of products made at the Sturgis plant has exacerbated a nationwide shortage of baby formula caused by supply chain issues.

For three months, the Abbott plant in Sturgis has remained “voluntarily” closed, according to the FDA. The company has said it’s working to correct findings related to the processes, procedures and conditions cited by FDA inspectors in March that raised concerns that powdered infant formula produced at the facility carried a risk of contamination.

The FDA has announced new guidance outlining increased flexibility for the importation of certain infant formula products to further boost availability.

Michigan has temporarily expanded the types of formula that qualify for assistance under the Women, Infants and Children program and notified individuals that received recalled formulas through the state on recommended next steps.

The White House has said that Abbott agreed to continue paying rebates through August in states like Michigan where the company holds the contract for the federal WIC program.

Last week, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill that would permanently loosen regulations around which baby formulas can be purchased under the federal low-income assistance program.  It gives the U.S. Department of Agriculture more flexibility during a product recall, supply-chain disruption or other crisis so families aren’t restricted by what brand or kind of infant formula they may purchase, according to a bill summary.

The House has also approved $28 million in emergency funding for the FDA to address the formula shortage.

Several congressional committees have set hearings to investigate the shortage.

The Federal Trade Commission announced Tuesday that it has launched an inquiry, seeking information on any deceptive or fraudulent business practices related to it.

Meanwhile, the White House announced Sunday the first two Defense Production Act authorizations for infant formula, both coming from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Abbott Nutrition can now receive priority orders of raw materials like sugar and corn syrup for infant formula, which the White House said will allow the manufacturer to increase production quickly by one-third. Reckitt, owner of Mead-Johnson, can now receive priority orders of consumables like filters and other single-use products necessary to generate certain oils needed to produce infant formula, the White House said, which will allow Reckitt facilities to operate at maximum capacity.

The Biden administration has also started airlifting shipments of formula from Europe. The first, a military plane carrying enough specialty infant formula for more than half a million baby bottles, arrived Sunday in Indianapolis.


BRIDGE MI — Two incumbent Democrats vying for a newly drawn southeast Michigan congressional district sparred on issues from gun control and abortion to health care and campaign finance during a debate Tuesday that occasionally got testy.

During a wide-ranging forum at Oakland University in Rochester Hills — located on the edge of the new neighboring 10th and 11th districts — U.S. Reps. Haley Stevens, D-Waterford, and Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township, sought to differentiate their records as they traded barbs as they both seek a third term in Congress.

The winner of the August primary will advance to the general election in the 11th District, which stretches across much of southeastern Oakland County and leans Democratic.

Hours after a deadly Texas school shooting, both candidates stressed the need to take meaningful action on gun violence, with Stevens calling on the White House to declare a national emergency.

Both said they would support ending the Senate filibuster, which they said has contributed to the stalemate in Congress on getting Democratic priorities like gun control and abortion access to President Joe Biden.

Throughout the debate, Levin portrayed himself as more progressive, criticizing Stevens for moderate positions on health care, climate legislation and her unwillingness to express explicit support for expanding the Supreme Court beyond its nine members.

Levin said he supports expanding the court and suggested other possible overhauls, including the possibility of term limits for justices so the high court “can stop stomping over our rights.”

Stevens said she would review any proposals put forward to “reimagine functional institutions” that command the public’s trust, but said it’s important to stand firm on “the real issue at hand, which is making sure that Roe (v. Wade) doesn’t get overturned.”

During a tense exchange, Stevens bristled at Levin’s characterization of their records on supporting abortion access after he suggested he’d been more active in the fight.

“Was that the sound of another 60-something-year-old white man telling me how to talk about choice?” she asked the crowd. “I think my position is clear.”

Levin responded, “I don’t think I said a word about how my colleague should talk about choice.”

The candidates also diverged on health care policy, with Levin backing a single-payer health plan and Stevens supporting a public option that still allows for private insurance.

Michigan is losing a seat in Congress next year because of stagnant population.

Both candidates opted to pass on running in the neighboring 10th district, which contains southern Macomb County communities that Levin now represents including Warren, Sterling Heights, Eastpointe and St. Clair Shores, but extends north into Macomb County and loops in the Oakland County cities of Rochester and Rochester Hills.

Stevens moved within the boundaries of the new 11th District, and Levin opted not to move into a different district, setting up the incumbent vs. incumbent primary.

Levin and Stevens each defended their decision to run against each other, expressing their support for the independent redistricting process while stressing that they were the best choice to represent the district.

Stevens has thus far out-raised Levin, reporting $1.1 million in the latest campaign finance reports to Levin’s $767,268.

An Impact Research poll released Tuesday by Stevens’ campaign showed Stevens with a 7 point lead, with 38 percent of respondents supporting her, 31 percent supporting Levin and 31 undecided.

Following the debate, Stevens said she gets the sense that voters are “heartbroken” they have to choose between two sitting Democrats with track records in Congress.

Levin said the circumstances are unfortunate, but noted he’s “just running for reelection where I live and where my kids are the fifth generation of my family to live.”


BRIDGE MI — Six months after the deadly shooting at Oxford High School that resulted in four student deaths and eight injuries, the school district is experimenting with a new technology to detect guns with the help of artificial intelligence.

The security enhancement is a part of a free, year-long pilot program with ZeroEyes, a tech security company, using artificial intelligence technology to identify guns that can be seen on security cameras, and alert police and security guards of potential threats.

After the artificial intelligence software program identifies a gun, an alert is immediately sent to a team of ZeroEyes employees who determine whether the gun is real. If they confirm there is a threat, a text notification is sent to the school’s security officials and local law enforcement in three to five seconds, according to the company.

In the pilot phase of the program, the system will only monitor cameras at Oxford High School. The school currently has more than 100 cameras, according to Jill Lemond, assistant superintendent of safety and operations for Oxford, and all of them have been synced with the artificial intelligence.

Students aren’t likely to notice the security enhancement. Oxford began trainings for the system in March and it has been in operation since April 13, according to Lemond.

Ethan Crumbley is charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and other charges in connection with the Nov. 30 shooting. On security footage, Crumbley, 15, can be seen walking the school hallways shooting at students for four to five minutes. He fired more than 30 shots, according to police.

The new system wouldn’t have prevented the shootings; police believe the alleged assailant had a gun hidden in his backpack, and the AI system can only recognize guns that can be seen on camera.

The goal of the system isn’t prevention, but to more quickly alert authorities of danger in order to limit casualties.

Just how much quicker that notification would be made isn’t clear. Police began receiving calls about the Oxford shooting from those in the building within a minute of when shots began being fired, compared to the security company’s estimate of notifying police within 5 seconds.

That’s a small savings in time, but seconds count during a mass shooting.

Oxford started working with ZeroEyes as the district looked for innovative solutions to bolster its existing security protocols. The school district received the software for free and has access to the system through the duration of the 2022-23 school year.

The program was recommended to the school district after the security firm Secure Education Consultants recommended a weapon detection system in its March 2022 report of Oxford safety measures.

“We have always paid great attention to safety. This isn’t a new thing since Nov. 30,” Lemond said. “We’re just looking at even more – even better – solutions.”

Previously, cameras were monitored by the school’s security team, which consists of two school resource officers, an armed security guard and a private security firm. The team has an office with monitors that view all cameras, Lemond said.

ZeroEyes was founded by former Navy SEALs and military personnel in 2018 after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

The company primarily focuses on K-12 security, but is moving toward having it at more colleges as well, chief operating officer Rob Huberty said. The technology is also in some malls and company headquarters.

Oxford will have to pay for the services if they continue working with ZeroEyes past next school year. The company did not comment on the current price of the software, but Huberty said last year at Oviedo High School in Seminole County, Fla., that the gun-detection had ‘an MSRP value of $50 per month, per camera.’

The cost of an entire year of ZeroEyes software would tally a bill around $60,000 in a school with 100 cameras like Oxford, according to the price given by Huberty last year.

“We’re trying to make this as affordable as we possibly can do,” Huberty said. “We believe it needs to be ubiquitous. It needs to be everywhere, because if it is, we can actually do something.”

Since the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School that left 13 dead, schools across the country have attempted to harden their buildings. Many schools now keep doors locked, with visitors required to be buzzed in. Students in all grades go through active shooter drills, and classrooms often have devices that can prevent entry.

Still, in the 23 years since Columbine, there have been 304 shootings in U.S. schools.

The announcement of the partnership came the same week the families of two victims of the Oxford shootings, Justin Shilling and Tate Myre, along with the families of four surviving students, filed a federal lawsuit against the school district, saying Oxford officials could have done more to prevent the school shootings. This lawsuit is the second against the school district since the shootings, although additional lawsuits have been directed at individual Oxford officials.

Justin Heinze, an assistant professor of Health Behavior at the University of Michigan and a part of the University’s National Center for School Safety (NCSS), said gun identification technology could help speed up response times during a crisis, but said the system has limitations because it does not serve as an active deterrent to school threats and their main causes.

He said that ‘upstream-related efforts’ that identify characteristics of a possible suspect to prevent a tragedy such as having strong mental health resources, ways for students to report possible threats and teachers being informed of signs, should be used in conjunction with the software to ensure the school is actively trying to prevent incidents rather than just responding quickly to them.

Heinze also said Oxford should have a plan in place in case the ZeroEyes program does detect a tangible threat and communicate with law enforcement to deal with the ripple effects through the school community.

“It might be simple to say, ‘yes, we’re applying a software that will allow us to identify when a weapon is coming to school,’” Heinze said. “But at the same time, there’s a lot about the school culture, a lot about the learning environment that needs to be brought into consideration following the implementation.”


DETROIT FREE PRESS — Metro Detroit college-bound freshmen are being celebrated on Wednesday at the annual Young Gifted and College Bound community-wide graduation and college send-off ceremony at the Aretha Franklin Amphitheatre.

More than $15,000 in scholarship funding will be awarded to college-bound students who attend, according to a news release. The hope, Shahida Mausi said, is to give each student $500.

“We are not making this a needs-based scholarship, we are making this academic based,” the president of The Right Productions, which is putting on the event, said. “You (students) have accepted this admission into college, and we got you.”

A spokesperson for Huntington Bank, one of the sponsors for the event, said it is important “to support and empower youth who will serve as our future leaders.”

“Huntington is a long-standing partner with The Aretha, serving as a sponsor for the last few years,” LaTrice McClendon, Huntington’s Detroit market executive/community president. “The Aretha is an iconic cornerstone of the community and has a long history of supporting the city and its residents.

“At Huntington we are dedicated to empowering our future leaders and we are excited to support this year’s Young, Gifted, College Bound scholarship.”

Mausi, whose company manages the theater and created the event, said the idea of helping students in Detroit came after she saw an event at a grandson’s orientation for Morehouse College in Atlanta. She says the event charged the incoming students and parents with figuring out what the next phase of life would be about. It made such an impact on her, she said, that it made her think it would be great to support students from her hometown.

“It was so moving I thought it would be great to have an event in Detroit where we, as a community, can charge our young people as they go away to college…,” the mother of four sons said. “When they leave here, they are not just representing themselves, but their families and their entire community … so we, as a community, can give them some words of wisdom and some money to help launch them into the next phase of their life.”

Students must be present and registered to win. She said her plan is to give each student $500, but no matter what, “no student will leave empty-handed.”

“Detroit produces great people and we want to invest in our young people as they launch and call them to return.”

To register a student or donate for the event go to the thearetha.com/. Doors open at 5 p.m.


DETROIT NEWS —  A giant anteater at the Detroit Zoo — believed to be the oldest of its kind in zoo captivity — has died, officials said Monday.

Chesley, the oldest living giant anteater in a zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, lived to age 26, they said.

The anteater arrived at the Detroit Zoo in 1997.

“Chesley, or ‘Mama-Ches’ as she was affectionately known, was a great companion to several other anteaters including her daughter, Raya, and Bissell, her great-granddaughter, ” Betsie Meister, associate curator of mammals who cared for Chesley at the Detroit Zoo, said in a statement Monday. “She often enjoyed taking naps in the sunshine and tearing apart one of her favorite treats,  an avocado, with her front claws.

“As her species name suggests, Chesley also enjoyed digging up ants and other insects she could find in her outdoor habitat.”


ASSOCIATED PRESS VIA MLIVE — Three doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine offer strong protection for children younger than 5, the company announced Monday. Pfizer plans to give the data to U.S. regulators later this week in a step toward letting the littlest kids get the shots.

The news comes after months of anxious waiting by parents desperate to vaccinate their babies, toddlers and preschoolers, especially as COVID-19 cases once again are rising. The 18 million tots under 5 are the only group in the U.S. not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.

The Food and Drug Administration has begun evaluating data from rival Moderna, which hopes to begin offering two kid-sized shots by summer.

Pfizer has had a bumpier time figuring out its approach. It aims to give tots an even lower dose — just one-tenth of the amount adults receive — but discovered during its trial that two shots didn’t seem quite strong enough for preschoolers. So researchers gave a third shot to more than 1,600 youngsters — from age 6 months to 4 years — during the winter surge of the omicron variant.

In a press release, Pfizer and its partner BioNTech said the extra shot did the trick, revving up tots’ levels of virus-fighting antibodies enough to meet FDA criteria for emergency use of the vaccine with no safety problems.

Preliminary data suggested the three-dose series is 80% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19, the companies said, but they cautioned the calculation is based on just 10 cases diagnosed among study participants by the end of April. The study rules state that at least 21 cases are needed to formally determine effectiveness, and Pfizer promised an update as soon as more data is available.

The companies already had submitted data on the first two doses to the FDA, and BioNTech’s CEO, Dr. Ugur Sahin, said the final third-shot data would be submitted this week.

“The study suggests that a low, 3-microgram dose of our vaccine, carefully selected based on tolerability data, provides young children with a high level of protection against the recent COVID-19 strains,” he said in a statement.

What’s next? FDA vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks has pledged the agency will “move quickly without sacrificing our standards” in evaluating tot-sized doses from both Pfizer and Moderna.

The agency has set tentative dates next month for its scientific advisers to publicly debate data from each company.

Moderna is seeking to be the first to vaccinate the littlest kids. It submitted data to the FDA saying tots develop high levels of virus-fighting antibodies after two shots that contain a quarter of the dose given to adults. The Moderna study found effectiveness against symptomatic COVID-19 was 40% to 50% during the omicon surge, much like for adults who’ve only had two vaccine doses.

Complicating Moderna’s progress, the FDA so far has allowed its vaccine to be used only in adults.

The FDA is expected to review Moderna’s data on both the youngest age group, plus its study of teens and elementary-age children. Other countries already have expanded Moderna’s shot to kids as young as 6.

While COVID-19 generally isn’t as dangerous to youngsters as to adults, some children do become severely ill or even die. And the omicron variant hit children especially hard, with those under 5 hospitalized at higher rates than at the peak of the previous delta surge.

It’s not clear how much demand there will be to vaccinate the youngest kids. Pfizer shots for 5- to 11-year-olds opened in November, but only about 30% of that age group have gotten the recommended initial two doses. Last week, U.S. health authorities said elementary-age children should get a booster shot just like everyone 12 and older is supposed to get, for the best protection against the latest coronavirus variants.


DETROIT FREE PRESS — There are no longer persons unaccounted for in the aftermath of the tornado that touched down in Friday in Gaylord, according to an update from the Michigan State Police, which confirmed that missing persons have been found alive.

The Sunday morning update also said recovery efforts continue and that nearly all power has been restored to customers. M-32 and I-75 are now open. About 6,500 customers were without power as of Saturday, according to Consumers Energy.

Secondary roads will close as needed.

Two people were killed and dozens were injured when the tornado, an EF-3 rated according to the National Weather Service, struck the northern Michigan town, about 3½ hours north of Detroit. The two people killed were found at the Nottingham Forest mobile home park, which suffered significant damage.

An aerial view of the park shared on Saturday by Michigan State Police shows many of the homes completely leveled, turned into mounds of insulation, plywood and the contents of people’s lives.

On Friday after the storm, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency.


BRIDGE MI — COVID risk levels are ratcheting into the red zone in northern Michigan, just as tourists begin their annual migration to the state’s scenic stretches, waterways, fairs and festivals.

Travel for Memorial Day weekend is expected to be the busiest in three years, according to the auto club AAA, which forecasts more than 1.1 million Michiganders will be on the road.

In many cases, they’re leaving counties where COVID is raging for destinations where it as as well: 22 of 83 counties —  home to more than half the state’s population — are now listed as a top risk in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s three-tiered risk system. The counties include southeast Michigan, six of seven counties in the eastern Upper Peninsula, which includes Mackinac Island, Sault Ste. Marie and Tahquamenon Falls State Park, and nine in northern Michigan, covering such destinations as Traverse City, Petoskey and Harbor Springs. “People are out and about. Everyone’s champing at the bit to get lives back to normal, said Karen Senkus, health officer for Chippewa County in the Upper Peninsula, where cases have climbed to 177 this week from 37 in April.

The county was recently pushed into the high risk zone — in which the CDC recommends indoor mask usage — following recent, heavily attended, events such as Lake Superior State University’s commencement, high school graduation, end-of-year parties and even dance recitals, Senkus said.

“It’s not great timing at all,” said Kerry Ott, spokesperson for the LMAS Health Department that covers the eastern U.P., including Mackinac County where counties rose 54 percent in the past two weeks to 34 total cases.

“We are obviously informing and recommending, but that’s just about all we can do. We’re saying ‘get your masks back out,’ but it’s up to each person to do that,” she said.

Travel and outdoor activities have surged throughout the pandemic — and northern Michigan motels have benefited, said Justna Hershman, manager of the Aurora Borealis Motel in Mackinaw City, which straddles Emmett and Cheboygan counties. Both are in the red zone for COVID.

“We saw an explosion in tourism because people are looking for outdoor activities to maintain social distancing,” Hershman said. “Most places were still in lockdown, so travelers changed their plans and started looking for outdoor recreation here.”

Across the Mackinac Bridge in St. Ignace, staffers of the Bavarian Haus Lakefront Inn are closely monitoring cases and continuing enhanced cleaning that began two years ago, said  general manager Sarah Wiggins.

“We have been fighting it the best we can but the last two years have been busy. The season is starting up and people still want to get out of their houses and enjoy themselves,” Wiggins said.

Michigan officials also anticipate the surge in state park usage will continue where it left off last year, when there were more than 35 million visits, up more than 30 percent from pre-pandemic levels.

Ryan Baunman, Emmet County’s director of parks and recreation, said the spring is already busy. Baunman said his team “came together” at the onset of the pandemic and cleaned the buildings more thoroughly than before.

“That was the only thing we really added,” Bauman said. “We’ll try to maintain those services.”

Like other parks across Michigan, Bauman said staffing shortages presented a challenge the past two seasons. Across the state’s economy, workers left their jobs in droves during the pandemic but didn’t return in equal numbers.

That was until parks started offering competitive wages, Bauman said. The county did a full wage evaluation for all its staff members, including seasonal workers and Bauman said the parks are “paying more competitively, that’s really what it boils down to.”

“This year that’s going a lot better, we’re nearly fully staffed,” Bauman said.