Thursday, 29 November 2012 09:59
In 2010, Environmental advocates and concerned citizens gaped at the documentary Gasland which shows people lighting tap water on fire as a result of methane leaks due to “fracking”, a controversial natural gas extraction method linked to ground water contamination. The process involves breaking into shale rock below ground water levels to acess methane. Once the rock is broken, gas released can potentially seep upward into water supplies if not extracted correctly.
A Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) spokesperson has decried the film, stating that the images in Gasland are not accurate.
Today, the debate over fracking and its dangers and benefits continues in Michigan as Governor Rick Snyder announced a plan Wednesday to increase the state's production of natural gas.
On Wednesday, Snyder said the best way to tap into Michigan’s plentiful natural gas deposits is to research safe ways to expand the use of fracking. He said an increase of the drilling process will result in lower gas bills for Michigan residents:
"We've been doing fracking for over a decade with some of the toughest regulations in the country and it's worked well," he said. "Fracking is something that is very serious and it needs to be done the right way.”
According to a report in The Detroit News, Michigan plans to team up with the University of Michigan’s Graham Sustainability Institute on a two-year, $600,000 study of best practices for the use of fracking. The increase in fracking may not be halted by the DEQ.
In October Michigan DEQ communications director Brad Wurfel declared hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” a safe method under the right controls and decried the controversial documentary that smeared the practice.
Wurfel told The Rockford Quire:
“I’ve seen Gasland and it’s a fun movie, but it isn’t real. In Michigan in 60 years and 12,000 wells there has never been a single incident associated with fracking. People get really excited about this. We are the Department of Environmental Quality, we protect the land, air and water. If something was going to damage those resources we would shut it down or outlaw it.”
But there are those who counter Wurfel’s statement, citing a scientific study that linked flammable drinking water to fracking.
On a federal level, the Obama Administration tightened fracking regulations this May, implementing laws requiring the disclosure of chemicals used in the process when done on federal and American Indian lands.
Still, the issue is hotly contested at a state and national level. Those who rely on ground water to drink worry about the affects of fracking. But under the right controls, many argue that it’s a step toward Michigan becoming more energy independent.
Tuesday, 13 November 2012 07:59
A week before the Nov. 6 election Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) Roy Roberts made a big statement: He warned that if Proposal 1 (the controversial legislation that gave him broad power over of the beleaguered school district) fell through, he may leave is post as EFM.
What would ultimately influence Roberts’ decision to stay or go? The Detroit Board of Education.
At the time of the announcement, it was unclear if the warning was just a pre-election threat to get people to vote "Yes on 1" or if jumping ship was something Roberts really planned to do in a time when the district has seen much restructuring under his leadership, and in at a crossroads.
Roberts said he would make a decision as to whether he would stick with DPS based on how the Board of Education received him in a post-election meeting on how to proceed without Public Act 4.
Proposal 1 asked voters if the State should uphold Public Act 4---a beefed up version of a Emergency Manager legislation enacted in 1990---which enabled the Governor to appoint financial managers with sweeping powers to municipalities and school districts undergoing financial crisis. The measure was defeated and now the old emergency manager law, Public Act 72 of 1990 holds, limiting the power of EFMs like Roberts strictly to finances. If the board members were willing to work with him and not against him as Roberts claims they have done in the past, Roberts said he would stay.
Ultimately, Roberts has put the future of his post in the hands of School Board members, the same Board whose president repeatedly called for Roberts and his predecessor, Robert Bobb, to step down.
It's an interesting tactic. If Roberts resigns, he's has positioned it so that it is the School Board's fault for not being willing to set aside politics and put the children first.
Roberts wrote in a letter to Gov. Rick Snyder one week before the election stating:
"In the absence of legislation empowering a single entity with the authority to operate the district, continued progress will be virtually impossible. Therefore, while my commitment to the children of Detroit remains as strong as it was when I began this journey, without the tools provided by (the law), I do not believe that my presence here can have any further impact."
One day after the Nov. 6 election defeated Proposal 1, Roberts wrote in a letter to DPS employees:
“I also reached out to the School Board to schedule a meeting to discuss how we can move forward in the best interest of educating Detroit's children. I am confident that as long as we can keep the focus on the children we can work together to make DPS a leader in public education once again.”
Roberts, it seems, isn’t giving up just yet. A day after the defeat of Proposal 1, Roberts sent a letter to DPS employees with an upbeat message about the passage of a school millage renewal.
Pending a meeting with the school board on how to move forward in a post-PA4 environment, Roberts said he was willing to stay at DPS for at least another 30 days. If he resigns, he has implied it will be the School Board’s fault for making his job too difficult.
Roberts has gained a reputation of a no-nonsense leader who is frank about the district's problems. One of Roberts’ biggest accomplishments during his two-year tenure has been to shrink the district’s deficit by from $327 million to $75 million, mostly in bond sales.
At events around the city Roberts made it clear that he didn’t like the prospect of having to work with the school board.
“You can’t have two masters in a home,” he said of having to battle with the School Board over every decision he makes that ‘s not strictly financial.
How school board members will receive Roberts in the upcoming meeting has yet to be seen, although the relationship between the two has been rocky. Will school board members and Roberts come to an agreement in the best interest of Children’s education?
They should. If Roberts and the school board truly have the children’s best interest at heart, they will find a way to put their differences aside and come to a compromise. And it’s not just up to the school board. Roberts will have to concede some of his power to the Board and do the work that Robert Bobb did before public act 4 was enacted. It's doable, it just takes more negotiating.
The question shouldn’t be whether or not the Board of Education will allow Roberts to do his work. The compromise has to come from both ends.
The question should be how they both will work together and best use all of their talents. At this point it really is a test, on both the School Board's and Robert’s part on who is willing to put pride and power aside in the name of one of the nation’s most important rights: public of education.
Thursday, 01 November 2012 09:29
Is sugar the new tobacco? That’s a question with a growing buzz around the nation, especially after the City of New York’s bold move to ban large, sugary beverages in restaurants, cafes and movie theatres.
By now it’s no secret. It’s a known medical fact that sugar is packed not only with nutritionally “empty” calories but it’s a veritable appetite stimulate. Some even argue that sugar is an addictive drug and should be regulated just like alcohol or tobacco. A study released by the American Health Trust this September found Michigan to be the fifth fattest state in the union. Numerous reports over the past decade have put Detroit anywhere between the first and fifth most obese city on the nation, at times rivalling Houston, Texas for the fattest spot depending on the year and who’s reporting.
This is yet another list Detroit doesn’t have to be on.
After a spirited rally against soda pop yesterday, Detroiters may be getting on board the sugar-awareness train. The rally, held at Detroit’s Sinai Grace Hospital, urged people to cut pop out of their diets to prevent excess caloric intake and therefore, obesity.
Any doctor or dietitian will tell you: excess sugar intake (Americans guzzle syrup-filled drinks by the gallon) leads to obesity and obesity causes serious health complications including heart disease, diabetes and other leading causes of death in the United States. There’s nothing to debate there.
What many people disagree on is what we, as a country, should do about it. Should the government intervene like it did with booze and tobacco? Some argue that regulating sugar opens the door to regulating all sorts of lifestyle choices. Perhaps the best approach is not to regulate sugaar entirely but have warnings on foods and drinks with significant added sugar about the health risks involved in excess sugar consumption.
Perhaps the worst sugar and junk food travesty is childhood obesity. One in three chidlren in America are not considered overweight or obese. At the hosptial rally yersterday, the president and CEO of Sinai Grace Hospital, Dr. Reginald Eadie, said that childhood obesity is causing more damage to the American people than a natrual disacter like hurricane Sandy could ever do. I agree.
We need to find a way to bring awareness to the amount of sugarwe as Americans unconsciously consume. Maybe a massive education effort through government health agencies and schools is part of the answer.
At any rate, Americans are too sweet on sugar.
“According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the average American consumes 156 pounds of added sugar per year. That’s five grocery store shelves loaded with 30 or so one pound bags of sugar each. If you find that hard to believe, that’s probably because sugar is so ubiquitous in our diets that most of us have no idea how much we’re consuming. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) puts the amount at 27.5 teaspoons of sugar a day per capita, which translates to 440 calories – nearly one quarter of a typical 2000 calorie a day diet.” Obesity doesn’t just affect fat people. It affects everyone by spiking health care costs."
This year’s "F as in Fat” study conducted by the Trust for America's Health showed glaring statistics that between type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and arthritis, more than $23 billion is spent on healthcare costs every year. The sickness industry and insurance companies may be doing well, Americans, especially Michiganders and Detroiters, are not.
This isn’t fair to healthy people or people who unconsiously are making themselves obese. Should we do like Canada does with tobacco packaging and stick a photo of a grossly protruding belly on pop and candy labels? While that might sound extreme, we have to do something about obesity in America. It is estimated through studies that one in three Americans is clinically obese.
History shows, government regulation on anything has stirred up heated debates on freedom in this country. But if people are not educated, they are not making a conscious choice.
Decades ago, in the late 60’s, ferver over tobacco regulation revved up to a frenzy when, on April 1 1970, President Richard Nixon signed a law officially banning cigarette ads on television and radio. Meanwhile, Government was bulking up its efforts to discourage the sale of cigarettes. Post office trucks carried posters: "100,000 Doctors Have Quit Smoking," posters warned “quit smoking, or die”.
This summer, a U.S. appeals court struck down a law that would require tobacco companies to use graphic health warnings on the packages of tobacco products. These warnings would include gross-out photos of blackened lungs, rotted teeth or a smoker exhaling through a hole in his throat.
Much like tonacco, a war on sugar is a war on big industry. Most soda pop and other sweet products lining grocery stores shelves and restaurant tableware is no packed with cane or beet sugar but high fructose corn syrup.
Most government regulation stems from concern over kids. Just like childhood obesity is a scare, so is youth smoking. The U.S. Surgeon General warned this March that youth smoking has reached the scale of an epidemic , as one in four U.S. high school seniors is a habitual smoker and set up for life long battle with nicotine addiction.
Should the surgeon general issue a warning on soda pop and other sugary beverages that offer no nutritious content to our diets? Many health professinals and scienticic researchers argue that sugar is in fact addictive and should be considered a drug. Many Americans casually refer the affect of sugar on kids and adults a “sugar high”. But this is something we should take more seriously.
A report last year citied researchers claiming that sugar is just as addictive as cocaine or nicotine and that most people don’t realize this because it’s so culturally acceptable and available.
In more positve news, the State of Michigan is aawre and making moves to curb the state's obesity problem.
When the numbers were released from the most recent national obesity study "F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2012” Michigan’s high rank spurred Governor Rick Snyder’s administration to release a statement on the topic.
The governor's office released a statement once the findings of the study were released:
"While watching these numbers climb in the wrong direction is disappointing, the governor and Department of Community Health have recognized this as a critical issue, and are taking steps to turn it around,” Snyder’s spokeswoman Sara Wurfel wrote in a statement. “With Michigan's '4 x 4 Plan,' and the help of our communities, we are on our way to reversing this trend and making Michigan a healthier, stronger state."
While we may be a long way from government regulation on sugar, we should all take responsibility for what we’re putting into our bodies. After reading that one 12-once can of popular soda pop such as Pepsi or Coke has ten teaspoons full of sugar, I decided to see exactly what that looked like.
I measured ten teaspoons of sugar into a 12 once bottle. It filled up more than a quarter of the bottle. Gross.
While most soda pop doesn’t use granular sugar but high fructose corns syrup, that doesn’t make it any better. Perhaps high fructose corn syrup is even worse because it is more concentrated.
If nothing else, realize that when you drink a really sweet beverage like pop or sweet tea, it’s straight sugar you’re putting into your body. Liquid candy. If you drink pop, go ahead, but it should be regarded the same way you count a candy bar: as a junk food snack full of excess calories.
Wednesday, 25 July 2012 09:45
Is Mayor Dave Bing gearing up for another mayoral run? Or has Gov. Rick Snyder really crossed a line with his proposals for Detroit?
Up until now, Bing has been mostly supportive of input from the State of Michigan to support and control parts of the city that are failing under the financial crisis. He supported the consent agreement, he supported cuts proposed by the consent agreement's financial advisory board, and he condemned the city's Corporation Counsel when she tried to stall the consent agreement.
But at a meeting with Detroit NAACP members in Midtown Wednesday, Bing hotly expressed frustration with Snyder's proposals for the city using words like “hell” and “damn”, according to a report in The Detroit News.
Bing said of Governor Snyder:
“You can't come in here and think you can do any damn thing that you want.”
Bing added that he does not want the state to “impose” decision on Detroit:
"I have never in my 46 years in this city seen a governor of the state of Michigan involved in city politics like this one," he said.
But The state has been imposing a lot of things lately, so why has Bing turned on this one?
My first guess is that he’s lining up his ducks for another mayoral run and in order to get a good footing with his electorate he has to start standing up the governor.
I’m no political advisor, but I guarantee candidates who toss the term “union busting” around a few times and throw verbal zingers Snyder’s way are bound to rack up Detroit votes.
City Council President Charles Pugh, who also has expressed interest in a mayoral run, has essentially done the same thing. He supported the consent agreement up until now, when he suddenly is calling it “union busting” and blasting the state for wanting to take over Detroit.
Looks like Bing, Pugh and DMC front man Mike Duggan will be top mayoral contenders in 2013. And it’s clear that a successful run it will be a tight balancing act of who can keep in good with the State while giving Detroit voters what they want to hear.
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