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NASA Astronauts Speak with Ohio Summer Camp Students from Space Station

Summer camp students at the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland and students from the city’s MC2 STEM High School will speak with Expedition 44 crew members aboard the International Space Station at 11:40 a.m. EDT Friday, July 31.

Read more here:: NASA Astronauts Speak with Ohio Summer Camp Students from Space Station

Senators Stabenow, Peters Announce Support for Seniors in St. Clair Shores

U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters today announced support for the City of St. Clair Shores to renovate and expand its Senior Activity Center, which offers programs and activities to people 50 and over. The funding comes through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and will be used to expand the fitness center by approximately 2,000 square feet and renovate the kitchen space to include a small coffee shop, among other improvements. This $1,760,000 loan will also be used to add a partially-covered patio and renovate offices and common areas.
‘This center is an important resource for seniors in St. Clair Shores who are staying active and engaged in the community,’ said Senator Stabenow. ‘Today’s announcement will help make sure the Senior Activity Center can continue to serve as a welcoming place that brings community members together.’
‘The St. Clair Shores Senior Center helps provide a strong sense of community for our seniors, which in turn helps them live healthier and happier lives,’ Senator Peters said. ‘This loan will allow the Senior Center to make important renovations, including a new fitness center and new kitchen, to ensure they can continue to provide the great activities, services and sense of community that help St. Clair Shores seniors lead healthy, active lives.’
‘This grant will result in a much-needed improvement to our Senior Activity Center,’ said St. Clair Shores Mayor Kip Walby. ‘Senators Stabenow and Peters extended much effort on our behalf to assist in securing the $1.76M grant award. Congratulations to our senior citizens who will most certainly enjoy all the benefits associated with the upcoming new and improved Senior Activity Facility.’

Read more here:: Senators Stabenow, Peters Announce Support for Seniors in St. Clair Shores

Showcasing The Dnr: Travel/Tourism Pros Help Renovate Popular Lighthouse

Showcasing the DNR: Travel/tourism pros help renovate popular lighthouse
Showcasing the DNR

Travel and tourism pros help renovate Sturgeon Point Lighthouse 

A unique partnership between the Department of Natural Resources, Grand Valley State University and members of the Michigan travel and tourism industry (a group called Michigan Cares for Tourism) is paying big dividends for Michigan by refurbishing state resources and upgrading the kinds of attractions that help sustain the industry – an industry that generates $22 billion a year for Michigan’s economy. 

Michigan Cares for Tourism volunteers in front of lighthouseA recent two-day work event at Sturgeon Point Lighthouse – a state-owned site just outside of Harrisville State Park on Lake Huron – accomplished what would have taken local volunteers and staffers years to get done. 

Built in 1869 and made operational the next year, the Sturgeon Point lighthouse features a 70-foot, 9-inch tower.  It became a U.S. Coast Guard station in 1915, was electrified in 1939, and was deeded to the state of Michigan in 1961 after the Guard had moved on. In 1982, the Alcona Historical Society leased it from the state and began to convert it into a monument/museum. The lighthouse is still operational. 

As more than 160 volunteers and DNR staffers cleared brush, repaired damaged facilities, hauled stones, built pathways, painted and stained buildings, and constructed concrete pads for artifacts, it wasn’t long until the area bore little resemblance to what it looked like a week earlier. 

The partnership sprang from the mind of Patty Janes, a professor at Grand Valley State University in hospitality and tourism management. Janes, who had a background in parks and recreation as a professor at Central Michigan University, was a board member of Tourism Cares, a nationwide nonprofit dedicated to cleaning up and rehabilitating historic sites. She  had participated in several Tourism Cares events – at Ellis Island and Mount Vernon, for instance – when the light bulb went off:  Why not a similar state program?

She approached the DNR’s Maia Turek at a Travel Michigan Advisory Council meeting for the state’s strategic travel plan. 

“I said, ‘The DNR is the right partner,’ and she said, ‘I love it, we’re in.’” 

Turek, a recreation programmer with the DNR Parks and Recreation Division, said the idea was a no-brainer.

“Of course we’d like to work with volunteers,” she said. “Of course we’d like to restore some of our historic resources.” 

Janes then added Travel Michigan to the partnership, and finally Indian Trails – which agreed to furnish motor coaches for transporting volunteers – and then signed on Travel Michigan. Michigan Cares for Tourism was born. 

The group applied for and won a $5,000 grant for seed money (announced at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism in 2013) and got the ball rolling. Since that time, the group has added sponsors from all factions of the travel and tourism industry. 

The first Michigan Cares event, held in 2013 at Mill Lake at Waterloo State Recreation Area, attracted about 100 volunteers was a resounding success. A second, held at Belle Isle, attracted some 450. 

The group decided that two events annually – one in the spring and one in the fall – is about right. This fall, they’re headed to Fayette Historic State Park. 

Janes began enlisting partners to help fund the program. Driven, a marketing firm in the Metro Detroit area, has donated more than $40,000 in marketing support since 2013.  McCann Detroit – the marketing firm that runs the Pure Michigan campaign – granted the organization $10,000 to purchase a trailer for transporting gear to the work sites. A $10,000 grant from the General Agency – a family-owned insurance company in Mt. Pleasant – helped purchase the tools necessary to equip the trailer. 

“Now that we have a core set of supplies, we can go and support other people’s efforts, too,” Janes said. (Which they have; Michigan Cares recently brought its tool trailer to a park in Mt. Pleasant for a work day.) 

The Michigan Cares for Tourism board takes the lead on choosing appropriate projects, with special input from the DNR. 

“We can pick out areas of need and pick projects that can handle this much work at one time,” said Turek. 

And the DNR is all in. Anna Sylvester, who runs field operations in northern Michigan for the DNR Parks and Recreation Division, estimated that the DNR saved 800 person/hours because of the Sturgeon Point Lighthouse event. Staffers worked side by side with industry professionals and travel and tourism students on everything from cutting down dead trees to building picnic tables and planting an herb garden.  

Volunteers come from all phases of the tourism industry. 

Jim Engel, general manager of Bavarian Inn Lodge in Frankenmuth, was attending his third consecutive event. 

“I heard about the program at the meeting where Patty got the grant and I signed up,” he said. “This is sort of my Habitat for Humanity.” 

Engel, who took charge of painting a few storage sheds and an old brick privy at the Sturgeon Point work day, brought six other Bavarian Inn employees and four other Frankenmuth tourism workers with him. 

“My goal is to bring as many Frankenmuth people as I can,” he said. “It’s a pleasure to be here.” 

Kirsten Borgstrom, a freelance publicist who works with convention and visitors bureaus, spent the day clearing brush and hauling it to a chipper. 

“One person does just a little bit, but when you get a large group like this, it’s truly amazing what you can accomplish,” she said. “It’s a fun event.” 

Janes said she was delighted by the turnout, what it accomplished, and what it bodes for the future – for both the travel/tourism industry and the DNR, which she describes as “the ultimate partnership.” 

“The for-profit side and the nonprofit side were two different entities,” she said. “But we’re all in this together. A hotel isn’t going to make it if it doesn’t have attractions to bring in the people. 

“People tease me about getting teary-eyed about this,” she said, “because I do.” 

For more information on the program, visit www.gvsu.edu/michigancaresfortourism.


Schuette Announces Arraignment of Former Michigan Priest in 1980s Sexual Abuse Cases

Schuette Announces Arraignment of Former Michigan Priest in 1980s
Sexual Abuse Cases

James Francis Rapp, formerly of Jackson, faces 13 counts of criminal sexual conduct

LANSING – Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced the arraignment of former Jackson Lumen Christi High School priest, teacher, maintenance supervisor, and wrestling coach James Rapp, 75, on charges of multiple felonies for his alleged sexual assault of several Michigan boys in the 1980s.

Rapp was arraigned on Thursday, May 28 at 8 a.m. before Judge Joseph S. Filip of the 12th District Court in Jackson, where a plea of not guilty was entered on the defendant’s behalf to three counts of first degree criminal sexual conduct and 10 counts of second degree criminal sexual conduct.  Rapp was also assigned a $1 million cash bond. He is next due in court for a pre-exam conference on June 26, 2015 at 8 a.m. before Judge Joseph S. Filip of the 12th District Court in Jackson. Jackson-area attorney Alfred Brandt has been appointed to represent Rapp.

Case Background

In spring of 2013, more than 30 years after the alleged crimes occurred, two of Rapp’s victims reported the alleged sexual abuse to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, who then launched an extensive investigation revealing several more victims.

JLC was not Rapp’s first church or school assignment.  Rapp was ordained in 1959 and held teaching assignments in Philadelphia (1959 – 1961), Salt Lake City (1968 – 1973), and in Lockport, New York (1979 – 1980).  Following Rapp’s resignation at JLC, Rapp served as a priest and teacher in Naperville, Illinois (1987 – 1990) and Duncan, Oklahoma (1990 – 1998).

On January 12, 2015, Schuette filed the following charges against James Francis Rapp in Jackson’s 12th District Court:

  • Three counts of First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct, a felony punishable by up to life in prison; and,
  • 10 counts of Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct, a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

If convicted of the first degree sexual assault counts, Rapp must also register as a sex offender for life in Michigan.

Citizens who believe they may have information about Rapp’s alleged sexual abuse are encouraged to contact the Attorney General’s Criminal Division at 313-456-0180.

Cold Case Sexual Assault Project and Role in Investigation

This case will be prosecuted by Attorney General Schuette’s Cold Case Sexual Assault Project  (AGCCSA).  Created in 2012, AGCCSA is funded by a United States Department of Justice-Office of Violence Against Women grant to combat sexual assault and sexual violence.

A criminal charge is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. 

Senator Stabenow Tours Rec Boat Holdings in Cadillac

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Co-chair of Senate Manufacturing Caucus and Chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force visited Rec Boat Holdings in Cadillac on July 24. Rec Boat Holdings, which manufactures Four Winns, Glastron, and Wellcraft fiberglass powerboats in Cadillac, employs nearly 500 people and sells their products to approximately 200 dealers across North America. Rec Boat Holdings is a member of the Cadillac Area Industrial Group.

Read more here:: Senator Stabenow Tours Rec Boat Holdings in Cadillac

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NASA’s New Horizons Team Finds Haze, Flowing Ice on Pluto

Flowing ice and a surprising extended haze are among the newest discoveries from NASA’s New Horizons mission, which reveal distant Pluto to be an icy world of wonders.

Read more here:: NASA’s New Horizons Team Finds Haze, Flowing Ice on Pluto

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Crew of Underwater NASA Mission Available for Interviews

NASA currently is working in the depths of the Atlantic Ocean to evaluate tools and techniques in preparation for future spacewalks on a variety of surfaces and levels of gravity, ranging from asteroids to the moons and surface of Mars.

Read more here:: Crew of Underwater NASA Mission Available for Interviews

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NASA Hosts ‘Quest for Quakes’ Data Challenge

A new NASA challenge is looking for evidence to support a theory that electromagnetic pulses (EMP) may precede an earthquake, potentially offering a warning to those in the quake’s path.

Read more here:: NASA Hosts ‘Quest for Quakes’ Data Challenge

Senators Stabenow, Peters Win Fight to Preserve Funds to Keep Michigan Cities, Neighborhoods Safe

U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters today made the following statement regarding the commitment to remove a provision in the U.S. Senate’s transportation bill that would have eliminated $1.7 billion from the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Hardest Hit Fund. The Hardest Hit Fund allows cities across the country to invest in blight removal efforts and help homeowners. If this provision had passed, funding for blight removal in cities throughout Michigan would have been significantly cut. ‘I’m pleased to say that there is a commitment from Senate Republican leadership to remove a provision that would have taken money away from Michigan families and neighborhoods to pay for a federal highway bill,’ said Senator Stabenow. ‘It is outrageous to expect that cities all across Michigan would lose critical funds they were promised and may have already spent. Fixing our roads and bridges is essential, but not at the expense of making our neighborhoods safer.’
‘I believe Congress must pass a long-term highway bill, but Michigan communities trying to rebuild their neighborhoods should not have to bear the burden of fixing America’s infrastructure,’ Senator Peters said. ‘The Hardest Hit Fund have helped cities across Michigan increase safety and maintain home values, in turn leading to greater private investment in their communities. I strongly oppose the provision in the highway bill cutting the Hardest Hit Fund and was proud to work with Senator Stabenow and my colleagues in the Senate to ensure Michigan cities that are bouncing back from the economic crisis are not at a disadvantage as they work to revitalize their neighborhoods.’
Cities at risk of losing blight removal funds include Detroit, Adrian, Ecorse, Flint, Grand Rapids, Hamtramck, Highland Park, Inkster, Ironwood, Jackson, Lansing, Muskegon Heights, Pontiac, Port Huron, River Rouge, and Saginaw.

Read more here:: Senators Stabenow, Peters Win Fight to Preserve Funds to Keep Michigan Cities, Neighborhoods Safe


Michigan confirms state’s first case of chronic wasting disease in free-ranging white-tailed deer

Contact: Ed Golder (DNR), 517-284-5815 or Heather Throne (MDARD), 517-284-5725

 May 26, 2015

The Michigan departments of Natural Resources (DNR) and Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) today confirmed that a free-ranging deer in Meridian Township (Ingham County) has tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD), a fatal neurological disease that affects white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose. This is the first time the disease has been found in Michigan’s free-ranging deer population. In 2008 a white-tailed deer from a privately owned cervid (POC) facility in Kent County tested positive for CWD.

The animal was observed last month wandering around a Meridian Township residence and showing signs of illness. The homeowner contacted the Meridian Township Police Department, who then sent an officer to euthanize the animal. The deer was collected by a DNR wildlife biologist and delivered for initial testing to the DNR Wildlife Disease Laboratory at the Michigan State University Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health in Lansing, Michigan. After initial tests were positive, samples were forwarded to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, for final confirm

ation. The Michigan DNR received that positive confirmation last week.

To date, there is no evidence that chronic wasting disease presents any risk to non-cervids, including humans, either through contact with an infected animal or from handling contaminated venison. However, as a precaution, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend that infected animals not be consumed as food by either humans or domestic animals.

“This is the first case of chronic wasting disease to be confirmed in a free-ranging Michigan white-tailed deer,” said DNR Director Keith Creagh.

“While it is a disappointing day for Michigan, the good news is that we are armed with a thoughtfully crafted response plan,” Creagh said. “We are working with other wildlife experts at the local, regional, state and federal level, using every available resource, to determine the extent of this disease, respond appropriately to limit further transmission, and ultimately eradicate the disease in Michigan if possible.”

The confirmed positive finding triggers several actions in the state’s surveillance and response plan for chronic wasting disease. The plan was developed in 2002 through cooperation between the DNR and MDARD, and was updated in 2012. Actions the DNR will take include:

  1. Completing a population survey in the area where the CWD-positive deer was found.
  2. Establishing a Core CWD Area consisting of Alaiedon, Delhi, Lansing, Meridian, Wheatfield and Williamstown townships in Ingham County; Bath and DeWitt townships in Clinton County; and Woodhull Township in Shiawassee County. Unlimited antlerless deer hunting licenses will be available. Mandatory checking of deer will be required in this area during hunting seasons and restrictions will apply to the movement of carcasses and parts of deer taken in this area.
  3. Creating a CWD Management Zone, which will include Clinton, Ingham and Shiawassee counties.
  4. Implementing a deer and elk feeding and baiting ban, which will include the Core CWD Area and the larger three-county CWD Management Zone.
  5. Prohibiting the possession or salvage of deer killed by collision with a motor vehicle within the Core CWD Area. Also, residents are asked to call in the locations of road-killed deer within this area so DNR staff can pick up for testing. Research shows CWD-infected deer are more likely to be hit by vehicles because of their illness.

DNR Director Creagh will issue an interim order approving immediate implementation of these actions.

“MDARD is working with the state’s privately owned cervid facilities within a 15-mile surveillance zone to ensure compliance with CWD testing requirements,” said MDARD State Veterinarian James Averill. “For POC facilities located outside of the surveillance zone, there will be no impact. We are, however, encouraging all POCs to continue to be our partners in the state’s CWD testing program.”

Chronic wasting disease first was identified in 1967 as a clinical disease in captive mule deer at the Colorado Division of Wildlife Foothills Wildlife Research Facility in Fort Collins, Colorado. Since then, most CWD cases have occurred in western states, but in the past 15 years it has spread to some midwestern and eastern states.

The disease is caused by the transmission of infectious, self-multiplying proteins (prions) contained in saliva and other body fluids of infected animals. Susceptible animals can acquire CWD by direct e

xposure to these fluids or from environments contaminated with these fluids or the carcass of a diseased animal. Once contaminated, research shows that soil can remain a source of infection for long periods of time, making CWD a particularly difficult disease to eradicate.

Some chronically CWD-infected animals will display abnormal behaviors, progressive weight loss and physical debilitation. There is no cure; once a deer is infected with CWD, it will die.

Although this is the first positive CWD finding in the state’s free-ranging deer population, it is important to note that from Jan. 1, 1998, through Dec. 31, 2014, tens of thousands of free-ranging Michigan deer were tested and no evidence was found of chronic wasting disease in this population. In fact, that testing included 34,207 deer, 1,607 elk and 70 moose – a large sample of animals with no positive finding. In privately owned deer populations, approximately 21,000 samples have to date been tested for CWD. All of those have been negative as well, with the exception of the 2008 Kent County case. MDARD conducts ongoing surveillance of Michigan’s 365 registered, privately owned cervid facilities.

Public awareness, support

“Strong public awareness and cooperation from residents and hunters are critical for a rapid response to evaluate any deer suspected of having chronic wasting disease,” said Steve Schmitt, veterinarian-in-charge at the DNR Wildlife Disease Lab. “We’d like to thank the resident who called local authorities, as well as the Meridian Township Police Department for its swift response.”

The DNR asks help from the public and hunters in reporting deer that are:

  • Unusually thin.
  • Exhibiting unusual behavior (for example, acting tame around humans and allowing someone to approach).

To report a suspicious-looking deer, call the DNR Wildlife Disease Lab at 517-336-5030 or fill out and submit the online observation report found on the DNR website.

To report road-kills found in the Core CWD Area call the Wildlife Disease Hotline at 517-614-9602 during office hours. Leave a voicemail with location information and staff will attempt to pick up carcasses on the next open business day.

Additionally, Schmitt said hunters will play a key role in helping the state manage this new wildlife challenge.

“Michigan has a long tradition of hunter support and conservation ethics. Now, with the CWD finding, that support is needed more than ever,” Schmitt said. “Historically, areas where chronic wasting disease has been found have experienced a decline in hunter numbers. Because hunters are often familiar with the deer herd locally, one of the best things they can do to help manage this disease is to continue hunting and bring their deer to check stations this season.”

Once the DNR has conducted targeted surveillance in the CWD Management Zone, staff will have a better understanding of needed changes in hunting regulations for upcoming deer hunting seasons.

Despite the CWD finding, Schmitt said there is reason for optimism.

“When it comes to chronic wasting disease, Michigan isn’t alone. A total of 23 states and two Canadian provinces have found CWD in either free-ranging or privately owned cervids, or both,” he said. “Michigan will take full advantage of the collective expertise and experience of those who have for years now dealt with chronic wasting disease on a daily basis.”

Get more information on CWD – including Michigan’s CWD surveillance and response plan, FAQs and a link to the CWD Alliance website where more photos and video are available – at www.michigan.gov/cwd.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.

/Note to editors: Accompanying photos showing healthy and CWD-infected deer, as well as the DNR logo and an FAQ list, are available below for download. Images should be credited as follows:

CWD deer – Wyoming.jpg: Dr. Terry Kree

ger, Wyoming Game and Fish Department via CWD Alliance.

CWD deer – healthy deer comparison.jpg: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources via CWD Alliance (CWD deer image)/Michigan DNR (healthy deer image).

Healthy deer – Michigan.jpg: Michigan DNR./


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