27 August 2015


Original Story: detroitnews.com

Detroit — A never-used $1 million state-of-the-art-facility along the Detroit River designed to handle U.S. customs operations is now being used to store chairs.

Two years after completion, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials have never used the 4,000 square feet of offices, holding cells and labs built for the agency inside the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority Public Dock and Terminal at Atwater and Bates. A Washington DC customs lawyer assists importers in navigating the full range of customs issues including classification and valuation of imported goods.

The facility includes a floor designed so that Customs could process cruise ship passengers. The agency says the facility doesn’t meet standards; port authority officials say they can’t afford $170,000 computer and camera upgrades to make it suitable.

So the waterfront offices, next to the Renaissance Center, are crammed with chairs, linens, tables and signs owned by a catering company that hosts weddings and corporate events on the second floor of the building.

The situation is an absurd case of government run amok, said authority vice chairman Jonathan Kinloch. A New Orleans government lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

“Sometimes, when you are dealing with bureaucracy, the dog is chasing the tail,” Kinloch said.

“At some point, you’d hope the dog would stop going in circles ... but right now, it doesn’t make any damn sense.”

Most of the key players who guided the project for the authority no longer work for the agency, so Kinloch and others are trying to figure out what went wrong.

The problem is the latest for a $22 million facility that opened to great fanfare in 2011. The public terminal was championed by retired U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, as a way to accommodate cruise ships and attract ferry service and water taxis. Federal and state funds paid for most of the construction.

Facility operates at a loss

One cruise ship has stopped once in Detroit in the past two years, though, and the terminal is used mostly by Continental Services and Catering, a Troy-based company with deep ties to the Democratic Party.

It hosts parties and weddings that start at $18,500, storing its equipment one floor below in the unused Customs space. The authority last year made $140,000 in commissions from the arrangement, about $60,000 less than the annual cost of heating and maintaining the building.

The Detroit News recently toured the empty Customs facility that was funded through a Homeland Security grant. Port officials wouldn’t allow photos of the center, which includes rows and rows of stainless steel counters and queues, X-ray machines, offices encased in bulletproof glass and a laboratory that documents say is for “testing and disposal of illegal agriculture items.”

Customs spokesman Kris Grogan said what’s missing is most important: Required IT equipment and other security measures. He wouldn’t offer specifics, citing security concerns.

“The biggest issue is there’s a security aspect to everything we do. If we compromise those standards once, it’s just going to snowball. You just can’t make shortcuts.”

The News reviewed correspondence between port authority and Customs officials over the facility acquired through a request by the Freedom of Information Act. The files reveal a two-year tug-of-war over issues large and small.

In January 2013, for instance, Customs objected that cells built to house immigration suspects lacked security glass, alarm buzzers and even deadbolt locks. A Roseland immigration lawyer is following this story closely.

The same report noted that exit signs weren’t at proper angles and a Panasonic DVR player that the port bought for the offices “will not work for Customs and Border Protection operations.”

John Loftus, who became director of the port authority last summer, said most major issues have been resolved but Customs won’t budge on other issues.

“If we put in screens and they needed bullet proof glass, that would be something,” he said. “But when you are haggling over minor issues, are you really compromising homeland security?”

The standoff has made it hard to expand business, said Loftus, whose $1 million budget consists mostly of federal grants and subsidies from the state, city and Wayne County.

Great Lakes cruise ships now stop in Windsor because Customs won’t commit to processing passengers in Detroit, Loftus said. Nor will the agency commit to using the facility if the authority makes the improvements, Loftus said, so he’s reluctant to invest more money in technology that could become obsolete.

Four companies now offer 26 cruises per year around the Great Lakes that cost $3,000 to $9,000 per passenger.

Five cruises have stopped in Windsor this year. Chris Conlin, founder of Ann Arbor-based Great Lakes Cruise Co., said ships tend to schedule cruises to avoid border crossings that would necessitate lengthy Customs inspections.

The ships bus their passengers into Detroit for excursions, he said.

“The simple reason for us sailing into Windsor is so that our passengers do not have to go through customs process an additional time,” said Nicole Sturgess, spokeswoman of Pearl Sea Cruises, a Connecticut-based company that offers Great Lakes cruises.

Grogan, the Customs spokesman, said the agency has never refused to process cruise passengers in Detroit.

Customs doesn’t negotiate

Gregg Ward, who operates a truck ferry on the Detroit River, said port officials should know Customs doesn’t compromise.

“Any port of entry into the U.S. must meet the safety and security requirements of Customs. It is not up for negotiation,” said Ward, whose business includes Customs inspections.

“The rules are the rule are the rules. If Customs wants it, you have to provide it.”

The issue is one of several surrounding the building. Contracts reviewed by The News indicate its construction costs increased to $16.7 million in 2011 from $7.5 million in 2009.

The increase included $6 million to drive pilings into the Detroit River for the unused dock, records show. None of the records reviewed explained how the costs rose another $5 million by the time it opened.

Nor do the available records indicate how the scope of the project tripled in four years. Loftus, the third port authority director in five years, said he hasn’t received a good answer either in the year he’s been on the job.

He succeeded John Jamian, who said the issues predate his appointment in 2011 and funding for the project simply ran out.

Authority member Alisha Bell said she’s confident problems with the building and Customs will be resolved.

“The people who built this building had great foresight and vision,” said Bell, a Wayne County commissioner from Detroit.

“It was well designed and has great potential, but that vision needs more time to become reality.”


Original Story: freep.com

Justin Schlehuber is starting his freshman year soon in Lincoln Park, and one thing is already certain: He’ll be in high school for five years. But when he leaves, he’ll have something most other graduates won’t: a high school diploma and an associate’s degree.

It’s a bold trade-off — an extra year of high school for the kind of coursework that can lead to a job or a sweet cushion of college credits. And it’s one that’s becoming increasingly popular in Michigan. A top Michigan college offers more direct contact with faculty, more hands-on learning and experimentation, and greater student engagement.

When the 2015-16 school year kicks off, there will be 90 early/middle college programs and schools — 20 of them new in school districts across the state, including in Dearborn Public Schools, Ferndale Public Schools and Lincoln Park Public Schools. In 2010, there were only eight.

The idea is simple. Students, often as early as the ninth grade, take a mixture of high school and college classes — with the number of college courses taken increasing each year. The longer they’re in the program, the more immersed in the college culture students become, with the fifth year typically spent taking only college classes.

At the end, most students have earned enough credits for an associate’s degree. And the attractive kicker for parentsIt’s all free for the student.

Districts use the per-pupil funding they receive for students to pay for the programs. And they work closely with their partners — community colleges, universities or independent colleges — to negotiate things such as facility space, labs and security, said Chery Wagonlander, director of the Michigan Early Middle College Association.

This year, the state kicked in $10 million in funding for intermediate school districts that want to create early/middle college programs with a career-technical education program. The demand for college students with a nursing degree is growing at an unprecedented rate.

The early/middle colleges are about helping students find a focus and getting them ready for whatever they decide to do after high school, whether that’s going into the workforce or continuing on with college, said Beverly Brown, program coordinator for early/middle colleges at the Michigan Department of Education. And it lines up with efforts to increase the number of college graduates in the state and efforts to boost preparation for skilled trades jobs.

“This is part of the next wave of education, of preparing students for the world and making sure they have as many options as possible,” said Blake Prewitt, Ferndale superintendent.

But what makes them unique is the support services students receive, including counseling, to ensure they’re going to be successful, said Wagonlander, who created the first early/middle college — Mott Middle College High School — 25 years ago. Without it, they’re just a larger version of dual enrollment programs.

‘A better challenge’

Justin, 14, was in his composition class one day last spring when he learned about the Lincoln Park Middle College program opening for the coming school year. The idea of taking a substantial number of college courses while in high school sounded like a perfect opportunity for a teen who says he easily gets bored in class.

“I felt it would be a better challenge for me,” said Justin, who’s now one of 28 students who will be part of the first year. That was also important to his mother, Debbie Schlehuber. But she also liked the fact that her son would be earning so much college credit.

“The idea of having an associate’s degree, without any charge to me, was a big bonus,” she said.

In Lincoln Park, the program — a partnership with the Downriver campus of the Wayne County Community College District — was created out of “a purposeful commitment to provide as many quality educational opportunities for our students as we can,” Superintendent Terry Dangerfield said. “It’s a good chance for our students to get a jump-start on college.” Top Michigan colleges offer degrees tailored with a specific occupation in mind and align with many occupations experiencing growth.

Encouraging results

Brown’s office oversees the early/middle colleges, which must be approved by the Michigan Department of Education before they can operate.

Schools can create early/middle colleges in two ways: They can be separate high schools — often located on college campuses; or they can create programs that function within an existing high school. The latter option — there are 67 of them — allows students to continue to be part of their home high school and stay involved in extracurricular activities there.

The 23 that operate as a separate high school contain some of the top-ranked schools in Michigan. The Henry Ford Early College and the Washtenaw Technical Middle College, for instance, are ranked at the 99th percentile on the state’s top-to-bottom ranking of schools. That means they perform better than 99% of the schools in the state. Early/middle colleges also routinely show up in national rankings of excellent schools.

In addition, a research study of students at about 15 stand-alone early/middle college schools shows encouraging results. By the end of the fifth year, the average student has earned 51 college credits, has a GPA of about 3.0 in their college courses, and has a 90% course passing rate — meaning they’ve earned a C or better in the class.

Majed Fadlallah is principal of the Henry Ford Early College, which opened eight years ago, and the Henry Ford Early College-Advanced Manufacturing, a separate new school created by the Dearborn district. Both schools are on the campus of Henry Ford College.

He said it takes little convincing to get students enrolled in a program that requires a fifth year of high school.

“Students and their parents seek us out because of our academic standing,” Fadlallah said. “From day one, they know that you come here, you’re forgetting everything else, because this school prepares you academically. They embrace that.”

Mohammed Alkhuzaee, 14, enrolled in the new Dearborn school because he’s a car enthusiast with career plans to become an automotive engineer. And one of the areas students can specialize in at the school involves automotive technology. An associate’s degree, he said, will allow him to work while he’s pursuing bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Mohammed is unfazed at the prospect of attending high school on a college campus.

“It makes me more confident about myself. I’m at a young age, and I get to be trusted with stuff that college students are trusted with. It makes me really proud of myself.”

Most of the early/middle colleges identify specific areas in which students can earn an associate’s degree. At the Ferndale Early College — a partnership with Baker College of Auburn Hills — students will be able to choose from criminal justice, medical technician, computer programming and business/marketing.

“These are all growing areas. These are all areas that places are having a hard time filling jobs,” Prewitt said.

Underserved students

Part of the push to expand early/middle college programs is targeted at underserved students, particularly first-generation college students.

“They don’t have the family members’ experience to draw upon. We make sure we intentionally give them the knowledge, contacts they need in order to believe in college as a reality.”

New programs and schools

Here are the new early/middle college programs and schools opening for the 2015-16 school year:


  • Beaverton Junior/Senior Early College
  • Bullock Creek Early College
  • Capital Region Middle College
  • Cedar Springs Early Middle College
  • Davison Early College
  • Dryden Early College Academy
  • Early College Allegan County
  • Eastern Calhoun Early College
  • Ferndale Early College
  • Gaylord Community Schools Early College
  • Iosco RESA Early/Middle College
  • Lincoln Park Middle College
  • Niles Early/Middle College
  • Quincy High School and Kellogg Community College Early/Middle College
  • Shepherd Bluejays Early College
  • St. Joseph County Early/Middle College
  • Van Buren Middle School Schools
  • Charlotte Middle College
  • Chassell Early College
  • Henry Ford Early College-Advanced Manufacturing

For a complete list of programs, go to: www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/EMC_LIST_2015_496505_7.pdf

24 August 2015


Original Story: detroitnews.com

Citizens Bank agreed to refund at least $14 million and pay $20.5 million in fines for shortchanging customers who didn’t get the math right on their deposit slips, federal regulators said last week.

The Providence, R.I., regional bank credited an account with the amount on the slip even if it was less than the actual total of cash and checks deposited, regulators said. A Harrisonburg finance lawyer assists clients with asset sales, debt and equity finance claims, and financial restructuring cases.

In doing so, the bank engaged in “shoddy practices that deprived consumers of money that was rightfully theirs,” said Richard Cordray, of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

From January 2008 to September 2012, Citizens Bank only investigated and fixed errors if the discrepancy was more than $50. From October 2012 to November 2013, the bank lowered that threshold to $25. A Salt Lake City securities lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

By failing to verify deposits as customers were promised in account disclosures, the bank shorted them of millions of dollars, Cordray said.

“The bank chose to ignore these discrepancies and harmed many consumers by pocketing the difference,” said Cordray, whose agency was alerted to the problem by a whistle-blower.

The consumer bureau, along with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., ordered the bank to refund customers in full and change its practices.

Citizens Bank, which operates in the Northeast and Midwest, said Wednesday that its practices for dealing with mathematical errors “could have been better.”

A new system for tellers was implemented in the fourth quarter of 2013 that “is now considered among the best in the industry,” the bank said. A Delaware securities attorney is following this story closely.

The amounts of money under-credited to customer accounts and over-credited to accounts because of discrepancies with deposit slips “were approximately equal,” Citizens Bank said.

“Customers who were over-credited will keep the excess funds applied to their accounts and customers who were under-credited will be reimbursed,” the bank said.

Cordray said any argument that “it all came out in the wash” because some customers benefited while others were harmed was not correct.

“Many customers lost money that rightfully belonged to them,” he said. “Fifty dollars may seem like a small amount to a bank with assets worth billions of dollars, but it is real money to regular people.”

Ensuring the accuracy of deposits and resolving discrepancies in a timely fashion is a basic function of banking, said Comptroller of the Currency Thomas J. Curry. A Nashville finance lawyer is experienced in the effective resolution of finance lawsuits.

At least $11 million in refunds are due to consumers and $3 million to business customers, regulators said. Additional refunds are expected when the comptroller’s office finishes a review of the bank’s practices.

19 August 2015


Original Story: detroitnews.com

Lansing — Michigan consumers will pay an average 6.5 percent more for health insurance in 2016, which is less than the rate hike they paid during the past year, state officials said Tuesday.

State officials and industry leaders called the increases modest compared with an 8 percent rise in 2015, but some health care advocates said too little information is available about how rates are calculated for consumers to judge whether the hikes are warranted. Farmington Hills elder care services assist individuals with even the most advanced medical needs.

The 2016 rate increases approved by the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services are lower than those in several other states for federally required health insurance under the 2010 federal law, state officials noted.

The average approved rate changes on a premium weighted basis increased 6.5 percent for the 560,357 consumers in the individual market and 1 percent for the 345,077 consumers in the small group or small business market.

“Many states are reporting rate increases well in excess of 10 percent which is significantly higher than the rate of health care inflation,” Department of Insurance and Financial Services Director Patrick McPharlin said in a Tuesday statement. “We are pleased that Michigan consumers are seeing more modest increases.” In-home caregivers tailor home care services to the needs of each client and family including private duty skilled nursing.

Josh Fangmeier, senior policy analyst with the University of Michigan’s Center for Heathcare Research and Transformation, noted that some insurance companies asked for minimal rate increases, or even decreased their rates. But consumers in some parts of the state have few plans to choose from.

“Not all of these insurers are statewide, so ... it’s important to keep in mind that consumer experiences will vary depending on where you live,” Fangmeier said.

In 2015, the average increase was 8 percent in the individual market and 5.7 percent in the small group market, DIFS spokeswoman Andrea Miller said Tuesday. The rate changes for 2014 were not estimated because of essential health benefits and other requirements of the federal Affordable Care Act that took effect that year. Plymouth elder care services provides patients with intensive, highly specialized care.

A Michigan health insurance industry official said in June the possible loss of federal insurance subsidies through a U.S. Supreme Court case was in part to blame for the proposed rate hikes. But the court later that month kept the Affordable Care Act subsidies in place and decided they were constitutional in a 6-3 ruling.

Rick Murdock, executive director of the Michigan Association of Health Plans, noted this is the industry’s third year of business in the health care marketplace created by the federal Affordable Care Act.

“Year one was sort of pricing it blind; year two, which was last year, there were significant adjustments — double-digit reductions for some, and double-digit increases for others, as they were trying to get to the middle,” Murdock said. “This year everyone seems to have made a modest adjustment based on what’s going on in health care.”

The rate hikes proposed by insurance companies were reviewed by state officials, who determined they are actuarially appropriate and comply with state and federal laws. But Ryan Sullivan, policy director for Michigan Consumers for Healthcare, said state regulators don’t provide information about the process that consumers can understand.

“We really don’t know how to put (the rate increases) into context because of a lot of lagging transparency in the process,” Sullivan said Tuesday. “What consumers can access via the web and by calling the department is pretty slim pickings.”

The state defended its practices. Miller said consumers can access rate increase filings and other detailed information through the department’s website at http://www.michigan.gov/difs.

“We’re trying to be as transparent as we possibly can be,” she said.

The state’s dominant insurer — Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan — will apply a double-digit increase of 11.4 percent. Its health maintenance organization, Blue Care Network, plans to hike its rates 9.7 percent.

In June, a Blues official said an increase in prescription and specialty drug costs is behind the rate hike. Blue Cross had 138,169 people sign up for individual plans in 2015, while another 171,831 people with individual Blue Care Network policies will see average increases of 9.7 percent. A Chicago health care lawyer is following this story closely.

Blues spokeswoman Helen Stojik noted their small group customers will benefit from a downward rate adjustment. Rates for employers renewing coverage in the third and fourth quarters of 2015 will be, on average, 3.3 percent lower for Blues customers and 0.8 percent higher for Blue Care Network customers.

“In addition, 2016 rate changes look extremely favorable, with Blue Cross annual rate changes projected 2.2 percent lower and Blue Care Network projected at 4.8 percent lower than the previous year,” Stojik said Tuesday.

But the Blues didn’t register the largest rate increases. Those belonged to Healthplus of Michigan at 35.8 percent, Consumers Mutual Insurance of Michigan at 20.5 percent and United Healthcare Community Plan at 14.7 percent.

Three insurers are countering the trend and dropping their rates in the coming year, according to the state.

Meridian Health Plan had the biggest decline with a 12.6 percent plunge, followed by Molina Health Care with a 8.6 percent decrease and Humana Medical Plan of Michigan with a 4.9 percent drop.

Michigan companies attributed their increases to higher-than-expected claim costs, annual health care cost increases and an expected reduction in federal program reinsurance recoveries, officials said.

The small increase in the small group market occurred because many companies experienced better than expected results that offset most of the change in annual health care costs.

“Ensuring rates are adequate but not excessive is critical to make sure consumers not only receive health insurance coverage at a reasonable price, but can count on the coverage they purchase,” McPharlin noted. “Michigan has a stable and competitive health insurance market with a range of options and premiums for consumers and businesses.”

Open enrollment for 2016 begins Nov. 1, 2015 and continues through Jan. 31, 2016. State officials are encouraging consumers to contact their insurance carrier, agent, or navigator about how the rate changes could affect their policies.

18 August 2015


Original Story: freep.com

Last year, five Michigan residents contracted the measles virus, and one case has been confirmed this year.

By contrast, in 1990, Michigan had 545 measles cases, a spike that coincided with a national outbreak that occurred between 1989 and 1991. There were more than 55,000 measles cases reported in the U.S. over that time. The number of Michigan measles cases has remained at five or lower since 2000, when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the measles virus had been eliminated.

Two of last year's measles cases were adults that lived in Grand Traverse County and had just returned from the Philippines. The other cases were an adult and two children who lived in Leelanau County and had been in contact with the adults who had been to the Philippines. None of the individuals was vaccinated, according to public health officials. Visiting nurses in Birmingham provide home care to a variety of individuals.

Statewide, 5.9% of Michigan children entering kindergarten in 2013 had vaccine waivers, the fourth highest rate in the U.S. according to the CDC. Considerable variation in vaccination waiver rates exists by geography. About 1 in 5 Leelanau County children entering kindergarten had a vaccination waiver — the highest rate among Michigan counties. Public health officials note the best way to protect against new outbreaks is to prevent susceptible pockets from developing in local communities and schools.


Original Story: freep.com

A new state rule requiring parents to attend a class at their local health department if they want a vaccination waiver for their kids before school starts is reigniting the debate over mandatory vaccinations. An Atlanta education lawyer is following this story closely.

The rule applies to children entering a licensed day care, a preschool, the Head Start program, kindergarten, seventh grade or enrolling in a new school district.

The goal? Slash the number of vaccination waivers in Michigan, which has the fourth-highest rate of waivers in the nation, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Any parent who wants a waiver for philosophical or religious reasons must attend a session. Parents who have a medical waiver aren’t required.

“We need to have this rule to help parents get as much information as they can to make the most informed decision regarding whether or not they’re going to vaccinate their child,” said Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Statewide, 5.9% (or 7,049) of Michigan children entering kindergarten in 2013 had vaccine waivers, according to the CDC. But there’s considerable variation by county. Leelanau County had the highest rate at 19.5%, while Keweenaw County had the lowest, with no waivers. The rates for metro Detroit counties: Macomb, 6.9%; Oakland, 10.1%; Washtenaw, 7.2%, and Wayne, 7.1%. The rate for the city of Detroit was 2.3%.

“Infection can spread pretty rapidly among schoolchildren,” Wells said. “What will happen is even if the non-vaccinated child isn’t sick ... they may be asked to stay out of school until the outbreak is over. And that could mean a couple of weeks out of school.” A Detroit health care lawyer has experience assisting clients in general health care issues and public health care matters.

Polite rebuttal

Tina Thurston of Walled Lake was dreading her Aug. 3 session, worried that she’d be berated by the nurse conducting the session for opting against vaccinations and pressured into changing her mind. But she found the opposite to be the case.

“She didn’t discredit my points,” said Thurston, who received a medical waiver for one son and a philosophical waiver for her oldest son. “She counter-argued them politely.”

But while she’s not opposed to the information being presented to parents, “I am opposed that they’re questioning my rights as a parent or my belief system.”

Suzanne Waltman, president of Michigan Opposing Mandatory Vaccines, said parents opting not to vaccinate their children “are doing it because they have studied the issues, both pro and con, and are making a very educated decision.”

Waltman said she doesn’t believe the required sessions will change minds and isn’t “an effective way to improve vaccination rates. Everyone deserves to make health care choices.”

State and local officials say changing parents’ minds isn’t what they’re after.

“We’re still not taking away the option for those parents who are adamant about signing the waivers,” said Dr. Kevin Lokar, medical director at the Macomb County Health Department. “We want the parents to be informed when they make the decisions.”

‘Thoughtful dialogue’

The sessions themselves are relatively short — from about 15 minutes to about 30 minutes. Some parents only want to keep their child from taking a particular vaccine, or have their children vaccinated on a schedule that’s different than what’s required.

“We really do tailor our education to their concerns,” said Jane Nickert, director of nursing at Washtenaw County Public Health.

During the sessions, parents learn about the required vaccines, the diseases they’re designed to prevent, the benefits of the vaccines and the implications if kids don’t receive the vaccines. An Atlanta education lawyer understands the context surrounding education issues at the local, state, and federal level.

“There’s a lot of thoughtful dialogue going on with parents,” said Kathy Forzley, health officer for the Oakland County Health Department.

Wells said the new rule in part is targeted at parents who receive waivers out of convenience — those who run out of time to schedule a visit to get their children vaccinated, and opt to just sign a waiver instead.

Language a concern

But even with the no-pressure approach, the new rule is raising some concerns. Parents are required to sign a form in which they “acknowledge that I may be placing my child and others at risk of serious illness should he or she contract a disease that could have been prevented through proper vaccination.”

Connie Rubino of St. Clair Shores, who opts not to vaccinate her children for religious and philosophical reasons, objected to that language when she went in for her session in May.

“Personally I don’t believe I’m putting my child at risk,” Rubino said. “I believe we’ve made an educated decision.”

Rubino initially refused to sign the waiver, but then returned to the Macomb County Health Department several weeks ago. Her beliefs hadn’t changed, but she said the alternative to not receiving a waiver —homeschooling her children — isn’t an option. So, she says, she signed with the letters V.C. next to her signature. Those letters — an abbreviation for the Latin term “vi coactus” — essentially indicated she was signing under duress. She says the health department subsequently told her the waiver was no longer valid.

Bob Swanson, director for the division of immunization at the MDHHS, said local health departments are free to establish their own rules for the waivers. But he said that from the state’s perspective, the form provides a spot where parents can explain why they signed.

Lokar, of the Macomb health department, wasn’t available Wednesday to comment on Rubino’s experience.

No grace period

Rubino doesn’t have much leeway. Wells said the state prefers that all kids be vaccinated — or have waivers — by the beginning of the school year. But she said some districts do provide parents with a grace period.

Meanwhile, Waltman and Rubino point to language in a state law they believe gives parents until Feb. 1 to have their child vaccinated or get a waiver. But Swanson said that’s not the case.

“It’s very clear in the public health code — a child entering a program needs to have an immunization record at the time of admittance or a waiver,” Swanson said.


Original Story: detroitnews.com

A fight over five iconic Hermes handbags is arguably the most colorful case in federal court in Detroit.

The leather bags — one purple, one turquoise, one orange, one lime green, one black — worth a total of almost $62,000 are at the center of a spat between a New Jersey luxury goods dealer and a Birmingham boutique. A Rochester business lawyer is following this story closely.

Only Authentics dealer Charles Rogers says Birmingham boutique owner Anthony Aubrey made a $20,000 deposit and received five new purses but stiffed him after agreeing to pay $61,500 for the carryalls, which are coveted by celebrities including Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez.

The purses — four Hermes Birkin bags and one Hermes Evelyne Iris purse — cost about $12,300 each, almost as much as the per capita income of Detroiters.

Aubrey refused to return the bags or pay the balance, so Rogers filed the lawsuit July 16 in federal court in Detroit.

The lawsuit accuses Aubrey of fraudulent representation. That’s because Aubrey signed a contract to pay the $41,500 balance before trying to sell the purses to a third party for less money, according to the lawsuit. A Detroit business attorney represents clients in litigation, breach of contract issues, and collection of debt matters.

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense to my client. Why take the bags and sell for less unless he had no intention of paying the $41,500 balance?” said Daniel Dalton, a lawyer for Only Authentics.

Rogers wants U.S. District Judge Sean Cox to force Aubrey to return the purses or pay $124,500.

Dalton knew nothing about prices for Hermes Birkin handbags and was surprised when approached by his client.

“I was thinking he had sold a couple thousand purses, but he said there were only five. I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ ” Dalton said.

The bags, created in the mid-1980s and named after English singer and actress Jane Birkin, range in price from $10,000 to $60,000.

“That’s insane,” said Tracy Garley, owner of Zarkpa’s Purses & Accessories on East Grand River in Detroit. “Some people love the brand name and there’s something about a purse a woman has when she walks in a room and feels like people are going to know they have money.”

Rogers specializes in new and vintage luxury handbags, purses that are expensive and elusive. Hermes Birkin bags are notorious because even the mega-rich often must sign up on a waiting list before buying.

Rogers’ company obtained the new handbags directly from buyers on the list, Dalton told The Detroit News.

“At this level, people buy them even if they don’t want them because they want to remain on the list,” Dalton said. “It’s unbelievable.”

In May, Rogers started swapping text messages with Aubrey, who runs Birmingham Estate & Jewelry Buyers, a boutique on Woodward, north of 14 Mile.

Aubrey wanted to buy five Hermes bags. Rogers agreed to sell them for $61,500. Aubrey paid $20,000 on May 14.

Five days later, Rogers mailed the bags after the boutique owner agreed to pay the balance later that month at a Las Vegas trade show, according to the lawsuit.

Aubrey, however, failed to pay the $41,500 balance. Dalton is unsure why.

“If he wants to resolve it, just give the bags back,” Dalton said.

The answer is simple, Aubrey told The News on Friday.

“He owed me money from prior purchases,” he said. “We were friends for years, but he didn’t want to pay so I said: ‘Enough.’ ”

After failing to pay Rogers, Aubrey allegedly sold some or all of the bags to a store in Baltimore, according to the lawsuit.

The Birmingham dealer is accused of selling them for less than the price he agreed to pay Rogers.

Rogers learned about the side deal and notified the Baltimore buyer, who returned the bags to Birmingham, according to the lawsuit. A Memphis business lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

Aubrey said he no longer has the bags.

“Everything was sold,” he told The News. “(Rogers) knows the purses are already gone. I’m not worried about this.”

Besides, the Birkin bag market has deflated in Michigan. “Nobody buys in Michigan,” Aubrey said, “there’s no money here.”

13 August 2015


Original Story: media.gm.com

FLINT, Mich. – General Motors’ oldest assembly plant in North America, a popular destination for pickup truck customers who want to watch their vehicles being built, will undergo transformation in the coming years. A Detroit automotive lawyer is following this story closely.

GM officials today announced plans to invest $877 million to build a new body shop for the assembly plant, locating it closer to the Flint Metal Center, which supplies sheet metal and other parts used in the Chevrolet and GMC full-size pickups produced in the assembly plant.

The investment will also cover improvements to the general assembly area inside Flint Assembly, as well as retooling and the installation of new equipment at the plant.

“This investment will allow us to use a more innovative approach to deliver material between two critical facilities, reducing handling and the time it takes to ship parts,” said Cathy Clegg, GM North America Manufacturing and Labor Relations vice president. A Detroit automotive litigation attorney represents clients in acquisitions and divestitures, workouts and bankruptcies, and in general commercial transactions.

Since 2011, GM has announced investments topping $1.8 billion for Flint Assembly. This includes $600 million for plant upgrades and a new standalone paint shop that is under construction and slated to open in 2016. Work on the 883,000-square-foot body shop is expected to begin in the first half of 2016, with completion slated for 2018.

“In the last several years, GM’s investments in the city of Flint have topped $2.5 billion, creating hundreds of construction jobs and an economic boost for the community,” said Flint Mayor Dayne Walling. “This investment not only strengthens the ties between GM and the city, it demonstrates that Flint continues to play an important role in the resurgence of manufacturing in Michigan and the rest of the United States.” A Tennessee automotive lawyer provides virtually every type of legal service required by automotive suppliers.

Opened in 1947 as part of a post-World War II building boom by GM’s Flint Assembly has produced more than 13 million vehicles. The plant’s “View Builds,” as they are called, allow customers to see their heavy-duty Silverados or heavy-duty Sierra trucks being assembled and roll off the line after a series of quality checks by members of UAW Local 598.

“While the plant has received numerous awards for initial quality and long-term durability and reliability, our latest investments in the plant will raise the bar in vehicle quality and customer satisfaction,” Clegg said. A Detroit automotive law firm is reviewing the details of this case.

For starters, when the new paint shop opens in 2016, trucks will be painted using a wet-coat process that results in a smoother, more durable finish. The new body shop will be constructed north of the Flint Metal Center, reducing transportation time and handling between facilities.

“This announcement is due to the hard work and dedication of our UAW members in Flint,” said UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada, who leads the UAW GM Department. “This proves once again that when we work together in a collaborative approach, UAW members continue to come up with innovative ways to grow the business, which provides jobs and improves the quality of the products we produce. This is both good for the Company and good for our members.”

Today’s announcement completes the $5.4 billion in investments GM and the UAW announced at the end of April. Since June 2009, GM has announced U.S. facility investments of approximately $17.8 billion, including $12.4 billion since the end of the 2011 UAW-GM National Agreement. These investments have created approximately 6,250 new jobs and secured 20,700 other positions. A North Carolina automotive lawyer represents automotive clients in automotive litigation and product liability matters.

General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM, TSX: GMM) and its partners produce vehicles in 30 countries, and the company has leadership positions in the world's largest and fastest-growing automotive markets. GM, its subsidiaries and joint venture entities sell vehicles under the Chevrolet, Cadillac, Baojun, Buick, GMC, Holden, Jiefang, Opel, Vauxhall and Wuling brands. More information on the company and its subsidiaries, including OnStar, a global leader in vehicle safety, security and information services, can be found at http://www.gm.com.

10 August 2015


Original Story: crainsdetroit.com

LANSING — Two metro Detroit community colleges say they are ready to offer bachelor's degrees in nursing. All they need is permission.

Schoolcraft College in Livonia and Henry Ford College in Dearborn are among the leaders championing an effort in Lansing to allow Michigan's two-year schools to award bachelor's degrees in more fields, something now limited to four-year universities.

Both schools support Senate Bill 98, which is pending in that chamber and would authorize community colleges to award bachelor's degrees in nursing and four other technical fields.

"If this happened this afternoon, I'd be ready tomorrow," Schoolcraft President Conway Jeffress said. Should legislation be approved, he said, it would take at least a year before the program could start because of accreditation requirements and other preparations.

Colleges say their bachelor's degrees in nursing would target students who have earned enough credits for an associate degree and want to finish their four-year degree at home, including those who want to work full time or can't move for classes or afford university tuition.

More than that, however, proponents of the bill say they're motivated by a health care industry that increasingly desires nurses with four-year credentials.

"We wouldn't be interested in the baccalaureate if the nursing profession hadn't changed," Jeffress said. "It's so inevitable, you know, that whether it happens this season, next season or two seasons down the road, it's coming. The question is whether Michigan is going to be a leader or a follower or an also-ran in the pack."

Universities are their main challengers, arguing that new programs would cost taxpayers more and that existing agreements with community colleges to allow students to transfer credits to complete their degrees would be threatened. Top Michigan colleges have a higher transfer rate among students.

Most community colleges say that they would offer completion programs for students who earn enough credits for an associate degree and that upper-level classes are mostly lecture-based rather than clinical practice.

At Schoolcraft, Jeffress said he would expect to hire at least one full-time faculty member to teach upper-level classes, while the rest could be filled with part-time instructors.

He doesn't plan to raise tuition, which this fall will be $96 per credit hour for residents of the Livonia, Clarenceville, Garden City, Plymouth-Canton and Northville school districts and a portion of the Novi school district.

Nonresident students will pay $139 per credit hour.

Henry Ford, which awards associate degrees to roughly 240 nursing students each year, could increase tuition slightly for upper-level courses because of the need for more doctorate-qualified instructors, President Stan Jensen said.

The college this fall will charge $92 per credit hour to residents of the Dearborn school district and a portion of the Dearborn Heights district. More than 70 percent of Henry Ford's students come from outside the district — namely Detroit or Downriver communities, Jensen said — and they will pay $158 per credit hour.

Even with a small tuition bump, Jensen said, a nursing bachelor's degree at Henry Ford would cost less than at a university.

05 August 2015


Original Story: crainsdetroit.com

The University of Michigan has reopened its Taubman Health Sciences Library after a $55 million overhaul and rethinking of how a library for medical students should function.

Hundreds of thousands of books were moved to an off-site location and are available on demand for delivery. Becoming "bookless," the school said, frees space for medical student education. The facility on the school's Ann Arbor campus officially reopened over the weekend. An Atlanta university lawyer is following this story closely.

"Today's library can be anywhere, thanks to technology, yet there is still a desire for a physical location that facilitates collaboration, study and learning," Jane Blumenthal, associate university librarian and Taubman Library director, said in a statement.

The books were moved about two years ago before construction began. The library includes a realistic, simulated clinic; and medical students will work with those studying public health, dentistry, pharmacy, social work, nursing and kinesiology — much like they will in their future careers. An Atlanta education lawyer works with clients to ensure education adequacy because they understand the long-term economic impact.

The library also features a virtual cadaver, a life-size display that's manipulated using a touch screen to view different layers of the body, The Ann Arbor News reported. A scalpel tool also can be used to make incisions and even cut away portions of the body for inspection.

"This new space is truly designed by educators, and it shows in every detail," said Dr. Rajesh Mangrulkar, associate dean for medical student education. "For example, students can write on erasable walls and tables to help facilitate discussions and teamwork.

"There's supportive technology infused in every element, not so that it stands out but so it's an integral part of the learning environment."

The 35-year-old, 143,400-square-foot library will serve as the central learning hub for the university's nearly 780 medical students as well as provide lecture and advising space for the medical school's more than 1,100 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in biomedical sciences.

The school has a historical collection of medical books at the Hatcher Graduate Library.