Law enforcement agencies beef up cyber capabilities

By MICHAEL KRANSZ
Capital News Service

LANSING — What is to many people an all-in-one device for communication and entertainment is to law enforcement agencies a partner in criminal investigations.

With smartphones containing GPS and time-stamped data, police can use them as an additional piece of the narrative when executing a search warrant, said Detective Lt. Jay Poupard, the assistant commander of the State Police Cyber Section.

To keep up with demand for forensic services from local departments seeking help to access hidden smartphone data and train experts within those agencies, the State Police recently opened computer crime unit offices in Marquette and Coldwater, Poupard said.
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Road agencies see savings if winter proves mild

By MICHAEL KRANSZ
Capital News Service

LANSING — With predictions of a mild winter ahead, some county road commissions anticipate that savings on fuel and road salt will funnel into spring road projects such as pothole repair.

According to National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration predictions for December through February, Michigan’s winter has a greater than 50 percent chance of above-average temperatures and a 40 percent chance to be less snowy than average.

In the meantime, a delayed start to colder temperatures and snowfall is giving the commissions a chance to “catch their breath” from the workloads of past winters and catch up on road maintenance, said Dirk Heckman, the manager and engineer at the Mackinac County Road Commission.
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More schools move to private bus services

By MICHAEL KRANSZ
Capital News Service

LANSING — The number of Michigan school districts contracting out at least a part of their transportation services increased 150 percent from 2010 to 2014, according to a think tank survey.

The survey by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland recorded 78 school districts opting for some privatized transportation services during that time, in addition to 53 already contracting out.

There are about 540 districts in the state, according to the Department of Education. And while some districts are contracting out only a portion of the service, such as employment, most are privatizing their whole bus operation, said James Hohman, assistant director of fiscal policy at the center.
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Law enforcement agencies pooling resources to fight Internet child porn, abuse

By MICHAEL KRANSZ
Capital News Service

LANSING — The recent arrest of a Marquette County man for allegedly furnishing child pornography and sexually assaulting a minor illustrates a growing collaboration among law enforcement agencies to track down sexual predators who use digital devices.

Andrew Caron, 43, of Forsyth Township has been arraigned on 29 counts of furnishing and producing child sexual material and 10 counts of criminal sexual conduct, including penetration and oral sex, with a child under 13, Undersheriff Michael Klein of the Marquette County Sheriff’s Office said.

To catch Caron, the sheriff’s office conducted a seven-month investigation with help from the Forsyth Township Police Department and a State Police cybercrime unit in Traverse City, Klein said.
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Small-scale meth production spreads in Northern Michigan

By MICHAEL KRANSZ
Capital News Service

LANSING — The recent bust of a mobile meth lab in Big Rapids illustrates the growing popularity of small-scale cooking operations employed by many drug users, and a growing problem for Northern Michigan, a police official said.

The bust occurred Nov. 9 and saw 30-year-old Mark Peterson of Big Rapids led away in handcuffs after officers stopped his car in a remote part of the Ferris State University campus, said Bruce Borkovich, the director of public safety at the university.

Following the vehicle stop, officers determined that Peterson had been using the car as a “one-pot” meth lab, a cooking operation in which small batches of the drug are produced, Borkovich said.
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Bill would require Internet safety courses in schools

By MICHAEL KRANSZ
Capital News Service

LANSING — Although some schools teach students about Internet dangers, a recently introduced House bill would require it.

The bill, spearheaded by Rep. Robert Wittenberg, D-Oak Park, and co-sponsored by Reps. Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, and Aaron Miller, R-Sturgis, among others, would mandate public schools teach an “age-appropriate” Internet safety course in grades 1 through 12 at least once per year.

By the time students graduate, they would be taught to recognize and report cyber bullying, sexual predation and copyright infringements, along with how to protect private information.

Wittenberg said he saw a need for Internet education in Michigan’s curriculum after speaking with superintendents in his district who were distraught about student behavior online and the lack of support materials for teachers.
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State looks to expand forest products opportunities

By MICHAEL KRANSZ
Capital News Service

LANSING — Gov. Rick Snyder’s ongoing campaign to increase the value of Michigan’s forest products industry to $20 billion annually by 2018 got a major boost with the recent announcement of a particle board manufacturing plant locating in Grayling.

The plant is touted as the soon-to-be largest of its kind in North America and will bring a $325 million investment and 250 jobs to Michigan when construction is completed in 2018, according to Arauco, the Chilean company in charge of the project.

Andy Such, director of regulatory and environmental policy for the Michigan Manufacturers Association, said the project represents the growth of manufacturing in the forest products sector.
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Collared feral hogs turn traitor to their herds

By MICHAEL KRANSZ
Capital News Service

LANSING — Michigan’s feral swine problem just got a biblical solution.

Over the past year, a number of feral swine have been collared with radio trackers and released back into the wild for research, said Dwayne Etter, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wildlife specialist spearheading the eradication efforts.

But in winter 2016 these swine will unknowingly lead armed parties to their herd’s position, earning them the title of “Judas hogs,” Etter said.

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U.S. Department of Agriculture


While the hogs won’t earn 30 pieces of silver, they will be left alive for research until the following spring, he said.
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Officials say apple cider is safe to enjoy

By MICHAEL KRANSZ
Capital News Service

LANSING — Apple cider seekers shouldn’t be deterred this fall by what one expert is calling a unique, isolated incident of tainted cider in St. Johns.

“The recent events at Uncle John’s are very unusual and very rare for our apple cider industry in Michigan,” said Bob Tritten, an MSU Extension fruit educator who has worked with cider mills  for nearly 30 years. “Cider has had a safe track record over the last 15, 20, years and this is an isolated incident.”

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development issued a consumer advisory for  Uncle John’s Cider Mill on Oct. 27 after finding Shiga-toxin producing E. coli bacteria during a random department inspection.
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ADHD contributes to higher ed learning problems

By MICHAEL KRANSZ
Capital News Service

LANSING — Nearly 12.8 percent of all Michigan residents ages 4 to 17 are diagnosed with ADHD, according to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics.

ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, is marked by inattention, lack of focus and sometimes hyperactivity, and that can present problems for young learners as they move into higher education, said Adelle Cadieux, a pediatric psychologist at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids.

That population of ADHD youths has increased by 39 percent since 2003, according to the latest CDC figures.
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