Friday, October 16, 2009

Taking Education Abroad group to hold fundraisers for Greg Mortenson's Central Asia Institute

HOUGHTON -- Taking Education Abroad, also known as T.E.A., a student group organized at Michigan Tech University last year to raise money for Greg Mortenson's Central Asia Institute, for building schools in remote areas of Central Asia, is planning several fund-raising events for this semester.*

The first one will be a Bake Sale to be held from 9 a.m. to about noon on Saturday morning, Oct. 17, during Michigan Tech's D80 Conference in the Memorial Union Ballroom.**

The second will be a Trick or Treat event on Halloween. Student members will be handing out candy and copies of Mortenson's book, Three Cups of TEA, to children in the local community. Students and faculty members from Michigan Tech and Finlandia have been asked to donate used copies of the book. The group welcomes donations from anyone in the community. The book collection is being extended through November so that anyone who goes home at Thanksgiving may still bring the book back and donate it.***

Third, group members will donate their time from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 7, for Bagging Groceries at Econo-Foods.

Finally, Taking Education Abroad members will hold a Christmas Present Raffle, with ticket sales from Dec. 1-10. The prize will be announced closer to the time of the Raffle.

* In 2008 Greg Mortenson spoke to students and faculty from both Michigan Tech and Finlandia, who had read his book on building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Inspired by the book and Greg's visit, students formed the group, Taking Education Abroad, or T.E.A. Please note that it has no connection with any other groups identified by the letters T.E.A. See our Keweenaw Now Feb. 5, 2009, article on the group and their work.

** Michigan Tech's D80 Conference is a celebration of efforts to to solve issues that confront the world's poorest 80%. Visit their Web site for more information.

*** If you have a copy of Three Cups of Tea to donate to the Taking Education Abroad group for re-distribution, please contact Jessica Banda at jebanda@mtu.edu or Keweenaw Now at andersm@pasty.com.

For more on Greg Mortenson's Central Asia Institute and their work, visit their Web site.

Photos by Adam Johnson of Brockit Inc. on exhibit at Fifth and Elm, Calumet

CALUMET -- A new exhibit of photographs by Adam Johnson of Brockit Inc. is now on display at the Fifth and Elm Coffee Shop in Calumet.

Photos by Adam Johnson of Brockit Inc. are now on exhibit in the Fifth and Elm Coffee House in Calumet. (Photo and text courtesy Fifth and Elm)

Adam Johnson is unique in his photography as he combines a fine art background with a formal education in engineering and science. The result is distinctive, emotional photographs captured using high technology tools with an artistic eye.

Since forming Brockit Inc. in 2001 and launching brockit.com, his commercial, fine art and portrait work has been visible on the covers and in the pages of magazines, travel guides and books and on websites, billboards and microbrewery walls.*

Self taught, Adam enjoys a diverse client list that keeps him and his Northern Michigan studio and staff busy from coast to coast, providing digital captures, free of manipulation, to the photography agencies and marketing companies for which he freelances. The diversity has taught him to capture images regardless of environment or constraint.

Adam’s charismatic and professional personality provides comfort and confidence, allowing him to capture the natural feelings, expressions and moments of his subjects. This is what motivates Adam as a photographer: being there for that single perfect moment and capturing the emotion in an artistic, timeless shot.

Born and raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Adam and his wife, Robyn, have been using the Keweenaw Peninsula as their home base since 1993. Six-year old daughter, Kora Melia, is a favorite photographic subject for the freelance photographer.

Brockit’s blog and gallery are viewable at: brockit.com.

*Editor's Note: And on Keweenaw Now. Thanks, Adam!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Stupak issues statement on problem of underinsurance, medical debt

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Congressman Bart Stupak, (D-MI), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, today held a hearing focusing on the problems of underinsurance and medical debt. The hearing, entitled "Insured But Not Covered: The Problem of Underinsurance," is the third hearing the subcommittee has held on health insurance industry practices since January. Stupak delivered the following statement:

"A few months ago, our Subcommittee held hearings on the health insurance industry practice of terminating coverage after a policy holder becomes sick and files a claim. In our investigation, we learned that if your insurance company believes that your illness may be costly, it will go back and re-examine your application for health insurance to find any excuse to cancel your coverage! As health insurance industry executives brazenly told us, this practice, called rescission, will continue until there is national health care coverage for all Americans.

"Today, we continue our investigation of the private health insurance market focusing on the underinsured. An 'underinsured' person is one who has health insurance coverage but the policy does not adequately cover health care costs or high medical expenses. Underinsured individuals traditionally have high out-of-pocket expenses because of high deductibles and co-pays.

"In some instances, people are underinsured because they can only afford to purchase a policy. In other instances, policy holders believe that they have adequate coverage only to find out that there are limits buried within the policy such as annual caps on the amount the insurance will cover or limits on the number of times the policy holder can receive certain services or treatments.

"Regardless of how you define this financially fragile group, the sad consequences of being underinsured can be devastating, leading to financial ruin, bankruptcy and making medical decisions based on costs rather than care.

"As the cost of health insurance skyrockets, more and more Americans are finding that they can only afford bare bones policies, leaving them one illness, one accident away from bankruptcy. According to an American Journal of Medicine, in 2007, 62 percent of all bankruptcies filed in the United States were related to medical costs and 78 percent of these filers had insurance. Many of these now bankrupt individuals were well educated, owned homes and had middle class occupations. Unfortunately, they were underinsured and their health insurance did not cover their medical costs, forcing them to declare bankruptcy due to mountains of medical bill debt.

"Still, health insurers continue their 'unconscionable' increase in premiums. Between 2000 and 2007, the annual family health insurance premium in Michigan rose 78 percent while wages rose just 4.6 percent. I am currently receiving emails and letters from constituents reporting 22 to 40 percent premium increases in their individual health insurance policies. The average family health insurance policy now costs $13,125, which is 34 percent of the median household income in my congressional district!

"The Commonwealth Fund recently reported that '[a]s a result, more families are experiencing medical bills problems or cost-related delays in getting needed care. In 2007, nearly two-thirds of US adults…116 million people, struggled to pay medical bills, went without needed care because of cost, were uninsured for a time, or were underinsured.'

"Our first panel of witnesses will put a face on the frightening statistics found in the Commonwealth Fund report.

"Catherine Howard was diagnosed with breast cancer at the early age of 29 and survived to tell her story. Being young and healthy with a limited income, Catherine chose a low premium, high co-pay health insurance that left her in financial shambles after her breast cancer. At the time of her illness, she was earning just $20,000 a year but her outstanding medical bills were $40,000 and Catherine was unable to work through her surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. To her credit, Catherine did not declare bankruptcy and is paying $1,800 each month on her outstanding medical debt.

"David Null will speak for his family and his daughter, Tatum, who at the age of seven was diagnosed with liver failure. David bought health insurance for his family to cover emergency situations, not a policy to cover 'head colds.' Still, when Tatum was on life support and needed a lifesaving $560,000 kidney transplant, David learned his 'emergency policy' would only cover between $30,000 and $40,000 and the hospital was demanding a $200,000 deposit before they would proceed with the transplant. Being underinsured left Tatum fighting for her life and David without hope or a prayer. Children's hospital officials helped the Nulls to qualify for the government run, government sponsored, Medicaid health care and the entire hospital bill was retroactively covered. The catch is, the Nulls could not earn more than $1,614 a month or they would lose their Medicaid coverage, which paid for Tatum's medication to prevent organ rejection which can cost thousands of dollars each month.

"Nathan Wilkes will tell us about his employer-provided health insurance with a million dollar limit for each family member. Unfortunately, a million dollars did not go very far when his son was diagnosed severe hemophilia. Even though the Wilkes have paid up to $25,000 in a single year for out-of-pocket costs, Mr. Wilkes is unable to get a policy that will adequately cover his son’s medical expenses. Now, on his third insurance policy, Mr. Wilkes does not know how they will be able to afford his son's life-saving medical treatments.

"Each of these individuals and families did everything right, worked hard, purchased health insurance, paid their premiums but are still left in financial ruin.

"We will also hear from Sara Collins of the Commonwealth Fund. She will discuss their study on how the number of underinsured has dramatically increased over the past few years and how two thirds, 116 million of all U.S. adults, struggle to pay medical bills, like the Nulls, the Wilkes and Ms. Howard.

"Stan Brock is the Director of the Remote Area Medical Foundation based in Nashville, Tennessee. He has spent his life coordinating with physicians, dentists, nurses and other health professionals to provide free health care services to uninsured and underinsured Americans. Mr. Brock will provide his insight and experience on how more and more Americans are showing up at his foundation seeking basic health care because their insurance policies will no longer cover their health care needs.

"Each of us knows a family member, relative, or friend who did not go to a doctor when sick; skipped a dose of medication or failed to fill a prescription; intentionally missed a medical test or a follow up appointment; or did not see a specialists when needed because they could not afford the service, the medication or the test."

Stupak says he hopes every American will now take time to look at their policy in order to answer the following questions:

1. What medical conditions does the policy cover or not cover?
2. What is your co-pay?
3. What is your potential out of pocket cost?
4. Do you have a lifetime cap of dollars or services your insurance company will cover?

"The U.S. House will soon vote on H.R. 3200, America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009," Stupak adds. "H.R. 3200 does not allow insurance companies to rescind your policies when you are sick, it does not have a lifetime cap and it will cover all Americans. Only with the passage of meaningful health care reform, then and only then, will two thirds of all adults not have to worry about how to obtain medical care for their families while remaining financially secure."

Family Adventures hike to be held at Preserve near Copper Harbor Oct. 17

HOUGHTON -- The next Family Adventures event will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 17, near Copper Harbor.

Bring your family and join host family, Brian and Rima Carlson, on a hike at The Nature Conservancy’s Mary MacDonald Preserve near Copper Harbor. Children will make nature journals using recycled materials and found objects.

The Western UP Center for Science and Environmental Outreach will bring a first aid kit, binoculars, a variety of ID books, magnifying glasses, pencils and supplies for the nature journals.

Make sure to come prepared! Bring a water bottle and wear good, waterproof walking shoes. Dress warmly and bring hat/gloves, an extra layer of warm clothing and rain gear just in case.

Please contact Rachel Carpenter at rmcarpen@mtu.edu or Michelle Miller at michellem@mtu.edu if you have any questions or are interested in being a host family for a future hike.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Portage Library to host indoor playground presentation Oct. 15

HOUGHTON -- The Keweenaw Family Resource Center will present an informational meeting about plans for its indoor playground for young children at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15, at the Portage Lake District Library.

Cathy Benda, director of the Keweenaw Family Resource Center, and Jessica DellaValla, chair of the Friends of Winter Park, will present an overview of the project, share details of the latest developments, and show slides of the concept and design plans for the playground. There will be time for the audience to ask questions, make suggestions, share ideas and enjoy refreshments.

The purpose of the playground is to provide an indoor playspace for children ages 0-5 that provides opportunities for sensorimotor development, physical exercise to combat common childhood disorders associated with a sedentary lifestyle, interactions between parents and children, imaginative play and lots of fun.

The idea began when parents with young children wished there was a place for vigorous indoor play during the long winter months. The public is invited to hear how the project evolved into what is now called "The Tree House, a KFRC Indoor Playground."

Presentations at the library are free and everyone is welcome. For more information about the playground, visit http://houghtonwinterpark.blogspot.com/ and www.kfrckids.org.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Optimal Wellness series to offer class on herbs, essential oils Oct. 14

HANCOCK -- Karen Rumisek will lead a class on how to use common herbs and essential oils for the winter season from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 14, at the Jutila Center.

Rumisek has a wealth of knowledge on this topic; her background includes education and training in nutrition, herbal remedies and feng shui. With a dusting of snow on the ground and already much discussion of flu viruses, this is a timely opportunity to learn about ways to have a naturally healthy winter.

The class is part of the Optimal Wellness series, and the cost is $10. The Jutila Center (old hospital) is at 200 Michigan Street in Hancock.

Finlandia's North Wind Books celebrates 10th anniversary this week

HANCOCK -- Finlandia University ’s North Wind Books is celebrating its 10th anniversary this October. To thank the community for their support, the bookstore is offering a storewide 10% off sale this week through Friday, Oct. 16. Cake and refreshments will be served from noon to 6 p.m. this Friday.

Alana Nolan, manager of North Wind Books, is welcoming the public to celebrate the bookstore's 10th anniversary this week. (Photos by Keweenaw Now)

North Wind Books was opened in October 1999 after Peter and Patricia Van Pelt, who had operated the bookshop at their home in Eagle Harbor for nine years, invited Finlandia to purchase at cost the remaining North Wind Books stock. At that time, the Van Pelts donated to the college the bookshop’s shelving, mailing list, supplier contacts, name, logo and goodwill.

Since then, North Wind Books has enlarged its floor space and selections of books and gifts. The book shop has added Finlandia University logo wear and gifts, an entire room of children’s picture books and young adult fiction, and Finnish design items for the home. In 2005, an addition was constructed for the sale of textbooks and school supplies.

North Wind Books is offering gift baskets of books, cards and other items as well as a storewide 10% discount to celebrate their 10th anniversary this week.

Alana Nolan, manager of North Wind Books, says she is looking forward to serving the Copper Country community and beyond for many decades to come.

North Wind Books is located at 437 Quincy St. , Hancock. For additional information, contact Alana Nolan at 906-487-7217 or visit www.northwindbooks.com.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Arts Center Green Building presentation / forum sparks community discussion

By Michele Bourdieu

The Copper Country Community Arts Center plans a green building project to renovate the building for sustainability. The center was recently awarded a Kresge Foundation Green Building Initiative Grant for planning the project and is hosting a series of presentations and public forums to collect community input in the planning process. (Photos by Keweenaw Now)

HANCOCK -- On Oct. 7, a crowd of nearly 60 people attended the first of three educational presentations / community forums about sustainability and green building hosted by the Copper Country Community Arts Center (CCCAC), which was recently awarded a $60,000 Kresge Foundation Green Building Initiative Grant.

The grant will fund the professional consultation services necessary to develop and evaluate a green building plan for renovating the Arts Center in Hancock. This includes pre-design planning services, energy and material analysis and ecological site planning.

At this first event of the series, held in Finlandia University's Jutila Center for Global Design and Business, Allison Slavick, a consultant who was contracted by CCCAC to develop the proposal for the $60,000 grant, introduced Linda Frey, executive director of the West Michigan Chapter of U.S. Green Building Council.

Linda Frey, executive director of the West Michigan Chapter of U.S. Green Building Council, addresses community residents and Community Arts Center Board members in a presentation on LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification of buildings on Oct. 7 at the Jutila Center in Hancock.

"You're leaders in green building because you're here," Frey told the audience.

She began her presentation with statistics showing that buildings have more impact on the environment than industry or transportation. Buildings are number one in global CO2 emissions. In the United States, she noted, people spend an average of 90 percent of their lives in buildings.

The Green Building Council began in 1993. Their mission, through LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification of buildings, is as follows: "To transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life."

Frey said she believes, with the Council, that this transformation can be done in one generation.

"We have to have ecological intelligence and we have to share that with each other and we have to be transparent about it," Frey said. "Doing it creatively is the real challenge."

During her slide presentation, Linda Frey discusses the value of green building in reducing energy, CO2 emissions, water use and solid waste.

"It's found that green building occupants are healthier, happier and more productive," Frey noted.

This is not surprising since green buildings typically have better indoor air quality and lighting, she said. In order to achieve a really green building, you need to integrate indoor environmental quality, material use, energy use, water management and site planning.

Credits for LEED certification can even be earned by putting a bike rack in front of the building, since it encourages alternative transportation and energy conservation.

Frey's slide presentation included examples of green buildings in various parts of the country, indicating their energy savings.

Feedback from the community -- through stakeholders and volunteer committees -- will go to a cross-functional design team that will meet and combine their expertise with the community feedback.

Several members of the audience offered such feedback during this first meeting -- in the form of both suggestions and questions.

Allison Slavick, a consultant who was contracted by CCCAC to develop the proposal for the $60,000 Kresge Foundation Green Building Initiative Grant and facilitator for the Oct. 7 meeting, notes suggestions by community members who spoke during the public forum following Linda Frey's presentation.

CCCAC Board member Kiko de Melo e Silva noted the present size of the building would require very smart space management. He also suggested using local materials that can be both noticed and recycled.

"People need to take ownership," de Melo e Silva said.

He pointed out the importance of getting public interest before starting the building project -- by starting now to publicize statistics and information in order to cultivate ownership within the community.

Amanda Moyer, a student in Finlandia University's International School of Art and Design, noted the two local student communities offer the possibility of combining the engineering talent from Michigan Tech with artistic talent at Finlandia. Moyer also suggested students could go into the schools and get kids to help with planning. They would also talk to their parents about it, she noted.

Richard Donovan, operations manager, senior engineer and scientist in Michigan Tech's Sustainable Futures Institute, who is involved with sustainable design building at Michigan Tech, mentioned new experimental materials, such as those that store light.

"You could design materials that have phosphorescence in them," Donovan noted. "Smart materials with incredible properties can be designed and constructed through nano technology."

Donovan said he believed the Community Arts Center offers a potential for trying out some of these new materials -- aided by agencies now funding this research.

"Here is a place where you could get it out in the world," Donovan added.

Dave Bach, local builder known for directing construction of energy-efficient Habitat for Humanity houses, now teaches courses in the Construction Management program of Michigan Tech's School of Technology. In fact, one course he teaches with Chris Wojick, senior research engineer in Civil and Environmental Engineering, is directly related to LEED green building.

"I'm the Arts Council's 'Green Building Champion,'" Bach said.

Phyllis Fredendall, CCCAC Board member and Finlandia Art and Design professor, said she was concerned about the visual appeal of the potential Arts Center green building.

"I'd like to see something that increases our visibility in the community," Fredendall said.

Sue Ellen Kingsley, a mountain biker who also commutes to town by bicycle, said she was happy to see the slide about the bike racks and alternative transportation.

"The location of the Arts Center is a good place to promote alternative transportation," Kingsley said, "-- bikes, maybe skis."

Hancock resident Ann Pace said that while a high priority should be given to things that contribute to sustainability, it's also important to have "dramatic visibility features" even if they don't contribute that much to sustainability.

Christa Walck, Michigan Tech professor in the School of Business and president of the Copper Country Community Arts Council, said she agreed the third-party LEED certification for green building is useful because it shows an external person has seen it's done right; but it comes at a cost.

"Can we afford that if we actually have the local experts on board to see that it's done correctly?" Walck questioned. "For public relations, grants, etc., it's helpful; but you are paying a premium for it. LEED -- as a program, a process, a set of criteria for green building -- is excellent. My only question is the value to us of paying the cost of certification."

Chris Alquist, Community Programs Coordinator for the Portage District Public Library in Houghton, had a very positive reaction to this first meeting, especially since Portage Library is now setting up a "Green Center" that will have a computer dedicated to environmental topics and books related to green energy, sustainability, etc.

"I loved it," Alquist said of Linda Frey's presentation and the forum that followed. "I've been involved with the Arts Center since its inception because my kids were involved in many of the art programs offered for children all through their growing-up years. Two of my sons are professional artists now."

Alquist added she believes all buildings should be green.

"I think the world should recognize that this is a change we all need to make," Alquist said. "It's like breathing. We need to breathe; we need to be green."

Arts Center to host two more green building meetings / forums Oct. 12, 28

The next two presentations will be held at 7 p.m. tonight, Monday Oct. 12 with Cortland Overmyer, Community Sustainability Manager, United Water Contract Services, Suez Environnement North America and Norman Christopher, Sustainability Director of Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids and Wednesday, October 28, with Heather McElwee, Assistant Director and Chris Clarke, Facilities Director from the Pittsburgh Glass Center. Both presentations will be held at 7 p.m. in the Community Training Room (Room 323) at the Jutila Center for Global Design and Business at Finlandia University. The public is again invited to attend and offer input. For more information contact Cynthia Coté at (906)482-2333 or visit www.coppercountryarts.com.