Friday, June 11, 2010

Virg Bernero, Michigan gubernatorial candidate, defends working man during Houghton visit

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, Democratic candidate for governor, addresses a group of Houghton County Democrats and other community members at a June 5 brunch sponsored by the Houghton County Dems at Houghton's Main Street Inn. Click on photos for larger versions. (Photos by Keweenaw Now)

By Michele Bourdieu

HOUGHTON -- Virg Bernero, mayor of Lansing and one of two Democratic gubernatorial candidates running in the Aug. 3, 2010, Primary election, presents himself as a fighter for the working man. His top priorities include returning Michigan to the top manufacturing position it held when he was growing up downstate and his father, an Italian immigrant, worked for General Motors.

"I have straight teeth," Bernero said with a smile, "thanks to the benefits of GM and UAW."

His visit to a group of Houghton County Democrats and other community members at a brunch Saturday, June 5, in Houghton's Main Street Inn was part of a tour of the Upper Peninsula he began last Friday, June 4, after attending one day of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce Mackinac Policy Conference on Mackinac Island in order to participate in the debate among gubernatorial candidates.*

During the Bush administration, Bernero said, he organized mayors across the country to go to Washington and fight for the auto industry, especially for two auto manufacturing plants in Lansing.

"As Michiganders we have pride in what we do, in what we make, in our heritage," Bernero said, "and we are hopeful about the future as well."

He noted the manufacturing economy downstate is connected to the economy in the Upper Peninsula, especially the tourist economy he has observed in his UP tour.

"How the middle class is doing (downstate) affects certainly the tourist economy here," Bernero noted.

He observed that a lot of the summer cottages, the fishing trips, the hunting trips are signs of middle class people who enjoy Michigan and who, in the past, were able to spend more of their leisure time, their disposable income, up north.

"And that's being curtailed," he said. "The economy matters, manufacturing matters ... and we are related by more than just the bridge."

Bernero said his arguments for auto manufacturing under the Bush administration met with anti-worker, anti-union criticism in the media.

"Working people were taking it on the chin by outfits like Fox News, talking about how we in Michigan were out of sync and we were paid too much," Bernero explained, after showing a video clip of himself in an interview on Fox.

He noted the anti-union bias in the media at that time also came up during the Mackinac conference debates this week. He and one other candidate, Republican Pete Hoekstra, were the only ones to defend unions in a discussion on lowering salaries of state employees to make Michigan more competitive.

Bernero defends unions, middle class workers

"They like to beat up on the unions and on working people," Bernero said. "And of course the unions upgraded the middle class and helped to raise everybody's standard of living, even if you didn't belong to a union."

Bernero said he realized his father's union benefits were the result of workers fighting for them in the past and he is proud to have the endorsement of several unions in his campaign. What the unions did was to spread the wealth so that not just the people at the top made money, but the people in the middle as well.

"But I'm for all working people," Bernero added. "It's the middle class that makes this country work."

Bernero joked about how Newt Gingrich, the keynote speaker at the Mackinac Conference, "lectured" the audience on what Michigan needs to do.

"Who better to know what Michigan needs to do to become competitive than Newt Gingrich," Bernero said. "He says that there's a problem with Michigan's work ethic -- that we get paid too much and we work too little ... this from a guy that's never held a job -- a real honest job -- in his life."

Bernero said he observed at the conference the Republican vision for Michigan's future, which is one of "less" for workers while big bankers are rewarded with bailouts.

"It's a minimalist view -- that we must accept less and we must expect less for our children and grandchildren and for our future. I don't accept that and that's why I'm running," Bernero said. "I'm tired of the disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street. I've seen Wall Street take care of themselves, and Main Street is suffering.... It's Robin Hood in reverse."

Noting how his 85-year-old father now lives in Pontiac, Mich., where he worked, and spends his modest pension there, Bernero said Wall Street resents that pension. However, it's that American dream that he's fighting for.

"I think the American dream is under siege in Michigan," Bernero added. "I think Wall Street has outsourced our standard of living."

Bernero noted how Wall Street has moved the jobs to places, such as China and Mexico, "where they can exploit the land and exploit the labor" (by taking advantage of lower environmental and labor standards).

Bernero noted he's been called "the angry mayor" because of his stand on this. Admitting that, yes, he is angry, Bernero explained he's not only pounded his chest but he's pounded the pavement in Washington. His coalition of mayors (now a national organization, Mayors and Municipalities Automotive Coalition, or MMAC) has had results since President Obama took office.

"We asked for a billion dollars to clean up abandoned automotive sites. We got about 850 million dollars -- 160 million of which will be coming to Michigan," Bernero said.

Bernero pointed out that his opponents -- the five Republican candidates and his Democratic opponent -- talk about what they will do if elected governor.

"The difference is I've done it," he said.

Prior to being elected mayor in 2005, Bernero represented Lansing in the Michigan State Senate and State House from 2001 – 2006. In addition, Mayor Bernero represented Lansing on the Ingham County Board of Commissioners for eight years, having been elected four times. He also served as a legislative aide in both the State Senate and House.

Bernero said in the five years he has been Mayor of Lansing he has cut $42 million in deficit from the budget without losing a single police officer or firefighter, added $500 million in new investment and cooperated with Michigan State University in bringing businesses to Lansing.

Rep. Mike Lahti: Bernero "definitely a hard worker"

State Rep. Mike Lahti (now a candidate for state senator) arrived from the same Mackinac conference in time to hear some of Bernero's presentation. Lahti said he spends a good deal of his time in Lansing now and he has observed how it works.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, gubernatorial candidate, jokes with Rep. Mike Lahti, second from right at middle table, during Bernero's presentation on June 5 in Houghton.

"I just want to say he (Bernero) does a tremendous job saying what he believes and fighting for the working man in Michigan," Lahti said. "He's definitely a hard worker. He's got that reputation."

Lahti thanked Bernero for coming up here and jokingly added a thank you for a $3 city income tax refund he received in Lansing.

One project Bernero is particularly excited about is the $182 million resurrection of Lansing’s Ottawa Street Power Station, described on his Web site as "a massive brick monolith that stood empty on the downtown riverfront for nearly a decade." A large historic preservation project will allow the long-defunct, coal-powered electric generating plant to become the new national headquarters of the Accident Fund Insurance Company of America.

"And we haven't given up on manufacturing," he added. "There is not a first-rate economy in the world without manufacturing....There is no substitute for making things."

Bernero said money that goes to Wall Street banks is re-distributed and ends up in other states rather than being invested in Michigan. He said we need to invest more in our cities.

"Too many of our cities are the hole of the doughnut instead of the hub of the wheel," he said. "We need to start learning more about cities and less about CitiBank if we want Michigan, if we want our country to succeed."

Bernero: Three programs to boost Michigan's economy

Bernero mentioned three programs that he believes can help Michigan's economy.

First, he favors a State Bank proposal that would pool state resources in order to lend money to businesses based in the State of Michigan.

Second, Bernero praised the EB-5 Program (set up by the Department of Commerce and the Department of Homeland Security) which creates a foreign investment zone that allows foreign nationals to invest in business here. If a foreign national -- a wealthy entrepreneur from China or India, for example -- invests $1 million and employs at least 10 U.S. workers, he or she can receive a green card and live anywhere in the U.S. Bernero said Lansing is one of only three cities in Michigan that have taken advantage of this program. He would like to see these foreign investment zones in most Michigan cities, including Houghton.

"It's an incredible opportunity for us to bring foreign dollars -- overseas dollars -- back to this country," Bernero said. "It's a very intriguing thing. We just don't know what it might become. But one thing we know is it's bringing the investment (and jobs) here instead of taking the jobs overseas."**

The third program is a Michigan manufacturing zone which would offer tax incentives to a business, foreign or domestic, for re-using a brownfield -- an obsolete manufacturing site -- to manufacture something.

Bernero also said he would have an economic development plan for every county in Michigan.

"I believe that economic development begins with what you have," Bernero said.

Community members ask questions

Bernero welcomed questions and comments from the audience and stayed to answer individual questions after the presentation.

Janet Gregorich, former Houghton County official, asked a question on whether inmates in Michigan prisons could be given more vocational training so they would have a trade to make them employable when they are released.

Janet Gregorich, former Houghton County official, chats with Virg Bernero, Democratic candidate for governor, after Bernero's presentation in Houghton June 5. Gregorich asked a question on vocational education for prisoners, which led to the candidate's comments on education. Bernero's wife, Teri, is an elementary school principal.

Bernero replied that what prisoners need is hope. He said he believes the "Corrections" system is a sign of the system's failure to encourage and support prisoners who want to change, want to be rehabilitated, even to work on college degrees in prison.

"And, of course, we have to do a better job with education, because we know that the common denominator of prisoners is that they're high school drop outs," Bernero said. "The high school dropout rate of 30-50 percent in our urban areas is unacceptable, totally unacceptable, unsustainable. We have the highest incarceration rate in the country in Michigan ... and it's because we have this huge dropout rate."

Bernero, whose wife, Teri, is an elementary school principal, said he learned -- from a study done when he was an Ingham County commissioner -- that absenteeism in school begins in elementary school and continues through middle school and high school. He said if he becomes governor he will make sure parents become aware that school attendance is their responsibility.

"We will make it very clear to the parents that 'You will go to jail if your kid is not in school,'" Bernero said. "And those kids need to have a safe haven where they can learn, where they are valued."

Bernero said every child should be recognized as valuable.

"You make an investment on Wall Street -- you don't know where that money's going to end up," Bernero said. "You invest in children -- you will always get a return on your investment."

Ann Pace of Hancock noted there is a move nationally and worldwide to increase local production of food and asked Bernero what he thought of state support of agricultural development.

Hancock resident Ann Pace, right, in green jacket, asks Virg Bernero about government support of agriculture.

"You're right on," Bernero said. "While manufacturing has been waning ... agriculture has really been taking off....This is one thing we've done a nice job on...we're opening more markets to Michigan's (agricultural) products."

Bernero said agriculture is not his area of expertise but, if elected governor, he would be in favor of keeping it as a separate department and would work with experts running it and with marketing experts in order to promote Michigan products.

"Ag is growth area. It's a stand-alone area," he said.

Bernero also expressed an interest in urban gardens. He noted they are being established in both Lansing and Detroit, solving space issues and providing activity for the unemployed. He said he has noticed children show an interest in gardening and learning where food comes from. Gardens can also help improve nutrition in schools.

Bernero said he started an anti-pop movement in schools and hopes to continue to work toward better nutrition for children.

Virg Bernero, Democratic candidate for governor, speaks with Barb Turuc-Mills, Houghton County Democratic Party secretary, after his presentation on June 5 at a brunch sponsored by the Houghton County Dems.

Nanno Rose of Portage Township asked whether income taxes and taxes on alcohol and gasoline should be raised to help solve Michigan's deficit problem.

Bernero said he has so far avoided raising taxes as Mayor of Lansing, but he believed people are more willing to pay tax increases if they know where the money is going and why it's needed. An example is a gas tax to help repair roads. He answered a question on townships by noting he was not anti-township, just in favor of efficiency and consolidation in government, school administration, etc. His own way of saving money has to do with cutting unnecessary expenses -- even "comfort" levels of budgets rather than raising taxes, he explained.

"Especially in urban areas, regional government makes sense," Bernero said. "We built the government not that we needed, but we built the government that we could afford -- and deconstructing that is going to be tough."

Bernero said he believed in asking state employees as well as community members for ideas on how things can be done differently to save money.

"I intend to make Michigan the number-one place in the country to do business -- and that means jobs," Bernero said.

I just don't assume that we have to keep doing things the same way."

Candidate "digging into" sulfide mining issue

Bernero spoke in Marquette on Friday, just before coming to Houghton, and told Keweenaw Now he heard from people in Marquette who were on both sides of the sulfide mining issue.

"I've just begun to look at the issue," he said. "I will be digging into it and I will be seeking expert advice, too, about it. We're not going to compromise the environmental quality of the watershed, the rivers or the lake."

He agreed that tourism could be harmed by pollution from mining.

"If we're going to market 'Pure Michigan,' we have to be true to Pure Michigan," Bernero said. "Now that doesn't, to me, mean 'no mining,' but it means it has to be done the right way. They have to prove that it can be done safely. We have to set a high bar, not cut corners."

Bernero's Web site says as Mayor of Lansing he "was the first to develop an office dedicated exclusively to green development and environmental sustainability, uniting businesses, organizations and citizens alike in pledging to reduce their carbon footprint, ensuring cleaner land, water and air for future generations."***

Jackie Anderson, 22, of Hancock, had a positive reaction to Bernero's presentation.

"I think that Mayor Bernero has some interesting ideas that could help Michigan and more rural areas like the Upper Peninsula," she said. "I think he has more diverse economic development ideas."

John Laitinen, a Franklin Township trustee and a disabled former union iron worker, said Bernero struck him as both knowledgeable and down-to-earth.

"He seems like he's knowledgeable and seems he wants to do something for the state. I like his idea about having a plan for each county in the state," Laitinen said. "He knows about people who work with their hands. We need business in Michigan. They can't be all computer jobs."

Joanne Kyle Gregorich, seasonal resident, was very impressed with Bernero, although her primary residence is in Colorado.

"This guy blows me away," she said. "On every issue he's right on. He blows me away with his ingenuity and his passion for Michigan."

Hancock City Manager Glenn Anderson said this was the first time he had heard Bernero.

"He's attuned to the issues of the state, certainly has a vision and certainly understands local and state government operation -- which is critical for being a governor," Anderson said.

During his tour of the Upper Peninsula from June 3 - June 5, Bernero also visited groups in Sault Ste. Marie, Newberry, Munising, Marquette, Menominee and Escanaba.

Editor's Notes:

* See these articles on the gubernatorial debate at the Mackinac conference June 3:
"Charges fly as Mich. gubernatorial hopefuls debate," by Kathy Barks Hoffman, AP writer.
"Gubernatorial candidates debate on Mackinac Island," by Rick Pluta of National Public Radio (NPR).

** To learn more about the EB-5 Program click here.

*** To learn more about Virg Bernero, Democratic candidate for governor, visit his Web site.

Flags to be Flown Half-Staff June 12, for U.S. sailor killed Dec. 7, 1941, during Pearl Harbor attack

LANSING -- Governor Jennifer M. Granholm has ordered United States flags throughout the state of Michigan and on Michigan waters lowered for one day Saturday, June 12, 2010, in honor of U. S. Navy Fireman 3rd Class Gerald George Lehman who died during the attack on Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941. Flags should be returned to full-staff Sunday, June 13.

Fireman 3rd Class Lehman died less than a month after his 18th birthday aboard the U.S.S. Oklahoma in Hawaii when the Japanese executed a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. For the past 69 years, his family believed that Gerald was unknown and unrecoverable. However, with advances in modern technology, Lehman's remains were positively identified through DNA testing, and he will finally return home to be laid to rest on Saturday. Read more ...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

EPA replies to citizen letter on Kennecott sulfide mine permits

MARQUETTE -- Eeva and Bob Miller of Marquette have received from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 5, a reply to their letter, signed by 100 concerned citizens, addressing the question of Kennecott Eagle Minerals Company's permits for the Eagle Project sulfide mine on the Yellow Dog Plains.

The EPA reply says their staff and management are reviewing all aspects of the redesigned Treated Water Infiltration System (TWIS) to determine whether it comes under federal regulations. They are also consulting with the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC). In addition, the letter includes comments on the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) permits over which the EPA has no federal authority, the Woodland Road permit, wetland issues, and Tribal use of Eagle Rock.

Visit Stand for the Land to read the letter and a response from Cynthia Pryor, Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve Sulfide Mining Campaign director.

Photo: Sign displayed during anti-sulfide mine Rally in Lansing, MI, June 3, 2010. Photo courtesy Stand for the Land.

Michigan Nature Association to host Bare Bluff hike June 12

HOUGHTON -- Families and the public are invited to visit the Michigan Nature Association's Grinnell Memorial Nature Sanctuary (Bare Bluff) from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 12. Enjoy its stunning panoramic views of Lake Superior.

Rising 588 feet above Lake Superior, Bare Bluff is one of the most prominent landmarks on the south shore of the Keweenaw Peninsula. This will be a challenging hike over rugged terrain with rocky slopes and steep ravines, as well as outstanding scenery, soaring raptors and some of the oldest rocks in the Keweenaw!

Meet at 2 p.m. at Lac La Belle Marina parking lot to carpool to the trailhead or meet at the trailhead at 2:15 p.m. (2.5 miles up the Smith Fisheries Road). Come prepared with sturdy hiking shoes, a backpack, plenty of water and snacks. Rain gear, sun hat, sunscreen, insect repellent and an extra layer are strongly encouraged. A camera and binoculars are also recommended.

Trip Leaders are Charlie Eshbach and Joan Chadde. For more information call 906-487-3341.

Driving directions: To reach the Grinnell Nature Sanctuary, drive north from Calumet on US 41. About 15 miles north of Calumet, just after the Delaware mine on the left, turn right at the sign for Lac La Belle. Drive five miles to Lac La Belle, turn left, and look for the marina sign on the right. Hikers will rendez-vous at the Lac La Belle Marina before continuing on to the trailhead. This is a loop trail. Allow 2-3 hours roundtrip.

This hike is sponsored by the Western U.P. Center for Science Math and Environmental Education.

The Michigan Nature Association (MNA), established in 1952, is a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to protecting examples of Michigan's unique natural habitats and rare or endangered species. With the help of many generous donations from people like you, the MNA now has 165 nature sanctuaries totaling 8500 acres in Michigan.

Visit their Web site at www.michigannature.org.

(Bare Bluff Photo © Charlie Eshbach and courtesy Michigan Nature Association.)

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Summer Reading Program begins June 12 at Portage Library

HOUGHTON -- Opening day activities and registration for the Portage Lake District Library Summer Reading Program begin from noon - 3 p.m. Saturday, June 12. Kids are invited to make crafts and everyone can create a personal ice cream sundae in the community room.

At the 2009 opening of the Portage Lake District Library Summer Reading Program, Library Community Programs Coordinator Chris Alquist, background, second from left, gives advice to Emily VanDam, left, and Kristin Erbisch, library aides, on serving the ice cream sundaes. (2009 File photo by Keweenaw Now)

The "Make a Splash at Your Library: Dive into a Good Book!" Summer Reading Program will continue through Saturday, Aug. 14, and people may register throughout the summer. Participants will receive a reading log and bookmark when they register and a book when they have completed their reading log. The Summer Reading Program is open to all ages, children through adults; and reading logs may include books, magazines, audio books, reading to young children, or being read to.

The Summer Reading Program series of events includes Storytimes with Maria Sliva from 11 a.m. to noon every Wednesday. The Houghton High School Key Club will also present Storytimes and a craft on days to be announced. Look for listings of programs and events in the library, the media, on Facebook and at www.pldl.org.

Everyone is invited to join the fun and make a splash at your library!

Houghton to host Spring Art, Music Festival June 12

HOUGHTON -- Celebrate the arrival of spring with the Ninth Annual Houghton Spring Art and Music Festival happening from noon to 7 p.m. Saturday, June 12, on Shelden Avenue. The festival provides an opportunity to hear live local music, spend time downtown and shop at regional artist booths.

Ceramic and glass artist Colleen Carroll exhibits some of her work at the 2009 Houghton Art and Music Festival (File photo © 2009 Keweenaw Now).

Artist booths feature stained glass, pottery, jewelry, fiber art, wood working, paintings, wearable art, photography, handmade playthings for children and more.

The exciting music line up is as follows: Noon: Good Times Music presents Guitar Force featuring Special Chops, 1 p.m.; On the Spot Blues Band, 2 p.m.; Keweenaw Brewgrass, 3 p.m.; PasiCats, 4 p.m.; Captain Woody Boogie and the Pirates of Groove and our headliner this year, the Erik Koskinen Band, 5:30 p.m. - 7 p.m.

There will be a variety of fun and free family art activities, including the creation of ARTSTOCK certificates. Youth and adults can participate in this Visual Art Project that will culminate on the lawn of Michigan's Capitol Building after the Arts and Culture Summit June 22-23 in Lansing. Come and make a "10X10" stock certificate at the festival. This project represents the importance of investing in creativity and the quality of life. Help increase the number of certificates from our region!

The Festival, sponsored by the City of Houghton and the Copper Country Community Arts Council, will also feature an Arts Center information booth and Extreme Bake Sale. Food and refreshments will be on site at the Baxter’s Heavenly Hot Dogs booth. Special thanks to our sponsor, Minnesota Public Radio. Thanks also to our supporters Brockit Inc., Brassard Media, and MTEC Smart Zone.

There is plenty of parking and the event is free and open to everyone. For more information, call the Copper Country Community Arts Center at 482-2333 or e-mail ccarts@coppercountryarts.com.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Updated: Take a chance! Enter contest to help human rights work and win big prizes

From Sue Ellen Kingsley*

As we all know, there are Guatemalans taking chances with their lives every day: breaking the silence to give testimony to the violence of the past; speaking out against the environmental degradation wreaked on their lands by corporate interests; or standing up for their rights to water and land to sustain their lives. The Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA) is there, standing with them in solidarity with the struggle for rights that we, here in the USA, take for granted.

So, we're asking you to join us. Donate $25 for a ticket (hey, donate $100 for four tickets! $200 for eight! it's only money!) in NISGUA's annual drawing. The only chance that you're taking, really, is that your name might NOT be drawn from the pile to win one of the fabulous prizes listed below. But you're already a winner when you enter: you win because you participate in NISGUA solidarity, and NISGUA wins some of the considerable funds we need to continue the work. So you're not taking much of a chance really. And what if you DO win? Whoa, big happiness!

You can enter by going to the NISGUA website: https://www.nisgua.org/drawing/entry.asp. That's easy. Or you can email me, Sue Ellen Kingsley, at sekingsley@pasty.net, or call me at 906-482-6827. You can also write and tell me how many tickets you want. I'll have you entered in no time. Please send checks to my address:

NISGUA Chance for Peace
Sue Ellen Kingsley
53044 Hwy M203
Hancock MI 49930

Here are the prizes:

Grand Prize (1) One round trip airline ticket to Guatemala. If winner prefers not to travel to Guatemala the winner can choose a destination in the continental United States. Winner must contact NISGUA at least six weeks before desired dates of travel. Travel restrictions will apply. The grand prize winner will also receive a free week of language school at La Minerva Intensive Spanish School in Xela, Guatemala. Language school includes a homestay with a Guatemalan family, a private bedroom, three meals a day, five hours of private Spanish lessons, daily cultural activities, and all materials (www.xelapages.com/minerva).

First Prize (1) $300! Winner will receive $300!

Second Prize (1) A matted woodcut print from artist and activist Marilyn Anderson. Examples of artist’s work can be viewed at www.ProArteMaya.org.

Third Prize (2) $100 gift certificate from Heart of the Sky Fair Trade. Winners can choose $100 of merchandise from www.HeartOfTheSkyFairTrade.com.

Fourth Prize (1) One hardcover copy of Rescatando Nuestra Memoria, the newest book from long time NISGUA friend and award winning photographer Jonathan Moller.

Fifth Prize (1) Two nights (plus breakfast) in the private residence of Chris and John Sutton. Chris and John are NISGUA supporters and GAP sponsoring community members who live in Arlington, Virginia, an easy trip to Washington, DC. Perfect for your plans to lobby Congress!

There are runner-up prizes as well!

* Sue Ellen Kingsley is the executive director of CCGAP (Copper Country Guatemala Accompaniment Project), NISGUA Board Member and former accompanier (human rights observer in Guatemala). (Photo: Sue Ellen Kingsley with friends in Fronterizo, the Guatemala village where she was an accompanier and which she visits often. Photo courtesy CCGAP)

Update: Deadline for this drawing is extended to July 31, 2010.

From NISGUA: Pacayá Volcano erupts, Tropical Storm Agatha hits following day

The recent combination of volcanic eruptions and tropical storm Agatha has wreaked havoc on communities and infrastructure nationwide in Guatemala, while at the same time each disaster has severely limited the capacity to respond quickly to the other.

Government estimates include over 150 deaths, 100 disappeared, over 135,000 people evacuated, over 20,000 homes damaged and at least 35 bridges completely destroyed.

Highland indigenous communities,urban communities built on mountainsides, and subsistence farming communities throughout the country are those hardest hit by the most recent disasters in Guatemala. Communities and individuals will face the long-term effects on physical and psychological health, homes, crops, and infrastructure in the very places that have long confronted structural inequalities and lack of access to economic opportunities and basic services. The disasters have provided a window and urgency to the reality of daily survival that existed before and will exist long after the disaster itself. In many cases, the communities themselves are the ones now organizing and distributing relief and planning long-term.

What can you do?

Directly support communities and organizations affected by the disaster. If you are currently in Guatemala, contact us for a list of places where you can drop off donations of food, water, clothes, diapers and other material goods. If you are outside of Guatemala, you can donate through NISGUA directly to the following organizations working in or made up of affected communities:

Comité Campesino Del Altiplano (CCDA)
The CCDA is a community-based organization in Sololá, one of the hardest hit areas. The organization is providing emergency services in communities and coordinating with 10 local shelters. In addition to financial donations, the CCDA needs food,water, material goods, phone cards (TIGO), medical volunteers and equipment. Visit the CCDA blog for more information,pictures and the organization's list of needs.

Asociación Civil Grupo Pro-Justicia Nueva Linda
The storm destroyed the encampment that the group maintains as a permanent presence in front of the Nueva Linda plantation (finca) to demand justice for the 2003 forced disappearance of leader Hector Reyes and a 2004 violent eviction that led to the deaths of nine group members. The group estimates the losses as a result of tropical storm Agatha at $10,000.

Fundación Guillermo Toriello
The Guillermo Toriello Foundation is coordinating relief efforts with communities in the western departments of Sololá and Quiché, receiving and distributing donations of food, water and emergency supplies.

For disaster aid ONLY, please send your tax-deductible donations made out to NISGUA to: NISGUA, c/o Melinda Van Slyke, 228 East Jefferson Street, Spring Green, WI 53588.

Visit the CCGAP and NISGUA Web sites for more information.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Finlandia Gallery to host exhibit by Finnish artist June 10-Aug. 7

Photo by Aino Martikainen, whose work will be on exhibit June 10-Aug. 7 in the Finlandia University Gallery. (Photo courtesy Finlandia University)

HANCOCK -- "On the Wide Waters" (Väljillä Vesillä), an exhibition of photographs by Finnish artist Aino Martikainen, is featured at the Finlandia University Gallery, located in the Finnish American Heritage Center, Hancock, June 10 to August 7, 2010.

An opening reception for the exhibit will take place from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m at the gallery Thursday, June 10. Local artist Joyce Koskenmaki will share comments about Martikainen’s work. The reception is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

With the seventh poem of the Kalevala as inspiration, Aino Martikainen has been photographing Lake Oulujärvi in the Oulu Province of central Finland since 2004. In her exhibition of photographs, Martikainen captures the poetic vistas and wide horizons of Lake Oulujärvi, and the minute details of beach foundlings left by its declining waters.

Finland’s national epic, the Kalevala was compiled and edited by Elias Lönnrot, a Finnish physician, philologist, and professor (1802-1884). First published in 1835, the Kalevala’s compilation of folk poetry was instrumental in establishing Finnish as a literary language and cultural medium.

The following lines of poetry, which begin the seventh chapter of the Kalevala, are the conceptual framework of Martikainen’s exhibition:

"Woe is me, a luckless boy
woe, a boy down on his luck
that I went from my own lands
the lands where I used to live
to be for ever
in the open, night and day
to be lulled by wind
to be driven by billows
on these wide waters
these open expanses!

Excerpt, the Kalevala translations (Keith Bosley)

In her photographs, Martikainen explores the idea that two constantly quarreling tribes in the Kalevala stories lived in the Kainuu and Lake Oulujärvi area.

"Kainuu and Lake Oulujärvi aren’t usually mentioned today when it comes to the birth place of the Kalevala," notes Martikainen. "There are historical reasons for this, but it is known that Elias Lönnrot was living and working as a doctor in Paltaniemi, by the lake. From there he visited the border area of Karjala, where he collected most of the sung poems."

Lake Oulujärvi is very shallow in its natural state, but fluctuations caused by a nearby hydroelectric plant have allowed Martikainen to photograph what is left behind when the waters recede to very low levels.

"Her interest in the environment and its spiritual connection to the Kalevala are evident in her carefully composed photographs of wide vistas and horizons, animal prints, skulls, shells, and the rich red iron ore at the bottom of the lake," notes Carrie Flaspohler, director of the Finlandia University Gallery.

"In the Kalevala, there are the first observations about the delicate balance between nature and man," says Martikainen. "In the seventh poem, the eagle saves Väinämöinen from the water, because he had earlier saved one tree for the resting place for the bird."

Martikainen completed a M.A. at the University of Jyväskylä in 1990, and an F.L. from the University of Helsinki in 2003. Her work has been exhibited in Finland at the Galleria Sisu in Kajaani, the Kalevala Center Juminkeko in Kuhmo, and the Galleria Leo and the Museum of Natural History in Helsinki.

The Finlandia University Gallery is in the Finnish American Heritage Center, 435 Quincy Street, Hancock. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., or by appointment. Please call 906-487-7500 for more information.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Laura Furtman: Questions from a camper at Eagle Rock

Laura Furtman, far left, formerly of Wisconsin and now of Duluth, Minn., sits around the campfire at Eagle Rock on May 5, 2010, with other campers, from left, Billy Michaelson of Ishpeming; Chalsea Smith of KBIC; Kristin Hilts (standing) of Chassell; and E Halvorson of KBIC, cooking salmon over the fire. (File photo by Keweenaw Now)

By Laura Furtman

I spent most of the month of May at Eagle Rock in the Yellow Dog Plains of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Yes, I am one of the people who was camped there in an effort to save Eagle Rock, a sacred site to the Native American community, from the grip of Kennecott Minerals Company. The site is about 25 miles from Marquette and 45 miles from the reservation of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC), but what happens there has serious consequences for anyone living in the Lake Superior region.

My job at camp was to help prepare and serve up the meals. Just like in most homes, our kitchen was a place where people liked to congregate and talk. As a result, I heard all kinds of things about what was going on and I have a number of questions that need to be answered, especially since our camp was shut down by the police on May 27. Read more ...