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Friday, July 31, 2009

Health care reform organizer: Tell legislators your stories

By Michele Bourdieu

HOUGHTON -- With more and more talk of compromise in the House of Representatives as they try to agree on an acceptable version of HR 3200, the health care reform bill, before their August recess, ordinary citizens struggle to understand the proposed legislation and how it will affect them -- especially if they are presently uninsured or in danger of losing employment on which they depend for insurance.*

The Internet is full of stories from individual people who have suffered from lack of insurance, from the escalating out-of-sight costs of hospital and doctor bills that can eat up their savings, or even from being denied coverage for a serious illness at the last minute after paying premiums for years -- because of a technicality an insurance company finds so it won't have to pay for the expensive care.

Aletheia Henry, Michigan director for Organizing for America, spoke to Houghton County Democrats at their July1 meeting to talk about grassroots organizing to communicate President Obama's health care reform goals of expanding coverage, improving quality, lowering costs, honoring patient choice and holding insurance companies accountable.

Aletheia Henry, Michigan director for Organizing for America, speaks to Houghton County Democrats at their July 1 meeting about grassroots organizing for health care reform. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

Henry began her presentation with one of those personal stories -- a memorable one. She recounted how a young woman was with her father in a college book store, buying her books for college, when her father had a heart attack on the spot. He had just lost his job -- and his health insurance -- and told his daughter not to call an ambulance because they couldn't afford it. He died so his daughter could go to college.

Henry explained that one of the purposes of Organizing for America is to listen to such stories and to communicate people's real experiences with health care to legislators.

"I think we can absolutely put a human face to this," she said.

Organizing for America, the successor organization to Obama for America, is building on the movement that elected President Obama by empowering communities across the country to bring about President Obama'a agenda of change.

Henry explained she had been disillusioned by working as a social worker and not really being able to help people in need. Her involvement in politics, she said, began with protesting the Iraq War during the Bush years and then working for the Obama Presidential Campaign. Like that campaign, she said, Organizing for America works on building the bottom-up, grassroots support that makes real change possible.

"We need to be active and vocal in this (health care) debate," Henry said. "Please, please share your stories."**

Phil Faucher of Tapiola spoke at the meeting of a friend who died because he did not have insurance. He spoke about another friend, diagnosed with cancer, who recently went to Canada for health care because the Canadian system accepts anyone with a life-threatening disease.***

"We all should be ashamed of ourselves that we can't take care of our own citizens," Faucher said. "And this is the greatest country in the world."

Everyone needs to stand up and end the fear of change, Faucher added.

Carol Kurz of Calumet said Henry's presentation was enthusiastic -- a needed wake-up call.

"We need to support our legislators," Kurz said. "We should let our legislators know that we really want some action on health care and that we will support them."

During that July 1 meeting the Houghton County Democratic Party (HCDP) approved a Resolution on Health Care Reform supporting a single-payer health care system for all Americans. The Resolution states HCDP believes all Americans are entitled to quality health care -- affordable, accessible and non-discriminatory. It calls for a single-payer plan operated by the federal government and available to all individuals, allowing patients access to a choice of health care providers.

Click here for the full text of the Resolution.

Actually President Obama's wish is to have a government plan similar to Medicare as an option for those who are uninsured or unhappy with their present insurance. He wants people to have a choice.

In his column dated July 30, 2009, Paul Krugman, New York Times Op-Ed columnist, told the story of a senior citizen on Medicare who was afraid of the federal government interfering with his coverage. Krugman concludes the man did not understand the facts about Medicare and about present government regulation of -- and subsidies to -- insurance companies.

In his article Krugman writes:
"Right-wing opponents of reform would have you believe that President Obama is a wild-eyed socialist, attacking the free market. But unregulated markets don’t work for health care -- never have, never will. To the extent we have a working health care system at all right now it’s only because the government covers the elderly, while a combination of regulation and tax subsidies makes it possible for many, but not all, nonelderly Americans to get decent private coverage.

"Now Mr. Obama basically proposes using additional regulation and subsidies to make decent insurance available to all of us. That’s not radical; it’s as American as, well, Medicare."

Click here for the text of Krugman's column.

Editor's Notes:
* For a recent article on the efforts of Democrats to arrive at a compromise today, July 31, see this AP article:

**The Houghton County Democrats' Web site has a link to stories people from this area have submitted to Organizing for America's Health Care Action Center. Go to the Houghton County Democrats' Web site and click on the quote from Aletheia Henry in the photo to read the stories and to submit your own if you wish. Go to the Update page to see how our Michigan Congressman and two Senators are currently voting.

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow's Web site also has a Health Care People's Lobby where you can express your views or tell your story and learn about her efforts for health care reform.

This is the third in a series of articles on health care reform. Please send us your comments here and feel free to submit an opinion column or letter to the editor by email at

***CORRECTION: We apologize for neglecting to say that Phil Faucher's friend received health care in Canada because she is a Canadian citizen. Please see the Comment by Phillip.

From frogs to magic: Portage Library offers final week of Summer Reading Program

Closeup of a frog near a local pond. Note his camouflage. (May 2009 file photo by Keweenaw Now)

HOUGHTON -- The Portage Lake District Library invites frog lovers to hop to the library for a frog Storytime with Ariel Lake at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 1. After stories and a project, the Jim Henson movie Kermit’s Swamp Years: His true story, warts and all will be shown, and popcorn will be served.

Local singer/songwriter Hannah Bethel will give an acoustic performance at 7 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 3, in the community room. Originally from Chassell, Bethel has been performing in numerous venues for six years and in May was invited to showcase at the Florida Music Festival 2009. Her song "Believe" was chosen for an independent film, and her album, Watch Me Fly, is being considered for an independent film by Larry Holden. In the Spring 2009, Bethel released her first music video for her song "Backroads," which can be viewed at Bethel will be returning to Nashville in August to continue her music career.

Isle Royale Interpretive Ranger Jordan Kibat will offer a special "Wolves" Storytime at 10:15 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 6. Children will listen to wolf stories, watch a slide presentation about wolves and pack mentality and play games that imitate how wolves work as a team: Catch the Moose and the Human Knot.

Also on Thursday, Aug. 6, Merle Kindred will present an update on "Building an Energy-Efficient House in Kerala, India" at 7 p.m. Kindred will show slides of the construction of the prototypical energy-efficient house she commissioned that was completed in May 2009. The house is made of burnt bricks and mud walls with provisions for solar hot water, biogas, a smokeless chula (wood-burning oven), rainwater harvesting, micro-hydro, and containment of rain water.

In July 2008 at the Portage Lake District Library, Merle Kindred gives a slide presentation on the energy-efficient house she commissioned in Kerala, India. Kindred will offer a second presentation at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 6. She will show slides of the recent construction and completion of the house. (File photo by Keweenaw Now)

Kindred will discuss her three-year association with the Centre of Science and Technology for Rural Development (COSTFORD) in Kerala, India, as Volunteer Communications Consultant. COSTFORD is a non-profit organization that uses eco-friendly design and social consciousness as a path to positive societal change.

The Summer Reading Program will end on Saturday, Aug. 8, with Magic Shows performed by Craig Waddell. Two performances will be given: Show times are 12 p.m. - 12:40 p.m. and 1 p.m. - 1:40 p.m.

Waddell has been doing magic shows for the Houghton Elementary School Carnival for the past eight years and specializes in the art of illusion.

Children are invited to Storytimes every Monday with Maria Sliva and alternating Wednesdays with the Houghton High School Key Club. These programs include stories and a project and will continue through August.

All library programs are free and everyone is invited to attend. For more information, please call the library at 482-4570 or visit

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Local author makes Copper Country history come alive for kids, adults

By Michele Bourdieu

Author Deborah Frontiera, originally from Lake Linden, reads from her bilingual English-Spanish book Eric and the Enchanted Leaf: A Visit with Canis Lupis / Eric y la Hoja Encantada: Una Visita con Canis Lupis during a recent children's reading program at North Wind Books in Hancock. The story takes place on Isle Royale. Frontiera's most recent publications are for both children and adults. Read Keweenaw Now's review of them below. (Video clip by Keweenaw Now)

LAKE LINDEN -- Author Deborah K. Frontiera, originally of Lake Linden, has returned to the Copper Country this summer with two new publications based on local history: Living on Sisu: The 1913 Union Copper Strike Tragedy, a paperback novel of historical fiction for young readers, and Copper Country Chronicler: The Best of J. W. Nara, a hardcover book of Nara's historical photos, suitable for all ages and not just for the coffee table, though it makes a wonderful gift for anyone interested in Copper Country history and heritage.

If you missed Frontiera's book signings earlier this summer, she will have one more book signing from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. this Saturday, Aug. 1, at the Einerlei in Chassell.

Living on Sisu: The 1913 Union Copper Strike Tragedy is in the form of a diary or journal written by a 12-year-old fictional Finnish American girl, Emma, whose family life (they live in Swedetown, now part of Calumet) and personal destiny are affected by the 1913 mining strike. Emma's diary entries begin on her 12th birthday, May 1, 1913, and end one event-filled year later. Sometimes confused, but curious about the strike, Emma gives her personal impressions of the dramatic, sometimes violent (the description of the violence is G-rated and suitable for children ages 8 and above) and tragic events of 1913. The young protagonist is deeply affected emotionally by the Italian Hall tragedy that cost the lives of 58 children and 15 adults -- crushed to death in the panic that ensued when someone yelled "Fire!" at a Christmas party given for the miners' families -- a tragedy immortalized in Woody Guthrie's famous song as well as in historical photographs, some of which are included in the book.

In this important year of Emma's life, she writes in her journal the story of how, because of the strike, she must take a full-time day job working for a wealthy shopkeeper's family in Laurium -- to pay her own family's rent for their company house -- and must attend night school for 7th and 8th grades. She also describes many details of everyday life for both adults and children -- keeping a garden and a cow in town, canning vegetables, making juustoa (Finnish cheese) and home-made ice cream, learning how to darn a sock, translating for Finnish speakers and more.

Relations between different immigrant groups among the miners are portrayed through Emma's friendship with Marie, whose family is French Canadian, Catholic and mistrustful of Finns and union members. Class prejudices are also seen through Emma's experiences with anti-union, anti-Finnish visitors to the (very kind and generous) shopkeeper's family.

Well known historical figures are woven in and out of the novel -- union heroines Big Annie and Mother Jones; James MacNaughton, general manager of the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company; James A. Cruse, Houghton County Sheriff at the time; Clarence Darrow, lawyer for the union; Michigan Governor Ferris and more. Historical photographs add to the realistic background of the story.

Frontiera's historical details are evidence of careful research. The book includes a bibliography of sources, historical notes, an index, an area map and even a glossary of Finnish words and phrases (including sisu!) with thanks to Jim Kurtti of the Finnish American Reporter.

Parents who enjoy reading to their children will find this book provides an opportunity to explore together an important period of local history and to share with their children an appreciation for the sacrifices and contributions of so many immigrants to the Copper Country.

Anyone interested in the history of this area will appreciate the historical photos of late 19th- and early 20th-century Copper Country life taken by the Finnish immigrant photographer J. W. Nara. In collaboration with Dr. Robert O. Nara, the photographer's grandson, Frontiera has selected some of the best of these photographs, most of which come from the Michigan Tech University Archives, in her Copper Country Chronicler: The Best of J. W. Nara.

J. W. Nara, born in Finland in 1874, came to Calumet, Michigan, about 1892 and set up a photography studio there. Frontiera gives a brief biography of this talented and successful photographer, who not only produced artistic portraits of people of the time, but also street scenes; miners, loggers and farmers at work and at play; various types of buildings of the Copper Boom era; and historic photos of the 1913 strike and the Italian Hall tragedy.

Frontiera organizes the book into categories that depict aspects of daily life -- from the way people dressed to their working conditions, their recreational activities and their means of transport. The author's brief commentaries for each chapter of the book offer insights into the social and economic conditions behind the photographs. Her captions add a personal touch as she imagines, sometimes with humor, what life was like for the people in the photos or who they might be.

Frontiera now lives in Houston, Texas, but spends summers in her native Lake Linden. Visit Deborah Frontiera's Web site to learn more about her books.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Stewards of Bete Grise Preserve to meet July 30

HOUGHTON -- Stewards of Bete Grise Preserve (SBGP) will meet at 4 p.m. on Thursday, July 30, at the UPPCO Building in Houghton. (Please note time change to 4 p.m.)

The main topic of the meeting will be planning the August 23 picnic at the Bete Grise Preserve, so bring your suggestions.

"The picnic will be a fun time to promote the Preserve, and we're delighted that a KBIC (Keweenaw Bay Indian Community) drumming group and tribal members will be joining us," said Anita Campbell, SBGP secretary.

Since the UPPCO building is currently under construction, it's a little complicated getting inside to hold the meeting, but Sue Haralson offers the following advice:

"The front door is locked due to construction on the 1st and 2nd floor. Instead of parking at the front door entrance, park on the upper road that has a covered canopy parking area. You'll notice a tunnel/walkway to the 3rd floor. The door is unlocked during construction for visitors. There are two parking slots next to the door for visitor parking, but use any of the parking slots. If anyone gets a parking ticket, they should give it to me. I'll be on hand to help guide the lost ones."

The meeting is open to new members. Even if you can't attend the meeting, remember to invite your friends to the picnic, which will begin at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 23, at the Bete Grise Preserve.

North Wind books to host two literary events July 30

HANCOCK -- Finlandia University ’s North Wind Books will host two events on Thursday, July 30.

Children's event

From 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., Finnish educator Kaisa Randolph, a Finnish national, will read several children’s books with Finnish themes and engage the children in an activity related to the books.

Refreshments will be served.

Talk, book signing by Joy Ibsen, author of Unafraid

Also on Thursday, from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., North Wind Books will host a presentation and book signing with writer, musician and lay minister Joy Ibsen, author of Unafraid.

Ibsen’s second book, Unafraid, features the sermon notes of her late father, Danish-American pastor Rev. Harald Ibsen. Each chapter of the book starts with one of his sermons, written between 1940 and 1960, followed by autobiographical and fictional accounts of parishioners’ thoughts and what may have been going on in their lives when they heard the sermons.

Ibsen is editor of the monthly periodical Church and Life, a publication of the Danish Interest Conference of the ELCA. She has published several articles in Church and Life and other magazines.

In 2006 she was awarded the prestigious Danish Heritage Preservation Award by Grand View College. Her first book, Songs of Denmark, was published in 2005; it was presented to Danish Royalty in March 2009.

Ibsen lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Refreshments will be served

North Wind Books is located at 437 Quincy St., downtown Hancock. For information, call 487-7217.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"Livin' is Easy" concert to benefit Omega House July 31

HANCOCK -- "The Livin' Is Easy III," a recital of mostly vocal easy listening music, will be presented at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, July 31, at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Hancock (1000 W. Quincy). A suggested donation of $5 will be received at the door. This is a benefit concert for Omega House in Houghton.

Most of the repertoire will be solos and duets from Broadway Musicals. Jazz artists include saxophonist Paul Keranen and the vocal-piano duo of Mark Oliver and David Bezotte. The Copper Country Chords -- Pete Manderfield, Bill Francis, Paul Frair and Dennis Barrette -- will perform several barbershop quartets including the recital’s theme song, "Summertime." Christine Seitz will sing three short art songs recently composed by her husband Paul Seitz.

A trio of MTU students will tootle their way through the WWII song "Bugle Boy." There will be one scene with four solos from Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance, a scene from the opera La Bohème, and the beautiful "Pie Jesus" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Requiem. Accompanists are Lynne Lanczy, Ruth Robertson and Ole Kristensen.

Local artists performing also will include Ann Campbell, Patricia Helsel, Barry Pegg and Kiersten Bergdahl-Birondo.

The public is cordially invited to attend this G-rated concert. No child care will be provided. Light refreshments will be served after the concert. Any remaining food will be returned to Omega House for use by the residents.

For more information, call Mary at Omega house 906-482-4438.

Omega House in Houghton offers a peaceful home with 24-hour care for people who are terminally ill. In cooperation with local hospice programs, Omega House provides residents with high-quality care and all the comforts of home. Visit the Omega House Web site for more information.

Keweenaw Now expresses sympathy ...

HANCOCK -- Keweenaw Now wishes to express our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of the victims of the recent fire in downtown Hancock. We wish also to thank the firefighters, first responders and others who courageously did their best to help survivors and prevent the fire from spreading to other buildings.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Portage Township to seek public comment on gravel mining in Pilgrim River watershed

HOUGHTON -- Portage Township will host a public meeting on permitting a gravel mining operation near a large beaver pond on Superior Road at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 28, at Houghton High School.

The pond is part of the watershed that feeds the Pilgrim River.

Residents have expressed concern that gravel mining (which reportedly includes dynamite blasting) by Thomas J. Moyle, Inc., is being done without a permit, despite the environmentally sensitive nature of the site -- a home to beavers as well as a breeding site for birds, including the Sandhill Crane.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Lahti applauds work to bring broadband to rural areas

LANSING -- State Representative Mike Lahti (D-Hancock) recently applauded efforts by the State Department of Information Technology (DIT) and Michigan Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to generate applications for federal funding to bring broadband and wireless Internet service to rural areas throughout the state.

"Today, broadband and wireless Internet access is less of a luxury and more of a necessity," Lahti said. "Our businesses and students depend on a high-speed connection to the world to ensure they can succeed in the 21st century economy."

The applications are the first in a three-part process to receive federal stimulus grants through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which made $7.2 billion available for competitive grants to improve broadband services. Of the funding, $4.7 billion will be awarded by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration for building broadband infrastructure, increasing public computer center capacity, funding sustainable broadband adoption programs and implementing detailed state broadband mapping.

The DIT is working with residents, businesses, local government, schools and libraries throughout the state on developing a proposal to bring a significant percentage of these funds to Michigan. The application process is highly detailed, and the deadline for submission is Aug. 14.

"Broadband accessibility is vital to our communities," Lahti said. "It helps our small-town businesses grow and compete with those in big cities. And it allows our students to have access to the same information as those in larger areas. I encourage our communities to speak out about how important this service is to the success and turnaround of our state."