See our right-hand column for announcements and news briefs. Scroll down the right-hand column to access the Archives -- links to articles posted in the main column since 2007.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

House passes legislation to freeze Medicare premiums for 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation to freeze Medicare Part B premiums for 2010 to ensure Medicare remains affordable for seniors and disabled Americans. U.S. Congressman Bart Stupak co-sponsored H.R. 3631, the Medicare Premium Fairness Act, which recently passed the House 406 to 18 with strong bipartisan support.

"This bill is about fairness and it ensures that all seniors and disabled citizens are treated equally under the Medicare Part B program," Stupak said. "Given the current state of our economy, this is not the time to be raising Medicare premiums while Social Security checks remain stagnant. Allowing the premium increase to occur would have further burdened Medicare recipients and cash-strapped states at a time when neither can afford it."

Due to the current state of the economy and an inflation rate of zero percent, Social Security recipients are not expected to see a cost of living adjustment (COLA) in 2010, the first time no increase has occurred since automatic COLAs were implemented in 1975. Medicare Part B premiums cover physician and outpatient care and are deducted from Social Security checks. Under current law, Part B premiums cannot increase more than the Social Security cost of living adjustment for 73 percent of Medicare enrollees. Without congressional action, the other 27 percent of Medicare Part B enrollees would have seen their premiums increase to $110-$120 a month because Part B premiums are required to cover 25 percent of Medicare Part B costs.

H.R. 3631 freezes all Medicare enrollees’ premiums, ensuring that 2010 Part B premiums will remain at the current level and seniors will not see a decrease in their Social Security checks.

Prior to the bill passing, 4 million new enrollees and retirees, as well as state budgets which cover premiums for 7 million low-income seniors, were facing a 20 percent increase in Part B premiums. Those potentially impacted by the increase included low-income individuals eligible for Medicare and Medicaid, higher income beneficiaries and beneficiaries whose Medicare premiums are not deducted from their Social Security checks.

The bill is fully paid for by using money from the Medicare Improvement Fund established to make improvements to Medicare Part A and B benefits.

Audio from the Congressman about H.R. 3631 can be found at

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Volunteers needed for National Public Lands Day Sept. 26

CALUMET -- National Public Lands Day is the nation’s largest hands-on volunteer effort to improve and enhance the public lands Americans enjoy. In 2008, 120,000 volunteers built trails and bridges, removed trash and invasive plants and planted over 1.6 million trees.

Join volunteers and park staff at Keweenaw National Historical Park at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 26, as they clear vegetation, remove exotic plants and clean the former Calumet and Hecla pattern storage warehouse. The goal is to make the building more accessible to the community and park visitors during guided tours of the industrial area.

All volunteers and participants will receive a free lunch and have free tours of Coppertown Mining Museum. Everyone will also get a sneak peak of the Ken Burns film, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea premiering on PBS on Sunday, Sept. 27. The day also includes special children’s activities.

Meet at the Keweenaw National Historical Park headquarters building located at 25970 Red Jacket Road in Calumet. Advance registration is required. Please call park headquarters at 906-337-3168 for further information, and join the activities for the 16th annual National Public Lands Day.

Preview of PBS film series on National Parks to be shown Sept. 26 at MTU

HOUGHTON -- The Isle Royale Institute and Isle Royale National Park will show a preview and host a discussion of the upcoming PBS series, The National Parks: America's Best Idea, at 1:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 26, in Hesterberg Hall Auditorium, Noblet (Forestry) G002. The public is welcome. Admission is free.

The film, a six-episode series directed by Ken Burns, premieres on Sunday, Sept. 27, on local and national PBS stations.

For more information, contact Ken Vrana, Isle Royale Institute, at 487-4335, or Liz Valencia, Isle Royale National Park, at 482-0984.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Stupak to hold town hall meeting Sept. 26 in Negaunee

WASHINGTON, D. C. -- U. S. Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Menominee) will host a town hall meeting from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. (EDT) on Saturday, Sept. 26, at the Negaunee Memorial Gym in Negaunee. The meeting is open to the public and will provide an opportunity for constituents to ask Stupak questions on a range of issues, including health care and the economy. Stupak will also provide an update on his work in Congress.

The Negaunee Memorial Gym is located in Lakeview Elementary School at 200 Croix Street, Negaunee, Mich.

"This is an opportunity to speak with constituents, answer their questions and address their concerns about the critical issues currently impacting Northern Michigan," Stupak said. "I look forward to engaging in a respectful, civil dialogue on a broad range of issues. The concerns, ideas and feedback I receive from constituents -- whether through town hall meetings, letters, emails, telephone calls or personal appearances -- are valuable to me personally and to my work in Congress."

Out of respect for all those wishing to attend the town hall meeting, only credentialed media will be permitted to record the event. Signs, banners and posters will not be allowed inside the school.

Congressman Stupak will also hold his third telephone town hall meeting at 6 p.m. EDT / 5 p.m. CDT on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2009.

Constituents in the First Congressional District who wish to participate in telephone town hall meeting can sign up or receive additional information by visiting and selecting "E-mail and Telephone Town Hall Sign-Up" or by calling Congressman Stupak’s office at 1-800-950-7371.

Audio from the Congressman inviting constituents to participate in the town hall meeting can be found at

Stupak votes to extend unemployment benefits: House passes bill

WASHINGTON, D. C. -- The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation Tuesday, Sept. 22, to provide up to 13 additional weeks of unemployment insurance benefits to workers in high unemployment states who are about to run out of benefits. U.S. Congressman Bart Stupak voted in favor of H.R. 3548, the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act, which passed the House 331 to 83.

"With 4,602 people in the First District scheduled to run out of unemployment insurance benefits by the end of the year, this bill is critical to providing much-needed relief to those who are out of work as they continue to try and find jobs," Stupak said. "We have taken some important steps toward putting our economy back on track and we are starting to see some successes in Northern Michigan and across the nation. But this extension will help ensure Michigan workers can provide for their families until the economic stimulus fully takes effect."

H.R. 3548 targets the unemployment benefit extension to those states with a three-month average total unemployment rate at or above 8.5 percent or a 13-week insured unemployment rate of above 6 percent. Michigan’s current three-month average rate is at 15.2 percent. Workers in Michigan will be eligible for an additional 13 weeks of insurance.

This legislation serves a dual role of providing critical unemployment benefits, while also helping to stimulate the local economy. A recent study found that every dollar spent on unemployment benefits generates $1.63 in new economic demand.

H.R. 3548 extends a current federal unemployment tax for an additional year. It also requires better reporting on newly hired employees to reduce unemployment insurance overpayments.

"The people who benefit most from this bill are those who have been hardest hit by our current economic downturn," Stupak said. "I will keep fighting for families in Northern Michigan as we continue work to turn this economy around."

Tom Szaky, founder of TerraCycle, to speak at Rozsa Sept. 24

HOUGHTON -- "King of Trash," Tom Szaky, will give a free lecture at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 24, at the Rozsa Center. Szaky will speak on how he turned trash into cash by creating a hugely successful eco-friendly business.

Tom Szaky, "King of Trash," and his eco-friendly business, TerraCycle. (Photo courtesy Rozsa Center)

In 2001, as a 19-year-old freshman at Princeton University, Szaky co-founded TerraCycle, Inc., a 100% "green" company that recycles garbage into worm poop, liquefies it, then packages it in used soda bottles, creating TerraCycle Plant Food.

Less than five years later, this all-natural, highly effective fertilizer was available in every Home Depot, Target, Wal-Mart, and more than 3,000 other locations. From his inner city headquarters in Trenton, N.J., the company has now grown to three large facilities manufacturing here in North America more than 50 consumer products -- including garbage cans made from crushed computers, hand bags made from energy bar wrappers and juice pouches, and the most eco-friendly binders and pencils. Their business plan is simple: recycle stuff that people either don't value or, in many cases, give a negative value to, into usable products. The result is a brand that has been called the most eco-friendly in America -- all while holding true to three simple brand principles: Better, Greener, and most importantly, Cheaper.

"If you buy an organic banana," says Szaky, "you're going to pay twice as much for it. We have an organic product that's both better and cheaper than the conventional product."

Szaky’s lecture, titled the same as his book "Revolution in a Bottle," covers his thrilling, and timely, entrepreneurial success story. Tom’s dream was to find a new, more responsible way of doing business that would be good for the planet, good for people and good for the bottom line! TerraCycle has won many awards and accolades for its environmentally responsible business model from Inc. Magazine, Red Herring, The Home Depot, The Environmental Business Journal, The Social Venture Network, Zerofootprint and many other highly regarded organizations.

TerraCycle has exclusive partnerships with major CPG companies such as Kraft Foods, Frito Lay (Pepsi), Stonyfield Farm, Mars Wrigley and many more. The partnerships create free collection programs that pay schools and non-profits nationwide to collect used packaging such as drink pouches, energy bar wrappers, yogurt cups, cookie wrappers, chip bags and more! The collected materials are upcycled into affordable, high quality products ranging from tote bags and purses to shower curtains and kites. In addition, TerraCycle works with these partners to find innovative uses for all of their waste streams and, by making products from these various waste streams, TerraCycle prevents thousands of tons of waste from going into landfills.

Szaky’s lecture will be followed by an audience-driven question and answer session. For more information on TerraCycle, Inc., please visit

This lecture is co-sponsored by CenTILE, Michigan Tech School of Business and Economics, Committee for Campus Enrichment (CCE), and the Van Evera Distinguished Lecture Series Endowment.

This lecture is free and open to the public. For more information contact the Rozsa Box Office at 487-3200.

Family Adventure Day to offer hikes in nature sanctuaries Sept. 26

Families are invited to hike some of the walking trails described in this new guidebook during Family Adventure Day Saturday, Sept. 26. Drawings will be held for free copies of the book. (Photo courtesy Joan Chadde, Western U.P. Center for Science, Mathematics and Environmental Education)

HOUGHTON -- Family Adventure Day in the Keweenaw will offer nature hikes and activities between Noon and 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 26.

Families are encouraged to get outside and experience nature by hiking one of the following family-friendly trails featured in the new guidebook, Walking Paths and Protected Areas of the Keweenaw:
  • Paavola Wetlands (Keweenaw Land Trust)
  • Redwyn’s Dunes (Michigan Nature Association)
  • Brockway Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary (Copper Country Audubon Club)
  • Hunter’s Point Park (Grant Township)
  • Estivant Pines (Michigan Nature Association)*
The Western U.P. Center for Science, Mathematics and Environmental Education is partnering with the Michigan Nature Association, Keweenaw Land Trust, Grant Township and Copper Country Audubon to provide a wide variety of activities geared to families at five nature sanctuaries in the Keweenaw.

Sanctuary stewards will be at each of the five trailheads to greet families and provide trail maps and sanctuary information. Michigan Tech students and Center staff will be on hand to conduct hands-on science activities at each sanctuary. These include In Search of Wildlife, Wetland Critter Sampling, Edible Plants, Find the Biggest White Pine, Your Special Rock and more!

At each location, families may put their names into a drawing for a FREE copy of the new guidebook, Walking Paths and Protected Areas of the Keweenaw. There will be a drawing for TWO BOOKS at each site (books will be mailed to winners).

Saturday’s event will launch Family Adventures, a year-long program that will offer monthly naturalist-led hikes for families, in addition to a variety of programming conducted by the partnering organizations. To get on the Family list-serv to be alerted to dates and activities, contact Michelle Miller at

This event is partially funded by the Kinship Foundation and the respective organizations.

*Click here for the flyer with descriptions of each of the nature sanctuaries and directions on how to get to each one.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Video clip: Boliviamanta at Parade of Nations

HOUGHTON -- Boliviamanta, featured performers from Madison, Wis., were a big hit in the 20th Annual Parade of Nations on Sept. 19. Here is one of our video clips of their contribution to the "Dancing with Diversity" theme.

Dancers from Boliviamanta, this year's featured visiting featured performers at the 20th Annual Parade of Nations, cross the Portage Lift Bridge during the parade from Hancock to Houghton on Sept. 19.

Watch for more videos and photos in our article, coming soon ...