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, December 24, 2011

Videos: Noteworthy women's chorus in Calumet

CALUMET -- The Noteworthy women's chorus braved a chilly Dec. 2 First Friday in Calumet to offer their voices in song in several locations, beginning with the tree lighting ceremony near the Calumet Theatre ...

At the Main Street Calumet tree lighting on Dec. 2, 2011, members of the Noteworthy women's chorus join Bob Norden and fellow musicians in singing a Christmas favorite. (Video clips by Keweenaw Now)

Noteworthy singers entertain visitors to the Copper Country Associated Artists Gallery in Calumet during First Friday festivities on Dec. 2, 2011.

Editor's Note: Watch for a slide show with photos of Calumet events, coming soon ...

Happy holidays from Keweenaw Now!

Keweenaw Now wishes all our readers, contributors and supporters a very peaceful, safe and joyful holiday season!

This year we have tried to connect you with important issues and events -- not just in the Keweenaw, but also beyond, thanks to our guest reporters and our links on Twitter.

We welcome your letters and comments. Tell us what you like / don't like about our postings and offer us suggestions of what you'd like to see in 2012.

We wish you all a very happy and healthy New Year!

Keweenaw Now photo: "Paloma de la paz," by Gustavo Bourdieu.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Letter: Give Earth a break

Editor's Note: This letter is a comment on our Dec. 16, 2011, article, "Dems turn out for Congressional Candidate Gary McDowell at fundraiser in Hancock."

IRON COUNTY, Mich. -- I’m sure Gary McDowell is a fine person but I feel he is a fence walker.

Asked about whether he agreed with the platform of the League of Conservation Voters, McDowell said he believes in a proper balance between economic opportunities and environmental protection.

"It's not either or," he said. "We have to protect the environment. We can do it. We've done it in the past and we have to continue to do that."

We have not protected our environment in the past. Yes, laws were passed, but the laws were written to let potential polluters legally pollute. The cumulative effects of the pollution are showing ever increasing signs of negative health effects. The dangers are more prevalent today with the mining and possible nuclear dump sites.

So, it is a matter of "either or." It’s time to give the Earth a break. Governments and politicians have catered to industry for at least a century. The dream of prosperity has denigrated our lives.

As stated in the article:

Toward the end of his talk, Gary McDowell answers a question on the Rio Tinto / Kennecott Eagle Mine, noting the importance of funding the Department of Environmental Quality to see that it's done right.

Well, can’t argue that but I would like to elaborate.

I called McDowell’s office with concerns others and I had with the Eagle Mine. He and nine other State Representatives were sent an e-mail detailing how the DEQ ignored enforcing the law, Part 632. As you may or may not know, the Eagle Project is proceeding full speed ahead. All the money in the world does not mean things will be done right if the law is not enforced.

If Mr. McDowell wins he can say all he wants about the DEQ. He will be in the Federal Government and will not have any control over the DEQ. McDowell had his chance as a State Representative.

I realize politicians need to say things in ambiguous appealing ways to get votes or stay in office. It’s the voters who should hold the politicians responsible.

I guess we need to ask ourselves if we are satisfied with "either or." Maybe we need to change the dream. Change the dream or at least have a common definition of the word prosperity in which the health of the Earth is foremost. With a healthy Earth all the rest will fall into place.

Rich Sloat
Iron County, Mich.

Dance to Backroom Boys' live music TONIGHT at Little Gem in Lake Linden

LAKE LINDEN -- Keweenaw Social Dance will host a second dance with music by the Backroom Boys TONIGHT, Friday, Dec. 23, at the Little Gem in Lake Linden.

The Backroom Boys -- Oren Tikkanen on banjo, John Munson on clarinet and Bob Norden on trombone -- possibly joined by other musicians, will again play dance music for a social dance at the Little Gem Theater in Lake Linden TONIGHT, Friday, Dec. 23. Dance lessons are at 6 p.m. and dancing begins at 7:30 p.m. (Photo courtesy Oren Tikkanen)

Dance lessons -- blues, swing, and slow dance with Chuck Hill -- are at 6 p.m., followed by dancing to the Backroom Boys at 7:30 p.m. Cover is $5 and BYOB welcomed. The Little Gem is a great venue for dancing and listening in the old school building across from the high school on the main street in Lake Linden.

International Folk Dancers are canceling tonight's folk dancing to attend this social dance in Lake Linden.

Remember 1/4 of the proceeds are going towards fixing up the Little Gem Theater; and, if you're interested in contributing, make sure to ask about how you can sponsor a seat that will bear your name forever!

Contact Chuck Hill for more information by emailing or call (906) 370.9532.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Public Notice: Pilgrim River Watershed Advisory Council

Please consider serving on the Pilgrim River Watershed Advisory Council during January - April, 2012.

Project Background

The Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District (HKCD) received a Michigan Coastal Zone Management/DEQ/NOAA grant to prepare a Pilgrim River Watershed Management Plan. A Watershed Management Plan includes a fact-based assessment of water quality, the fishery, habitats, land uses, road and stream crossings, any impairments and other factors impacting water quality of the river and surrounding land. This factual information along with community input is used to develop a plan with voluntary recommendations to help the community understand and manage a healthy watershed.

A Pilgrim River Watershed Advisory Council is being established to gather public input.

Pilgrim River Watershed Advisory Council

Residents, landowners, government officials, businesses, commercial interests, community organizations, recreational users, and concerned citizens are invited to serve on the Pilgrim River Watershed Advisory Council. Council members will schedule three or four public meetings during January-April, 2012, lasting one to two hours each, to review and discuss information collected on the Pilgrim River and surrounding lands. All interested people are welcome to participate.

Please contact Sue Haralson, HKCD Administrator, at 906-482-0214 or by email at if you have questions or would like to serve on the Pilgrim River Watershed Advisory Council. The Council will be established in early January, 2012, so please call Sue as soon as possible. Thank you for your interest!

Happy Holidays from the Pilgrim River Watershed Management Plan project team!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Stabenow: Bipartisan legislation to extend middle class tax cut rejected by House as deadline looms

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow today made the following statement after House Republicans rejected Senate legislation, which passed with an overwhelming bipartisan majority of 89-10 over the weekend, to extend a critical tax cut for middle-class families. Unless Congress acts before the end of this month, a two-percent payroll tax cut for middle-class families will expire at the end of the year, and families will see an average tax hike of approximately one thousand dollars.

"I am deeply disappointed that House Republicans have rejected a bipartisan plan to extend a critical tax cut for middle-class families. The vast majority of Americans simply cannot afford to get hit with a tax hike starting January 1st. An overwhelming number of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate came together to prevent this tax hike, but unfortunately House Republicans continue to play politics."

Senate Democrats first proposed a one-year payroll tax cut extension earlier this year -- which also would have expanded the payroll tax to give the average middle class family in Michigan an additional $400 tax cut (for a total of about $1400), and also cut payroll taxes for small businesses -- paid for by a 3.25 percent surtax on income in excess of one million dollars. Republicans rejected that.

Senate Republicans then put forward their own plan paid for by a variety of spending cuts and fees, including increasing Medicare costs for seniors -- BUT A MAJORITY OF REPUBLICANS rejected their own party’s plan.

Democrats then offered a compromise one-year extension by dropping a tax cut for businesses, but keeping the expanded payroll tax cut for middle-class families, paid for with a mix of Republican proposals as well as a 1.9 percent millionaire surcharge. Republicans rejected that.

Finally, Senate Democrats agreed to drop any surcharge on millionaires whatsoever, reaching a bipartisan compromise with Republicans on a two-month extension funded by increasing the fees that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac charge mortgage lenders. A two-month extension was all that could be negotiated with Senate Republicans, but that extension at least keeps middle-class families from being hit with a tax increase while negotiations continue on a longer term tax cut. That bill passed 89-10.

House Republicans have now rejected the Senate’s bipartisan compromise to extend the payroll tax cut. The House instead voted to create yet another committee to further negotiate this issue while the clock ticks toward a $1,000 tax increase on the middle-class January 1st.

Editor's note: According to an email from U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California), it was Tea Party Republicans who blocked a bipartisan bill to extend President Obama’s payroll tax cut.

"Now, middle class Americans could see their taxes increase by $1,000 on January 1st unless Speaker Boehner, Eric Cantor and House Republicans back down from their extreme stance," Pelosi said.

Click here to see House Floor activities for Dec. 20, 2011 and click on Roll No. 946 to see how your Congressman voted.

Opinion: Thoughts on Kennecott tactics

By Jack Parker*

1. In the permitting process since February 2006 Kennecott has simply denied all wrongdoing, including fraud and endangerment of life, limb, property and environment, but without bothering to show that our evidence was incorrect.
2. In that stance they were backed by Rio Tinto and enabled by MDEQ, consistently.
3. With the help of MDEQ they were granted permits, not following Part 632 of Michigan Mining Law; and they have forged ahead with mine construction, illegally, with supreme confidence and arrogance.
4. It would seem that they had been guaranteed that all permits would be issued, without a shadow of a doubt.
5. The Courts have consistently backed Kennecott, as if they too were in on a conspiracy. Even the Michigan Attorney General, Bill Schuette, declined to investigate and prosecute, which is his job.
6. The general public is not well informed because the media are controlled by the business interests.
7. The Feds do not intervene because permitting is under State Law. MSHA is now on the scene because part of the operation is now underground. That may give us some fresh professional leverage on the fraudulent mine design issue -- the design is such that collapse is predicted.**
8. So it seems that Kennecott is pushing toward a fait accompli -- a "done deal" -- for which a reversal of all permits would be politically and publicly difficult.
9. What comes to mind now is that Kennecott, with help from MDEQ, may be blustering mildly and continuing with construction for just a few more months -- at which time the Michigan Statutes of Limitation (6 years for fraud) will have run out, leaving them free to do as they please.
10. Under a different heading, "Judgment," the limit is 10 years, renewable for a further 10 years.
11. Do you suppose that their plan is to run down the clock?
12. Will we prevent that happening? Tempus fugit

Editor's Notes:
Keweenaw Now guest writer Jack Parker of Baltic, semi-retired mining engineer / geologist, specializes in practical rock mechanics.

** Jack Parker has published two reports on the instability of Rio Tinto-Kennecott's Eagle Mine. See our Dec. 6, 2010, article, "Mining expert Jack Parker says Eagle Mine likely to collapse."

Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club to meet Dec. 21

HANCOCK -- Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club (KNSC) will hold their monthly meeting at 7 p.m. this Wednesday, Dec. 21, at the Hancock Chalet (Houghton County Fairgrounds, Driving Park). All are welcome. Questions: email or call 906-487-5411.

Monday, December 19, 2011

President Obama signs battery legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- President Obama has signed legislation enacting a key part of U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow’s Battery Innovation Act to spur the development of new cutting-edge battery technology and create jobs here in America. The provision enacted would create an Energy Innovation Hub for advanced batteries to help continue the expansion of this growing new technology sector.

An Energy Innovation Hub for advanced batteries would bring together businesses, universities, and nonprofits in a central location to work together on new battery technologies. Similar hubs already exist to spur the development of other energy efficient products and to improve nuclear reactor design. Doing the same for advanced batteries will spur innovation in one of Michigan’s key new economic sectors.

"It is essential that Michigan lead in advanced battery research and production," said Sen. Stabenow. "Advanced battery companies are taking root in Michigan and creating jobs, and we must do everything in our power to help Michigan become the advanced battery capital of the world. If leading researchers in business, universities, and other institutions combine forces, we can make Michigan a magnet for investment in these cutting edge technologies."

Stabenow’s Battery Innovation Act is the first comprehensive plan offering Michigan companies the support they need to expand advanced battery production and job growth and ensure that America wins the race in the development of new advanced energy technologies. The Act incorporates all aspects of advanced battery production, from research and development, to the availability of raw materials, to the manufacturing of these high-tech products. The Act builds off initiatives Senator Stabenow championed in 2009, which helped Michigan become a leader in this new and growing industry. It is estimated that initiative has generated over $2 billion in private sector investment and created thousands of Michigan jobs.

The House of Representatives passed the legislation which will create an advanced battery hub, last week. The Senate passed and the president signed the bill on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011.