The Detroit News. July 7, 2016
Prohibit guns on drones, protect privacy.
Flying guns might not be something you worried about on the way to work today, but lawmakers have introduced a bill in the Michigan House to make sure you never have to.
The legislation, introduced in June, would outlaw drones with guns or other weapons attached. It's a good idea, even if problems with such concoctions haven't yet occurred.
It also raises the issue of other measures the state should take to address privacy and safety concerns still outstanding in the legal framework around drone technology.
Clearly, attaching weapons to small flying devices shouldn't be legal, regardless of whether the owner possesses a license to carry his or her weapon. Just as it's illegal to attach weapons to unmanned booby traps, flying firearms should be reserved for military and law enforcement use only.
But Michigan's laws surrounding other uses for drones are also still too vague.
The Federal Aviation Authority had registered almost 400,000 drones between January, when it first launched its online registration system, and March of this year.
As sales and personal use of drones continue to increase, legislation should keep up.
Right now, Michigan's laws specifically on drone use pertain only to hunting.
Users are prohibited from using a drone to interfere with or harass an individual who is hunting, and drones aren't allowed to take game.
But there's no statute to prohibit drones from unlawful surveillance of people or property.
Michigan's unlawful surveillance statute, part of the state's penal code, doesn't adequately cover drone operations. It's questionable whether the present language would hold up in court against drone operators who might have trespassed on property, or who might have eavesdropped.
Language should be added to that code to clarify that drones can't violate otherwise established privacy rights, or separate legislation should be considered to specifically address the issue.
Legislation has been introduced in the Senate that would clarify property's owners rights to airspace directly above their actual property, to the point where it conflicts with federal law, which has general jurisdiction over most airspace throughout the country. That would mean other property owners must grant permission before a drone user could enter their airspace.
That bill, too, would help address some of these outstanding issues.
The FAA recently issued guidelines for the operation of drones, and that should help clear up some of the technical questions surrounding their use.
But the guidelines don't address privacy concerns or other potential criminal activity.
The majority of states throughout the country have issued some form of law on drone use, and several — including at least California, Arkansas, Mississippi, Utah and Florida — have laws pertaining to privacy and voyeurism.
Detroit Free Press. July 8, 2016
Police shootings of black men: Haven't we seen enough?.
When they buried Emmett Till in 1955, his mother, Mamie, wanted to be sure America could see her son's battered face and head, the crushed bone and deep bruises inflicted by two Mississippi men who ravaged the life out of him.
So she chose a casket with a glass top. If you could bring yourself to look inside, you couldn't look away. And you couldn't look past what the image said about the nation in which Till lived, where black men and boys could quickly be hung from trees or beaten to death for the slightest indiscretion, or for no reason at all.
Mamie Till knew the image of her son in that casket, published in newspapers and magazines across the country, would be a call to an American reckoning, and to action.
Now, we face our own call to collective will to stop the gruesome pattern of brutal police killings of African American men, women and children.
And we have our own horrific visuals that ought to make it impossible for us to look away.
This week, we watched the recorded video of police officers in Baton Rouge, La., shooting and killing Alton Sterling while he lay on his back. We saw the blood spread across the shirt he was wearing, we watched his hands and arms quiver as the officer fired one shot after another into his chest. And we watched him die, in agony, the result of an encounter with police over CDs he was selling outside a store.
Cell phone video, captured by an eyewitness, shows two Baton Rouge police officers shooting Alton Sterling. This video is extremely graphic and viewer discretion is advised.
And then we watched Philando Castile suffer and die after a police officer in Minnesota shot him, again without apparent provocation, during a traffic stop for a broken taillight.
Friday morning brought more horror, as snipers in Dallas killed five police officers during a protest over the Sterling and Castile incidents - a wildly inappropriate furthering of the cycle of violence, and a despicable act that mirrors, rather than challenges, disrespect for life. Madness can only spiral into more madness, not clarity or justice.
But the callback, from Sterling and Castile in 2016 to Till in 1955, is evocative, and haunting.
And the linkage — between the era of lynching and the era of recorded police killings of African Americans — is growing more evident, and more disturbing, with each passing incident.
This era demands no less vigilance. Our willingness to face it, or not, will define this nation's humanity for decades to come.
Petoskey News-Review. July 7, 2016
We can do more to educate about sexual conduct and consent.
Many of us will agree — sexual assault is one of society's worst crimes.
So awful is it, maybe we don't talk about it enough.
The nation was reminded of this in early June when former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner, 20, was sentenced by a California judge to spend six months in county jail, serve three years of probation and register as a sex offender after a jury in March found him guilty of three felony sexual assault-related charges.
Turner was convicted of the crimes for sexually assaulting a 23-year-old woman who was visiting the school's campus and had been drinking at a fraternity party there. Witnesses told authorities they saw Turner on top of an unconscious woman behind a dumpster and intervened.
The backlash spread far and wide, much of it focused on the judge who was criticized for not imposing a more severe sentence that included a state prison term.
Two weeks later, an eerily similar case was prosecuted in Northern Michigan's Otsego County where another 20-year-old and former high school athletic star Bradley Kussrow, now a Petoskey resident, had been accused of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old girl at a party earlier this year. Because Kussrow's father is a retired Gaylord City Police detective, the state attorney general's office was asked to appoint a special prosecutor to the case, which became Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney Allen Telgenhof's role.
Much like the California judge, Telgenhof was presented with an opportunity to make an example of a young man who was accused of victimizing an intoxicated young woman.
Telgenhof, like the judge, chose not to push for the heaviest penalties, which in the Otsego County case would have included a lifetime requirement that Kussrow register as a sex offender. Instead, Kussrow entered into a plea agreement offered by prosecutors in which he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of felony unlawful imprisonment and was ordered to spend six months in county jail, serve three years probation and not to contact the victim personally, on social media, or through a third party.
The prosecutor has taken plenty of criticism in online postings and comments regarding the story, which was covered by the News-Review last month. In a recent interview, Telgenhof said he doesn't expect everyone to agree and understands the point of view of those who are critical of his decision.
Telgenhof said he was initially against offering any plea deal that didn't require Kussrow to register as a sex offender, but eventually backed off that stance as the victim and her family made it clear they didn't want to relive the experience during court proceedings.
We don't intend to defend Telgenhof's choice and we understand the arguments made by his critics, but consider what he says next as action we all can take to prevent more attacks of this type from occurring.
"We have a lot of boys and girls out there who don't really know what consent is," Telgenhof said. "I think it's a huge issue and we need to talk about it."
Telgenhof notes that there are sexual predators and violent criminals and then there are people who make terrible decisions that victimize others. In Kussrow's case, he was determined by experts to present a low risk for committing such an offense again in the future. Telgenhof said that factored into his decision when the plea deal was offered.
We're not here to say whether either of the perpetrators in the aforementioned cases fall specifically into one of those categories, but rather that maybe more can be done to prevent the latter from happening before it does.
Telgenhof, who is also a former baseball coach at Charlevoix High School, says he routinely looks for opportunities to talk with young people about proper sexual conduct and what consent is. Do teens and young adults know? It might be clear to you, but maybe not to others, Telgenhof said. And how can we expect them to know just how devastating their actions can be without educating them?
"It's not going until she says stop," the prosecutor said. "If there's that perception out there that we can get girls drunk and do what we want..."
Maybe Telgenhof is right and a good chunk of the responsibility falls on us (parents, educators, police, other community leaders) to better educate children and young adults.
Last year, Telgenhof said he contacted administrators at each of Charlevoix County's high schools proposing to meet with students on sexual conduct issues. As part of that, he hoped to show a version of "The Hunting Ground," a 2015 documentary about sexual assault on college campuses, that is geared specifically to a high school audience. Telgenhof said there was some interest, but none of the schools went so far as to schedule him in.
"I'm frustrated," he said.
In a time where young people are in constant contact and communication over the internet and social media, the stakes have never been higher. With this in mind, are there ways we can promote more awareness and openness on the topic of sexual conduct, consent and sexual assault?
If these cases are any evidence, it seems so.
Lansing State Journal. July 6, 2016
Skilled trades good for youth.
Not everyone can or should pursue a four-year college education.
There are many avenues to securing stable and lucrative employment. The nine recent high school graduates in AIS Construction's Summer Technician Entrance Program (STEP) are shining examples of taking an alternate post-secondary education path.
The nine-week program offers housing and $12 an hour for those who think they might be cut out for the heavy equipment industry, and a job offer awaits those who prove themselves - with the potential to earn $44,000 to $60,000 for those who stick with it.
The shortage of skilled trade workers and alternatives to college are being discussed more frequently in the legislature and at all levels of government. To see how it is already being addressed in Greater Lansing demonstrates forward-thinking and should be a point of pride.
The Lansing Pathway Promise - a three-track approach that allows students to select schools based on a possible career pathway from Pre-K through graduation - will recognize the value of skilled trades as a career path early in a child's education.
Along with general education, students in Lansing will soon be able to choose manufacturing and technology training with industry partners over the traditional classroom college prep coursework.
In 2014, President Obama said that despite a bad reputation likely caused by a generation of outsourcing, skilled trades workers have just as much earning potential for young people and are just as necessary to society as jobs you obtain through a four year degree program. A Washington Post article noted that many people with four year degrees were switching to skilled trades and making more money.
Examples like STEP, the Lansing Pathway promise and industry-specific talent development programs show that not only are there many ways to choose a career path, but there are many ways to make a good living.
Having options is the most important advantage to be offered to youth; Greater Lansing businesses and schools taking part in these programs put students here ahead of the curve.
These programs should be expanded and others should be developed, in skilled-trades and other industries, to ensure every young person has the options necessary to realize their potential.