A Michigan Senate bill would prohibit discrimination against students of public schools and universities who express religious viewpoints and would permit schools to establish "limited public forums" at school events when students could pray.
Under the proposed language, instructors would not be permitted to grade a student's work differently based on religious content, and schools could not prevent students from participating in religious activities on campus before or after classes. Schools also would not be able to limit access to facilities to religious organizations if the facilities are made available to the general public.
Students would also be guaranteed the right to wear clothing or jewelry with religious messages if similar items with non-religious messages are permitted under school policy.
For the full article, see Brian Smith, "'Religious freedom' bill would allow prayers at high school graduations, football games", MLive, December 11, 2013.
Michigan public universities contribute nearly $24 billion in spending and wages to the state’s economy, a report released Tuesday says.
The 15 universities account for more than 120,000 jobs and $23.9 billion in economic activity, according to the report from the Anderson Economic Group, commissioned by the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan. According to the report, 1.3 million alumni of the schools living in Michigan earned $47 billion in 2012.
Cited report : The Economic Footprint of Michigan's Public Universities
For the full article, see Shawn D. Lewis, "Michigan's public universities contribute $24B to state's economy, report says", Detroit News, December 11, 2013.
Media, guests and public and private partners were invited today (December 10) to Belle Isle by DNR officials and partner programs to give see some much of the much needed maintenance work being done to the island ahead of the February 10th opening of Belle Isle as at a state park run by the Michigan DNR.
For the full article, see Gus Burns, "Michigan DNR starts work on Detroit's Belle Isle; State takes full control Feb. 10", MLive, December 11, 2013.
Early on the morning of December 11, 1934, the Kerns Hotel in Lansing caught on fire. Seven Michigan legislators died in the fire, along with 25 other guests. The fire was the worst in Lansing's history, and one of 6 worst in USA history.
Source : Michigan Every Day.
Kerns Hotel Fire feature from the Capital Area District Library.
Excerpts from the New York Times, December 12, 1934.
Kerns Hotel Fire on YouTube.
On Dec. 11, 1929, Stout Airlines became the nation's first airline to carry 100,000 passengers. The company served the upper Great Lakes region, relying heavily on the Ford Trimotor "Tin Goose" airplanes. Here is some copy from a 1929 Stout timetable: "There is no monotony of travel on the Stout Airlines. The country over which you travel has been carefully studied and a route has been selected which is most entertaining. The countryside does not rush by at a furious pace but unrolls under your eyes calmly and splendidly. Constantly your attention is drawn from one unique view to another - a picturesque village, a glistening lake, a highway with tiny creeping automobiles, a passing plane or a great stretch of colorful woodlands." Stout was later absorbed by United Airlines.
Source : Joe Grimm, This Week in Michigan History, December 10, 2006, B.4,
Robert Henry Hendershot was twelve years old when he joined the 8th Michigan Infantry on August 19, 1862. However it was at the Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia, on December 11, 1862 that he became famous. Robert answered a call for volunteers and ran to help push the boats. He had just crossed the river when a shell fragment hit his drum and broke it into pieces. He quickly picked up a musket and began to fight. When he encountered a Confederate soldier, Robert was able to capture the man as a prisoner.
He soon became known as "the Drummer Boy of the Rappahannock" and a poem and a play were later written about his exploits. His status as a hero in the North allowed him to tour widely, putting on drumming performances and telling of his experiences.
For another account, see Donald C. Pfanz, Drummer Boy of the Rappahannock, The Free Lance-Star Publishing Co. of Fredericksburg, Virginia, USA.
Wikipedia entry, with bibliography or additional readings.
Michigan Remembers the Civil War from Seeking Michigan Photostream.
Richard Bak, "Michigan's Little Drummer Boys of the Civil War", Hour Detroit, December 2011.
Here’s the deal: right now, there’s a petition demanding reform to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (known by its acronym, ECPA), a would-be privacy law passed in 1986. The Justice Department has argued this outdated law gives them the right to read your old emails and the documents you store in the cloud with a simple subpoena, rather than a judge-issued warrant. That’s crazy—and unconstitutional—but we’ve got a chance to fix it. If we can get 100,000 signatures on this petition before December 12, President Obama will be forced to go on the record on this issue.
ECPA reform is within our reach. It’s got momentum in Congress and a ton of support from industry. And although this is a very different issue from NSA mass spying, the attention on over-reaching surveillance has brought new life to the debate. Now we just have to show there’s grassroots support for protecting the privacy of our documents and emails. Signing this petition is the first step.
Related Issues: Privacy
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Despite the U.S. Trade Representative's concerted efforts to push through a deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) will not be completed by the self-imposed deadline of the end of this year. That announcement, made in Singapore today at a closed press conference, is welcome: the U.S. Trade Representative's accelerated timeline has served as yet another means of restricting transparency, and a key pressure point in its campaign to get the U.S. Congress to abdicate its oversight role by granting "fast track authority." If you're in the U.S., you can contact your legislators and tell them to oppose that effort.
The closed press conference itself was representative of the needless secrecy surrounding the negotiation of this agreement. While the TPP ministers laid out the new timeline and opened the floor to questions, public interest groups were limited to the lobby of the building—not even allowed to stand in the back of the room and watch.
Of course, the announcement also comes just days after a leaked document showed major rifts in the positions of different countries and highlighted a number of substantive proposals where the United States has failed to secure international support for its stances. The TPP ministers announced "substantial progress" in the agreement, but no firm explanation of how the situation had changed since the release of those documents.
Without such an explanation, the public continues to rely on leaks to get important information about the agreement. And while they have been very helpful, leaks are no substitute for transparency. With both this most recent and earlier disclosures—such as the WikiLeaks publication last month of an entire draft proposal for the chapter titled "Intellectual Property"—the public gets just a snapshot, which may be out of date and incomplete.
There is one surefire way for negotiating countries to eliminate these leaks. They could simply release these documents, which are, after all, being negotiated in the public's name. Instead, the public has gotten glances only through the efforts of whistleblowers and groups like WikiLeaks. Even absent substantive complaints about the text—which are many—the completely opaque negotiation process is enough to strip the agreement of its legitimacy.
For the U.S. Trade Representative to ask for fast track authority against that backdrop is audacious, and for Congress to even consider it is irresponsible. Even without public text, the pushback against this agreement has been overwhelming. In just the past week we've seen Chilean legislators demanding their government provide more transparency to negotiations, Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz raise 12 "grave risks" presented by the leaked chapter, and even the Holy See take a stance against the policy-laundering associated with opaque multinational agreements.
Efforts to rush the agreement to completion despite those complaints are misguided at best, so it's a good thing that those efforts have stalled for the time being. But any reprieve is likely to be short, and in the new year negotiators are likely to ramp up the pressure.
The U.S. Trade Representative has been negotiating as if it already had fast track authority; our best hope in the U.S. of getting some oversight for this agreement is to ensure it doesn't get it. Contact your legislators today and tell them: no fast track authority for shady backroom deals.Related Issues: Free SpeechInternationalTrans-Pacific Partnership AgreementTransparency
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Commercial unmanned aerial systems are set to start flying over US airspace in 2015. In November the Federal Aviation Administration released its final privacy rules for the six drone “test sites” that the agency will use to evaluate how drones will be integrated into domestic air traffic. These new privacy requirements were issued just days after Senator Markey (D-MA) introduced a new bill, the Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act, intended to codify essential privacy and transparency requirements within the FAA's regulatory framework for domestic drones and drone test sites.
In 2012 Obama signed the Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act, which mandated that the FAA implement “test sites” to fly domestic drones before opening the door to nationwide regulations and licensing for commercial drone flying. 24 states have applied to be FAA drone test sites. While the FAA's rules do establish minimal transparency guidelines for the new drone test sites, the new rules apply only to the test sites and do not apply to the drones that are already authorized to fly.
While we appreciate the steps the FAA has taken so far, the agency could and should go further to require similar transparency from all drone operators. The FAA has already authorized almost 1,500 permits for domestic drones since 2007, but, despite our two Freedom of Information Act lawsuits for drone data, we still don’t know much about where these drones are flying and what data they are collecting.
It is especially important for the FAA to define basic data collection procedures for domestic drones because the technology enables a kind of surveillance not achievable by manned aerial or ground-based law enforcement or commercial entities. Some drones are capable of staying in the air for 16-24 hours at a time, much longer than a manned aircraft ever could. Drones can fly altitudes above 20,000 feet with super high resolution cameras and can monitor and track many people at once or intercept phone calls and text messages. Drones also cost far less to purchase, operate and maintain than helicopters and planes.
A number of drone bills have been introduced in Congress over the last two years, but Senator Markey's proposed legislation is demanding of both the FAA and drone operators when it comes to protecting the constitutional rights of Americans. The Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act calls for the FAA to institute and enforce guidelines for all licensed domestic drone flights—not just test sites—that include clear data minimization procedures, as well as transparency rules that require drone test site operators to disclose their data collection practices and how drone operators use, retain, and share all collected data.
Markey's bill requires the FAA to create a publicly searchable database of all awarded drone operator licenses, the logistical details of their operation, and each drone operator's data collection and minimization statement. Creating a database like this is within the FAA’s purview. The agency already runs other databases about aircrafts in national airspace, listing who is in the air, accident reports, and safety information.
Law enforcement agencies across the country are already flying drones without set national privacy guidelines in place. But at this point our most successful tactic for learning more about drones has been to sue for access to information. The American public shouldn't have to submit a FOIA request just to know if drones are overhead. Senator Markey’s bill is a strong start to what needs to be an ongoing conversation about the future of American privacy standards in light of the coming age of domestic drones. We need more lawmakers to speak up for greater transparency and accountability of both government and commercial operation of drones in our national airspace.
Until there are laws in place that mandate transparency, we encourage you to submit requests to your local law enforcement agency and city council to learn more about drone flights in your area. We've partnered with MuckRock, an open government organization dedicated to helping people send requests for public records, to campaign for greater transparency about drones that are already flying in the United States. If you're wondering what your own police agency may be doing with drones, go here and fill out this simple form so MuckRock can send in a public records request for you.
Related Issues: PrivacySurveillance DronesTransparencyRelated Cases: Drone Flights in the U.S.
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