Latest Michigan news, sports, business and entertainment at 9:20 p.m. EST

VIRUS OUTBREAK-NURSING HOME DEATHS

State disputes report showing 42% more long-term care deaths

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration is disputing the methodology and conclusions in a pending report that is expected to say there were thousands more coronavirus-related deaths tied to long-term care facilities in Michigan than reported by the state. Auditors plan to release their review next week, but the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services sought to publicly preempt it. In a letter written Sunday and released Wednesday, director Elizabeth Hertel referenced “serious concerns” to the state auditor’s office — including with its plan to combine COVID-19 deaths at facilities that are subject to state or federal reporting requirements and those that aren’t.

US CUSTOMS-BORDER SEIZURES-MICHIGAN

US Customs: Marijuana, ammunition seizures up in Michigan

DETROIT (AP) — Seizures of marijuana and ammunition at Michigan’s border with Canada have increased over the past year or so despite travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Detroit Field Office for U.S. Customs and Border Protection says Thursday that marijuana confiscated last year was up nearly 2,800% from fiscal year 2019. Fiscal year 2021 enforcement statistics show more than 14,000 pounds of marijuana, 240 pounds of cocaine, more than 25 pounds of methamphetamine and nearly three pounds of fentanyl were seized at ports of entry into Michigan. The Detroit Field Office’s responsibilities include the Ambassador Bridge and Detroit Windsor Tunnel in Detroit and the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron.

AP-US-PROFESSOR-VIDEO

Michigan professor on leave after bizarre video about grades

BIG RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan professor has been placed on leave after he told students in a profanity-laced video that he randomly assigns grades before the first day of class. Barry Mehler is a 74-year-old instructor at Ferris State University in Big Rapids. He told students in the video: “I don’t even want to know your name. I just look at the number and assign a grade. That is how predestination works. … Take your complaints to God.” In the 14-minute video, Mehler calls students “vectors of disease” and says they don’t need to attend class in person. Ferris State says Mehler is on leave while his conduct is investigated. 

JUDGE SUSPENDED

Detroit-area judge suspended for six months for misconduct

DETROIT (AP) — A Detroit-area judge has been suspended without pay for six months for using crass and sexual language while discussing a trial with two female prosecutors. The Michigan Supreme Court says Wayne County Judge Bruce Morrow committed misconduct. But the court ordered a shorter penalty than the 12-month suspension recommended by the Judicial Tenure Commission. Among the allegations, Morrow tried to guess the weight of two prosecutors. He also used sexual language when discussing trial testimony with the prosecutors and a defense attorney away from the jury. Morrow’s attorneys say asking someone their weight might be impolite but is not judicial misconduct.

GIRL KILLED-GYM

State Supreme Court looking at case of girl’s death in gym

GWINN, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Supreme Court has heard arguments in a dispute over whether an Upper Peninsula school is liable for the death of a 4-year-old girl who was accidentally killed in 2015. The family of Amarah Filizetti is trying to persuade the Supreme Court to reverse the opinion of the Michigan Court of Appeals. Amarah was the daughter of a cheerleading coach at Gwinn High School. She died when a 325-pound panel fell on her in the gym. Staff were in the process of putting the panel in place to shield a portable stage. Schools typically have immunity in personal injury lawsuits. The appeals court ruled in favor of Gwinn, saying leaning a stage cover panel against the wall before it fell doesn’t fit an exception.

BC-US-VIRUS-OUTBREAK-BIDEN

Biden to double free COVID tests, add masks to fight omicron

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden says the government plans to double to 1 billion the rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests to be distributed free to Americans. Speaking at the White House on Thursday, Biden says his administration will also make “high-quality masks” available for no charge. He spoke at an event aimed at highlighting the federal government’s efforts to “surge” COVID-19 testing and send personnel to help overwhelmed medical facilities. The effort comes amid the upswing in coronavirus cases and staff shortages due to the omicron variant. Starting next week, 1,000 military medical personnel will begin arriving to help mitigate staffing crunches at hospitals. 

FATAL CAR FIRE-SNOWFALL

Police release names of 2 Michigan women killed in car fire

DOWAGIAC, Mich. (AP) — Authorities have identified two southwest Michigan women who died last week when their car caught fire after apparently getting stuck in heavy snowfall. The Cass County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday that 27-year-old Electra May Sutfin of Galien, and 28-year-old Chloe Clink of Dowagiac died early on Jan. 7 south of Dowagiac. The women were identified using dental records. Police say that after their car apparently became stuck in a driveway due to heavy snowfall, Sutfin and Clink tried and failed to get out of the vehicle before they were overcome by carbon monoxide. The car’s overworked engine then apparently caught fire.

MICHIGAN STATE POLICE-TRAFFIC STOPS

Michigan state police disproportionately stop Black drivers

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The leader of the Michigan State Police is pledging changes in conjunction with the release of an independent report finding that troopers disproportionately pulled over Black drivers in 2020 traffic stops. African American motorists were more likely to be stopped than expected under a series of benchmarks, according to the research done by the Michigan State University School of Criminal Justice. The review also says Black and Hispanic drivers were significantly more likely than White motorists to be searched or arrested after traffic stops. Col. Joe Gasper outlined a five-point plan to better understand and address the disparities.

AP-US-FLINT-WATER

Year later, Flint water criminal cases move slowly in court

FLINT, Mich. (AP) — A judge has heard arguments from lawyers for Michigan’s former health director who wants involuntary manslaughter charges dismissed in the Flint water crisis. It’s been a year since former Gov. Rick Snyder and others were charged for their alleged roles in the switch of Flint’s water source and subsequent lead contamination. There also was a fatal outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. The cases are moving slowly, bogged down by disputes over millions of documents and even whether a Flint court is the proper venue. Water from the Flint River was used in 2014-15 without it being treated to reduce the corrosive effect on aging urban pipes.