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PEOPLE-YO-YO MA

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma brings ‘Day of Action’ to Flint, Michigan

FLINT, Mich. (AP) — Yo-Yo Ma brought both music and a call for social change to Flint, Michigan.

The famed cellist performed for more than 100 fans inside a gymnasium at Berston Field House during his visit Thursday to the city that’s still feeling the effects of a lead-contaminated water crisis.

But Ma says he found a community that is about much more than “water problems.”

Called a “Day of Action,” the stop in Flint is part of an effort by the 63-year-old musician to demonstrate culture’s power to create moments of shared understanding and spur a conversation about culture and society.

As for a takeaway from his visit, Ma says it will be “an awesome respect for the people here and for the dignity that they have.”

ASIAN CARP-MICHIGAN

Michigan governor supports efforts to prevent carp invasion

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is offering qualified support of a federal plan to prevent invasive Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes.

Whitmer submitted comments this week on a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan to install fish-blocking devices at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, Illinois.

The Corps is preparing a report to Congress proposing use of technologies such as noisemakers and a water-flushing lock at Brandon Road, a key choke point between the carp-infested Illinois River and Lake Michigan.

Whitmer said she agreed with fortifying the lock and dam but was concerned about a recent spike in the price tag, now estimated at $778 million.

Department of Natural Resources Director Daniel Eichinger urged a quicker timetable for the project and design changes that might reduce costs.

SURPRISE MURDERS-CONVICTIONS

Couple convicted in 2016 slayings of 2 women in Phoenix area

PHOENIX (AP) — A former Michigan man and his wife have been convicted in the 2016 slayings of two women during a burglary in the Phoenix suburb of Surprise.

Maricopa County Superior Court officials say a jury Thursday found both Montez Wright and Tichina Shepard guilty on two counts of first-degree murder and related charges.

Sentencings are scheduled for April 26.

Authorities say 70-year-old Barbara Leslie and 75-year-old Ruth Schwed were found fatally shot in Leslie’s Surprise home on Feb. 8, 2016.

Schwed was a friend of Leslie and was visiting from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Authorities say Wright and Shepard moved to Arizona from Southfield, Michigan in January 2016.

Andrew Lauro of Goodyear pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and burglary and was sentenced to two life prison terms in 2017.

FIAT CHRYSLER-PLANT-TRAINING

Detroit sees training opportunity before expected job boom

DETROIT (AP) — Detroit says it is positioning itself to be ready to provide skilled workers for Fiat Chrysler, which announced a $4.5 billion investment in manufacturing in the Motor City and surrounding suburbs this week.

The auto giant said Tuesday it will add about 6,500 jobs, with more than half of those at a new assembly plant in Detroit.

Although that plant won’t open for two years, city officials are already filling the training pipeline.

Not long ago, Detroit suffered among the worst unemployment rates in the U.S., but it overhauled its training programs in recent years to get people ready for specific jobs. The city works with schools, a nonprofit, companies and unions to tailor training programs to companies’ needs in manufacturing, construction, information technology and health care.

TRUMP-LAWYER-INVESTIGATION-RACE

Meadows, Tlaib hug after fight over race in Cohen hearing

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two lawmakers who clashed bitterly over race have hugged it out on the House floor.

Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan embraced and chatted for almost a minute Thursday. It was a striking sight after the pair fought during Michael Cohen’s hearing a day earlier. There, Meadows tried to rebut Cohen’s charge that President Donald Trump is a racist. Behind Meadows stood a longtime Trump family friend, Lynne Patton, who is black. Meadows said Patton would not work for anyone racist.

Tlaib suggested Meadows’ use of Patton as a “prop” was itself racist, but later said she was not accusing Meadows of being a racist.

On Thursday, Meadows approached Tlaib on the House floor and offered a hand. She stood, and the two embraced.

BC-US-NEO-NAZI GROUP-BLACK LEADER

Neo-Nazi group’s new leader? Black man vowing to dissolve it

One of the largest and oldest neo-Nazi groups in the U.S. appears to have an unlikely new leader: A black activist who has vowed to dismantle it.

A court filing Thursday suggests James Hart Stern wants to use his new position as director and president of the National Socialist Movement to undermine the Detroit-based group’s defense against a lawsuit.

The extremist group was sued over bloodshed at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. Stern’s filing asks a federal court in Virginia to issue a judgment against the neo-Nazi group before trial for a rally violence lawsuit.

Michigan corporate records indicate Stern replaced Jeff Schoep as the Detroit-based group’s leader in January. Corporate and court records don’t explain how or why Stern got the position.

Stern and Schoep didn’t respond to requests for comment.

TEEN KILLED-MICHIGAN

Man convicted in slaying of teen who accused him of rape

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A western Michigan man has been convicted of first-degree murder in the slaying of a 16-year-old girl who accused him of rape.

A Grand Rapids jury issued a guilty verdict Thursday for 43-year-old Quinn James of Wyoming, Michigan.

Mujey Dumbuya’s partially clothed body was found in January 2018 in woods in Kalamazoo, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southeast of her Grand Rapids-area home. She had been strangled.

James was a maintenance worker at Dumbuya’s school and she accused him of sexual assault in 2017. Authorities say James killed the girl while free on a $100,000 cash bond in the assault case.

He was sentenced last December to 20 to 30 years in prison for third-degree criminal sexual conduct.

His sentencing in the killing is scheduled for March 25.

FARM DEBT

Farm loan delinquencies highest in 9 years as prices slump

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The nation’s farmers are struggling to pay back their loans after years of low crop prices, with nearly one out of five loans in a government farm program now delinquent for the worst January default rate in at least nine years.

The bulk of the nation’s agricultural loans typically come due around Jan. 1 for seasonal and tax planning purposes.

Figures recently compiled show an overall jump nationwide in delinquencies for producers with direct loans from the Agriculture Department’s Farm Service Agency.

David Schemm, executive director of the Kansas Farm Service Agency, says 19.4 percent of FSA direct loans nationwide were delinquent in January, compared to 16.5 percent the same month a year ago.

MAIL THEFT

Michigan Senate approves bills to combat mail theft

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Legislation advancing in Michigan would combat mail theft that law enforcers say is an increasing problem across the state.

The Senate voted unanimously Thursday to send two bills to the House.

They would make the theft of mail and packages a state crime. Law enforcement says U.S. postal inspectors are currently overwhelmed with investigating what is a federal crime.

According to testimony in committee, there were nearly 19,000 mail and theft complaints in Michigan in 2017 and 2018 — including 17,000 complaints that packages from Amazon had been taken off doorsteps and from other locations.

A first violation would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. Repeat violators could go to prison.

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Online:

Senate Bills 23-24: http://bit.ly/2TsnQZf

ASSET FORFEITURE

Michigan House votes to limit asset forfeiture in drug cases

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan lawmakers may be close to giving final passage to legislation that would restrict the government’s ability to take ownership of property seized in drug cases unless there is a conviction.

The House approved the bills on 107-3 votes Thursday. Similar legislation previously passed the Senate, though lawmakers must iron out which ones go to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Law enforcement could still take ownership of seized property in drug cases if the cash and other assets are worth more than $50,000, excluding the value of contraband.

Supporters of the bills say they are needed to prevent “policing for profit” and ensure property is returned if charges are not brought or there is no conviction.

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Online:

House Bills 4001-02: http://bit.ly/2BXAzsO