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Deep freeze envelops Midwest, even stops the mail

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A deadly arctic deep freeze has enveloped the Midwest, forcing widespread closure of schools, businesses, government offices, and prompting the U.S. Postal Service to take the rare step of suspending mail delivery to a wide swath of the region.

Many normal activities are shutting down and residents are huddled inside as the National Weather Service forecast plunging temperatures from one of the coldest air masses in years. The bitter cold is the result of a split in the polar vortex that allowed temperatures to plunge much further south in North America than normal.

Officials throughout the region are focused on protecting vulnerable people from the cold, including the homeless, seniors and those living in substandard housing.

At least four deaths have been linked to the weather system.


Officials: 2nd Michigan child dies from flu this season

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan health officials say a child from Alpena County is the second in the state to die from the flu this season.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services confirmed this week that the child died from complications of flu. The child was of school-age, but details including the child’s name weren’t released. Alpena County is located about 185 miles (298 kilometers) north of Detroit.

The department in December had announced the death of a child in Osceola County from the flu. It says Michigan now has widespread flu activity.

Other children in the U.S. have died from the flu during the 2018-19 season. Two Michigan children died last flu season from flu-related complications.

The department recommends everyone 6 months of age and older get a seasonal flu vaccine.


Michigan agency stocked 1.1M fish in waterways last fall

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says it stocked more than 1.1 million fish in waters around the state last fall.

The fish were released at 153 locations . Combined with earlier efforts in the spring and summer, the department says the total number of fish stocked last year topped 22 million.

Nine species were targeted. They were Atlantic salmon, channel catfish, brook trout, brown trout, coho salmon, rainbow trout, lake sturgeon, walleye and muskellunge.

Several other fisheries management units also stocked fall fingerling walleye.


Authorities identify man fatally shot by Jackson police

JACKSON, Mich. (AP) — Authorities have identified a man killed in a gunfight with officers in southern Michigan.

Jackson County Undersheriff Chris Kuhl says 29-year-old Joey Duane Ramirez of Jackson was killed Monday by Jackson police officers investigating a domestic disturbance.

Jackson police said a woman called early Monday , saying an acquaintance was outside banging on her apartment door and wouldn’t leave. Police said officers spotted him with a handgun, running through the apartment complex, and exchanged fire with him. He died at the scene.

Jackson Director of Police and Fire Services Elmer Hitt says one of the officers involved was treated for a leg injury sustained in a fall at the scene.

MLive reports court records show Ramirez had a pending resisting and obstructing police charge from an incident that occurred Jan. 18.


Deaf couple alleges discrimination by Delta Air Lines agent

ROMULUS, Mich. (AP) — A deaf couple from California alleges that a gate agent for Delta Air Lines discriminated against them at Detroit Metro Airport.

Socorro Garcia and Melissa Yingst say they tried to communicate with an agent Sunday about getting seats next to each other on a flight to Los Angeles. The couple says the agent threw away the paper they were writing on and rolled her eyes.

Garcia says in a Facebook video that he tried to retrieve the paper, but the agent called police and alleged that Garcia assaulted her. The couple was ultimately denied boarding.

A spokesman for Delta says the agent discarded the paper because she thought the conversation was over. The spokesman says the agent felt threatened because Garcia aggressively went behind the ticket counter, which isn’t permitted.

Delta says it’s reviewing the issue.


Whitmer moves speech over conflict with Trump address

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will deliver her first State of the State address a week later than planned to avoid having it on the same night as President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech.

The Democratic governor will speak Feb. 12 during a joint session of the Republican-led Legislature in Lansing. Her office proposed the new date Tuesday, and House Speaker Lee Chatfield agreed.

Whitmer’s address initially was scheduled for Feb. 5, but Trump’s speech was delayed due to the record-setting partial shutdown of the federal government. Whitmer said both speeches are “incredibly important,” and the public should have an opportunity to “absorb both.”

The yearly State of the State address is a chance for the new governor to unveil her policy agenda.


Michigan state government closing due to cold weather

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Much of Michigan’s state government is closing for the second time this week due to dangerous winter weather.

Offices in the executive, legislative and judicial branches are closed Wednesday. Essential employees in state departments must still report to work.

Lansing is reinstating driving restrictions on city roads.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an order declaring a state of emergency ahead of expected subzero temperatures. She also activated the State Emergency Operations Center to coordinate response efforts.

Whitmer wants the public to understand the seriousness of what she says is a once-in-a-generation cold snap. She visited a Lansing warming center Tuesday.

Wind chill factors may drop to as low as negative 45 degrees from Tuesday night through Thursday morning.

The University of Michigan, Michigan State University and other schools have canceled classes.


Detroit boosts work to deal with water main breaks amid cold

DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is shifting its maintenance and repair staff to water main and fire hydrant repairs in anticipation of more line breaks due to the expected deep freeze .

The department says Tuesday that it’s also put its contractors and subcontractors on notice to ramp-up their staffing.

Officials note that extreme changes in temperatures increase the likelihood of water main breaks, especially in aging infrastructure like Detroit’s.

The department on Tuesday has 18 water main breaks being repaired and scheduled to be repaired. The public is asked to contact the department if they standing, running or gushing water on streets or outside of buildings.

The department is in the midst of a 5-year, roughly $500 million effort to deal with Detroit’s aging water and sewer system.


Man linked to child pornography ring enters plea in sex case

(Information from: Battle Creek Enquirer,

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP) — A man who authorities say was involved in a child pornography ring has pleaded no contest in a sexual assault case involving an infant girl.

The Battle Creek Enquirer reports 32-year-old Matthew Toole, of Battle Creek, entered the plea Monday to two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. A no contest plea isn’t an admission of guilt, but is treated as such for sentencing. He’s scheduled to learn his punishment March 11.

Defense attorney Melissa Heffner says he decided to forego a trial. In exchange, several charges will be dismissed including child abuse and making and possessing child pornography.

Toole and his girlfriend were arrested last year on charges including sexual assault. She’s awaiting trial. They’re among four charged with conspiring to kidnap and kill a child in Branch County.



Detroit tries to undo $3.5M verdict in wrong arrest

DETROIT (AP) — Lawyers for Detroit are asking a judge to reduce a $3.5 million verdict for a man who was arrested in a case of mistaken identity.

Marvin Seales was in custody for two weeks in 2012 before the mistake was cleared up. The trial centered on the actions of a Detroit police officer, Tom Zberkot, who made the arrest and had Seales under his control for a few hours.

The officer’s lawyers say $3.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages is “greatly excessive.” They note there was no allegation of physical abuse. A hearing planned for Monday with federal Judge Gershwin Drain was postponed due to a snowstorm.

Seales’ lawyers say the jury’s verdict last summer should stand. They say there was a “callous disregard” for his freedom.