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Barn fire kills 300,000 hens at Michigan poultry farm

OTSEGO TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — About 300,000 hens have died in a barn fire at a southwestern Michigan poultry farm. WWMT-TV reports that the blaze started about 11 a.m. Friday at the Otsego Township farm. The barn was destroyed. Konos Inc. spokesman Brian Burch tells the television station that about 50 people work at the cage-free farm. About 250,000 hens in a second barn were unharmed. Fire crews were forced to truck in water to battle the blaze. Burch said the facility is not on city water lines. The cause of the fire was under investigation. Otsego Township is about 160 miles (257 kilometers) west of Detroit.


Detroit homicides up in 2019; overall violent crime down

DETROIT (AP) — Police in Detroit say homicides in the city increased last year, while overall violent crime was down. Chief James Craig on Friday released end-of-year statistics that show 273 homicides were committed in 2019, up from 261 the year before which was the lowest number in Detroit in 50 years. Detroit’s 767 nonfatal shootings last year were more than the 755 in 2018. Robberies also were up in 2019: 2,337 to 2,309. But Craig said a 21% decrease in carjackings in 2019 is “probably the most contributing factor” in the city’s 4% drop in violent crime.


3 crashes, 3 deaths raise questions about Tesla’s Autopilot

DETROIT (AP) — Three crashes involving Teslas last month that killed three people have increased scrutiny of the company’s Autopilot driving system. This comes just months before Tesla CEO Elon Musk has planned to put fully self-driving cars on the streets. Tesla has said repeatedly that its Autopilot system is designed only to assist drivers, who must still pay attention and be ready to intervene at all times. But experts and safety advocates say a string of crashes raises serious questions about whether drivers have become too reliant on Tesla’s technology and whether the company does enough to ensure that drivers keep paying attention. 


Police: Indiana man died in Michigan after kayaking accident

NILES, Mich. (AP) — A man who died after falling from a kayak into a southwestern Michigan river during a New Year’s Day excursion with friends has been identified as an Indiana man. Niles police say 40-year-old Jean Claude Mutabazi of South Bend was pronounced dead Wednesday after being pulled from the St. Joseph River. Police say Mutabazi was kayaking Wednesday morning with three other men, two of whom also fell into the river and were treated for exposure to cold. All four men were wearing personal flotation devices. Police said Mutabazi was still wearing his when he was found trapped under a log. 


New vehicle sales in US fell 1.3% in 2019 but still healthy

DETROIT (AP) — New vehicle sales in the U.S. fell 1.3% last year, but the numbers still passed the healthy 17 million mark for the fifth straight year. Automakers sold 17.05 million new cars, trucks and SUVs in 2019. Although buyers spent more on vehicles, automakers had to prop up sales with record discounts, according to analysts. Following a long trend, 69% of new vehicles sold last year were trucks or SUVs. Truck sales were up 2.6% from a year ago. Car sales fell once again, by 10.1%, according to Autodata Corp. Sales at General Motors fell 2.5% for the year, while Ford sales fell 3.2%, and Fiat Chrysler sales dropped 1.4%. Sales at Toyota fell 1.8% and Nissan sales tumbled almost 10%.


Backlog of toxic Superfund clean-ups grows under Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — The total of unfunded Superfund projects is seeing its biggest backup in years. The Environmental Protection Agency released figures over the holidays showing that 34 projects to clean up the nation’s most polluted sites stalled last year for lack of money. That’s nearly three times the number in 2016, the last year of the Obama administration.  EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler calls the Superfund program a priority for President Donald Trump. An EPA spokeswoman did not directly respond when asked why the administration had sought to cut congressional funding for EPA and Superfund given the growing clean-up backlog.   


Soo school break extended as area deals with power outages

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. (AP) — The holiday break has been extended for students in an Upper Peninsula school district. Sault Ste. Marie canceled classes Thursday and Friday but opened the high school so area residents could charge their phones _ and recharge themselves _ during a multiday power outage. The high school is open for warmth, showers and lunch. Superintendent Tim Hall says Sault Ste. Marie schools have power. But he says it would put “undue stress” on families without electricity to get their kids to school. The district covers 308 square miles. Rain, ice and snow brought down power lines and hundreds of trees in the region.


Crews search Lake Michigan for teen swept from pier by wave

HOLLAND, Mich. (AP) — Authorities say a 16-year-old girl visiting Lake Michigan for the first time is missing and presumed drowned after apparently being swept into the water by a large wave. The Ottawa County sheriff’s office says Eliza Trainer and an 18-year-old friend were knocked into Lake Michigan off Holland State Park about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday. Trainer’s friend was able to get out of the water and he summoned help. The sheriff’s office says waves at the time were estimated at about 12 feet high. Authorities say conditions Thursday were too severe to search from the water. Aerial searches in what’s described now as a recovery effort were being conducted.


Brass upset over Detroit firefighters’ burning home photo

DETROIT (AP) — Detroit’s fire commissioner says a photo posted on social media showing 18 Detroit firefighters posing in front of a burning home was “inappropriate and unprofessional” and will result in disciplinary action. The photo was posted Tuesday night on Facebook and has since been taken down. Firefighters were celebrating a retiring fire battalion chief. Fire Commissioner Eric Jones says there’s “a lot of ways to celebrate a retirement. Taking a photo in front of a building fire is not one of them.” Deputy Fire Commissioner Dave Fornell says the photo was taken outside a vacant house that was too dangerous to enter.


Michigan officials get to root of odor: rotting radishes

DELTA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — A mid-Michigan community has solved an olfactory mystery that could be dubbed “The Case of the Rancid Radishes.” Residents called officials in Delta Township last month, concerned about a smell they thought might be natural gas or sewer leaks. The Lansing State Journal reports township Manager Brian Reed and his staff got to the, well, root of the problem: rotting radishes. It was the unseemly smell of decomposing daikon radishes, a Japanese root vegetable. They had been planted in fields in the township and surrounding areas as a cover crop after a wet spring. The soil effort appears to be successful, albeit odorous. Consistently colder weather should nip the stench in the bud.