5-month-old died of skull fracture

BRONSON, Mich. (AP) -- A prosecutor says a 5-month-old girl in southern Michigan has died of a skull fracture.

The Daily Reporter of Coldwater reports an autopsy determined the cause of death for Diane Perez, who also had a broken leg, arm and ribs. Emergency crews were called to an apartment in Bronson on Saturday on a report that she wasn't breathing.

She died Sunday at a hospital after life support was removed.

Branch County Prosecutor Terri Norris says they're "not pointing fingers at anybody" as authorities investigate the girl's death. Norris says both parents gave statements to authorities. Police in Bronson also were seeking tips from the public in the case.

Child Protective Services removed Diane's twin brother, a 3-year-old sister and a 5-year-old brother from the home.

East Lansing

Michigan State requiring student health coverage

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- A new Michigan State University policy requiring freshmen to either have health insurance or pay to join a plan through the school has drawn some opposition from state lawmakers.

The East Lansing school is the first public university in Michigan to mandate coverage, the Lansing State Journal and the Detroit Free Press reported Wednesday. The school said that about 25 percent of public universities nationwide have the same requirement.

Republicans in the state Legislature have set a Feb. 15 hearing to discuss the policy from the state's second-largest public university. Michigan State University Provost Kim Wilcox and Associate Provost June Youats are expected to testify at the hearing.

"It's a one-size-fits-all plan," said state Rep. Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant. "The university is saying, 'You are going to have this.' This is mandated coverage."

Michigan State University said it is trying to protect students who might have to choose between paying for medical treatment or college. Freshmen and other students new to the school last fall have until Feb. 29 to offer proof of insurance or be enrolled in a plan.

"We know that students without coverage often don't go to a doctor when they are ill," said school Board of Trustees member Faylene Owen. "This means their health is endangered and that their ability to learn and graduate on time is adversely affected.

"So to protect student health and to advance their education, requiring health coverage makes sense."

If students don't have insurance they will get the option of buying one of several plans. If they don't choose one, the school will enroll them in a plan from Aetna. That plan costs $940 for the spring semester and about $1,500 for the full academic year.

Michigan State estimates that about 90 percent of its incoming students have insurance.

Other public universities in Michigan recommend that students have health insurance and offer options to buy coverage, but don't mandate it.

Traverse City

National Cherry Festival's home getting pear trees

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) -- The home of the National Cherry Festival is getting dozens of pear trees to help spruce up its downtown streets.

The Traverse City Record-Eagle reports Wednesday that the Traverse City Development Authority will accelerate tree replacement work this spring. The flowering pear trees will replace ash trees that are old or were attacked by the invasive emerald ash borer.

Traverse City replaced some dying ash trees last summer. Starting in mid-April, officials plan to remove another 80 ash trees.

The city considered various types of replacement trees, including cherry trees. But cherry trees are considered too messy to be along streets.


Body of missing fisherman found in Wexford County

MESICK, Mich. (AP) -- Authorities say a dive team has recovered the body of a 33-year-old fisherman who fell through the ice earlier in the northwestern Lower Peninsula.

WWTV/WWUP and The Grand Rapids Press report the body of Billy Platz of Mesick was found Tuesday, a day after he fell through ice on Hodenpyl Dam Pond in Wexford County. Authorities say a friend who tried to save him also fell through the ice but got out.

A search Monday at the pond about 25 miles south of Traverse City that included a dive team and a Coast Guard helicopter didn't find Platz.

Indian River

Sled dog race canceled because of lack of snow

INDIAN RIVER, Mich. (AP) -- A northern Lower Peninsula sled dog race has been cancelled because of a lack of snow.

The 2nd annual Indian River Sprint Dog Sled Race has been cancelled. Race Committee President Jane Schramm says it originally was set for Jan. 28-29 before being postponed until this Saturday and Sunday.


Michigan bill may ban abortions after 20 weeks

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Legislation introduced in the Michigan House would generally prohibit doctors from performing abortions after a woman's 20th week of pregnancy.

The legislation introduced last week by Republican Rep. Eileen Kowall of Oakland County's White Lake Township is similar to laws approved in a handful of other states in the past few years.

Supporters say the proposals are based on the premise that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks, a claim that opponents dispute.

Opponents also say the proposals are a departure from Roe v. Wade, which lets states limit abortions in cases where there's a viable chance the fetus could survive outside of the womb. That's generally considered to be 22 and 24 weeks.

The Michigan proposal would provide exceptions for when the mother's life is at risk.

Grand Rapids

Woman marks her 109th birthday with memories

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) -- If there's a trick to aging gracefully, then Helen Lettinga seems to have mastered it.

The Grand Rapids woman, who turned 109 Monday, was born the year the Wright Brothers made their first flight. She's lived to see men on the moon, two world wars, The Great Depression and women earning the right to vote -- a memory she pegs as the most important in her lifetime.

Something of a junior suffragette, Lettinga remembers as a young teen singing as part of a choir urging passage of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women the right to vote in 1920.

A resident of an assisted living facility, Lettinga maintains her independence with the help of staff there. She still does her own laundry and gets around with the help of a walker to meals.

"Some days you feel like climbing trees," she said. "Other days you just want to read a good book."

Published: Thu, Feb 9, 2012


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