The Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC) has approved the sale of certain reformulated alcoholic beverages. The drinks used to be alcoholic energy drinks, but were banned late last year because of their combination of alcohol and stimulants, like caffeine. Some called the original beverages “blackout in a can.”
MLCC spokesperson Andrea Miller says companies reintroduced the products this month.
“They removed all the stimulants, such as the caffeine, the taurine, the guarana, but they still have similar labels and similar price-points. So that’s the concern right now — that they still look the same, and people are calling and saying, ‘These items are still on the shelf,’ when really, they’ve been reformulated and approved.”
State officials are still concerned about the drinks, even without the stimulants, says Andrea Miller
“The concern is that the cans are typically 23.5 oz in size, with the alcohol volume as high as 12%. And as such, one beverage is equivalent to approximately two to three beers, with a price point of $2-$3 per can.”
She says labels on the reformulated beverages are so similar to the original, that people don’t realize they’re different drinks.
“The commission has been receiving calls — more or less anonymous tips — saying that the store is still selling these products, when in truth they have been approved as of March 1 to be put back on, because the stimulants were taken out.”
The MLCC banned the original alcoholic energy drinks last December.
Dow Corning and the UK-based Centre for Vision in the Developing World (CVDW) say they plan to combat a shortage of eye-care professionals in developing countries. The partners plan to improve children’s vision using innovative, cost-efficient eyeglasses.
The adjustable eyeglasses let users fine-tune the amount of silicone fluid inside the lenses, to tweak the glasses’ strength.
Officials from the partner organizations say the glasses can improve children’s vision. Lindsay Kuhnle, Global Marketing Communications Leader for Dow Corning Healthcare, says the initiative has implications beyond simply improving vision.
“The aim is to increase the effectiveness overall of classroom-based education by improving the child’s ability to see the blackboard. Can you imagine being in a classroom, and not having the appropriate or any vision correction, and the challenges you would have with being able to see the blackboard? So what we’re ultimately hoping to do is by improving and increasing vision correction for these children, that ultimately we’ll be impacting their education.”
Kuhnle says the adult glasses are relatively inexpensive.
“The glasses that are out there cost about $20, but in order to make this mass production and to get this to more children, we know that we’ll need to bring the cost of the overall glasses down. So the overall goal is to significantly decrease that $20 cost of the current pair, and make them much more cost-effective to hopefully increase distribution of the child-specific glasses.”
Kuhnle says the CVDW has already distributed adjustable glasses to 40,000 adults in developing countries. She says the children’s glasses are based on that design.
“Picture putting on these glasses that have syringes and tubes on the side, and these little adjustment wheels. And by adding or removing the fluid, via the removable syringes and the dials, the wearer can modify the power of the lens. So the glasses are designed to provide vision correction, and they don’t need to have an eye-care professional there to actually do that.”
Dow Corning has committed $3 million of funding and materials-expertise to the project.
Kuhnle says the partners plan to distribute 50,000 pairs of glasses to kids in developing countries within 12 to 18 months. The partners still have to determine where exactly the glasses will go.
Photo: A snowman burns last year on the campus of LSSU in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Photo courtesy of Lake Superior State University.
Setting something on fire may be one of the clearest ways of illustrating frustration with it — so when folks at Lake Superior State University set a ten-foot snowman on fire, you can bet they’re ready for winter to be on its way.
LSSU Public Relations Director Tom Pink says the snowman-burning has become quite the event.
“There’s free hot dogs and pop; our student radio station is playing music. When Bill Rabe started it, there were several English professors in the group, so there was always poetry. Lately I should say there’s not as much poetry as there used to be; it seems people are more shy. They just want to see the bonfire.”
Pink says the snowman is generally eight to ten feet tall, made of paper and a wire frame. He says it usually burns pretty quickly.
“We try to have a little introduction at the beginning, and tell people about the history, and within a couple minutes of getting into that, there are usually some people telling us to just burn it.”
Pink says the snowman has occasionally been made to resemble goalies from opposing hockey teams, and once, during the Iran Hostage Crisis, it resembled the Ayotollah — although he says they wouldn’t do that again.
He also says a German tradition inspired LSSU’s celebration.
“It was started in 1971 by Bill Rabe, the same guy who came up with our list of banished words, and he and his group, the Unicorn Hunters, came up with the snowman burning. He was aware of it through a German tradition, and he thought it would fit in here, because by the time spring arrives, people around here are usually pretty sick of winter.”
University presidents, retirees, and students have all gotten to light the snowman in the past. LSSU’s physical plant crew builds the snowman, and experiments with different methods of igniting it — from matches and lighters, to model-rocket engines, according to Pink.
He tells us LSSU says goodbye to winter a few days early this year, since the first day of spring actually arrives on the weekend, on Sunday.
Administrators at the International Bridge say fluctuating exchange rates mean the Canadian toll will drop slightly next month.
Peter Petainen is Chief Financial Officer for the International Bridge. He says the Canadian toll is currently slightly higher than the US rate, but they’ll be equal for passenger vehicles and commuters beginning in April.
“It has been consistently a drop in the Canadian toll rate over the last two years, as the value of the Canadian dollar has increased against the US currency.”
Petainen says International Bridge administrators are required to consider adjusting the Canadian-currency toll rate twice a year, using US currency as a reference.
“The rates will take effect April first. There’ll be either an adjustment on October one, or not, depending on what the next six-month average is. So if the Canadian dollar stays consistent for six months, the Canadian rates won’t change on October one. If the Canadian dollar declines in value, we may or may not see an adjustment in the Canadian rates up. It all depends on what the next six months hold for us.”
Petainen says the population on the Canadian side of the bridge is nearly five times the population on the US side.
“So 70% of the toll revenue that the bridge earns is in Canadian currency. So as the Canadian dollar goes up in value against the US currency, we actually recognize the revenue at a higher value than we would when the Canadian dollar is lower.”
The crossing links Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.