Levin: Pursue diplomatic path with Syria, keep threat of force on table


On Thursday, Syria formally applied to join the United Nations Chemical Weapons Convention, which bans the use, possession and manufacture of such weapons.

U.S. Sen. Carl Levin said the Obama Administration is right to pursue a political solution to the crisis in Syria, but at the same time, he said the use of military force should not be ruled out.

CMU Public Radio’s Mike Horace spoke with Sen. Levin Thursday morning. Hear the full interview below:


LGBT leaders welcome IRS tax ruling; say MI will need to address confusion

Michigan Public Radio Network

The IRS said same-sex couples legally wed in a state that allows it will be recognized as married for federal tax purposes, even if they reside in a state like Michigan that does not allow same-sex marriage.

But it’s not clear yet how the state will deal with the ruling.

Michigan tax forms don’t ask about taxpayers’ gender. They don’t have anything that would distinguish same-sex couples from heterosexual couples. State tax forms simply allow a couple to claim their federal marital status.

Emily Dievendorf is with Equality Michigan. She said Michigan also refuses to recognize same-sex marriages.

“I think that, unfortunately, because of this inconsistency between state and federal law, these are questions that continue to come up and decisions that will have to be challenged,” Dievendorf said.

There is an October hearing scheduled in a federal court challenge to Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban.

LGBT rights groups are also getting ready to go the ballot in 2016 to reverse the same-sex marriage ban.

Copyright 2013, MPRN

Local Big Brothers Big Sisters chapters plan for federal funding cuts

In a recent move, the national Big Brothers Big Sisters organization has had millions of dollars in funding cut, but local chapters said it’s not yet clear what the impact will be for them.
The U.S. Department of Justice cut nearly $20-million in funding from the national organization after finding Big Brothers overpaid consultants, failed to track taxpayer funds and kept sloppy financial records.
Cecilia Chesney is the Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Michigan. She said the lost funding had been earmarked for a juvenile justice program, aimed at helping incarcerated youth.
She said many smaller, rural local chapters don’t participate in the program. Still, she said, the recent cuts may hit locals through a domino effect.
“You know, we are part of the national organization and if they get hit financially, if they have a big hit financially, there’ll be a trickle down effect. I don’t know what that could be, and they may find some ways to make up for that.” Chesney said.
Chesney said her chapter, and many small, rural ones, get most of their funding through private donations.

Conference explores U.S. / Canadian border issues

Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie Canada is hosting a conference this week to explore issues surrounding the Canada U.S. Border. 
The conference is part of a three year project by researchers to explore the cultural connections at the U.S. / Canada.
Academics will also look at the social and political issues around the border, which is the longest international border in the world.
Jan Clark is a co-organizer for the conference.
“A lot of work has been done  looking at the Mexican border with the U.S. and so this is bringing some of that to looking at the northern border.” Clark said.
Academics from the United States and Canada will be joined by researchers from the U.K., Austria, Germany, Bangladesh, and Mexico. They will explore social and political issues as well as the culture surrounding the border.
The organizers of the conference say they hope the project will bring increased interest to the issues.

Levin condemns attacks in Libya, Egypt

Michigan Senator Carl Levin is condemning yesterday’s attacks against American diplomatic outposts in Libya and Egypt.
The attacks killed four Americans, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya.
The outposts were attacked by Libyans and Egyptians upset with a video ridiculing the Muslim Prophet Muhammad. The video was produced by an Israeli filmmaker living in California. 
Muslims find it offensive to depict Muhammad in any fashion.
Senator Levin blames religious fanatics for the attack…
“It’s a very vicious kind of extreme religious fanaticism which we’re seeing reflected here. And we’ve got to condemn, and have condemned, and the President’s condemned and the Secretary of State’s condemned this activity in the strongest possible way.”
Levin said the Libyan government has strongly condemned the attacks as well, and he acknowledged that country’s work to crack down on religious extremists.
He also warned that if Egypt does not condemn the attacks in equally strong terms, it could lead to a breakdown of that country’s relationship with the United States.

Midwest legislative confab generates ideas and suggestions for feds

Midwestern state lawmakers will watch this fall to see if some of their summer work takes root.  
The legislators met at a regional conference and sent a number of proposals on to federal lawmakers.
A couple of proposals championed by Michigan Senator Darwin Booher include one pushing for improved care and management of public lands and another for increased controls of Cormorants.  The birds were endangered in the 1970s and have rebounded since and become a nuisance to, particularly waterfront, communities.
Senator Booher said state lawmakers from the conference are promoting their proposals to federal legislators, but as for what will happen from there…
“Well we will have to wait and see what that does. We sent a copy to our congressman and our senators so that they know that this is not just Michigan. This is all of the states in the Midwest.”
Senator Booher said he’s hoping the proposals gain some attention since they already have the support of lawmakers from a number of states.