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Archive | October, 2020

The beauty of fall

By Judy Reed

This time of year is a picturesque reminder of the beauty we experience here in Michigan as leaves and fall foliage turn bright shades of red, yellow, and orange. We asked readers on our Facebook page to post their photos of the changing fall colors, and they did not disappoint! Take a look at all the great photos submitted, both here and on our Facebook page.

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Six arrested on federal charge of conspiracy to kidnap the governor

Seven more arrested on state charges related to the plan

Adam Fox, of Grand Rapids,
was one of several arrested
in a plot to kidnap
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

A Grand Rapids man appears to be the ringleader in a plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

United States Attorney Andrew Birge announced last week that six men have been arrested and charged federally with conspiring to kidnap the Governor. According to a complaint filed Tuesday, October 6, 2020, those charged are Adam Fox, of Grand Rapids, MI; Barry Croft, of Delaware; Ty Garbin, of Hartland Township, MI; Kaleb Franks, of Waterford, MI; Daniel Harris, of Lake Orion, MI; and Brandon Caserta, of Canton, MI. The six allegedly conspired to kidnap the Governor from her vacation home in the Western District of Michigan.

Under federal law, each faces any term of years up to life in prison if convicted. 

U.S. Attorney Birge said that “Federal and state law enforcement are committed to working together to make sure violent extremists never succeed with their plans, particularly when they target our duly elected leaders.”

The federal complaint in this case alleges that the FBI began an investigation earlier this year after becoming aware through social media that a group of individuals was discussing the violent overthrow of certain government and law enforcement components. Through confidential sources, undercover agents, and clandestine recordings, law enforcement learned particular individuals were planning to kidnap the Governor and acting in furtherance of that plan. This group used operational security measures, including communicating by encrypted messaging platforms and used code words and phrases in an attempt to avoid detection by law enforcement. 

On two occasions, members of the alleged conspiracy conducted coordinated surveillance on the Governor’s vacation home. Fox and Croft discussed detonating explosive devices to divert police from the area of the vacation home and Fox even inspected the underside of an M-31 highway bridge for places to seat an explosive, according to the complaint. Among other activities, the complaint alleges Fox purchased a taser for use in the kidnapping and that the group successfully detonated an improvised explosive device wrapped with shrapnel to test its anti-personnel capabilities. The FBI and Michigan State Police executed arrests as multiple conspirators met to pool funds for explosives and exchange tactical gear.

“All of us can disagree about politics, but those disagreements should never, ever result in violence,” stated U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider. “The allegations in this complaint are deeply disturbing. We owe our thanks to the men and women of law enforcement who uncovered this plot and have worked so hard to protect Governor Whitmer.”

“These alleged extremists undertook a plot to kidnap a sitting governor,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Josh P. Hauxhurst. “Whenever extremists move into the realm of actually planning violent acts, the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force stands ready to identify, disrupt and dismantle their operations, preventing them from following through on those plans.”

The investigation is ongoing. Agents of the Detroit Field Office of the FBI and other members of their Joint Terrorism Task Force, including the Michigan State Police, are conducting the investigation. FBI Agents and JTTF members in the Baltimore Field Office of the FBI, which covers Delaware, are also involved. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan is prosecuting the federal charges. U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the Eastern District of Michigan and Delaware have assisted.

Based on information developed in the investigation, State of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced the simultaneous arrest of seven other individuals on state charges of providing material support of terroristic activities and of possessing a firearm in the course of that offense.

The suspects, now under arrest, are alleged to have called on the groups’ members to identify the home addresses of law enforcement officers in order to target them; made threats of violence to instigate a civil war leading to societal collapse; and engaged in the planning and training for an operation to attack the state Capitol building and kidnap government officials, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. 

Through the efforts of more than 200 state and federal law enforcement officials  – including experts from outside of Michigan – officers executed a series of search warrants and arrest warrants in more than a dozen cities around the state, including, Belleville, Cadillac, Canton, Charlotte, Clarkston, Grand Rapids, Luther, Munith, Orion Township, Ovid, Portage, Shelby Township and Waterford.  

“Michigan law enforcement officers are united in our commitment to rooting out terrorism in any form and we will take swift action against anyone seeking to cause violence or harm in our state,” stated Col. Joe Gasper, director of the Michigan State Police. “Michigan residents can assist us in this mission by speaking up if you see suspicious activity or become aware of someone making threats. No tip is too small; don’t wait until it’s too late. Tips can be submitted confidentially 24/7 online at our website.” 

In total, 19 state felony charges were filed by the Attorney General against seven individuals known to be members of the militia group, Wolverine Watchmen or associates of Wolverine Watchmen. 

The following individuals were charged by Attorney General Nessel as part of the joint law enforcement effort: 

Paul Bellar, 21, of Milford, was arrested in Columbia, South Carolina Wednesday and the Attorney General’s office is working to extradite him to Michigan for arraignment on charges in Jackson County. No court dates have been set. Bellar is charged with: Providing material support for terrorist acts – a 20-year felony and/or $20,000 fine; Gang membership – a 20-year felony, which may be served as a consecutive sentence; and Carrying or possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony; felony firearm – a two-year mandatory prison sentence to be served consecutively.

Shawn Fix, 38, of Belleville, was arraigned in Antrim County. Bond was set at $250,000. Preliminary hearing scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Oct. 28. A probable cause conference has not be scheduled. Fix is charged with: Providing material support for terrorist acts – a 20-year felony and/or $20,000 fine; and  Carrying or possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony; felony firearm – a two-year mandatory prison sentence to be served consecutively.

Eric Molitor, 36, of Cadillac – Arraigned Thursday in Antrim County, with bond set at $250,000, 10 percent. His probable cause conference is set for 1 p.m. Oct. 14, and his preliminary hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Oct. 28. Molitor is charged with: Providing material support for terrorist acts – a 20-year felony and/or $20,000 fine; and Carrying or possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony; felony firearm – a two-year mandatory prison sentence to be served consecutively.

Michael Null, 38, of Plainwell, and William Null, 38, of Shelbyville – Both were arraigned Thursday in Antrim County, with cash bond set at $250,000 each. Both are scheduled for a probable cause conference at 1 p.m. Oct. 14, and preliminary hearing at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 28. Both defendants are each charged with one count of: Providing material support for terrorist acts – a 20-year felony and/or $20,000 fine; and Carrying or possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony; felony firearm – a two-year mandatory prison sentence to be served consecutively.

Pete Musico, 42, and Joseph Morrison, 26, both of Munith – Both were arraigned Thursday in Jackson County, with a cash bond set at $10 million each. Both are scheduled for a probable cause conference at 1 p.m. Oct. 16 and a preliminary hearing at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 21. Both Musico and Munith are charged with:

One count each of threat of terrorism, a 20-year felony and/or $20,000 fine; One count each of gang membership, a 20-year felony that may be served as a consecutive sentence; One count each of providing material support for terrorist acts; and One count each for carrying or possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony; felony firearm – a two-year mandatory prison sentence to be served consecutively. 

More than 200 state and federal law enforcement officials  – including experts from outside of Michigan – were involved in the operation. 

 “I’d like to personally thank the law enforcement officers who participated in yesterday’s arrests and those who have assisted with this investigation throughout the past several months,” Attorney General Nessel said. “Your heroic efforts have left the people of this state safer and the instruments of our government stronger. I know that I speak on behalf of Michiganders everywhere when I say we are forever grateful to you for your actions.” 

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City installs new dog park

Volunteers working on the dog park. Post photo by J. Reed.

By Judy Reed

Volunteers from Privacy Fence led the
installation of the fence at the dog park.
Post photo by J. Reed.

When families want to spend some quality time at the park, their four-legged family members can now go along, too.

Riggle Park, located on Beech Street between Fifth and Cherry Street in Cedar Springs, now has an area fenced off specifically for dogs. The area is just over .41 acres and split into two sections: 3,600 feet for small dogs, and 14,500 feet for big dogs.

Work on the fence began last Friday, October 9 and was done by local volunteers. The labor was all donated with City Councilpersons, Planning Commission Members, a DDA member and Privacy Fence Company, a local fencing company taking the lead on installation.  

According to City Manager Mike Womack, the final cost is going to be around $3,300 for materials. 

“This dog park is something that we have wanted to have for our community for some time now so I was happy to be able to help organize it and install some of the fencing,” said Womack.  “I continue to find that this City is filled with volunteers who are interested in getting things done for the betterment of everybody.  With the money saved on labor on this project, we can now put that money towards some other projects that we have in the works such as the natural playground by the amphitheater, pickle-ball courts by Hilltop, a half-court basketball court in Riggle Park, a full size basketball court in Morley Park and eventually a splashpad in the Heart of Cedar Springs.”

The dog park will be open dawn to dusk, same as Riggle Park. “The park will have posted rules but we just ask that people use common sense, obviously picking up your dog’s waste is a very important requirement that will help everybody enjoy the park,” said Womack.

A ribbon cutting ceremony is being planned but has not yet been finalized. However, dogs can use the park as soon as it is completed, which Womack hopes will be done and enclosed by today, October 15.

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Post Travels to Myrtle Beach, SC

Bruce Chapman and his niece Staci Ramirez enjoy the beach.
Mike and Belinda Sanderson pose with
the Post in the Atlantic ocean.

The Chapman’s and the Sanderson’s, along with Staci Ramirez, enjoyed celebrating The Feast of Tabernacles in Myrtle Beach, SC this October.   They stayed in a condo on the beach and enjoyed the Atlantic ocean. 

Are you going on vacation? Be sure to take along a printed edition of the Post and get someone to snap a photo of you or your family with it. Send it to us along with some info about your trip (where you went, who went along, what you saw) and send the photo and info to news@cedarspringspost.com. We will print as space allows.

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Pink out with the Cedar Springs U.S. Post Office

By Judy Reed

If you’ve had the chance to stop in to the Cedar Springs branch of the U.S. Post Office, you’ll see the employees are doing their part to raise awareness of breast cancer this month.

According to clerk Rachael Vestergaard-Kanitz, they decorate the lobby every year during October. 

“October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time to learn more about the disease and efforts to cure it. Decorating the lobby and selling the Breast Cancer Research semipostal stamp is our way to bring awareness and be part of the solution,” she explained.

Residents can help fund breast cancer research by purchasing the special stamp. She said they have three Semi-postal stamps: the Breast Cancer Research stamp, the PTSD stamp, and the Alzheimer’s stamp. “Semi-postal stamps are a regular forever stamp ($0.55) + $0.10 going to their respective foundations and are available all year.”

The Breast Cancer Research semipostal was issued July 29, 1998, in Washington, DC. As of the end of August 2020, more than 1.06 billion Breast Cancer Research stamps had been sold, bringing the total revenue raised to more than $91.4 million.

The Breast Cancer Research semi-postal stamp was first issued in 1998 and reissued in 2014.  Purchase of the stamp supports the Breast Cancer Research work of the National Institutes of Health and the Medical Research Program of the Department of Defense.  It was designed by artist Whitney Sherman.

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Town celebrates first weekend in October

Cornhole tournament at the Cedar Springs Brewing Company.
Trixie Tang performed at the
Cedar Springs Brewing Company.
Band photo courtesy Anthony Norkus.

There may not have been an official Red Flannel Day this year, but residents still celebrated the first weekend in October, just on a smaller scale.

City businesses had sidewalk sales, there was a craft fair at the Cedar Springs Library, and the Cedar Springs Brewing Company held a Festival market, cornhole tournament and concert. All were organized by different entities.

“Things went well,” said David Ringler, Director of Happiness at Cedar Springs Brewing Company. We had a nice turnout for our Festival Market with about 25 vendors, Cornhole Tournaments (Friday night and two on Saturday), and Live Music Festival Celebration (with Trixie Tang).

“We were able to distance our assets around our outdoor space so guests could enjoy the activities safely. We missed the Red Flannel Festival, of course, but it was nice that we could do a little something for everyone to enjoy.” 

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Last week we ran an article on Alpha Family Center and their quest to raise funds for an Ultrasound machine. In the article we said that Alpha had raised a matching portion of the funds. While they did raise funds, they were not “matching” funds. As we explained later in the article, the funds raised by Alpha are to be used for the other expenses involved in making the conversion to a medical center.

Also, the Knight of Columbus are not working with Alpha. They are working on behalf of Alpha to raise the rest of the funds. The local council is working to raise their 50 percent portion of the cost of purchasing Alpha an ultrasound machine. The other 50 percent of the purchase price of the machine is then matched by the Knights of Columbus Supreme Council. 

We apologize for the confusion.

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Supreme Court denies Whitmer’s request for COVID-19 orders extension

By Scott McClallen | The Center Square

(The Center Square) – The Michigan Supreme Court on Monday rejected Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s statement asserting her unconstitutional orders still hold power over Michiganders through Oct. 30.

Whitmer previously claimed her executive orders retained the force of law for 21 days after the court’s Oct. 2 ruling.

Whitmer on Oct. 5 had asked the court for clarification, and the state’s top court answered.

“As stated in In re Certified Questions, the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act is incompatible with the Constitution of our state, and therefore, executive orders issued under that act are of no continuing legal effect,” the court wrote in the Monday decision.

“It should again be emphasized, [court citation omitted], that our decision today, like our decision in In re Certified Questions, leaves open many avenues for our Governor and Legislature to work together in a cooperative spirit and constitutional manner to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the court wrote.

The Senate last week passed several bills intending to replace Whitmer’s wide-reaching orders: allowing local governments to meet electronically during the COVID-19 pandemic; extending unemployment benefits; and barring nursing homes from caring for COVID-19 patients unless the building has a «designated area» to care for those patients.

The chamber tied two bills: a six-week extension of unemployment assistance, along with proposals aiming to give businesses COVID-19 liability shields for some lawsuits.

The tactic gives the first-term Democrat two options if they reach her desk: sign or veto both.

Whitmer on Monday said of the above bills, “It is my hope when the House reconvenes tomorrow they break that tie bar.”

The House met Tuesday to patch a framework that legally replaces many of Whitmer’s orders.

Since Whitmer’s orders were voided, she turned to her backup authority, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. 

MDHHS has issued a statewide mask order, COVID-19 school disclosure requirements, and visitation restrictions on congregate care and residential facilities, among others that mirror her orders.

The MSC determination means Whitmer needs the GOP-led Legislature’s help if the groups want to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic with similar orders that were thought to be legal since April 30.

Supreme court MDHHS Epidemic Order Oct. 9 FINAL.PDF

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Free meals for kids extended for entire school year

Flexibilities now available through June 30, 2021

(Mt. Wolf, PA, October 9, 2020)– U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced last Friday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is extending flexibilities to allow free meals to continue to be available to all children throughout the entire 2020-2021 school year. This unprecedented move is part of USDA’s unwavering commitment to ensuring all children across America have access to nutritious food as the nation recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“As our nation recovers and reopens, we want to ensure that children continue to receive the nutritious breakfasts and lunches they count on during the school year wherever they are, and however they are learning,” said Secretary Perdue.“We are grateful for the heroic efforts by our school food service professionals who are consistently serving healthy meals to kids during these trying times, and we know they need maximum flexibility right now. I appreciate President Trump for his unwavering commitment to ensuring kids receive the food they need during this pandemic and for supporting USDA in continuing to provide these unprecedented flexibilities.”  

“These waiver extensions are great news for America’s students and the school nutrition professionals working so hard to support them throughout this pandemic,” said School Nutrition Association President Reggie Ross,  SNS. “Families struggling to make ends meet can be assured that their students will have access to healthy school meals, whether they are learning at home or in school. School meal programs can remain focused on safely meeting nutritional needs of children in their communities without having to worry about burdensome regulations. The School Nutrition Association appreciates USDA’s ongoing efforts to address the many challenges our members have faced while working on the frontlines to feed hungry children.” 

The USDA previously extended child nutrition waivers through December 2020 based upon available funding at the time. The flexibilities extended today will allow schools and other local program operators to continue to leverage the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) to provide no cost meals to all children, available at over 90,000 sites across the country, through June 30, 2021.  

USDA understands a one-size-fits-all approach is not an effective way to feed children, particularly during the current challenges facing our country. USDA can extend these waivers due to language in the continuing resolution signed into law by President Trump last week.   

USDA is extending waivers through June 30, 2021, that:  Allow SFSP and SSO meals to be served in all areas and at no cost; Permit meals to be served outside of the typically required group settings and meal times; Waive meal pattern requirements, as necessary; and Allow parents and guardians to pick-up meals for their children. 

These program flexibilities allow schools and local program operators to operate a meal service model that best meets their community’s unique needs, while keeping kids and staff safe. Additional flexibilities are being granted on a state-by-state basis, as required by law, to facilitate a wide range of meal service options and accommodate other operational needs. 

Early in the pandemic, USDA adapted its summer feeding site finder to ensure parents and children would be able to easily locate sites that were providing meal service. With this new announcement, the Meals for kids (www.fns.usda.gov/meals4kids) interactive site finder will continue to collect data, voluntarily provided by USDA’s state agency partners, about operating sites including location, meal service times, and additional information.

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Train derailment mystery

Investigators Working to Solve 25-Year-Old Sabotage of Track That Led to Derailment of Amtrak’s Sunset Limited Passenger Train; $310,000 Reward Available

Amtrak’s Sunset Limited train derailed in rural
Arizona on October 9, 1995.

FBI Seeking Information on Train Derailment

If you have tips or information on the October 9, 1995 derailment of the Sunset Limited, visit tips.fbi.gov or call the FBI’s Phoenix Field Office at (623) 466-1999. A reward of up to $310,000 is available for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual(s) responsible for the crime.

Michael Lum was a student at Arizona State University when he learned that a train had mysteriously derailed in rural Arizona on October 9, 1995.

“I woke up and saw it on the news, and I went to class and we talked about it,” Lum recalled.

Twenty-five years later, Lum, a special agent in the Federal Protective Service, is on an FBI task force working to find anyone responsible for the derailment that killed the train conductor and injured dozens more. No one has been arrested, but the FBI continues to investigate.

Amtrak’s Sunset Limited was traveling from El Paso to Los Angeles when, while crossing a bridge, it ran over an altered track in a rural area 70 miles outside of Phoenix. Around 1:35 a.m., the train slowed down as it crossed the track, but momentum and the train’s weight sent it careening into a ravine, Lum said.

The conductor was thrown from the train and died. Of the 258 passengers on the train, 12 had serious injuries, and about 100 had minor injuries.

“There were young children and elderly people on board. Some of the victims said this really ruined their lives—they had PTSD, serious injuries,” Lum said. “These victims were deeply affected.”

The crash site was so rural that investigators and rescuers had a challenging time even reaching the passengers. Makeshift roads were built to get rescuers in and out of the area. And in an era before cell phones and GPS were common, rescue teams formed convoys so they wouldn’t get lost trying to find the victims.

Investigators at the scene at the time found a note claiming responsibility and expressing anti-government sentiment. But investigators have not yet found those responsible.

“This was just six months after the Oklahoma City bombing, it was fresh on everyone’s minds. People were on edge,” Lum said.

The passage of 25 years has not dampened the investigators’ resolve to find the truth. The public regularly calls with tips.

“We’re reexamining evidence with new technology, and the public continues to provide leads that we’re tracking down,” he said.

Lum emphasized that the investigative team is committed to getting justice for the victims, especially the family of the conductor who lost his life.

“The crew and passengers were just innocent people going about their lives. They were minding their own business, sleeping in the middle of the night,” Lum said. “We want to make sure anyone responsible has to answer for this crime.”

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