High court clears way for Detroit charter vote, new details on Delta variant, another Spirit Airlines fight

Former Sen. Carl Levin, a powerful voice for the military during his career as Michigan's longest-serving U.S. senator, has died. 

The Democrat was 87. His family says Levin died Thursday. 

A Washington insider, Levin took a civil but straightforward approach to governance, and he worked effectively with Republicans and fellow Democrats. He was a longtime member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and co-chaired the Senate Auto Caucus, which promoted policies benefiting the domestic car industry. 

Levin ousted Republican Robert Griffin in the 1978 U.S. Senate election. He won reelection five times, but chose not to seek a seventh term in 2014.

His nephew, Congressman Andy Levin, released a statement about his uncle's passing:

"Throughout my adult life, wherever I went in Michigan, from Copper Harbor to Monroe, I would run into people who would say, ‘I don’t always agree with Senator Levin, but I support him anyway because he is so genuine, he tells it straight and he follows through.’

"Carl Levin personified integrity and the notion of putting the public good above self-interest. As he walked about the Capitol in a rumpled suit, almost always with a plain white shirt and pedestrian tie, carrying bulging files with the occasional paper flying away, Carl was the very picture of sober purpose and rectitude. In truth, he wasn’t unfun. In fact, he often pierced tense situations with self-deprecating humor, and he privately shared incisive observations about others with staff and colleagues. 

"But Carl was all about the work, and the great honor the people of Michigan had bestowed upon him with their votes and their trust. He did not seek to divine their views to be popular, but rather to study the issues and advance the people’s interest to the best of his ability. Uncle Carl met with more presidents, kings, queens and other important people than all but a few of us ever will. But he treated them all the same as he did a Detroit autoworker or a beet farmer in Michigan’s Thumb – with a full measure of dignity but no airs, ever ready to puncture self-importance, posturing, mendacity and avarice. 

Carl Levin (Photo: United States Congress)

"He was so well-prepared for every meeting, hearing, and conference that he challenged conventional boundaries between senator and staff. He was one of the most challenging senators to work for and one of the most rewarding. Challenging, because you had better know your business in detail, since he surely did. Rewarding, because he had authentic relationships with staff, treated them with deep respect, and was loyal to them. 

"Uncle Carl was above all a family man. No matter the pressing business he faced as a senator, he always centered Aunt Barbara, my cousins Kate, Laura and Erica and their families, devoted time to them and so obviously cherished them. And the way he loved and treated his family radiated out and served as a model for how he treated colleagues, staff, constituents, soldiers and the world. 

"From my earliest memory to this moment, perhaps above all, he has defined with my dad how close two brothers, two siblings, two people can be. In the end, these two Jewish boys from Detroit, these grandsons of immigrants each served 36 years in Congress, 32 of them together, becoming by far the longest co-serving siblings in the 232-year history of this place. As heartbroken as we are in this moment, I feel so grateful to have experienced this love and legacy."

Flood victims to receive $10 million in relief

The state of Michigan will disburse $10 million in emergency relief funding to help Detroit-area and other southeastern Michigan residents whose homes, businesses and belongings were damaged by recent flooding caused by a late June rainstorm, according to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The money will be given to communities which will distribute it on the basis of greatest need, Whitmer told reporters Thursday in a Detroit neighborhood where basement and street flooding was among the worst following the June 25-26 storm that dumped 6 inches (15.2 centimeters) of rain in a matter of hours.

Whitmer added that the money essentially is to fill the gap for people who already have submitted claims through the federal Small Business Administration and FEMA, but "did not receive as much support as they needed to rebuild."

About 30,000 people already have signed up for federal assistance with more expected to do so, she said.

Another fight between Spirit passengers caught on camera

Another series of clips from a brawl between passengers traveling to Detroit made its way online Thursday when two Spirit Airlines customers got into a fight at the Atlanta airport.

Two women had planned on traveling from Hartsfield-Jackson Airport to Detroit Metro Airport and were waiting for their flight when the fight started. It appears the two women were mother and daughter. Officials with the airport said police were not called and the airline did not provide a comment. 

This isn't the first time that passengers for Spirit had gotten in a fight at the airport or on the flight. In fact, studies have found a large-scale uptick in unruly passengers recently. Last year was a boon for viral videos as passengers upset over having to wear a mask would be escorted off flights for compliance issues.

"Eighty-five percent of the flight attendants who took this survey, and that’s over 5,000 of them, said that they have dealt with unruly passengers this year," said Andrew Feldman, the spokesperson for the Association Of Flight Attendants-CWA. "The vitriol, the verbal, and physical abuse that we’re seeing from a small number of passengers on our aircrafts and in our airports is out of control."

MI Supreme Court clears way for Detroit charter vote

The Michigan Supreme Court cleared the way Thursday for a vote next week on major changes to Detroit's constitution that critics claim could ruin the city's delicate finances.

The state Supreme Court, in a 4-3 order, said the ballot question isn't doomed despite Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's refusal to give it her blessing because state law is silent on the impact of a governor's objection.

Giving the governor a super veto "would effectively disenfranchise the political voice and the vote of large portions of the Michigan electorate on matters of local concern, over which the state Constitution guarantees them a right to be heard," Justice Elizabeth Welch said.

The court overturned decisions by lower courts. Proposal P is already on absentee ballots that were distributed ahead of next Tuesday's election.

Rare anime figurines worth thousands stolen from Madison Heights store

A thief used a crowbar to break into a Madison Heights store and steal thousands of dollars worth of rare Japanese anime figurines Thursday morning.

Dressed in all black and armed with a crowbar and bag, the thief broke into Otaku Detroit on 11 Mile Road. They left with a bag full of figurines and went back inside for the cash register. Matt Lapoint said his store had $7,000 worth of rare figurines.

"It's not like they stole things that i can run out and order from a distributor," he said. "They took everything that was collectible and hard to find."

Lapoint said the thief has to be someone who knows the niche hobby. He said he has several friends who own pawn shops in the area, so he has asked them to keep an eye out for the stolen items.

What else we're watching

  1. The Detroit Pistons did what everyone was thinking Thursday when they exercised their top draft pick by selecting Cade Cunningham. The Oklahoma State grad will likely be an integral part of the Piston's lineup next season.
  2. Detroit voters will have an extremely important decision to make in the upcoming election. Proposal P, if approved, will alter how the city's government functions. At 10:30 a.m., officials will weigh in on the facts about the proposal.
  3. The Boys and Girl's Club of Southeastern Michigan will be launching their own sports and esports clubs that will help employ nearly 200 youth from Detroit every year. 
  4. A Northville Township Eagle Scout has built a dog agility course at a community park. Its grand unveiling is today at the Marv Gans Community Park from 2-4 p.m. 
  5. Michigan has expanded the expiration dates for Michigan drivers whose license or registration is set to become invalid by the end of this week. Residents will have 120 days to renew their license before any penalty is added.

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Daily Forecast

There's no uncertainty about the latest forecast for Metro Detroit: mid-70s and sunny skies. That's what's on the docket for Friday after a hot and humid week that also rang alarm bells over potential high winds on Thursday.

CDC: Vaccinated people can spread Delta variant

U.S. health officials are expected to release new data about the spread of COVID-19 on Friday that led to their decision to recommend that vaccinated people wear masks in some situations, a reversal of previous guidance.

The report, to be released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, comes from a recent investigation of a coronavirus outbreak in Provincetown, Massachusetts, according to a federal official who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the plan.

Earlier this week, the CDC changed its masking guidelines, recommending that even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the delta variant of the coronavirus is fueling surges in new cases.

Citing new - but unreleased -- information about the variant's ability to spread among vaccinated people, the CDC also recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors at schools nationwide, regardless of vaccination status.