Michigan journalist sentenced 11 years in Myanmar, protest at Bloomfield Hills school, school outbreaks rise

A court in military-ruled Myanmar on Friday sentenced detained U.S. journalist Danny Fenster to 11 years in prison with hard labor after finding him guilty on several charges, including incitement for allegedly spreading false or inflammatory information.

Fenster, the managing editor of the online magazine Frontier Myanmar, was also found guilty of contacting illegal organizations and violating visa regulations, lawyer Than Zaw Aung said. He was sentenced to the maximum term on each charge and ordered to pay a 100,000 kyat ($56) fine.

Than Zaw Aung said Fenster wept in court after hearing the sentence and had not yet decided whether to appeal. He is the only foreign journalist to be convicted of a serious offense since the army seized power in February, ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Fenster has been detained since May. He still faces two additional serious charges in a different court for allegedly violating the counterterrorism law and a statute covering treason and sedition.

"Everyone at Frontier is disappointed and frustrated at this decision. We just want to see Danny released as soon as possible so he can go home to his family," Editor-in-Chief Thomas Kean said in a statement after the sentencing. "There is absolutely no basis to convict Danny of these charges.″

Fenster was detained at Yangon International Airport on May 24 as he was about to board a flight to go to the Detroit area in the United States to see his family.

The military-installed government has cracked down hard on press freedom, shutting virtually all critical outlets and arresting about 100 journalists, roughly 30 of whom remain in jail. Some of the closed outlets have continued operating without a license, publishing online as their staff members dodge arrest.

The army takeover was met by widespread peaceful protests that were put down with lethal force. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners has detailed the deaths of more than 1,200 civilians, in addition to about 10,000 arrests. Armed resistance has since spread, and U.N. experts and others observers fear the incipient insurgency can slide into civil war.

Fenster’s next challenge is the two additional charges that his lawyer said Monday had been filed in a different court in Yangon.

— Courtesy of the Associated Press

Racist hate speech scribbled on Bloomfield Hills school bathroom walls

Bloomfield Hills High School is investigating the defacing of one of their bathrooms where racist hate speech was found written on one of the walls. According to a release sent to families, the school has been in contact with the Bloomfield Township Police Department and its school security officer for assistance.

It's also encouraging students to report "discriminatory behavior," even if anonymously, as the district seeks to "prioritize the need to be proactive and responsive to hate speech."

"This behavior will not be tolerated and does not represent our mission as a school or the high standards we hold for our students and ourselves," read the letter, which was signed by the school's principal and district superintendent.

The district also said it would be implementing measures across the district, which include:

  • Grade level meetings to address the emotional impact of hate speech and the legal repercussions
  • Counseling and social work support
  • Staff meetings and trainings
  • Opportunities for student and community dialogue, which will be announced soon

Parents told FOX 2 that a peaceful protest is scheduled at 1:30 p.m. at the school. It will be made up of students, faculty, and parents. 

Brighton mom upset with maskless school after 6-year-old catches Covid

Christina Kafkakis said she did everything in her power to prevent it, but sometimes even a mom's will isn't enough. Her 6-year-old contracted COVID-19 at her Brighton elementary school, despite her consistently wearing a mask. Yet the county the school is based in has no mask mandate, even as she pleaded with officials. 

"I brought that up at a couple of the board meetings when I spoke," she said. "I asked them how would they feel somebody went into the hospital or got seriously ill from it. They said it was the parents' choice. I didn’t choose for my daughter to get Covid."

Cases are spreading so quickly that students were sent home this week until Nov. 30, Kafkakis said. But the outbreak is not an outlier. Cases are growing fast in pediatric settings and schools are the largest settings for outbreaks in Michigan. "Remember those kids might not get as sick from Covid, but some of them will," Beaumont chief Nick Gilpin said Thursday. "They can catch it, spread Covid to others, their teachers, household, and it becomes a way for the virus to propagate more."

Christina says her daughter got her first dose last Thursday and was exposed the next day. She has now spread it to her 10-year-old brother. Symptoms so far are mild and no one else in their now isolated, fully vaccinated family has become infected. "A lot of people talk about their personal freedoms and their personal beliefs," she said. "I really think we should think about the greater good."

Temporary mural to cover whale building in Detroit

Detroit’s Broderick Tower is getting a makeover. The whale mural better known as the "Wyland" or the whaling wall, will soon be covered with a different mural - but it won't be painted over. There are mixed reactions, Robert Wyland is the creator of the mural and 99 others around the world.

But when Dan Gilbert's Rocket companies found out that this building was going to be used as advertising space again, they saw an opportunity to bring more artwork to Downtown. For better or worse, it will be covering over this one. The clock is ticking - anyone who wants to snap some selfies or grab some pictures of the whale wall will want to do it before next Tuesday, It's important to note the new mural will be printed on vinyl and will simply cover the whale mural - it won't permanently replace it.

The new work is by artist Phillip Simpson. "My artwork represents Detroit is home - by not only painting my signature smiles," he said. "But this time we changed them to all different backgrounds, different colors because that represents everyone."

Dan Gilbert’s Rocket Companies tapped native Detroiter Phillip Simpson to create the new mural for the Broderick Wall. Simpson also brought his signature smiling faces to the basketball courts in the Rocket Mortgage Sports Zone as part of the Monroe Street midway.

Trailblazing Black architect at helm of new $5M shelter for Detroit animal care

Thousands of happy adoptions will happen in the future facility for Detroit Animal Care and Control, scheduled to open in a year and a half. And FOX 2 got to meet the architect who is making it happen.

"It just warms my heart that some of these animals are at risk, and so we want to bring them in and find happy families for their forever homes," said Beverly Hanna Jones. "It’s a warm story to be able to do an animal control center." It is a warm story that got its roots in a bit of history. Jones, a native Detroiter, dreamed of becoming an architect.

"There is not a long line of Black African-American female architects that are involved in the city," she said. "So it’s really an honor, to have the opportunity to be such an integral part of what’s going on."

The standout architect has been at it for three decades. It wasn’t until about 10 years ago that she joined hands with two others to create Hannah Neumann Smith. The firm on Woodward Avenue is responsible for many big projects in Detroit. Animal facilities in Romulus, Dearborn, and Detroit already have the firm’s stamp on them. And now the newest project - a $5 million, 30,000-square-foot facility will be built at Russell and Ferry. It will double the space of the existing facility.

What else we're watching

  1. FOX 2 participated in a ride-along with a homeless outreach group around Metro Detroit over the past two months. Read about Motor City Mitten Mission and the work they do here
  2. Warren police will be holding a press conference Friday announcing a cash reward for information leading to the arrest of Ashinay Horton-Starks, who is alleged to have shot and killed Johnice Clark. 
  3. Detroit police will also be holding a press conference to discuss the arrest of multiple suspects in connection to a carjacking ring in several cities. It's scheduled for 9:30 a.m. and will be on fox2detroit.com
  4. The Salvation Army is planning to install the world's tallest Red Kettle in Cadillac Square in Detroit on Friday. Its installation marks the official start of the group's annual Christmas campaign. 
  5. Legislators from Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties will meet at the annual Tri-County summit Friday to discuss future collaboration opportunities. The summit will be hosted at the Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores. 

Live on FOX 2

Daily Forecast

Hope everyone enjoyed the temperatures before the rain hit Thursday night because Metro Detroit is plunging into cold weather this weekend. Friday will peak in the low 50s and Saturday and Sunday in the low 40s. 

COVID-19 hot spots in parts of US serve as warning sign for upcoming winter

The contagious delta variant is driving up COVID-19 hospitalizations in the Mountain West and fueling disruptive outbreaks in the North, a worrisome sign of what could be ahead this winter in the U.S.

While trends are improving in Florida, Texas and other Southern states that bore the worst of the summer surge, it’s clear that delta isn’t done with the United States. COVID-19 is moving north and west for the winter as people head indoors, close their windows and breathe stagnant air.

"We’re going to see a lot of outbreaks in unvaccinated people that will result in serious illness, and it will be tragic," said Dr. Donald Milton of the University of Maryland School of Public Health.

In recent days, a Vermont college suspended social gatherings after a spike in cases tied to Halloween parties. Boston officials shut down an elementary school to control an outbreak. Hospitals in New Mexico and Colorado are overwhelmed.

In Michigan, the three-county metro Detroit area is again becoming a hot spot for transmissions, with nearly 400 COVID-19 patients in hospitals. Mask-wearing in Michigan has declined to about 25% of people, according to a combination of surveys tracked by an influential modeling group at the University of Washington.