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A roundup of recent editorials in Michigan newspapers

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The Alpena News. Jan. 13.

Obama ignoring the results of November elections

American voters sent a clear message last fall. Apparently, President Barack Obama wasn't paying attention.

To judge by his actions during the past couple of weeks, the president missed what voters throughout the nation said in November. In defeating dozens of liberal Democrat candidates for Congress and sending Republicans to Capitol Hill, the electorate repudiated most of Obama's policies.

Yet the president continues to defend (and lie about) every facet of Obamacare. He refuses to even begin implementing a rational energy policy by permitting construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. His foreign policy remains so inconsistent and weak it has emboldened enemies across the globe. And, as he demonstrated last week in proposing a massively expensive program to provide free community college for anyone who wants it, his big-spender credentials are unblemished.

There is another possibility, of course. It is that Obama understands perfectly what voters said in November — but doesn't care.

That ought to annoy and worry both Democrats and Republicans in Congress. It also should be the straw that breaks the camel's back for thoughtful Democrat lawmakers sick and tired of Obama's push for bigger government. They should join Republicans in reining in the White House.

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The Mining Journal (Marquette). Jan. 15.

Coordinated efforts protected vital U.P. land tract

The natural beauty of the southern shore of Lake Superior and the adjacent lands in the Upper Peninsula are becoming more widely known, and efforts to protect them in their natural state are expanding, as well.

One of the more recent preservation projects includes a diverse coalition of government and private organizations working to ensure a large tract of coastal wetlands in Baraga County is protected for future generations to enjoy.

The project involves the Keweenaw Land Trust purchasing about 1,374 acres in four parcels from private owners. The trust received a big boost — $1 million, to be exact — in its effort to raise the $2.5 million needed to acquire the property.

The grant came from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program and was funneled through the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

The properties in Baraga County include nearly a mile of Lake Superior shoreline and consist of high-quality, intact coastal wetlands and nearshore aquatic habitats on the Abbaye Peninsula and Lake Superior's Huron Bay.

The KLT grant was the only one awarded in Michigan this year, with a total of 25 grants totaling $21 million being distributed to projects in 11 states.

Included in entities expected to partner in the project and contribute toward the $1.5 million match for the grant are the Michigan Nature Association, the Michigan Nature Conservancy, Copper Country Audubon, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and the Leuthold Family Foundation.

According to the USFWS, Abbaye Peninsula and Huron Bay are important migratory bird corridors, particularly for waterfowl and raptors, and the forested wetlands and riparian habitats are home to a variety of wildlife, including such wide ranging animals as gray wolves and bobcats, as well as numerous bird species. The bay itself also supports a wide variety of fish species.

In addition, the purchase will guarantee that the large tract will remain open to the public, and the trust plans to promote recreational and educational opportunities on the land.

The KLT and its partners in the project certainly deserve to be commended for developing such a significantly important land preservation effort.

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Grand Haven Tribune. Jan. 13.

Unsafe ice isn't worth going onto

Finally, winter is here, and with it comes the ice that so many anglers have anxiously waited for.

But before rushing out onto the ice chasing your favorite fish species, please remember that not all ice is safe ice.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources offers plenty of ice safety tips on its website, michigan.gov/dnr.

Before you even leave the warmth of your home, you should consider:

— Ice conditions vary from lake to lake. Find a good local source — a bait shop or fishing guide — that is knowledgeable about ice conditions on the lake you want to fish on.

— Purchase a pair of ice picks or ice claws, which are available at most sporting goods stores.

— Tell a responsible adult where you are going and what time to expect you back. Relaying your plan can help save your life if something does happen to you on the ice.

Once you reach the ice, remember:

— You can't always tell the strength of ice simply by its look, its thickness, the temperature or whether or not it is covered with snow.

— Clear ice that has a bluish tint is the strongest. Ice formed by melted and refrozen snow appears milky, and is very porous and weak.

— Ice covered by snow should always be presumed unsafe. Snow acts like an insulating blanket and slows the freezing process. Ice under the snow will be thinner and weaker. A snowfall also can warm up and melt existing ice. If there is slush on the ice, stay off. Slush ice is only about half as strong as clear ice and indicates the ice is no longer freezing from the bottom.

— Be especially cautious in areas where air temperatures have fluctuated. A warm spell may take several days to weaken the ice; however, when temperatures vary widely, causing the ice to thaw during the day and refreeze at night, the result is a weak, "spongy" or honeycombed ice that is unsafe.

— The DNR does not recommend the standard "inch-thickness" guide used by many anglers and snowmobilers to determine ice safety. A minimum of 4 inches of clear ice is required to support an average person's weight on the ice; but since ice seldom forms at a uniform rate, it is important to check ice thickness with a spud and ruler every few steps.

This time of year, when the first signs of cabin fever begin to afflict those who crave the out-of-doors, it's tempting to rush out onto that first ice. But remember, your safety is more important than a pail full of bluegills or crappies.

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The Detroit News. Jan. 14.

Wage structure will shape auto industry's future

The two-tier wage structure the UAW reluctantly agreed to with Detroit's Big Three automakers in 2007 might be history this year, at least if the CEO of FCA US, the company formerly known as Chrysler, has his way.

Sergio Marchionne called the structure "impossible" and "almost offensive" in front of a crowd of reporters Monday at the North American International Auto Show.

Equal work should receive equal pay, the auto executive has argued many times, and he wants to steer his company in that direction during negotiations with the labor union this year.

In one sense, he's right.

It's unfair in principle that two workers on the same line doing the same job receive up to $20 an hour difference in pay, plus discrepancies in benefits.

But that structure was critical in helping the struggling automakers rein in labor costs, invest in their companies and become profitable once again.

Detroit's auto manufacturers will need to find the balance between continuing to invest in their companies — especially with global competition what it is today — and ensuring they have a stable, high-quality workforce.

Marchionne wants to freeze wages for veteran workers and offer less-senior workers more potential for profit sharing.

That might be one way to smooth things over with union leaders, who will be looking to level the playing field with an increase in base wages for workers, rather than a less-certain share of profits, which depends on the company's overall success.

As profits for all three companies have risen over the past several years, profit-sharing has delivered sizeable bonuses for workers, effectively raising hourly pay.

The lower wages have allowed the automakers to hire more people than they otherwise could have.

Marchionne's stance is particularly interesting. Chrysler is the one of the Big Three that is most dependent on less expensive workers, with roughly 40 percent of its workforce in the second tier.

Other players in upcoming negotiations at the other two companies have signaled it's critical to keep the current structure in place.

Wherever talks lead this year, it's most important the Big Three avoid signing contracts that are unsustainable over the long run. They can't return to buying labor peace during good times with pacts they can't afford during downturns.

The goal in these contract talks, as in all other factors of the business, should be to level out the cyclical nature of the industry as much as possible.

Though sales are strong now, bad times are inevitable. It's imperative the automakers be prepared to weather them without massive layoffs and plant closings.

These companies must find a smart solution to the two-tier wage structure, one that treats workers fairly and assures a quality workforce, without placing their financial stability at risk.

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