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WHMI 93.5 FM Radio Station for Livingston County Michigan with News, Traffic, and Weather Service for Howell and Brighton

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    A local robotics team is hoping to raise enough funds to attend the Michigan state championships. The F.A.S.T., or Fowlerville Area Scientific Technicians, Team will be competing in the FIRST Robotics Competition program. Officials say it’s their founding season and the team did well this past weekend in their second-ever event in Lakeview, Michigan. They did so well in fact that they won the All-Star Rookie Award, the highest award a Rookie team can be awarded. That along with how they did in both of their competitions qualified them for the Michigan State Robotics Competition this coming weekend in Saginaw. Organizers say they now have a huge challenge and all of the members of the team are reaching out to friends, family, and social media to raise the funds needed to attend the State Championships. A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to raise funds to pay for participation fees and get the team to Saginaw Valley State University for the Michigan State Robotics Competition, a four day event. A link to the fundraising page is provided. (JM/JK)

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    Livingston County is preparing to host a warrant amnesty program. The 53rd District Court announced the amnesty program for those who are delinquent on payments to the court. The program offers waivers of late fees to individuals upon payment of fines and costs in full, for a one-day period only. The program will be held on Thursday, May 24th from 8am to 4pm and is designed to enhance collections and minimize costs to the county. All misdemeanor and civil infraction cases in which a late fee and/or cost to compel appearance fees have been assessed are eligible. There is no negotiation for restitution owed. Officials say individuals will not be arrested and jailed on a warrant for failure to pay fines and costs issued by the court. Upon their appearance, the warrant would be canceled. 53rd District Court records showed active warrants for 4,142 individuals. Complete details can be found in the attachment. (JM)

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    The City of Howell is looking at implementing a public safety special assessment. As part of the 2018/2019 budget, Council directed staff to prepare approval and adoption of a public safety special assessment. It would be on all real property within the city, the equivalent to three mills. The City has been dealing with a financial crunch to what leaders say is largely related to state issues, reduced state revenue sharing, Proposal A and the Headlee Amendment. After years of making cuts and efficiencies, officials want to maintain the City and are looking to generate new revenue through an assessment district. As proposed, the assessment would generate $885,192 to fund police services. The new revenue would then be able to offset current general fund dollars, which would be reallocated primarily to fund infrastructure projects in the City. Although the economy has recovered over the last few years, officials say flaws in the way the state funds local governments is becoming more painfully apparent. The City has been making cuts for years and various efficiencies have been implemented to help manage all of the fiscal challenges and minimize the service impact on residents. The City has also been deferring assorted infrastructure projects including road, sidewalks and building improvements. City Manager Shea Charles tells WHMI they’ll be sending out notices to all property owners, noting this is a multi-step process for consideration by council. On Monday, Council approved a resolution setting a public hearing for Monday, April 23rd at 7pm at Howell City Hall to discuss the proposal. If the district is approved, then council would set another public hearing to consider the actual amount of the assessment. Those interested in learning more about the proposed public safety special assessment can visit the City website. A link is posted. (JM)

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    Sentencing has been handed down to a Cohoctah Township man charged with animal cruelty after dozens of dead cows were found on his property. 61-year-old Keith Edwin Huck Jr. was sentenced Monday in 53rd District Court to 15 days in jail, two years of probation and five days of community service. Huck initially faced up to four years in prison due to a felony charge of animal cruelty, however he admitted to reduced charges of failure to bury animals and abandoning/cruelty to one animal resulting in death, as well as having an unlicensed dog in December. At Monday’s hearing, Judge Suzanne Geddis ruled Huck must attend counseling and cannot own any animals during his term of probation. He will have to pay $21,744 in restitution to Livingston County Animal Control, but may receive early discharge if he complies with all conditions of his sentence and completes restitution payments. Huck was charged following an investigation conducted by Animal Control, which led to the discovery of approximately 70 dead cows at two locations on Robb Road on property said to be owned by Huck. Court records indicate the investigation may have begun last summer as the offense was determined to have occurred in May. Picture courtesy of Sanctuary and Safe Haven for Animals (DK)

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    A statewide tornado drill is planned tomorrow and participation is encouraged of residents and businesses in Livingston County. All outdoor warning sirens in Livingston County will be set off at 1:00pm Wednesday and the Livingston County Public Alerting System will contact residents via landline telephone, cell phone, text message, and/or email to announce the drill. Participation in the sheltering portion of the drill is voluntary. This marks the third consecutive year that Livingston County is participating to promote community preparedness and safety as everyone enters severe weather and tornado season in Michigan. Livingston County residents, businesses, schools, local and county government agencies are being asked to take a few minutes to practice severe weather and tornado sheltering safety by taking part in the drill. Participation should include taking shelter as though a tornado has been spotted in the area. Officials say it’s important to discuss where to shelter and what to do, whether at home or work, and practice your plan. It’s also an opportunity to review emergency weather plans and make updates if needed. Wednesday’s drill is being done in conjunction with Severe Weather Awareness Week, which runs through Saturday. More information about the drill and preparedness is available through the provided link. (JM)

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    The site of a former gas company where contaminated groundwater was discovered in Hartland Township is undergoing cleanup, which officials say appears to be going well. In 2015, a chemical called sulfolane was found to have leached into the soil and underlying groundwater on property once occupied by the Merit Energy gas processing plant. The discovery was made at the five acre parcel at Lone Tree and Pleasant Valley Road while the plant was being decommissioned. Merit took action by sampling residential wells and installing monitoring wells to determine the extent of the contamination, which was later determined to be confined to the site. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality ordered Merit to develop a cleanup plan and a bioremediation system has now been operating for about four months. Hartland Township Trustee Matt Germane says the remediation system is being monitored for progress every two weeks, though Merit is finding the contamination is disappearing in the outlying areas that had low concentrations to begin with and bioremediation will need to continue in the areas that contain “hot spots”. It’ll likely take up to seven months to know how long cleanup will take because trends become more evident then. Still, Germane says they at least know the remediation system “is working”. The results of the recent groundwater sampling are expected to become available at the end of the month, at which time the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will receive the first progress report. The report will then become a public document the township and residents can further review. (DK)

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    A man is facing criminal charges following a retail fraud incident at Rural King in Hartland Township. The Livingston County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report retail fraud around 5:17pm Saturday that had just occurred at the Rural King on Highland Road. Store employees reported that a man was observed attempting to conceal an unknown item in his coat. The employees pursued Thompson into the parking lot and attempted to restrain him for suspected retail fraud but he managed to escape and fled in his vehicle. The Sheriff’s Office says the employees sustained minor injuries but did not seek medical attention at the time of the incident. 39-year-old Sean Thompson of White Lake Township was later located by the Sheriff's Office and arrested on charges of unarmed robbery and retail fraud. Thompson was arraigned in 53rd District Court in Howell and is currently free on a $5,000 cash/surety bond. The Livingston County Sheriff's Office was assisted by the White Lake Township Police Department and the incident remains under investigation. (JM)

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    The Milford Police Department is investigating a morning road rage incident. A male suspect reportedly threw a large knife through the rear window of a male victim’s vehicle after following him and driving aggressively. The victim was an armed CPL holder and reported the incident to police. Milford Police are seeking information from anyone who was in the general area from the intersection of Pontiac Trail and South Milford Road to the intersection of Pontiac Trail near Old Plank Road this morning, between the hours of 6:30am and 7am. Police are specifically looking for any information on interactions between a gray colored full size Mercury Sedan and a black Jeep Wrangler. Anyone who was in the area this morning and witnessed anything involving the described vehicles is asked to contact Officer Nicole Adams with the Milford Police Department at 248-684-1815. (JM)

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    Preliminary talks to possibly develop a recreational community center are underway. The Howell City Council met Monday night and discussed the concept before giving the go ahead for talks to continue. Various community partners expressed interest in developing a community center and conversations to date have centered on how to provide recreation services and a facility to meet area needs and possible funding options. Officials are considering land on Howell Public Schools campus property between M-59 and Grand River. The area consists of 235 acres, has space available, and is centrally located in the community. A small initial group has been meeting to gauge support but has expanded. Last night, Council gave consensus to move forward and continue kicking ideas around. The group is tasked with further refining initial concepts to eventually evolve into a potential project and new organizational structure or determine the idea is not feasible. City Manager Shea Charles says the group is looking at ideas to determine if it’s something they want to pursue as a partnership. He says there was a change made to the recreation authority law a couple of years ago to allow for stronger partnerships between a municipality and a school district. Charles tells WHMI how long it takes and where things will end up, they don’t know but there’s a sense right now that there are enough interested community partners and leaders that want to try and take a deeper look at the prospect. He says a concept paper has been laid out and includes a potentially 100,000 to 150,000-square-foot multi-purpose community center to provide recreational services for all generations. Mayor Nick Proctor and Councilman Bob Ellis were named to the larger community working group, which will include representatives from Howell Public Schools, the Howell Area Parks & Recreation Authority, partnering townships and assorted staff from each. The Howell Public School district is interested in a potential partnership with the City of Howell that would create a recreational community center. Board members came to a general consensus that they too are interested in the idea enough to develop a committee with representatives from both entities. Representatives from the Board of Education to serve on the committee have not yet been determined. The committee would not only explore the concept but also the scope of the center’s services and the potential costs involved. The financial aspect is important as state law allows two municipalities to levy for a tax amongst voters to help finance the partnership. Superintendent Erin MacGregor says the committee will search for what the tax would ultimately look like for a voter. MacGregor says there are two key components behind the idea of a community center. One would be creating opportunities at a reasonable cost for all demographics. The other is to create space for the many groups that require a facility to operate. MacGregor says if interest still remains based on the committee’s findings, the entities would pursue formally creating a recreation authority. Still, MacGregor says it’s far too early to say that decision is a guarantee. Picture courtesy of Google Street View. (JM/DK)

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    Local libraries are calling all gumshoes to help solve a murder-mystery on a train and see the movie that inspired it. Livingston Reads is yearly event held by 6 libraries throughout the county as a way to bring the community together through one book. This year’s novel is Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. In celebration and keeping with the theme, a pair of events surrounding it are planned for this Friday, and next. This Friday, the 13th, from 6pm until 7:30, the Brighton District Library is inviting all would-be detectives to participate in the murder-mystery, Death Leaves on Track 13. The event is appropriate for adults and teens 7th-grade and up with the library recommending bringing a teenage relative along for the ride. Registration must be done in person at the Brighton Library, call 810-229-6561, ext 227 for more details. Then on Friday, April 20th, a special showing of 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express will be shown at the Historic Howell Theater. Doors open at 6:30 for the 7pm viewing. Admission is free with a library card and on a first-come, first-serve basis. For more information these events and the Livingston Reads program, visit www.livingstonreads.org. (MK)

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    A sub-committee of 3 Livingston County Commissioners held their first meeting to discuss the ongoing fight against opioid abuse. Commissioners Gary Childs, Kate Lawrence, and Doug Helzerman met for the first time officially as the Opioid Abuse Advisory Committee, Tuesday night. The three have been tasked by Board of Commissioners Chairman Don Parker to look into the pros and cons on potential litigation against pharmaceutical companies for their alleged role in opioid addiction. More than 200 municipalities across the country, including 10 in Michigan are already taking part. Kasey Helton of Marion Township is a Democratic Commission candidate for District 6. Helton was at the meeting on behalf of Livingston County Democrats to urge the Board of Commissioners to participate in the case. Parker spoke during the call to the public portion of the meeting to say that this request has been mentioned twice on public record and at the state of county address. Parker, the committee, and County Administrator Ken Hinton all discussed possible courses of action. They came to an agreement that they need to gather stakeholders together discuss what they are doing and if there are ways that multiple entities can work together. They plan on reaching out to a dozen or so entities like the Sheriff’s Department, EMS, the Prosecutor’s Office, Community Mental Health, health care providers and more. Parker, an attorney, noted that if they do get involved, litigation could last years or decades and be very expensive. Childs pointed out a need to determine whether money is best spent on the lawsuit or if they could get better use out of the expenses by keeping it local. The committee will meet with corporate counsel at their next meeting, April 23rd, to help get a better idea on what participating in the lawsuit may cost. Helton said she generally pleased with the discussion the committee had, though was hoping for more talk around educating the community, especially seniors. She said that yes, a lawsuit will be expensive, but so is not doing anything. (MK)

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    A jury has found a former local businessman not guilty on charges he choked one of his employees. 43-year-old Mike Bouffard of Saline had been charged in Livingston County Circuit Court with a single count of assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder. But after less than two hours of deliberation, a jury on Tuesday found that the former owner of The Original Mikey’s Burgers & Fries in Howell not guilty. The business closed immediately after the incident in July of last year involving a parking lot altercation with a 20-year-old employee who alleged Bouffard choked him. Bouffard, who did not testify at his trial, previously said he had yelled at the employee for not wearing the proper uniform and then restrained him when he tried to attack Bouffard. He also claimed the employee and a co-worker lied when they told investigators he had tried to choke the young man. (JK)

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    Amendments to Handy Township’s zoning ordinance will allow for the operation and regulation of fuel power generation facilities. The Board of Trustees met Tuesday and unanimously voted to approve two resolutions related to the operation and regulation of power plants in the township. The first resolution modified zoning ordinance text to include qualified fuel power generation facilities as a special land use. This allows the township to permit and regulate those types of facilities. Trustees then voted to re-zone property north of Mason and Truhn Roads from Agricultural Residential to Research and Development. The request to re-zone came from Competitive Power Ventures, or CPV, a company interested in constructing a natural, gas-fueled electrical power plant on the parcel. CPV Director John Hafner says a two-year due diligence period comes next, during which time the company will decide if the land is a suitable location for their plant. Hafner says the board’s decision gives the company a template to help plan the project. Moving forward, CPV plans to conduct a number of studies and to reach out to potential customers. About 60 community members attended the board’s Tuesday meeting at Fowlerville Junior High School. Area residents expressed to trustees their reasons for opposing or supporting the proposed power plant. Supporters say the plant will be a huge investment that will bring jobs to the region. Opponents voiced health, safety and environment-related concerns. Township Supervisor Ed Alverson says officials have worked really hard to come up with a special use permit that is not only fair to the developer, but “especially fair to residents of the township.” (DK)

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    An overdose prevention event will be held in Brighton next week. Overdose Prevention: Free Naloxone Training is being put on by Bryan’s HOPE, in conjunction with Project Opiate. The event will also have a discussion panel about the current opiate crisis and what can be done moving forward. That discussion will be led by 53rd District Court Administrator Francine Zysk, who says there are a lot of great families out there who have gone through a tragedy and are doing incredible things to reduce stigma. Following years of work to educate the community, the question becomes what to do next. She says this is an epidemic and on a local level, everyone needs to come together as a community, reduce stigma, remember those that have gone and try to impact the ones coming in front of them. Zysk tells WHMI the community has been educated on what opiates do as well as the direct impact of prescription drug use and heroin addiction. She says they’re now focusing on what to do to stay united, reduce stigma and help each other in the community. Zysk says there have been so many efforts and education done about the opioid crisis over the years and along the way, they’ve met a lot of people and families impacted who have done a lot of great things in the community. At the event, she says they’ll come together for a panel discussion to talk about what good things can come from the tragedies that happened and what comes next so everyone has a voice to be heard. The discussion will be followed by a free Naloxone training session that is open to the community. Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is a medication used to block the effects of opioids, especially during an overdose. Individuals age 12 and older are welcome to attend. Zysk says free Naloxone will be provided, which she described as another tool in the kit to use in a situation and prevent an overdose. The event will start at 7pm on Tuesday, April 17th and be held in the lower level of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Brighton, next to the Mill Pond. Organizers ask that those interested in attending please RSVP to 248-410-4163 or bryanshopemedia@gmail.com. Details are also available in the attached informational flyer. (JM)

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    Hartland Township officials are responding to a statewide organization that questioned the recent bid process for a sidewalk project. In January, the township put out to bid the Hartland Road Pathway Project, which will construct a sidewalk along Hartland Road from near Meijer to Dunham Road, connecting the village to the commercial area. The winning bid came in from Preiss Companies for $200,030. But on April 5th, the Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association (MITA), which represents over 500 construction-related companies in Michigan, sent the township a letter expressing concern over the process that led to the winning bid. MITA accused the township of conducting “unwarranted post-bid, pre-award negotiations that resulted in that bidder being allowed to change a unit price bid after the bids were opened.” The organization said it had “significant concern” as that bidder, Priess, was ultimately awarded the contract and said, “Maintaining the integrity of the bidding process is a high priority for our industry…” In response, Hartland Township Manager James Wickman says there was never any negotiation once the bids were received, but instead that Priess had made a “sincere” error on a line item for slope restoration, listing it $2,000 per square yard, instead of as a lump sum for all slope restoration. At $2,000 per square yard, the bid would have been in excess of $8 million, or 40 times the final bid amount. Wickman says when Priess contacted them about the error, officials found it to be credible and allowed them to correct it. He added that, “Preiss was ultimately awarded the contract as both the lowest bidder and best contractor for this project.” The next highest bid was for $305,073. Wickman further said they were disappointed MITA characterized the township’s actions as a negotiation, making clear that was not the case and insisting, “Hartland Township will continue to analyze bids in a fair, unbiased manner.” You’ll find both the letter from MITA and the township’s response below. (JK)

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    A series of bills by a local legislator to protect underage crime victims has gained Senate Judiciary Committee approval. State Representative Lana Theis of Brighton drafted the 3 bill package after learning of a recent Livingston County case where a 16-year-old who was convicted of criminal sexual conduct charges against multiple victims sought to return to the school his victims attended. Currently schools are only required to expel if the sex crime is committed on school grounds. Theis called this a “gaping hole in our law” and an injustice. The new package will require schools to permanently expel students convicted of the charge against another student in the same district. It will also prohibit the expelled student from attending another public school in Michigan unless they go through a reinstatement process. Finally, if a personal protection order is granted to the victim, the offender would be prohibited from entering the victim’s school. On Tuesday, two local victims of sex crimes testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of the legislation. They told the committee about having to face the possibility of being in the same school, classroom, and bus route with the offender. Theis said this is “something that should not even have to be discussed” and that “we must better protect victims.” House Bills 5530, 5531, and 5532 will now move on to the Senate for consideration. (MK)

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    Arraignment has been held for the former director and an employee of a local animal shelter, both of whom are facing criminal animal cruelty charges. 70-year-old Sharen Anne Kizer and 65-year-old Valerie Jay Cunnings, both of Howell, were arraigned today in 53rd District Court. Kizer is charged with abandoning/cruelty to 10 or more animals, while Cunnings is charged with abandoning/cruelty to less than 10 animals. The charges stem from violations found at Last Chance Rescue in Howell Township, where Kizer was the director and Cunnings was an employee. Livingston County Animal Control had received complaints about the facility’s conditions and care of animals. In December, Animal Control officers found violations that prompted them to seize about 120 animals. Animal Control Director Aimee Orn previously told WHMI when on scene, there were great concerns for the safety and well-being of the animals and they were not comfortable leaving them there. Kizer’s attorney, Steven Lacommare, said some of the animals seized were not owned by Kizer or Last Chance Rescue and they should have been returned to their rightful owners immediately. Kizer’s personal bond was set at $10,000 and Cunnings was set at $5,000. Both women are free on bond and return to court later this month for a probable cause conference. (DK)

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    A seminar to help educate and prevent elderly abuse is being held for those who come into contact and work with them later this month in Howell. Livingston County Catholic Charities is holding a day-long seminar to cover all the types of abuses senior citizens may face, like personal abuse, financial abuse, and physical abuse. The event is being held thanks to a grant Catholic Charities received from the Area Agency on Aging 1-B. Several people and organizations that come into contact with the senior population will give presentations to educate and get people to say “no” before they get involved with the growing influx of scams. Catholic Charities’ Penny Jones said they are spearheading efforts to help the elderly keep money in their pockets for personal needs. Jones said she’s had 4 calls just this week in response from people being scammed out of a combined $60,000. One of the scams was local, which Jones says is easy to get into court, but when it happens from overseas, the money is more likely to be lost. Jones said that when someone loses thousands of dollars to a scam, people take notice. But when you’re living on a fixed income of, say, $850 per month, sending a scammer $40 or $50 after bills are paid is no different. Jones said sometimes people get so embraced in the brainwashing and grooming by the scammer that they won’t even listen to family members trying to help them, and that is one thing they need to stop. The seminar is scheduled for Friday, April 20th, from 9am until 3pm at the Livingston County EMS building in Howell. Pre-registration is required by the end of Thursday and can be done by calling Penny Jones at Livingston County Catholic Charities number, 517-545-5944. (MK)

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    Volunteers are being sought for a community initiative expanding into Livingston and Washtenaw Counties. The Michigan State Police is looking for volunteers to join its CAUTION initiative. It stands for Community Action United Team in Our Neighborhood. CAUTION is a partnership between MSP, clergy and faith group members of all faiths that works to increase trust and communication between law enforcement and residents. CAUTION was created in 2012 at the Flint Post but has expanded since to include faith leaders in Saginaw, Inkster, Muskegon Heights and Benton Harbor. 103 trained volunteers are currently participating in the program. Due to the continued success of the program, CAUTION is now expanding statewide to each of MSP’s 30 posts, including Brighton. CAUTION members meet regularly with post personnel to encourage dialog and information-sharing. They can also be activated to respond alongside law enforcement at crime scenes to ease tensions and provide emotional support to residents. CAUTION members will partner with MSP members at civic events and diversionary events that seek to deter future criminal behavior in their communities. MSP provides various training to volunteers, some which includes courses in critical incident defusing/debriefing, security in places of worship, responding with law enforcement in a crisis, avoiding caregiver burnout and clergy’s role at a critical incident scene. There is also an annual statewide CAUTION conference. Interested individuals in Livingston and Washtenaw counties are asked to contact Community Service Trooper Olivia Sivy at the Brighton Post at 810-227-1051 to learn more. (JM)

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    Livingston County’s voice in Congress is weighing in on the situation in Syria. President Donald Trump on Wednesday warned of imminent military action in Syria over a suspected poison gas attack near Damascus that Syrian opposition activists and first responders say killed more than 40 people. Syria has denied carrying out such an attack. Local Congressman Mike Bishop told WHMI the president issued a pretty firm warning when the U.S. Navy launched 59 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles at a Syrian military airfield. That was in retaliation for a Syrian chemical-weapons attack on its own civilians last year. As for the latest attack, Bishop says President Trump has drawn a very clear red line in the sand and he agrees with it. He says if this regime is using gas or any kind of chemical weapons on its own people, it’s in violation of the Geneva Conventions and basically every modern day treaty they have. Bishop says there is a moral obligation to protect people when such a regime and that kind of abuse exist. Bishop expects there will be a thorough investigation to determine if there is evidence of chemical weapons being used and he thinks the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should be held accountable – stressing this cannot continue to go on. He says the United States is the greatest force of peace in the world and should be doing everything possible to make sure human rights are protected. (JM)

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