Blogs > Frye on the News

Keeping his eye on the news and offering commentaries and insights on what is happening in Oakland County, around the world, on the tube and in the news.

Friday, May 23, 2008

No wonder gas prices are so high

Though it is natural to let markets dictate prices, the government
has some interest in ensuring that a sudden change in pricing does
not slow the nation's economy.
The recent spike in gas prices is proving an interesting case study,
and with some predictions of much higher prices in the near future —
County Executive L. Brooks Patterson tossed $12-a-gallon prediction
from at least one analyst out recently as he touted a 4-day work week
— I wonder if the government could actually do anything.
Earlier this week, the House passed a special resolution honoring
Frank Sinatra with a day declared for him — May 13, The Associated
Press reported.
Of course, they got around to this on May 20, a week after the
special day had passed.
Nonetheless, it passed 402-3.
Even though gas prices are already skyrocketing, hopefully our
leaders can organize similar unity in finding some kind or relief or
solution to something that many fear could drag this nation's economy
deeper into its slump.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Animal heroics

Usually animals in the news is a sad event, abused or killed animals
suffering at the hands of humans. In fact, groups have been
protesting the use of elephants in circuses due to allegations of
chaining them up for days at a time.
But twice this week, stories emerged of animals helping their human
counterparts, both in the field of law enforcement. One was locally,
in Madison Heights, and the other came out of Germany.
In Madison Heights, a teenager was alerted to a burglar by her dog
barking. The dog — a boxer-bull terrier mix named Bear — had cornered
the intruder, a 6-foot-4 man who had entered through a back door and
already had his hands on a laptop when the dog realized what was
The man was frozen for a moment, hiding behind the door and using it
as a shield. He had to kick the dog to get away, but he fled empty-
handed. Unfortunately, the man got away — likely to victimize someone
But at least the two teenagers at home that morning did not have to
face the terror of a home invader alone.
This story is the one reason we do not mind my black Lab barking at
everything that walks by and everyone who dares ring the bell. It
just takes once for a tragedy, and this family was lucky.
In Berlin, it was not a family pet but a herd of wild boars who saved
the day, according to a story from The Associated Press.
A suspected car thief was hightailing it away from the scene of his
crime, followed by police. He ditched the stolen SUV and his
passenger in a field and successfully fled the arriving officers, who
arrested the passenger.
However, the suspect had to call for help of his own after he had run
into a wooded area. Officers followed the shouts and found their man
but first they had to save him — from a herd of angry boars.
Apparently, he had stumbled into a spot where they had their young
and the protective animals were not keen on the intrusion.
Saved from the upset animals, police then arrested the 18-year-old man.
Again, good news about animals is a nice change of pace.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Numbers rise higher

It is a dark week for international tragedies.

Sure enough, the cyclone's damage in Myanmar is now being truly

Of course, it takes time to assess the damage, but like with other
natural disasters, the suffering is truly coming into focus now, 11
days after the cyclone ripped through the nation formerly known as

UN officials say the death toll could exceed 100,000, and the
International Red Cross puts it at between 68,000 and 128,000, both
according to The Associated Press.

More than the number of dead, the frustrating news is about the slow
response due to the government's inflexibility in dealing with
international organizations. It leads to possible comparisons to our
slow response to Katrina, showing what it takes to make our FEMA look
downright effective.

And while survivors need food, clean water and other supplies,
another storm has threatened the damaged areas, compounding the tragedy.

Meanwhile, in China, a massive response to the 7.9-magnitude
earthquake by the Chinese newspaper and television media has been
noticed by The AP. Details and personal stories of the suffering of
survivors and the mourning of the dead have poured out of the nation,
perhaps part of its acceptance of being in the world's spotlight with
the soon-to-arrive Olympic games.

With the official death toll at less than 15,000, it is accepted that
it will go up as tens of thousands remain missing in various areas.

Pile on with the bombings in India, it has been a depressing week of
international news, and with these tragedies in their early stages,
it is -- as we have seen in Myanmar -- likely going to revealed to be
much worse.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Ouch: Detroit now kicked by the feds

While Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick takes to the airwaves — or at
least to the city's cable access — to move the city forward, as he
and his cronies keep saying, the city received yet another kick from
the media.
This latest minor blow comes in the final paragraph of a Tuesday
story from National Public Radio's Web site about a federal
investigation of Special Counsel Scott J. Bloch, who is in charge of
protection for federal whistleblowers. Bloch is in hot water as he is
being investigated for bringing politics into what is supposed to be
a politics-free zone.
What is most interesting in the story is in the detailed allegations
of how Bloch apparently retaliated against career employees —
including threatening to send them to Detroit.
According to the NPR, employees have accused Bloch of "creating a new
field office in Detroit and forcing them to accept assignments there
or relinquish their jobs."
Again: Ouch.
Mr. Mayor, you better get working to move the city forward. That is a
low blow, having people quit their jobs and surrender their careers
just so they don't have to move there.
Of course, I hope this doesn't get used by the city — promoting
itself as a place to open new offices so as to drive employees away,
especially with some companies looking for ways to trim their

Sure enough, death toll climbs

As expected, the word leaking out of cyclone-ravaged Myanmar puts the
death toll at more than 22,000 with more than 41,000 other people
still missing, The Associated Press reported.
The damage to the nation, known also as Burma, and its people will be
long-lasting and devastating. Up to a million may be displaced, crops
have been destroyed, and the nation's strained political system — due
to a test with an upcoming election — could be forced into upheaval.
The headlines in this morning's papers had the death toll at 10,000,
after earlier reports put it at about 3,000.
But that is how it is when news travels slowly out of a country that
is half the world away. Plus, after disasters like this, it takes
time just to ascertain what the damage on the ground truly is.
Look at what happened in New Orleans.
In an age of perceived instant information, unfortunately sometimes
information cannot be obtained instantly. Once obtained, it can
travel the world in seconds or minutes. But it is still people taking
reports from other people.
That is why it is important for inspecting and then helping start
right away, something seemingly slowed by having to ask permission to
help — as had to be done with President Bush and the military junta
that rules Myanmar.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Again, a tragedy unfolds slowly

It takes time to learn the details after a tragedy, whether a single
home burning, a multi-vehicle traffic accident or a natural disaster.
Extra time is needed when the tragedy occurs half-way around the
world, this time in Myanmar — a southeast Asian nation also known as
Burma — where a cyclone appears to have claimed more than 10,000 lives.
Early reports put the death toll — the key statistic for
comprehending and categorizing major calamities — at about 350. By
this morning, it was at about 3,000, but this was sure to go up as
another 2,000 to 3,000 were still missing.
By mid-afternoon in Michigan, government officials in Myanmar warned
it could exceed 10,000.
Remember the numbers of dead climbing slowly after the tsunami in
2004, a Christmas-time event that killed around 230,000 in a dozen
nations around the Indian Ocean?
It took a day or so then for the full damage to be grasped by world,
and part of the shock was that so many people could die and word of
what had happened could come out so slowly.
In the first days, the officials counts were at 13,000 and then
22,000, according to stories from The Associated Press. While it was
known that thousands were still missing, the full scope was not yet
known here.
Myanmar has been in the news here in the U.S. recently, as Buddhist
monks led protests of the government, resulting in a crackdown and a
flood of coverage in the United States.
It will be interesting to see how the government, long resistant to
outside influences, handles this tragedy. So far, it is good to see
that they have requested assistance from the international community.
Let's the hope the news does not worsen as the coming days pass and
the situation is better assessed.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Horror stories prove true

A shocking story came out Austria this week, that of Josef Fritzl, who is accused of keeping his own daughter a sexual captive for 24 years in a secret dungeon -- or windowless cellar room -- in his home.
The latest is that he threatened to gas to death her and the children he had fathered with her if they tried to flee.
It is the type of story that I would expect to see in a Hollywood thriller or blockbuster, the kind of movie that would have me rolling my eyes at the fantastic plot. "Why do they insist on making things more fantastic and so unreal?" I would likely complain to my wife, despite enjoying the film and its performances.
Of course, I've learned that reality can be crazier and more disgusting that anything dreamed in the head of a screenwriter.
I've seen and heard of stories like that, covering police and courts here at The Oakland Press. 
A couple of years ago, a lawyer mentioned he had a case starting that week involving two men who had taken turned sexually abusing one of their daughters. One would commit the abuse and the other would play a video game; then they would trade.
I had already seen and heard quite a bit by then, but even I was blown away. I told the lawyer that his defense would be a pretty basic "who could believe something like this could ever occur?" He said, yes, but.
But what?
But the other man had already admitted it, pleaded guilty and been sent to prison. He would testify against the lawyer's client. So your guy is going to prison, I said.
And that is where he is today and will be for decades.
I learned never to disbelieve something based solely on its outrageousness. Skepticism is good, but I've seen that anything is possible.
Another time, as a police reporter more than a half dozen years ago, I was sent to St. Joseph Mercy hospital in Pontiac with a late Friday night report of a man who had attacked his wife, started a fire and disappeared in the massive building. Arson, domestic violence 
Every stupid cop movie -- starting with 'The Blues Brothers' and its massive police chase at the end -- I had bemoaned for an exaggerated police response suddenly was no longer that stupid. 
The story turned out to be a false report, a prank, but for the 45 minutes I stood outside on Woodward Avenue, police cars came screaming up to the building. Dozens and dozens of police cars from Pontiac, the sheriff's office, and state police arrived that Friday night, creating a surreal scene that meant every speeder in the county was going home that night ticket-free.
It was unbelievable, but there I stood among any number of possible police convention punch lines. The culprit was never caught, though I was curious about the man who had brought his son out to check the excitement. But whoever had done it had proved that it was possible to recreate a Hollywood movie set on Woodward Avenue.
And I learned for the first time to hold off when tempted to say "but that could never happen."