February 2020 restaurant inspections in Livingston County

February 2020 restaurant inspections in Livingston County

Jennifer Timar
Livingston Daily
Published 6:30 AM EST Mar 3, 2020

Of the Livingston County restaurants inspected in February 2020, priority and priority foundation violations were found at 29 locations. 

Each month, the Livingston County Health Department inspects some businesses and schools that serve food. 

The Livingston Daily publishes reports on the most serious violations — ones that could lead to contamination of food or increase the risk of transmitting a foodborne illness — as well as corrective measures taken.

Four priority violations were found at:

Hartland Sports Center

2755 Arena Drive, Hartland Township

There were three spray bottles not labeled as to their contents. The person in charge labeled the bottles properly at the time of the inspection. There was no soap at the hand sink. Soap was available upon the inspector’s return. There were no paper towels at the hand sink. A new shelf was not allowing staff to open the dispenser and refill. Upon the inspector’s return, there was a dispenser available and paper towels were stocked in the dispenser. There was no chlorine test kit available. The facility decided to use quaternary sanitizer instead.

Horseshoe Lounge

10100 W. Grand River Ave., Fowlerville

The dish machine was not dispensing the proper amount of sanitizer. It was suspected that the product was expired. A new container of sanitizer was added and proper sanitizer concentrations were restored. The hand sink in the main kitchen was soiled with food residue. Coleslaw and ranch dressing prepared on Feb. 3 were labeled with a discard date of Feb. 20. Foods that are time and temperature controlled for safety cannot be held more than seven days. A proper discard date label was attached at the time of the inspection. No detergent was being dispensed in the dish machine because the container was empty. A new detergent container was added at the time of the inspection.

RELATED: 15 most common restaurant violations in Livingston County

Three priority violations were found at:

440 W. Main Street, Brighton

A pan of cooked chicken wings was holding at 50 degrees in the grill line prep cooler. A container of coleslaw was holding at 46 degrees. Upon further investigation, other items were also holding in the 41-to-50 degree range. All refrigeration equipment was working properly. It was suspected that the food items were left out at room temperature during the prep process. Some of the items are transferred from the basement walk-in unit on rolling carts. Those items may have been sitting on the cart for an extended period of time at room temperature. A tall plastic container of grits was cooling in an ice bath. The product was placed into an ice bath approximately 20 minutes earlier and was still approximately 200 degrees. The grits were transferred to a large shallow metal pan for proper cooling. Short ribs prepared two days prior to the inspection were cooled in a deep pan. No temperature violations were confirmed, but this method will not likely ensure proper cooling. Two refillable spray bottles containing cleaning chemicals were not labeled. The bottles were labeled at the time of inspection.

An infographic shows proper temperatures food should be held at to minimize the risk of foodborne illness.
Livingston County Health Department

Great Lakes Family Restaurant

963 S. Grand Ave., Fowlerville

Home-prepared foods were being stored in the walk-in cooler. The items included several 5-gallon buckets of cut tomatoes in a vinegar solution, which were prepared by a family member. The items were removed at the time of inspection. A pie cooler was holding food at 50 degrees. Cream pies and cheesecake were discarded. The pie cooler has been taken out of service and a new unit was ordered. Cream pies are now stored in another unit. A refillable spray bottle containing a chemical degreasing solution did not have a label. Proper chemical labeling was observed upon the inspector’s return.

Jimmy John’s

1504 Lawson Drive, Howell

An employee touched the computer ordering screen while wearing food handling gloves. They returned to prep food without changing the glove. Several employees did not wash their hands before wearing new food handling gloves. Both hand sinks were blocked by equipment. One hand sink was being used to store a water pitcher for the bread-making equipment. The other hand sink contained a sanitizer bottle.  The items were removed at the time of the inspection.

8515 W. Grand River Ave., Brighton

There were multiple employees improperly washing their hands. One employee washed their hands less than the required time and proceeded to use their pants to dry their hands. Another employee washed their hands less than the required time and did not dry their hands. Multiple employees changed soiled gloves but did not wash their hands properly as there were no paper towels to be found at any of the hand sinks in the kitchen. There was shredded lettuce on the line without time stamps. There were no paper towels at either hand sink in the kitchen. An employee was sent to the store during the inspection.

Mimi’s Diner

5589 E. M-36, Pinckney

There was rice in the steam table that had been placed there about an hour and 45 minutes prior. It was at 120 degrees. The steam table should not be used to reheat foods because it takes too long. It was reheated properly to over 165 degrees in the microwave oven and placed back into the steam table. The chlorine sanitizer concentration in the dish machine was too high. It was adjusted. Foods were being improperly cooled in the walk-in cooler. Mashed potatoes and rice were in containers 6-to-8 inches deep with the plastic wrap slightly uncovered on the edge. The rice was already cold, but the potatoes had been placed there an hour and half before and were at 100 degrees. They were moved to uncovered shallow pans. Sausage patties were being cooled in a covered shallow pan and were at 67 degrees. The cover was removed so that the heat was not trapped in. 

Old Hickory Bar

7071 Bennett Lake Road, Fenton

The cooler next to the fryer was holding food at 49 degrees. Deli meat, sliced tomatoes, burger patties and dressing were discarded. Upon the inspector’s return, there were no items in the cooler at time of inspection, but the ambient air read a proper 40 degrees. The in-use knives and utensils were being switched out every shift, which is typically eight hours. The in-use utensils that are in contact with food that is time and temperature controlled for safety need to be washed, rinsed and sanitized at least every four hours. Raw beef was stored in the walk-in cooler above bottled drinks. It was moved away from ready-to-eat food.

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Two priority violations were found at:

Jersey Giant Subs

3813 Tractor Drive, Howell

Tomatoes and lettuce had been put out at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., respectively, but were not marked to indicate the time they were removed from the cooler and the time they must be discarded (4 hours later). They were marked during the inspection. The hand sink in the dish-washing area was blocked by buckets and a cart. They were moved.

Jets Pizza

120 W. Highland Road, Suite 800, Howell

A couple a bottles of cleaner were stored on the prep table near food. They were moved to the chemical storage room. Always store chemicals away from food and clean equipment. There were a couple spray bottles of sanitizer missing labels. They were labeled during the inspection.

Mary’s Fabulous Chicken & Fish

2429 E. Grand River Ave., Howell

A cook came into work, took an order, put food handling gloves on and made the food without washing his hands first. He washes his hands. Several onions in a bin in the walk-in cooler had white mold growth. All of the onions were discarded.

Snappers on the Water

6484 Bennett Lake Road, Fenton

There was a container of moldy food dated from December. It was discarded. There were some cans that were leaky and rusted. They were set aside to be returned.

St. John Catholic Church

2099 Hacker Road, Howell

The two-door cooler in the kitchen is holding food at 60 to 65 degrees. Sour cream, yogurt, milk and sauerkraut with sausage were discarded. There was a large pot of tomato sauce that was improperly cooled in a large container in the cooler. The cooler was broken. The sauce was at the same temperature as everything else (60 to 65 degrees). It was discarded.

Tubby’s Sub Shop

9912 E. Grand River Ave., Ste 500, Brighton

A food handler used gloves that touched raw meat to begin to assemble ready-to-eat sandwich ingredients. She was stopped and told that she must wash her hands and put a new pair of gloves on before touching ready-to eat food. She washed her hands and donned a new pair of gloves. The solution used to wipe down the cutting board contained too much chlorine. Water was added.

One priority violation was found at:

3949 W. Grand River Ave., Howell

A dicer in the cleaned dish area contained food particles. It was cleaned.

Brighton Coffeehouse and Theater

306 W. Main Street, Brighton

The automatic dish machine was calibrated for chlorine sanitizer, but the unit contained quaternary sanitizer. It resulted in sanitizer concentrations that were too weak. The quaternary sanitizer was removed and replaced with proper chlorine sanitizer. Proper sanitizer levels were restored.

Buffalo Wild Wings

9745 Village Place Blvd., Brighton

Foods in a prep cooler were holding 50 degrees in the upper compartment and 45 degrees in the lower compartment. Large metal containers of ranch and blue cheese dressings were holding at 50 degrees. The products were stored on ice, but the amount of ice was not adequate. Ranch and blue cheese dressings, cut tomatoes, cut lettuce, salsa and dairy products were discarded. Upon the inspector’s return, the cooler was repaired and a larger, taller ice bath was being used to hold dressings. 

Community Congregational U.C.C.

125 E. Unadilla Street, Pinckney

The dish machine was out of chlorine sanitizer. The container was tipped to the side to make sure that the machine was pulling the sanitizer, which it was. The bleach will be replaced before the next event.

Emagine Theater

10495 Hartland Square Road, Hartland Township

The dish machine was getting stuck in a cycle where it did not activate the hot water sanitizing cycle. It was repaired.

Hungry Howies

2560 E. Grand River Ave., Howell

An open container of grilled cooked chicken and sausage had a use-by date that had passed. It was discarded.

Jimmy John’s

750 W. Grand River Ave., Brighton

The facility uses both chlorine and quaternary sanitizers. However, only quaternary test strips were available. Chlorine test strips were purchased.

Mt. Brighton Resort

4141 Bauer Road, Brighton

No paper towels were available at the hand sink at Bruin’s Bar. Towels were provided at the time of inspection.

6995 W. Grand River Ave., Brighton

Hot dogs in a reach cooler were kept past their use-by date. They were discarded.

Stout Irish Pub

125 E. Grand River Ave., Brighton

Cooked cabbage, cooked pasta noodles and house-made pizza sauce were expired. The items were discarded.

Sunrise Family Diner

2375 E. Grand River Ave., Howell

A line cook cracked eggs, changed food handling gloves and put a new pair of gloves on before touching ready-to-eat food without washing their hands. 

Sushi Zen

114 W. Grand River Ave., Brighton

A staff member touched dirty dishes while loading them into the dish machine. He began to put clean dishes away without washing his hands.

Wendy’s

1022 S. Michigan Ave., Howell

An employee with painted fingernails was performing food-related tasks such as scooping fries without gloves on. 

Whispering Pines Golf Club

2500 Whispering Pines Drive, Pinckney

The interior of the ice machine had some mold growth. During the golf season it is routinely cleaned, but the club had not been open for a while. 

Wong Express House

9912 E. Grand River Ave., Brighton

A slicer had an accumulation of dried food on the back of the blade. It was taken apart to be cleaned. Grease accumulation was found in between and around equipment.

READ MORE LIVINGSTON COUNTY RESTAURANT INSPECTIONS:

Contact Livingston Daily reporter Jennifer Timar at 517-548-7148 or at jtimar@livingstondaily.com. Follow her on Facebook @Jennifer.Timar99 and Twitter @JenTimar99.

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KCC offers free manufacturing training for Battle Creek residents

person refrigerator chair

KCC program offers free manufacturing training available for Battle Creek residents


Elena Durnbaugh


Battle Creek Enquirer
Published 6:00 AM EST Dec 6, 2019

Kellogg Community College wants to help Battle Creek residents launch a career in skilled trades by offering a free manufacturing training program for those who meet income requirements. 

The Kellogg Advanced Manufacturing Assembly training program focuses on providing students the technical skills required to get a job in manufacturing and the professional skills needed to succeed.

“We have companies that are coming up and are like, ‘Hey, we need people,'” Workforce Solutions Career Coach Cherise Buchanan said. “They want people who are going to be committed and are going to stay there, and I think having these students come through our program and saying, ‘Hey, I can make it through this six-week program, and I can be there on time, and I can be there every day.’ You’re going to have a better opportunity.” 

Students at Kellogg Community Regional Manufacturing Technology Center campus experience what it’s like to work on a factory floor.
Elena Durnbaugh

The program will start in January at KCC’s Regional Manufacturing Technology Center campus. Courses cover foundational skills in technical training in manufacturing, Occupational Safety and Health Administration industry training, writing and computer classes and basic math for manufacturing.

Students also get experience working on a production line. 

“It’s changing the whole concept of what it means to go to college.” Kellogg Community College Chief Communications Officer Eric Greene said. “So many people… think going to college means I’ve got to be there for two to four years or longer. There’s going to be homework. It’s going to be all lecture based. But this is college. These are college credits they’re earning toward an actual degree, but it doesn’t feel like a traditional college experience.” 

‘What do you need to be successful?’

Students will earn 8.74 college credits, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration 10-Hour General Industry Certification and the WorkKeys National Career Readiness Certificate. 

Throughout their training, students learn industry standards for efficiency, quality control and safety so that, upon completion of the program, they’re ready for work in an entry-level position. 

“They’re actually learning these and putting them into practice,” Program Manager Lisa Larson said. “They’re debriefing at the end of each session. They’re doing several different production runs and then they’re talking about what defect they found and how they can do better.” 

As part of Kellogg Community College’s Advanced Manufacturing Assembly Program, student learn what it’s like to work on an assembly line by building an industrial strength cart from these parts
Elena Durnbaugh

The program also teaches students the soft skills needed to get a job.

Through a partnership with Michigan Works and Goodwill Industries, students in the manufacturing program receive resume building and mock interview training, as well as financial literacy instruction. They also get assistance with job placement.

Students also receive support services to help them overcome other barriers such as transportation or having enough to eat.

“Anything our students need, we all kind of work together to make sure they get what they need,” Buchanan said. “I like to say, ‘Look at the total person…What do you need to be successful?'” 

DENSO, Trillium among employers

Companies including DENSO Manufacturing, Trillium Manufacturing and Advanced Special Tools Incorporated have hired people from the program, and more companies are taking interest.

“Sometimes when we go on company tours, we have past KAMA students from four or five years ago giving the tours,” Larson said. 

In some cases, Larson said, students who go through the manufacturing program will return to Kellogg Community College for more specialized training.

Greene said the program typically has high placement rates and job advancement rates.

“They come through our program, and they get a job, and then a short time after that, they get a raise or a promotion,” he said. 

Even if students can’t find a job right a way, they can enroll in a paid work experience in manufacturing through Goodwill.

“Everybody can leave doing something if they chose,” Buchanan said. 

The program is part of Kellogg Community College’s Innovative Accelerated Credentialed Training, known as iACT. The programs, which include manufacturing and nurse assistant training, are designed to quickly prepare people with workforce skills. 

“There’s just a lot of progress toward our local workforce becoming more reliable, more vital, just to the overall production that goes on in this community,” Greene said.

Paid for by W.K. Kellogg Foundation

Both iACT programs are made possible through three-year a $2.8 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Next year will be the final year of the grant. 

Larson said Workforce Solutions would like to expand the program.

“We’re hoping to just keep continuing this because it is a very popular program. The employers recognize it. They value it, and we want to keep it going,” she said. 

To be eligible for the program, those interested must be 18 years of age and a Battle Creek resident. They must also meet income eligibility guidelines determined by household size. For example, an individual must make less than $24,280 to apply.

Twenty slots are available in each session, and the deadline to apply for the January advanced manufacturing training program is Dec.16. Classes begin January 27. 

Contact Elena Durnbaugh at (269) 243-5938 or edurnbaugh@battlecreekenquirer.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ElenaDurnbaugh. 

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Breakout prospects for 2020 | MLB.com

person

Every organization takes pride in its ability to identify and develop talent. We’re the same way at MLB Pipeline, especially when it comes to predicting future breakout prospects.

Looking at last year’s list of breakout candidates, we see many examples of players who realized their potential en route to becoming some of the sport’s premier prospects. White Sox outfielder Luis Robert shot up from No. 44 to No. 3 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list thanks to a 32-homer, 36-steal campaign across three levels, while Blue Jays right-hander Nate Pearson, another three-level climber in ‘19, ascended from No. 90 to No. 10.

With the start of the 2020 season around the corner, MLB Pipeline once again is picking one breakout candidate from each organization. And while some of the names on this year’s list might be more recognizable than others, they all have the potential to jump on the scene during the upcoming season and establish themselves as can’t-miss prospects.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Blue Jays: Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP (No. 6) — The Mets’ second-round pick from the 2018 Draft pitched better than his numbers suggest he did at Class A Columbia, and he made six impressive starts for Class A Advanced Dunedin after joining the Blue Jays in the Marcus Stroman Trade Deadline deal to finish his first full season with a 126/24 K/BB and .238 BAA in 106 2/3 innings. The 19-year-old righty is a high-ceiling pitching prospect, armed with a plus fastball-curveball combo, an advanced changeup and a mature overall feel for his craft that could help him move quickly through the Minors.

Orioles: DL Hall, LHP (No. 3, MLB No. 60) — Baltimore’s 2017 first-rounder boasts some of the best pure stuff in the Minors among left-handed pitching prospects, with a plus fastball-breaking ball pairing and a promising changeup. Hall’s overall control, however, leaves much to be desired after the 21-year-old southpaw issued 6.0 BB/9 over 80 2/3 innings last season at Class A Advanced Frederick. The good news is that Hall has never had any issues missing bats (11.1 K/9 across his first 185 1/3 pro frames) and continues to be tough to barrel (.201 BAA), so it’s easy to envision him taking a step forward in 2020 with improved strike-throwing ability.

Rays: Shane Baz, RHP (No. 7, MLB No. 94) — Acquired from the Pirates as the PTBNL in the lopsided Chris Archer deal, Baz spent all of 2019 at Class A Bowling Green in the Midwest League, pitching to a 2.99 ERA with 87 strikeouts and 37 walks in 81 1/3 innings (17 starts). He was especially good down the stretch, too, posting a 2.22 ERA over his final six regular-season starts for the Hot Rods before turning in an eye-opening performance in the Arizona Fall League. With a fastball that can touch triple digits, a devastating slider and a raw but promising changeup, the 20-year-old right-hander could develop into a front-of-the-rotation force if he can improve his control and command.

Red Sox: Gilberto Jimenez, OF (No. 7) — A $10,000 steal from the Dominican Republic in 2017, Jimenez skipped a level last season and led the short-season New York-Penn League in batting (.359) in his U.S. debut. The best center-field defender and one of the fastest runners in Boston’s system, he’ll make the jump to full-season ball in 2020.

Yankees: Clarke Schmidt, RHP (No. 5) — Schmidt had Tommy John surgery as a South Carolina junior a month before New York made him a first-round pick in the 2017 Draft. Though he has been brought back slowly, taking that summer off and totaling 114 innings in 2018-19, he already has reached Double-A and shows the makings of four plus pitches.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

Indians: Aaron Bracho, 2B (No. 13) — Bracho’s advanced bat earned him a $1.5 million bonus out of Venezuela in 2017, but he didn’t make his pro debut until last season because he fractured his right arm in May 2018. A switch-hitter who possesses deceptive power and precocious command of the strike zone, he hit .296/.416/.593 in the Rookie-level Arizona League last summer.

Royals: Kyle Isbel, OF (No. 8) — The Royals were excited after Isbel’s exceptional pro debut after they took him in the third round of the 2018 Draft, but his 2019 season was interrupted by injuries and he played in just 59 games. He made up for lost time in the Arizona Fall League and should use his impressive .315/.429/.438 (leading the league in OBP) showing to catapult him to the upper levels of the system

Tigers: Parker Meadows, OF (No. 12) — The Tigers knew that Meadows — Rays outfielder Austin Meadows’ younger brother — would need time to develop when they selected the athletic prep outfielder in the second round of the 2017 Draft, and his .221/.296/.312 showing over 126 games at Class A West Michigan in his first full season only confirmed that assessment. However, the 6-foot-5, 205-pounder’s five-tool profile offers reason to be optimistic about his future, as all the raw qualities are in place for the 20-year-old to develop into an impact player.

Twins: Wander Javier, SS (No. 7) — While it’s true the Twins didn’t protect Javier on their 40-man roster this offseason, that was a relatively low-risk move given the shortstop hasn’t played above A ball. A torn labrum cost him the 2018 season and he struggled once he got to full-season ball for the first time in late May of 2019 (.177/.278/.323). But he still has tremendous tools, the ones the Twins saw when they gave him $4 million to sign in July 2015.

White Sox: Matthew Thompson, RHP (No. 13) — Before Chicago selected Thompson 45th overall last June, it had spent just two picks that early on high school pitchers in the previous 17 Drafts (Gio Gonzalez in 2004, Spencer Adams in 2013). Though he was inconsistent as a senior last spring, the White Sox love his athleticism and quick arm, which could result in a mid-90s fastball and plus curveball once he’s fully developed.

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

A’s: Marcus Smith, OF (No. 30) — The Kansas City high schooler was a bit of a surprise third-round pick, one who wasn’t on our Draft Top 200 list in 2019, but he sure made the A’s look smart during his relatively brief pro debut in the Arizona League (.361/.466/.443 in 29 games). That advanced approach should serve him well and let him use his 70-grade speed to his advantage in his first full season of pro ball.

Angels: Jeremiah Jackson, SS/2B (No. 4) — He’s yet to reach full-season ball, but he set the stage for the jump by leading the Pioneer League in home runs and RBIs in 2019. He’ll need to cut down on his strikeouts (33 percent rate), but he’ll also only be 20 for all of 2020, so there’s time for him to refine his approach and become a truly impactful middle infielder.

Astros: Jeremy Pena, SS/2B (No. 8) — The son of offensive-minded second baseman Geronimo Pena, Jeremy was one of the best defensive shortstops available in the college class of 2018, when Houston popped him in the third round out of Maine. His glove was as good as advertised in his first full pro season, when he exceeded expectations by batting .303/.385/.440 with 35 extra-base hits and 20 steals between two Class A levels.

Mariners: George Kirby, RHP (No. 6) — Kirby made a name for himself as a control artist at Elon University and parlayed that into being a first-round pick last June. He showed just how good that command was by not walking a single batter in 23 innings during his pro debut. Seen as a safe pick who could ride his pitchability quickly up a ladder, his first full season could show that he’s more than that, with the potential to join others from his class on our Top 100 in 2020.

Rangers: Cole Winn, RHP (No. 4) — One of the most polished high school pitchers in the 2018 Draft, Winn went 15th overall but struggled more than expected while being kept on a tight leash in his first full pro season in 2019. But he finished the year with a 2.81 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 51 1/3 innings over his final 12 starts, showing signs of a quality four-pitch mix once he dials in his command.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Braves: Bryce Ball, 1B — Ball spent two years in junior college before transferring to Dallas Baptist for his junior year. The Braves nabbed him in the 24th round of last June’s Draft after he hit .325/.443/.614 with 18 homers and then he hit 17 more combined in the Appalachian and South Atlantic Leagues during his pro debut. He might have the most power in the system and has already shown the ability to get to it.

Marlins: Braxton Garrett, LHP (No. 7) — The seventh overall pick in 2016, the Alabama high school product required Tommy John surgery after just four pro starts, costing him all of 2018. Garrett looked like his old self last season, pairing a low-90s fastball with a plus curveball in high Class A, and could move quickly in 2020 as he puts elbow reconstruction further behind him.

Mets: Francisco Alvarez, C (No. 5) — Alvarez’s $2.7 million bonus in July 2018 was one of the top totals handed out during the 2018-19 international period, and it wasn’t long thereafter that he began to receive rave reviews from those inside the organization. The Mets challenged Alvarez last summer in his pro debut, assigning him straight to the Rookie Gulf Coast League before a quick promotion to the Appalachian League, and the then-17-year-old backstop responded by slashing .312/.407/.510 with seven homers in 42 games between the two stops. The Venezuela native is already perhaps the best pure hitter in New York’s system, with defensive chops behind the plate that could make him an impactful two-way catcher.

Nationals: Jackson Rutledge, RHP (No. 3) Taken with the No. 17 overall pick in last year’s Draft, Rutledge, a 6-foot-8 right-hander, has some of the best pure stuff among college pitchers from his class with an explosive mid-90s fastball and a wipeout slider that front his four-pitch mix. Harnessing his stuff to throw more strikes and developing a better changeup will be developmental keys for the 20-year-old in his first full season, though he’s exactly the type of power pitcher the Nats have successfully developed in the past.

Phillies: Francisco Morales, RHP (No. 6) — One of the top pitchers in the 2016-17 international signing class, Morales has tremendous raw stuff. In many ways, it played well during his full-season debut in 2019, as he struck out just over 12 batters per nine innings and held hitters to a .226 batting average. He needs to refine his command to reach his very lofty ceiling, but here’s betting he takes a big step forward in 2020.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

Brewers: Tristen Lutz, OF (No. 2) — Tabbed as the Brewers’ top breakout candidate a year ago, Lutz advanced to Class A Advanced Carolina in 2019 and produced a nearly identical line (.754 OPS, 13 HR, 137/46 K/BB) compared to his first full season (.742 OPS, 13 HR, 139/46 K/BB). The elevated strikeout rates fuel questions about the 21-year-old’s hit tool, but there’s a lot to like in his blend of right-handed power potential and patience at the plate. Lutz has the makings of becoming an everyday corner outfielder if it all clicks for him, and a strong showing at Double-A in 2020 would mark a significant turning point in his development.

Cardinals: Ivan Herrera, C (No. 6) — Signed out of Panama for $200,000 in July 2016, Herrera was pushed up to full-season ball at age 18 in 2019 and responded to the challenge by slashing .284/.374/.405 with nine home runs in 87 games across two levels, including Class A Advanced Palm Beach. Herrera continued to impress on both sides of the ball after the season as one of the Arizona Fall League’s youngest players and will enter 2020 with a big up arrow next to his name.

Cubs: Brennen Davis, OF (No. 3) — Though scouts considered Davis one of the better prep athletes in the 2018 Draft, a hamstring injury slowed him as a senior and helped Chicago grab him in the second round. More advanced than expected, he batted .305/.381/.525 and flashed 30-30 upside in low Class A last season — albeit while limited to 50 games by multiple finger injuries.

Pirates: Jared Oliva, OF (No. 11) — A seventh-round pick out of Arizona in 2017, Oliva has had a solid, if unspectacular, first two full seasons of pro ball with a career .274/.348/.403 line, to go along with an impressive 84 steals. He opened a lot of eyes by leading the AFL with 11 steals (in 12 attempts) and hitting .312/.413/.473, setting the stage for a big 2020.

Reds: Tyler Stephenson, C (No. 7) — The 2015 first-round pick got hit by the injury bug quite a bit during the first stages of his career, but he’s going to look back at 2019 as the year it all started to click. After a solid regular season in Double-A, the backstop had a very strong AFL campaign (.347/.372/.410 in 49 at-bats) to earn a spot on the 40-man roster. A big follow-up campaign should vault him onto the top catching prospects list and have him ready for Cincinnati.

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

D-backs: Kristian Robinson, OF (No. 2, MLB No. 71) — Signed out of the Bahamas for $2.5 million in July 2017, Robinson offered a glimpse of his potential in 2019 as he slashed .282/.386/.514 with 14 homers and 17 steals while ascending from Class A Short-Season Hillsboro to Class A Kane County in his age-18 season. The 6-foot-3 outfielder’s massive right-handed power highlights an all-around exceptional set of tools, and, overall, it gives him one of the higher ceilings in the Minors among teenage prospects.

Dodgers: Diego Cartaya, C (No. 11) — MLB Pipeline’s top-rated international amateur in the 2018 class, Cartaya signed for $2.5 million out of Venezuela. Often compared to Salvador Perez, he has the tools to make a difference offensively and defensively and hit .281/.343/.432 between two Rookie-ball stops in his 2019 pro debut.

Giants: Alexander Canario, OF (No. 7) — Signed for $60,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2019, Canario possesses the quickest bat in San Francisco’s system and batted .318/.377/.623 with 16 homers in 59 games between the Rookie and short-season levels last year. He fits the right-field profile well and could have even more value if he’s able to stick in center.

Padres: Reggie Lawson, RHP (No. 21) — The Padres’ second-round pick in the 2016 Draft, Lawson spent much of the ’19 season on the injured list with a balky right elbow, but he returned late in the season to make six starts for Double-A Amarillo, then dominated while making three impressive outings in the Arizona Fall League (0.82 ERA, 14 K, 11 IP), where he operated with a mid-90s fastball, a sharp, 12-to-6 curveball and a promising changeup. With his blend of size and stuff, Lawson could break out in earnest with a healthy 2020 campaign.

Rockies: Helcris Olivarez, LHP (No. 25) — Olivarez made his United States debut in 2019 and missed a lot of bats in the Pioneer League (11.76 K/9 in 46 2/3 IP), largely with a very lively fastball. He’ll need to improve his command (4.63 BB/9) and tighten up his secondary stuff, but the ingredients are all there for him to take a big step forward, perhaps with a move to full-season ball.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

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Mark Latunski Kevin Bacon death after Grindr date – what happened

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Mark Latunski Kevin Bacon death after Grindr date – what happened

Mark Latunski Kevin Bacon death – Kevin Bacon missing December 24 was found dead December 28 in Shiawassee County Bennington Township after meeting up with a man he’d met on Grindr, a dating app.

A 50-year-old man has been arrested on an open murder charge related to Kevin Bacon death. The suspect’s name is being withheld pending arraignment which according to Michigan State Police Special 1st Lt. David Kaiser could be in Shiawassee County District Court as early as Monday, Dec. 30.

Read below alleged reports on social media about Mark Latunski kidnapping and Kevin Bacon death:

Holy Sh*t the #GrindrKiller’s name is Olykos Kai Lukas

His real name Mark Latunski

His real name Mark Latunski

— Lord Humungus the Chuggernaut (@flintdivebarguy) December 29, 2019

@JeffreeStar
this man was found murdered after a grindr meet up in Michigan on Christmas Eve. I saw it on facebook and noticed he had several #jeffreestar tattoos. I wanted you to see this and all of us can keep his friends and family in our thoughts.

@JeffreeStar this man was found murdered after a grindr meet up in Michigan on Christmas Eve. I saw it on facebook and noticed he had several #jeffreestar tattoos. I wanted you to see this and all of us can keep his friends and family in our thoughts. pic.twitter.com/J9ryxTmgVz

The man who murdered him was convicted of kidnapping in 2013 and then about a month or two ago he was holding someone hostage in his basement who was able to flee and get away safely but the courts said he was not fit for trial, and then this happens. Sad day.

Mark Latunski

The craziest part is man who murdered Kevin was chasing the man who escaped,who has naked only wearing a cape, down the road and the murderer told police it was consensual and he was only chasing him because he wanted his cape back.

It’s been all over the news in Michigan since Christmas, have multiple friends who knew Kevin. The community is most definitely shocked. This could’ve been prevented.

The man who murdered him was convicted of kidnapping in 2013 and then about a month or two ago he was holding someone hostage in his basement who was able to flee and get away safely but the courts said he was not fit for trial, and then this happens. Sad day.

— Kathryn Pertler (@KathrynPertler) December 29, 2019

The craziest part is man who murdered Kevin was chasing the man who escaped,who has naked only wearing a cape, down the road and the murderer told police it was consensual and he was only chasing him because he wanted his cape back.

— Kathryn Pertler (@KathrynPertler) December 29, 2019

It’s been all over the news in Michigan since Christmas, have multiple friends who knew Kevin. The community is most definitely shocked. This could’ve been prevented.

In 2013 Mark Latunski was charged with kidnapping and parental interference. He went thru a competency hearing and was found INCOMPETENT to stand trial! We pray that he doesn’t get away with murder and is found competent to stand trial!

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How NFL players spent early-season byes – Wedding planning, hockey and more

Through six weeks of the season, eight teams have already had a bye week. How do players spend the off week that early in the season?

Our NFL Nation reporters asked around locker rooms, gathering downtime activities from Weeks 4-6, including wedding planning, deep-sea fishing and NHL games.

Planning a wedding during a grueling NFL season can be tough, but a Week 5 bye week can certainly help. Detroit Lions center Frank Ragnow thought his off weekend would be filled with visiting various wedding venues after proposing to his fiancée, Lucy Rogers, earlier this year. But when the couple returned to their native Minnesota, they only visited one on Friday — a vineyard and apple orchard in Waconia, Minnesota, about 30 minutes from where they grew up.

“I told Lucy right away that you can pick everything. It’s your day,” Ragnow said. “I really, I will marry you wherever you want to get married. But I just want to pick the food. The only thing I really care about is the food so far, that’s about it.”

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But because the Waconia venue requires use of its own caterer, Ragnow would be taken out of the food game if they choose it. So he has already started giving her a hard time about the vineyard, though mostly joking.

After the shortened wedding planning, Ragnow went to Pioneer Ridge Middle School in Chaska, Minnesota, where his mom, Marty, works. Marty recently met a student, Evan Connolly, wearing head-to-toe Lions gear and, after starting a conversation, learned he recently lost his father.

“My mom knew I was coming home for bye week and found out it was his birthday on Friday,” Ragnow said. “So she set it up, and I came by the school and surprised him, wished him a happy birthday, got to know him, signed a few things for him and talked for a little while. Met his mom, gave her a big hug and talked to her. Really, my mom set everything up, she’s an angel. It was pretty cool being able to see a big smile on his face.”

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Ragnow can relate. His father, Jon, died in 2016 when Ragnow was in school at Arkansas. Connecting with children who have lost parents at a young age has been a large part of the foundation he’s still working to set up.

Otherwise, it was a low-key weekend for Ragnow and Rogers. They went to a Chanhassen High School football game Friday night and celebrated Rogers’ grandmother’s birthday on Sunday before heading back to Detroit on Sunday night to pick up their dog, Bear, who spent his bye weekend at Camp Bow Wow in Ann Arbor. — Michael Rothstein

New York Jets nose tackle Steve McLendon, voted a team captain in large part because of his indefatigable work ethic, devoted his Week 4 bye to … well, working. He returned home to Atlanta and spent the time at his training facility — Team MVP (McLendon Vision Performance) — which is set to open after the season. McLendon owns the facility, which includes a field house and indoor track, and has four employees. McLendon used his days off to get the weight room up and running. He describes himself as a hands-on owner.

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Chris Berman and Tom Jackson recap the weekend’s games with extended highlights and analysis.

The show will stream live at 7:30 p.m. ET each Sunday during the 2019 season and will be available on demand each week until late Wednesday night. Watch on ESPN+

When he wasn’t working at his facility, McLendon simulated a typical NFL week, making sure he did his daily workouts in the weight room. That included a game-day workout, which he did on Saturday because of family obligations on Sunday. His credo is, “The gym is always open.” Asked why he didn’t escape to a tropical beach on the bye week, McLendon said, “My beach is in front of that iron. That’s my beach. I’m built different.”

But Jets safety Jamal Adams? He used the off week to escape to Turks and Caicos. He didn’t watch football and tried not to think about football. He totally unplugged, although he admitted he kept his phone with him on the beach. “Had a glass of wine and relaxed,” he said. “That’s all I did.” — Rich Cimini

Buffalo Bills safety Jordan Poyer spent his Week 6 bye at his Florida home with his wife, Rachel, and daughter, Aliyah. An avid angler, Poyer made sure to take advantage of Florida’s ample coastline and fishing opportunities. It’s something he did while growing up in Oregon, but his passion for it really took off once he moved to the Sunshine State.

“I do [a lot of fishing], especially since I moved to Florida,” Poyer said. “It’s kind of something that everybody does down there. The first time I went out deep-sea fishing was one of the first weekends I was in Florida, and I fell in love with it.” — Marcel Louis-Jacques

After the team’s London game, Oakland Raiders rookie running back Josh Jacobs was in Las Vegas on Saturday for the Week 6 bye to coordinate a charity event and meet with Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak when the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights heard he was in town and reached out. Jacobs had already played in a charity softball game this summer with Knights players, so he was familiar with the NHL team to a degree.

“They hit me up and was like, ‘We heard you was in town, we want you to come to the game,'” Jacobs said Monday. “I was like, ‘Sure, I ain’t never been to a major hockey game.’ And they were like, ‘When you get here, we’ve got some stuff for you.’ I’m like, all right, they’re just going to sit me somewhere, let me meet the players again. But they were like, ‘You’re going to start the game off with the siren.'”

Indeed, Jacobs was the celebrity guest to sound the pre-puck-drop, old-school-sounding siren to rally fans before the Knights’ showdown with the Calgary Flames.

🚨 @iAM_JoshJacobs IS IN THE BUILDING!!!! 🚨 pic.twitter.com/HywLn6ehZX

— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights)

“Then they gave me my own jersey and everything,” Jacobs said. “It was dope. And the atmosphere was crazy. Production? Crazy. They had a whole five-minute video before they played. I was like, this is lit. I didn’t think it was going to be fun, honestly. It’s hockey. But this is lit. I will definitely go to another game. Definitely.” — Paul Gutierrez

Three former Ohio State Buckeyes turned Miami Dolphins — linebackers Raekwon McMillan and Jerome Baker and offensive tackle Isaiah Prince — spent their Week 5 bye back on their old stomping grounds in Columbus, attending Ohio State’s 34-10 win over Michigan State.

Fields leads Ohio State to win with 3 TDs

Justin Fields throws two touchdown passes and runs for another to propel No. 4 Ohio State to a 34-10 win over Michigan State.

“Them boys are looking good,” McMillan said. “We got a chance to make some noise this year.”

He played for the Buckeyes from 2014-16 before being drafted in second round by the Dolphins in 2017 and said he goes back once a year, usually during the bye. Baker and McMillan both have much of their immediate family living in Ohio, so they split bye-week time between hanging on their old campus and seeing friends and family.

“It’s always a great vibe. Got a great chance to catch up with coaches and just be fans,” said Baker, who played at OSU from 2015-17 before becoming a Dolphins third-round pick in 2018. “This team got something real good brewing. It didn’t even seem like [Michigan State] had a chance.” — Cameron Wolfe

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Planned Parenthood’s political arm to spend $45 million on electing candidates backing reproductive rights

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(CNN)Planned Parenthood‘s super PAC kicked off a $45 million electoral program targeted toward battleground states for the 2020 election, the reproductive rights giant announced on Wednesday.

The group’s self-identified largest program to date will go toward “large-scale grassroots organizing programs and targeted canvass, digital, television, radio and mail programs,” according to a press release. Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin will all be focuses of the initiative, per the release.
“Who we elect will determine our access to birth control, cancer screenings, sex education, abortion access and more,” said Kelley Robinson, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes, in a statement.
“That’s why Planned Parenthood Votes will use every tool at our disposal to hit the pavement, flood the airwaves, and elect reproductive rights champions up and down the ballot,” she added. “We know this is a fight we can win.”
The super PAC pledged to back reproductive rights candidates “from the White House to the Senate to statehouses and ballot initiatives across the country,” indicating a state-level focus after a year that saw a slew of pre-viability abortion restrictions coming out of conservative state legislatures. Planned Parenthood is among the plaintiffs in lawsuits challenging such laws in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Missouri and Ohio.
Anti-abortion leaders decried Planned Parenthood’s election efforts, accusing the group of looking to protect its own finances and lamenting its federal subsidies. Planned Parenthood received $563.8 million in government funding in 2018, according to its annual report.
Lila Rose, president of anti-abortion group Live Action, slammed the funding effort as a display of “ruthless prioritization of politics and their bottom line over women’s health care.”
March for Life President Jeanne Mancini said in a statement that the funding effort was unsurprising “because this Administration has implemented a pro-life agenda in many areas, including the Protecting Life in Global Health Policy and new Title X regulations, both of which impacted Planned Parenthood’s bottom line.”
“It is unfair to force Americans to subsidize through their tax dollars this partisan political organization bent on electing pro-abortion politicians,” she added.
This year, Planned Parenthood rejected some federal funding. The group decided to drop Title X funding in August after the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Trump administration rule blocking recipient providers from discussing abortion services with patients. HHS told recipients in July that the rule would go into effect despite several pending challenges.

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Progressives Are Divided On How To Approach The Impeachment Process

Algorithmia AI Generated Summary

When House Speaker support for an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump last week, some of the most pointed criticism of her leadership evaporated in an instant.

Need to Impeach, the nonprofit funded by billionaire Tom Steyer that had been a thorn in Pelosi’s side for the better part of two years, only had good things to say.

“People will look back at this moment as the day Congress stood up for democracy, American values, and our constitution and fought back against the corrupt, criminal president, Donald Trump,” Nathaly Arriola, the group’s executive director, said in a statement.

Need to Impeach has now turned its attention to vulnerable Senate Republicans, whom it announced on Tuesday it will be pressing to back impeachment with over $3 million in television and digital advertisements. 

But beneath the praise and comity, there is some disagreement among progressive groups as to how to proceed.

At one end of the debate is a smaller group of progressive activists and experts worried that the impeachment inquiry risks at once dragging on too long and covering too few of the president’s infractions.

And on the other side of the spectrum are groups like Need to Impeach, as well as officials, activists and strategists who see no need, for the time being, to exert additional public pressure on congressional Democrats.

“We’re getting it right here,” said Greg Pinelo, a veteran Democratic media strategist who helped develop advertisements for both Obama campaigns. “You can argue about whether we should have got here sooner. But facts on the ground change ― and the facts on the ground right now suggest a really focused effort.”

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Speaker Pelosi, right, addressed reporters alongside Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). Her support for an impeachment inquiry has largely quieted critics.

Not everyone is content though. Heidi Hess, who runs the progressive phone company Credo’s issue campaigns at Credo Action, expressed disappointment in Speaker Pelosi’s press conference on Tuesday. 

Hess is calling for a timeline for completing the investigation and a deadline to vote on articles of impeachment that are reported out. She fears that allowing the process to drag on could give Trump an opportunity to sow more chaos and diminish public support for the process.

“Unless we have deadlines, then for us, that is still them telegraphing that what [Democrats] want is to stall,” she said.

Credo Action, the nonpartisan, pro-democracy nonprofit Free Speech for People and several other groups have called for the House Judiciary Committee to report out articles of impeachment against Trump by Nov. 1 and a vote on those articles by Nov. 15. They are also demanding an immediate end to the current congressional recess in the interest of expediting the process.

Another priority for these liberal critics is impeaching Trump on the broadest possible grounds, which they worry Democratic leadership is not adequately interested in. Credo Action is part of a coalition of liberal groups and legal experts, under the intellectual leadership of Free Speech for People, calling for Trump to be impeached for at least 12 different reasons. The reasons, which the groups outlined in a July 30 letter to the House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York, fall under the broad categories of abuse of power, corruption of the electoral process, promotion of racial hostility, and corruption and self-enrichment.

“We remain deeply concerned that Congress is not addressing this constitutional crisis with the urgency that’s required at the moment,” said John Bonifaz, an attorney and co-founder of Free Speech for People. 

Bonifaz helped develop the coalition’s list of impeachable offenses and advised Democratic Reps. Al Green of Texas and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan on their earlier efforts to initiate impeachment inquiries. He worries that failure to hold Trump accountable for the full scope of his misconduct could again set an “extremely dangerous precedent” for presidential impunity.

Hess cited the possibility of a repeat of the articles of impeachment against then-President Richard Nixon. Congress chose not to issue articles of impeachment related to Nixon’s secret bombing of Cambodia, which Hess and other left-leaning activists regard as a mistake that helped future presidents prosecute foreign interventions illegally.

Pelosi has not set any explicit deadlines for the House Judiciary Committee to report out articles of impeachment. But at a press conference on Wednesday, the speaker warned that refusals by the Trump administration to cooperate with the House’s investigation into Trump’s request that Ukraine investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter would be regarded as obstruction of justice. 

“We do not want this to drag on for months and months, which appears to be the [White House’s] strategy,” Pelosi said. 

A lot of the work on the other misconduct has already been done. I think [impeachment] will be broad and fast. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.)

Pelosi has also said that House committees investigating other elements of Trump’s potential misconduct will report their findings to the Judiciary Committee, leaving open the possibility that impeachment will cover a broader range of matters.

Rep. Ro Khanna, a California Democrat and vice chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, stood out among his colleagues with a public appeal last week for Congress to postpone its two-week recess in order to work on the impeachment inquiry. He predicted that focusing on a broad range of Trump’s misdeeds is compatible with a rapid process. 

“A lot of the work on the other misconduct has already been done,” Khanna told HuffPost. “I think [impeachment] will be broad and fast.” 

But assurances like those are not enough for Hess, Bonifaz and some other outspoken progressives who worry that the absence of firmer commitments from Pelosi right now, when the pressure to placate the grassroots is perhaps greatest, raises the risk of a looser approach going forward. 

The trouble for these Pelosi critics is that many of their normally allied organizations and activists are thus far unwilling to publicly criticize the speaker’s management of the process. 

Spokespeople for the Democracy for America, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Indivisible all expressed support for an impeachment process that is both prompt and broad in scope without joining in criticism of Pelosi.

Meagan Hatcher-Mays, who runs Indivisible’s democracy program, shared Hess’ commitment to a rapid process, as well as a wide-ranging inquiry. “Every day that he’s in office is a new threat to our election security,” she said. But Indivisible is not setting out a hard deadline; Hatcher-Mays said the group hopes it nears completion before Thanksgiving. 

Similarly, PCCC spokeswoman Maria Langholz called Pelosi’s approach of having committees of jurisdiction submit to the Judiciary Committee the results of their investigations into Trump “smart.”

And Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America, which rivals Credo Action and PCCC in online organizing heft, suggested a middle path in terms of the scope of the impeachment articles ― something shy of 12, but more than just one about Trump’s pressure on Ukraine.

Chamberlain said he is “not really concerned” with the speed of the process so far, but he would like to see the House move on it quickly so it can proceed to the Senate. The sooner it gets there, he argued, the sooner it can be used against Republicans senators up for reelection in swing states.

“The Senate has the most to lose here,” he said.

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How Fossil Fuel Companies Are Killing Plastic Recycling

So many things we buy come packaged in plastic containers or wrappers that are meant to be used once, thrown away and forgotten ― but they don’t break down and can linger in the environment long after we’re gone. It’s tempting to think that we can recycle this problem away, that if we’re more diligent about placing discarded bottles and bags into the curbside bin, we’ll somehow make up for all the trash overflowing landfills, choking waterways and killing marine life.

For decades, big petrochemical companies responsible for extracting and processing the fossil fuels that make plastics have egged on consumers, reassuring them that recycling was the answer to our trash crisis. Just last month, Royal Dutch Shell executive Hilary Mercer told The New York Times that the production of new plastics was not the problem contributing to millions of tons of plastic waste piling up in landfills and drifting in oceans. Instead, she suggested, the problem is one of improper waste disposal. Better recycling, she implied, is the solution.

“We passionately believe in recycling,” Mercer told the Times.

But plastic recycling is in trouble. Too much of the indestructible material exists in the world, more than our current recycling networks can handle. And the very same companies that say recycling is the answer are about to unleash a tidal wave of fresh plastics that will drown recyclers struggling to stay afloat.   

“We’ve been trained [to think] that we can purchase endlessly and recycle everything,” said Genevieve Abedon, a policy advocate at the environmental nonprofit Californians Against Waste. “There is no way that recycling can keep up.” 

Big oil, natural gas and chemical companies have poured an estimated $200 billion into more than 300 petrochemical expansion projects across America from 2010 to 2018, according to the American Chemistry Council. Fossil fuel giants ExxonMobil and Shell, as well as plastic makers like SABIC and Formosa Plastics, are building and expanding at least five ethane cracker plants in Appalachia and along the Gulf of Mexico. The facilities will turn ethane, a byproduct of natural gas fracking, into polyethylene pellets, which can be made into a variety of products, including milk jugs, shampoo bottles, food packaging and the air pillows that protect your Amazon orders.

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Many consumer goods companies would rather purchase newly made plastic resin pellets than those made from recycled materials.

Already, over 350 million metric tons of new plastics are produced worldwide annually. In the next decade, production will jump 40%, spurred in part by the new manufacturing plants, according to an analysis by The Guardian. 

Current rates of recycling are dismal. In Europe, about 30% of plastics are recycled, but the U.S. recycles only 9.1%, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That’s about all our networks can manage without significant improvements and investments in recycling technologies and infrastructure.

Recycling will suffer when the new manufacturing plants begin pumping out more virgin plastic, said Ted Siegler, a resource economist at waste management company DSM Environmental Services Inc., based in Vermont. 

“They will hurt recycling,” he said.

The Making Of A Recycling Emergency

In theory, more plastics should be good for recyclers. But the industry is already in the midst of a crisis.

America has grown accustomed to shipping low-value trash overseas for recycling. This practice began on a large scale in the early 2000s. Last year, that system fell apart, leaving recyclers scrambling and consumers confused.

The country never developed recycling networks that would handle all kinds of plastics, according to Heidi Sanborn, executive director of the nonprofit National Stewardship Action Council. Instead, local recyclers process only the stuff they can make money off of. Most high-value plastics, like soda bottles (which come stamped with a “1” symbol) and milk cartons or shampoo bottles (which bear a “2” stamp), are pulled out and recycled domestically. Everything else ― that’s anything stamped with the numbers 3 through 7 ― remains unsorted and gets shipped as “mixed plastics” to other countries, where they can still turn a profit. (Things like potato chip bags and candy bar wrappers are practically worthless and aren’t considered recyclable. People still try to mix them in with their household paper and plastic, much to the consternation of recyclers.) 

“We did the world a disservice by not doing our due diligence and saying it’s worth paying American citizens to do the work and keep the jobs and the recycling infrastructure solid at home,” Sanborn said.

Plenty of other countries export their recyclables as well. Until recently, China had been the world’s largest buyer of recyclables, taking 40% of America’s scrap paper and plastic. At the end of 2017, however, China blocked shipments of foreign recyclables, causing mixed plastics (numbers 3 to 7) and paper to pile up at ports around the world. Prices for these scrap materials tanked, wiping out what little value the plastics had to begin with.

In the wake of China’s ban, with no place for mixed paper and plastics to go, curbside collection programs from Maine to Michigan to Florida were suspended. Reports have emerged from cities and towns across the country about collected recyclables ending up in landfills and incinerators.

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Recyclers across America have had to cancel service or scale back after China’s clampdown on imports of contaminated foreign waste. Some have had to send recyclables to landfills. 

The latest big blow to recycling came in early August with the closure of rePlanet, California’s largest chain of recycling centers where consumers could return empty containers and redeem bottle deposits. Even though plastic bottles still have some value in the States, it’s not what it was before the China ban.

“The scrap value of recycled materials has dropped across the board for every material, some much worse than others,” explained Martin Bourque, who heads up the Berkeley, California-based Ecology Center, home to one of the country’s oldest curbside recycling programs. 

For recyclers like rePlanet, which made money only on the materials it sold, low scrap prices make it difficult to cover operating costs. In rePlanet’s case, there were other factors at play: For one, a state-run mechanism designed to help recyclers ride out hard times didn’t adapt quickly enough to save the company. 

But there was another problem, too: Consumer goods companies don’t necessarily want to source recycled plastics for their products, not when they can save money by purchasing freshly made plastic.  

“It’s so much cheaper to buy new, virgin resin,” Bourque said. 

A Glut Of Virgin Plastics

Since oil and natural gas are the raw materials for making plastic, the price of virgin plastic is tied to oil and natural gas prices, which are currently low. Natural gas, in particular, is now very cheap due to the fracking boom in the U.S. Remember the ethane crackers getting built in Appalachia and the Gulf of Mexico? They will only make virgin plastic cheaper, according to Siegler. 

“All the new plants that are coming online are just going to continue to drive the price of virgin plastics down, which will encourage consumption on new plastic and discourage recycling,” Siegler told HuffPost.

Some contend that virgin plastic prices are already artificially low. 

“The government has intervened and subsidized virgin materials extraction and made it impossible for recycling to compete,” said Sanborn. 

Companies that are building new plastic manufacturing plants are getting help from the government, too. Oil and gas giant Shell is building a massive complex in Pennsylvania that will open in 2020 and produce 1.6 million metric tons of polyethylene every year. The plant will also receive $1.65 billion in tax breaks over 25 years. A Shell official told the Northeast U.S. & Canada Petrochemical Construction Conference in 2016 that without this fiscal package, the company may not have gone ahead with the project. (The company did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)

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Part of a petrochemical plant being built on the Ohio River in Monaca, Pennsylvania, for the Royal Dutch Shell company. The plant, which is capable of producing 1.6 million tons of raw plastic annually, is expected to begin operations by 2021.

Recycling efforts, from collection to sorting to reprocessing, have not received comparable subsidies, Sanborn said.

Some of the big fossil fuel and chemical corporations are funneling money into projects meant to improve recycling ― though not nearly as much cash is going toward this effort. In January, 28 oil and gas, chemical and plastics companies, including Exxon, Shell, SABIC and Formosa, formed the Alliance to End Plastic Waste and collectively pledged $1.5 billion over five years for improving recycling infrastructure. That amount is far short of what’s needed to see real change start to ripple across the recycling industry, Siegler says. 

Petrochemical companies, if they wanted to, would need to make investments of up to $20 billion every year for a decade to make sure that 50% of global plastics get recycled or reused, according to a McKinsey analysis. The Alliance said in a statement to HuffPost that it hopes its initial investment will encourage governments, banks and other big corporations to spend more on recycling. 

Where Do We Go From Here?

Conservationists still believe that recycling is a worthwhile endeavor, just not a silver bullet to fixing our plastic waste crisis.

Recycling definitely has to be a part of the solution,” Genevieve Abedon, of Californians Against Waste, told HuffPost.

Siegler years ago proposed a plastic tax to pay for much-needed recycling infrastructure. Charging plastic producers just a penny a pound ― roughly a 1% tax, since most resins cost a dollar a pound ― would raise $4 billion to $5 billion per year, Siegler estimated. 

“The price of plastic is too low,” he told HuffPost. “It doesn’t reflect the environmental damage associated with plastic.” 

His idea has not caught on.

A landmark pair of bills in the California Legislature would help recyclers compete with virgin plastic producers by boosting demand for recycled plastic. The measures seek to force manufacturers to use more recycled materials in their plastic products.

“If we can increase the demand for recycled plastic, investment will then flow through the whole recycling chain,” said Kara Pochiro, of the Association of Plastic Recyclers.

Though the bills failed to pass before the end of the legislative session, they’ll be eligible for a vote again next year. 

Consumer goods companies could make a big difference by signing long-term contracts with recyclers for material, Pochiro says. This would help insulate recycling companies from fluctuations in the commodity market and potentially stop more collapses like that of rePlanet. 

Last November, beverage maker Nestle Waters North America signed a multiyear contract with CarbonLITE, a company that recycles and produces food-grade PET plastic. With this guaranteed demand, CarbonLITE is now building a new facility in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, that is expected to recycle more than 2 billion used bottles every year. 

There are things that shoppers can do, too. 

“Buy recycled,” Pochiro recommended. 

Sanborn said that consumers who don’t like the plastic packaging they receive with their products should lay it all out on the floor, take a photo of the plastic, upload it to social media, tag the company that sent it to them and complain. 

“Be really loud and squeaky. The squeaky wheels get greased,” she said. 

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The star of the annual Muslim convention was a Jewish man from Brooklyn

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(CNN)This Labor Day weekend, thousands of Muslim Americans descended on Houston, Texas, for the annual three-day Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) convention. This year’s ISNACON featured many well-known figures, such as Trevor Noah, who shared his story of growing up in South Africa and joked about the ups and downs of “The Daily Show.”

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Fellow 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro also spoke. This was part of ISNA’s first ever presidential forum, as the Muslim community strives to engage in politics on all levels. Castro, a Catholic, received a great reception from the audience, especially when he declared, “Muslim Americans for generations have been part of the fabric of our American family. They have helped make America the great nation it is, and we need to fully embrace it.”
But the night truly belonged to Sanders, or “Uncle Bernie,” as many Muslims affectionately refer to the junior senator from Vermont. And the reason for that is simple: Sanders has worked hard to earn the support of the Muslim community. It began during the 2016 presidential primary when he was running against Hillary Clinton. Many in the Muslim community were wary of Clinton, given her support of the Iraq War. Sanders opposed the war — a fact of which he reminded the audience on Saturday, earning him loud applause.
    And, during the 2016 campaign, Sanders was very passionate in standing up for our community and opposing then-candidate Donald Trump’s hateful lies about Muslims. For example, in December 2015, when Trump repeated the debunked tale that Muslims in New Jersey had cheered the 9/11 attack, Sanders slammed Trump as a “pathological liar.”
    Sanders also did something not often heard from mainstream politicians — and that’s speak of Palestinians as human beings. He told the audience at an April 2016 debate with Clinton that if we ever want to achieve peace in the Middle East, “we are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity.”
    The star of the annual Muslim convention was a Jewish man from Brooklyn (Opinion) - CNN
    It’s no surprise that in the 2016 Michigan Democratic primary, a state that boasts a sizable Muslim population, the Muslim community came out in large numbers for Sanders and were credited with playing a role in his upset victory over Clinton.
    And, since 2016, Sanders has also been outspoken on issues that have impacted the Muslim community, including Trump’s travel ban, which Sanders slammed as “a racist and anti-Islamic attempt to divide us up.” At Saturday’s event, he renewed his commitment to rescind that measure if elected president. He also added, “We must speak out at hate crimes and violence targeted at the Muslim community and call it what it is: domestic terrorism,” generating even more applause for the 2020 presidential candidate.
    Sanders’ enthusiastic embrace by the Muslim community serves as a visible contrast to Trump’s vile attacks on Rep. Tlaib and Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, the two female Muslim members of Congress, whom the President recently accused of hating “all Jewish people” because they question some of the policies of the Israeli government. (Both Tlaib and Omar deny any accusations of anti-Semitism.) Numerous Muslims I spoke to at ISNA expressed the concern that Trump’s true goal in attacking the two congresswomen is to divide Muslims and Jews. But the love shown to Sanders by this Muslim crowd was an inspiring rejection of Trump’s efforts.

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      In my conversations over the past few days with a large swath of attendees at ISNA about who they were supporting in 2020, Sanders’ name was continually, although not exclusively, cited. Many mentioned interest in Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, with a few mentioning support for former Vice President Joe Biden. And all were greatly appreciative that Castro attended.
      But there’s no denying that on Saturday night, the audience belonged to a feisty Jewish politician from Brooklyn. He has made a concerted effort to meet with and listen to members of the Muslim community, and he has been at the forefront of advocating for our rights. Other 2020 candidates could benefit from taking a cue from him.

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