News briefs

EMU students use interactive software to create animated store experience

Students in Eastern Michigan University’s apparel, textile and merchandising program are using Mockshop, a software program donated by Visual Retailing LLC, a U.K.-based visual merchandising company, to create animated store experiences.

While using this program, students can build interactive three-dimensional stores of any size. The stores are complete with fixtures, garments and graphics. The students can then create and test virtual concepts and floor plans, without having to fold a garment or take up any actual floor space.

Visual Retailing donated a 50-user Mockshop license valued at $300,000 to EMU. Additional licenses and software upgrades are available at no charge.

Voter registration deadline nears for February election

School districts and communities in 42 counties are holding elections, and Michigan residents have until Monday, Jan. 28 to register to vote in the Feb. 26 election.

To register, applicants must be at least 18 by the day of the elections and be a U.S. citizen.

Applicants must also be Michigan residents of the city, or township in which they register.

The polls will open on Election Day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. To find out if there is an election in your community, visit

Voters can register by mail or in person at their county, city or township clerk’s office, or by visiting any secretary of state office. The mail-in form is available at

Those who are voting for the first time can register by mail; they must vote in person if this is their first election, unless they hand-deliver the application to their local clerk, are 60 years old or older, are disabled or are eligible to vote under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act.

To check their registration status and find information on absentee voting, residents can visit the Michigan Voter Information Center at

Voters who qualify may choose to cast an absentee ballot. As a registered voter, an individual can obtain an absentee ballot if they are: 60 years old or older, physically unable to attend the polls, expect to be absent from the community they are registered in at the time of Election Day, in jail or awaiting arraignment or trial, unable to attend due to religious reasons or are appointed to work as an election inspector in a precinct outside of their resident precinct.

Those who wish to receive an absentee ballot by mail must submit an application by 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23.

Absentee ballots can be obtained in person through 4 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 25. Voters who request an absentee ballot in person on Monday, Feb. 25 must fill out the ballot in the clerk’s office.

Emergency absentee ballots are available under certain conditions through 4 p.m. on Election Day.

Voters must present a valid photo ID, such as a Michigan driver’s license or identification card, but anyone who does not have an acceptable form of photo ID, or failed to bring it with them to the polls can still vote. They will be required to sign a brief affidavit stating they’re not in possession of a photo ID, and their ballot will be included with all others and counted on Election Day.

Voters who do not have a Michigan driver’s license or identification card can also show these forms of photo ID: driver’s license or personal ID card issued by another state, federal or state government-issued photo ID, U.S. passport, military ID with photo, student ID with photo from high school or another accredited higher education institution or a tribal ID card with photo.

Michigan Department of Education looking for sponsors to run food programs

The Michigan Department of Education is seeking neighborhood sponsors to run summer food programs to aid 575,000 children in Michigan who may suffer from hunger when school lunchrooms close for summer vacation.

The Summer Food Service Program could help thousands of children if more sponsors are signed up to run the food program.

Sponsors receive federal payments for both the meals served to children and the costs of serving the meals. New sponsors will receive free training and technical assistance from MDE.

The program serves meals to children up to age 18 who live in low-income areas. The program can function in schools, public housing centers, playgrounds, camps, parks and faith-based facilities.

Sponsors can be public school districts or nonprofit private schools; public or private nonprofit residential summer camps; local, county or state government agencies; colleges or universities; or private nonprofit organizations.

To sponsor the program this summer, organizations should contact MDE by March 31.

Applications and sponsor information can be obtained from MDE’s Grants Coordination and School Support office by calling 517-373-3347, or visiting the MDE website at

Michigan Department of Transportation and Amtrak announce best-ever ridership record on three Michigan passenger rail routes in 2012

Nearly 800,000 passengers traveled on Amtrak trains in Michigan in 2012, setting a peak rider record for the state’s three routes.

Michigan’s routes include the three-times-a-day Wolverine Service (Pontiac/Detroit-Chicago), once daily Blue Water Service (Port Huron-East Lansing-Chicago) and once daily Pere Marquette Service (Grand Rapids-Chicago).

Michigan Department of Transportation officials cited increased awareness of train service and focused on the future of rail travel as reasons for why ridership numbers are rising.

Amtrak operated extra trains in Michigan to complement recurrently planned Wolverine service (between Chicago and Kalamazoo/Ann Arbor) over the extended Thanksgiving holiday, and supplementary capacity and frequencies over Christmas and New Year’s.

Proceeds from the three routes also rocketed to a high of $27.8 million in 2012, with Wolverine revenue at $18.4 million, Blue Water at $6.1 million and Pere Marquette at $3.3 million.

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