TIME Michigan

America’s Oldest Known Veteran Dies at 110

emma didlake oldest veteran
Olivier Douliery—Getty Images The oldest living veteran, 110-year-old Emma Didlake, meets with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House on July 17, 2015 in Washington, D.C.

She signed up for service in 1943

(WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich.) — A Michigan woman who was believed to be the nation’s oldest veteran at 110 has died, about a month after meeting President Barack Obama in the Oval Office.

Emma Didlake died Sunday in West Bloomfield, northwest of Detroit, according to the Oakland County medical examiner’s office.

Didlake was a 38-year-old wife and mother of five when she signed up in 1943 for the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps. She served about seven months stateside during the war, as a private and driver.

She spent time with the president in July during a trip to Washington that was arranged by Talons Out Honor Flight, a southwest Michigan chapter of a national nonprofit that provides free, one-day trips for veterans to visit monuments and memorials in the nation’s capital.

“Emma Didlake served her country with distinction and honor, a true trailblazer for generations of Americans who have sacrificed so much for their country,” Obama said Monday afternoon in a statement. “I was humbled and grateful to welcome Emma to the White House last month, and Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to Emma’s family, friends, and everyone she inspired over her long and quintessentially American life.”

Didlake was born in Alabama and moved with her family to Detroit in 1944. She was known to her family as “Big Mama” and recently moved to an assisted living family in suburban Detroit.

She was deemed the oldest U.S. veteran based on information gleaned by Honor Flight representatives through national outreach campaigns.

Granddaughter Marilyn Horne told The Associated Press last month that when Talons Out officials presented her grandmother with a short-sleeved shirt bearing the group’s logo to wear on the trip to Washington, Didlake took a look and said: “‘I don’t have Michelle Obama arms — I’m going to need a jacket.'”

During her visit to the White House, Didlake wore a patriotic-themed neck scarf and sat in her wheelchair in the same spot in the Oval Office where foreign leaders sit when they meet with Obama.

TIME Michigan

Melissa Gilbert to Pay Off Owed Taxes By 2024, Campaign Says

Melissa Gilbert
Paras Griffin—Getty Images Melissa Gilbert onstage at the Atlanta Ultimate Women's Expo on May 3, 2015.

The former Little House on the Prairie actress is a seeking a Michigan congressional seat

Actress-turned-politician Melissa Gilbert, the former Little House on the Prairie actress who is seeking a Michigan congressional seat in 2016, will pay off the $470,000 she owes in state and federal tax liens by 2024, her campaign said Tuesday.

“Melissa was caught in a perfect storm of financial difficulty, which is why she initiated an honest conversation with the IRS,” the campaign said in a statement to the Detroit Free Press. “Together they set up a payment plan that will allow her to pay back her federal taxes over approximately 8 1/2 years and her California taxes over approximately 46 months.”

The 51-year-old announced Monday that she would seek a seat in Michigan’s 8th Congressional District as a Democrat in her first political campaign ever, though her tax liens were first reported in June. Republication Rep. Mike Bishop currently holds the seat.

Gilbert, a former president of the Screen Actors Guild, had a $127,752 lien filed against her and her former husband in Los Angeles as far back as 2005, according to legal records, with others filed since then.

[Free Press]

TIME Accident

Watch This House Explode After a Car Crashes Into Its Gas Meter

Luckily, the home had already been evacuated and no one was hurt

A road accident in Lansing, MI. quickly turned into something far more grievous last week, when one of the cars involved collided with the gas meter of nearby house and triggered a massive explosion.

The owners of the house were evacuated and no one was hurt in the explosion, the UPI news agency reported.

A video of the explosion, shared by Lansing firefighter William Pawluk, who took it using a dashboard camera, shows the car stopped at the edge of the house before it suddenly collapses following a massive fireball.

TIME 2016 Election

Little House on the Prairie Actress Running for Congress

Ultimate Women's Expo 2015 - Day 2
Paras Griffin—Getty Images Actress Melissa Gilbert onstage at the Atlanta Ultimate Women's Expo at Georgia World Congress Center on May 3, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Melissa Gilbert will run as a Democrat in Michigan

The actress who played Laura Ingalls Wilder on Little House on the Prairie in the ’70s and ’80s is now running for Congress in Michigan.

Melissa Gilbert announced on Monday that she will run as a Democrat in the state’s eighth congressional district against Republican incumbent Mike Bishop. She wrote on her campaign page, “Here in Michigan, I know people are doing their best to make a good life for themselves and their families. When it comes down to it, I think that’s what we all really want.”

Gilbert, who has also appeared on Dancing With the Stars, has previously served as president of the Screen Actors Guild. The Detroit News reports that she has recently run into tax trouble and owed the IRS $360,000; she explained her debt as “a product of what happened with the economy.”

[The Detroit News]

TIME Michigan

Michigan Lawmaker Who Created a Smear Campaign Against Self Says He Won’t Resign

Cindy Gamrat Todd Courser michigan
Dale G. Young—AP Rep. Cindy Gamrat and Rep. Todd Courser wave to reporters in the House of Representatives in Lansing, Mich. on Jan. 14, 2015.

He may have been trying to distract attention away from his alleged extramarital affair

(LANSING, Mich.) — A Michigan lawmaker said he won’t resign after sending an email to Republican supporters falsely claiming he was caught having sex with a male prostitute and said in a statement released Monday he was the target of a blackmail attempt.

The Detroit News, citing audio recordings, reported Friday that Rep. Todd Courser of Lapeer had someone send the email to distract attention from his alleged extramarital affair with another lawmaker.

“My actions in and around these events in the email that was sent to misdirect attention were my doing both in planning and execution,” Courser said in a nearly 30-minute audio file posted on his campaign website. “No one else has the responsibility. … They were mine and mine alone to carry.”

It’s unclear who actually sent the email.

The House Business Office reviewed email and personnel records over the weekend, the Detroit Free Press reported. The investigation is to determine whether Courser and GOP state Rep. Cindy Gamrat of Plainwell broke House rules or whether there’s evidence of illegal behavior.

Gamrat hasn’t commented.

In the audio statement released Monday, Courser apologizes to his family, his constituents and Gamrat’s family. He blames former staffers for conspiring with others to bring him down and vowed to learn the identity of the alleged blackmailer.

The News obtained two recordings secretly made in May by a former aide of Courser, a tea party-backed social conservative from Lapeer. In the recordings, Courser asks the aide, Ben Graham, to email Republican activists and operatives from an anonymous account to create “a complete smear campaign” about him.

In the recordings, Courser tells Graham that he and Gamrat, with whom he took the unusual step of combining office operations, received identical text messages about their relationship that day from an unknown number. Courser wonders aloud whether someone had pictures, video or audio recordings of him and Gamrat.

Neither Courser, a married father of four, nor Gamrat, a married mother of three, directly confirmed or denied having a sexual relationship during the recorded conversations. But they also didn’t dispute Graham’s characterization of their relationship as an extramarital affair, the newspaper reported.

Graham said when he refused to send the email, he was stripped of some of his duties before Courser fired him in early July. The sexually explicit email was received by Republicans on May 20 and 21, the two days following Courser’s recorded meeting with Graham. During the meeting, Courser reads aloud portions of a draft email.

TIME Culture

Hundreds Gather for Unveiling of Satanic Statue in Detroit

Matt Anderson The bronze monument was unveiled by the Satanic Temple in Detroit on July 25, 2015

The "largest public satanic ceremony in history"

A little before midnight on Saturday, a crowd of around 700 gathered in an old industrial warehouse a few blocks from the Detroit River for what they’d been told was the “largest public satanic ceremony in history.” Most of them professed to be adherents of Satanism, that loosely organized squad of the occult that defines itself as a religious group. Others came simply because they were curious. After all, Satanists exist in the popular psyche as those who casually sacrifice goats and impregnate Mia Farrow with Lucifer’s child; if this ceremony was indeed unprecedentedly big, who knew what could be in store?

Read more: The Evolution of Modern Satanism in the United States

The reality of the event — and of the contemporary Satanic movement at large — was tamer, and, if the Facebook pictures speak the truth, harmlessly festive: a cross between an underground rave and a meticulously planned Halloween party. They were there to publicly unveil a colossal bronze statue of Baphomet, the goat-headed wraith who, after centuries of various appropriations, is now the totem of contemporary Satanism. The pentagram, that familiar logo of both orthodox Satanists and disaffected teens, originated as a rough outline of Baphomet’s head.

The statue itself is impressive: almost nine feet tall, and weighing in at around a ton. The horned idol sits on a throne adorned with a pentagram, but it is the idol’s wings, and not his chair, that curiously evoke the Iron Throne from a certain celebrated HBO fantasy series. He has the jarring horns of a virile ram but the biceps of a guy who lifts four or five times a week. His legs, which are crossed, end not in feet but in hooves. It might seem more menacing if not for the two bronze-statue children standing on either side of him — a girl on his left; a boy on his right; both are looking up at him earnestly.

“Baphomet contains binary elements symbolizing a reconciliation of opposites, emblematic of the willingness to embrace, and even celebrate differences,” Jex Blackmore, who organized the unveiling, told TIME late Sunday night. In a sense, the statue is a stress test of American plurality: at what point does religious freedom make the people uncomfortable?

Blackmore directs the Detroit chapter of the Satanic Temple, one of the few coherent organizations in a field that’s otherwise disorganized and dogmatically nebulous. The Satanic Temple has chapters in Florida and Finland, in Italy and Minneapolis. Its headquarters are in New York, but the Detroit office is its first and largest outpost. Blackmore — who, by the way, uses a pseudonym for safety reasons — grew up in the Detroit metropolitan area and returned to the city to work with the Satanic Temple after attending a lecture on Satanism at Harvard.

Asked whether her group is a religious organization (or rather an anti-religious organization) she explains that it’s less of a church and more of an affinity group, built around what she repeatedly refers to as “Satanic principles.” It’s not the dogma you might expect. To quote from the group’s website:

The Satanic Temple holds to the basic premise that undue suffering is bad, and that which reduces suffering is good. We do not believe in symbolic “evil.”

Most vitally, though, the group does not “promote a belief in a personal Satan.” By their logic, Satan is an abstraction, or, as Nancy Kaffer wrote for The Daily Beast last year, “a literary figure, not a deity — he stands for rationality, for skepticism, for speaking truth to power, even at great personal cost.”

Call it Libertarian Gothic, maybe — some darker permutation of Ayn Rand’s crusade for free will. One witnesses in the Satanic Temple militia a certain knee-jerk reaction to encroachments upon personal liberties, especially when those encroachments come with a crucifix in hand. The Baphomet statue is the Satanic Temple’s defiant retort du jour.

“We chose Baphomet because of its contemporary relation to the figure of Satan and find its symbolism to be appropriate if displayed alongside a monument representing another faith,” Blackmore said.

The monument she refers to is a six-foot marble slab engraved with the Ten Commandments, controversially situated on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol. In 2012, state representative Mike Ritze fronted $10,000 out of his own pocket to have the marker installed in the shadow of the capitol’s dome, prompting the ire of those who believed it flagrantly violated the separation of church and state. The American Civil Liberties Union sued the state of Oklahoma; the Satanic Temple fought fire with fire. If the Christians could chisel their credo onto public property, the argument went, why couldn’t they?

The state didn’t agree, and rejected the Satanic Temple’s petition to place Baphomet’s statute on legislative property. The point is now moot, though: a month ago, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the Ten Commandments monument violated the state constitution, a judgment that will probably stick in spite of an obstinate governor.

It seems there are battles left to fight, though. A Detroit pastor described the unveiling of the statue as “a welcome home party for evil.” A Catholic activism group in the city actively encouraged people to attend mass at a local cathedral to speak out against the statue — a pray-in, if you will. Meanwhile, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson recently signed a bill that will put the Ten Commandments on a similar monument on the grounds of the State Capitol in Little Rock. The Satanic Temple may be planning a road trip.

Read next: Preaching Pope Francis’s Politics May Be the Key to Becoming President

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TIME Crime

Michigan Man Arrested for Driving 153 MPH on Freeway

That's over twice the speed limit

A 21-year-old from Michigan managed to clock a whopping 153 m.p.h. this week while racing a 2005 Dodge Magnum near Detroit on Interstate 75. He was arrested for reckless driving and his vehicle was subsequently impounded.

The unidentified man went 79 mph in a 70 mph zone before almost doubling that speed farther down the freeway, according to MSN.

“We do see speeds like this every once and a while on the freeways, but mostly it’s by high-performance motorcycles; it’s very seldom a vehicle,” Michigan State Police Lt. Michael Shaw told Fox NY.

Alcohol does not appear to be involved and the driver says he was on his way home when police caught up with him.

As for the speeding, it appears the vehicle was modified as its 350 hp V8 engine can normally only do 130 mph thanks to a speed restrictor.

TIME weather

Small Earthquake Shakes Michigan

Earthquakes are rare in the state

A small earthquake hit Michigan on Saturday.

The U.S. Geological Service reported the quake on its website at a magnitude of 4.2, centered in Galesburg in the southwestern part of the state.

“While on the low end of the scale, it is still quite rare for Michigan,” Rob Dale, from the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, told the Detroit Free Press.

No injuries were immediately reported, but the effects of the small quake were felt miles away, including as far as Chicago.

TIME justice

This Facebook Post About Baltimore Cost a Prosecutor Her Job

Facebook Removes Feeling Fat
Bloomberg via Getty Images The Facebook Inc. logo is seen on an Apple Inc. iPhone in London, U.K., on May 14, 2012.

“Solution. Simple. Shoot em. Period. End of discussion."

A woman in Michigan has lost her job after posting a note on Facebook that called for violent protesters to be shot.

Teana Walsh, an assistant prosecutor with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, resigned on Friday, the Detroit News reports.

On Wednesday, her Facebook account included a post that has since been taken down about the violence rocking Baltimore:

“Solution. Simple. Shoot em. Period. End of discussion. I don’t care what causes the protestors to turn violent…what the ‘they did it because’ reason is…no way is this acceptable. Flipping disgusting.”

Assistant Prosecutor Maria Miller said the post did not reflect her colleague’s true character. “During her tenure in the office, Teana Walsh has been known for her great work ethic and her compassion for victims of crime and their families,” she said. “Her post was up online briefly and she immediately took it down. The post was completely out of character for her and certainly does not reflect the person that we know.”

Walsh was not the only public official to find herself in hot water as a result of an insensitive post on social media. On Thursday, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson told reporters that the director of a city community relations board, Blaine Griffin, had been reprimanded after the board’s twitter account asked if the city should be “burned down like” Baltimore.

[Detroit News]

TIME Crime

This Woman Didn’t Get Any Bacon In Her Burger So She Shot Up the Drive-Thru

Shaneka Monique Torres looks around the courtroom before being found guilty on all charges related to her shooting a gun into a McDonald's when she failed to get bacon on her burger, Wednesday, March 25, 2015, in Grand Rapids, Mich
Chris Clark—AP Shaneka Monique Torres looks around the courtroom before being found guilty on all charges related to her shooting a gun into a McDonald's when she failed to get bacon on her burger, Wednesday, March 25, 2015, in Grand Rapids, Mich

Thankfully nobody was injured

A Grand Rapids, Mich. woman faces up to seven years in prison after she was convicted of multiple charges Wednesday for firing a bullet into a McDonald’s drive-through when staff forgot to put bacon in her cheeseburger.

Shaneka Monique Torres, 30, ordered a bacon cheeseburger at the McDonald’s on Feb. 10, 2014 but it arrived without bacon. She complained to a manager and was offered a free burger, according to Grand Rapids local news outlet WZZM 13.

At about 3.am, Torres and her friend returned to order another bacon cheeseburger. This burger also came without bacon and Torres verbally lashed out at a worker before pulling out her handgun and firing a round into the restaurant. No one was injured.

Torres was arrested at her home about 30 minutes later.

Her defense attorney, John Beason, argued that Torres discharged the weapon by accident and there was no correlation with the bacon-less burgers.

The jury deliberated for one hour and found Torres guilty of carrying a concealed weapon, discharging a firearm into a building and felony use of a firearm.

She will be sentenced on April 21.

Read next: California Woman Arrested for Trying to Steal Two Babies, Leading to One Death

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