Catherine Shaffer | Michigan Radio

Catherine Shaffer


Catherine Shaffer joined Michigan Radio in 2014. She works in the newsroom and specializes in stories related to the life sciences, health, and technology. Catherine earned a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from Michigan State University and a Master’s from University of Michigan. Prior to Michigan Radio, Catherine has worked as a freelance writer, mainly in focusing on biotechnology and the pharmaceutical industry, since 2001. She is also an award-winning fiction writer. When not at work, Catherine enjoys being in the outdoors and practicing yoga.

LisaW123 / Flickr

Power outages for more than one hundred thousand Michiganders could continue for several more days. Authorities are scrambling to respond to a growing emergency.

The Red Cross has opened shelters in West Michigan for people who can't stay in their homes, and they're warning people to be careful with alternative heat sources like kerosene heaters if they hunker down in their homes. Improperly vented heaters can release dangerous fumes. Electric heaters, fireplaces, and candles could start a fire if left unattended.

Judge's gavel with books

The Department of Homeland Security set up a fake university in Farmington Hills to uncover what it describes as a nationwide illegal immigration scheme. Eight individuals from around the country were charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud and harboring aliens for profit.

An aerial view of Downtown Detroit with other part of the city in the distance.
Robert Thompson / Wikimedia Commons

A merger between Chemical Bank and TCF is expected to add more jobs and lending resources to the Detroit-area economy. The new bank will have $45 billion in assets, and is expected to bring hundreds of jobs to the area.

Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria
Kris Grogan / U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Federal aid was slower and less generous in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria than comparable disasters in Texas and Florida. That's according to a new University of Michigan study.

Three hurricanes occurred within a period of just over a month. Hurricane Harvey made landfall on August 25, 2017, near Rockport, Texas. Hurrican Irma hit the Florida keys on September 10. And Maria began its sweep through Puerto Rico on September 20.

injured piggy bank
Ken Teegardin /

U.S. Representative Elissa Slotkin is co-sponsoring a bill that would allow federal workers to borrow money from their retirement accounts without penalty during the partial government shutdown.

Rashida Tlaib
Rashida Tlaib for Congress Facebook page

A Republican congressman from Texas wants Democrats to block an official trip to Palestine being planned by U.S. Representative Rashida Tlaib for herself and some congressional colleagues.

People who live in Adrian are raising concerns about their drinking water. Residents say they've been complaining to the city for months about the taste and smell of the water.

A group of Adrian residents has obtained independent lab results showing cyanobacteria in some drinking water samples.

But the city says its tests show the water is safe. 

prison bars
Flickr user FatMandy /

The Ionia City Council is considering whether to approve the sale of a former correctional facility to a private prison company to use as an immigrant detention center. Immigration Centers of America made their pitch to Ionia's City Council Tuesday night.

Rachel Kramer /

Authorities are testing surface water from the Grand River after an abandoned plating facility in Jackson was found to have high levels of PFAS chemicals. Michner Plating joins the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's list of more than two dozen industrial sites with high levels of PFAS contamination.

deer in snowy woods
Flickr user rkramer62

Ann Arbor's deer management program is in the fourth and final year of operations approved by the city council. The deer cull starts Jan. 2.

The City of Ann Arbor has updated its deer management program to allow culling of deer on private property with written consent of the owner.  Owners of neighboring properties have already been notified. The city says residents of the area can go about their normal daily activities.


Women and scientists are making gains in the Michigan legislature in the new session starting January 1. Women are going from 34 seats to 42 in the House of Representatives. In the Senate, women gain seven seats, going from four to eleven.

A silver carp laying on top of a cooler.

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner declined an offer $8 million to protect the Great Lakes from Asian carp. Governor Snyder offered the funds to support construction of high-tech, anti-carp features at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam in Joliet, Illinois.

Governor Rick Snyder
Michigan Municipal League / FLICKR -

Lawmakers sent more than 400 bills to Governor Rick Snyder during the lame-duck session. But Snyder's office will no longer be taking comments on those bills from constituents by phone or through its website.

President Donald Trump.
user Gage Skidmore / Flickr - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

A partial federal government shutdown is expected beginning Saturday unless the U.S. Senate can pass a bill that includes President Trump's demand for more than $5 billion dollars in funding for a border wall. In Michigan, that would mean some federal employees will work without pay, and others could be furloughed.

michigan state capitol building
Brian Charles Watson / wikimedia commons

Eighty employees of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality wrote a letter asking Governor Snyder to veto a bill changing how Michigan handles hazardous substances. The group says they're concerned citizens who happen to be employees of the DEQ.

Laura D'Alessandro /

Huntington Woods has been targeted by an anti-LGBTQ group over their library's Drag Queen Storytime for children.

The program started last year as a way to provide children with queer role models. It was so popular it overflowed its original room at the library and is being held off-site. Now, an anti-LGBTQ group from Massachusetts is trying to stop storytime with a phone and email campaign.

Anders Adermark /

The Detroit Archdiocese has responded to criticism of its move to transfer property into a holding company. The church is being accused of trying to shield assets from potential lawsuits by victims of sexual abuse.

Gov. Rick Snyder

Governor Rick Snyder signed two bills into law that weaken voter initiatives to raise the minimum wage and require paid sick leave for workers. Republican legislators passed the initiatives into law in September to prevent them from going on the ballot. That allowed them to extensively amend the measures.

Yue Liu and Michael G. Rossmann, Purdue University /

A child from Oakland County has been confirmed as the second case of acute flaccid myelitis in Michigan in 2018. The first case, confirmed earlier this month, was a child from Wayne County.

satellite map of Michigan, the Great Lakes
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

A council of eight Great Lakes governors approved changes to the Great Lakes Compact last week. But mayors and environmental groups say that the updates don't go far enough to prevent water withdrawals from the Great Lakes basin.

Former Racine, Wisconsin Mayor John Dickert says his group asked to defer the changes until next year. That's when the council will flip from a Republican to a Democratic majority.

Wikimedia Commons

The University of Michigan's updated sexual misconduct policy is expected to include a ban on faculty members having romantic or sexual relationships with undergraduate students. The policy also would prohibit faculty from having romantic or sexual relationships with any graduate or professional student in the same discipline or academic program as themselves.

Rick Fitzgerald is a spokesman for UM.

Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

Nearly half of people covered under Michigan’s Medicaid expansion said their health improved immediately after enrolling. For those whose health improved, they were four times as likely to say that they were doing a better job at work. That’s according to a study by the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation. 

Flickr user/Images Money /

Michiganders could get a better deal on health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, but only if they enroll by the December 15th deadline.

Deb Nystrom / Creative Commons

The state Senate's Natural Resources Committee is expected to vote soon on a bill deregulating Michigan's small wetlands. Senate Bill 1211 would remove protections from about fifty percent of Michigan's wetlands, according to the Michigan Wetlands Association.

They say the bill could lead to loss of habitat for wildlife, and increased flooding in developed areas of southern Michigan. The bill increases the size of a wetland that would be protected by regulations from five acres to 10 acres. It also redefines which lakes and streams qualify as wetlands. 


A pair of bills introduced in the state Senate on Thursday would prohibit marriage of children under sixteen. Current Michigan law does not set an absolute minimum age for marriage. The new bills, SB1255 and SB1256, would set that age at 16. And they would require the consent of both parents for 16 and 17 year olds, rather than one parent alone.

prison bars
Flickr user FatMandy /

A federal judge in Ann Arbor ordered the release of a Haitian asylum seeker who's been in detention for two years. Ansly Damus had already been granted asylum by an immigration judge. But immigration authorities kept him in detention while they appealed the case repeatedly. 

Flickr/barbaragaillewis /

A proposed bill under consideration by a Michigan Senate committee would roll back protections for Michigan's wetlands. The bill would increase the minimum size of a regulated wetland from five to ten acres. As well, it modifies the definition of regulated streams and regulated lakes in the state of Michigan. 

A picture of a dock and water with Cyanobacteria (a green film)

A new study from the University of Michigan shows that blooms of harmful cyanobacteria in Lake Erie are so tough they can survive the winter.

Gassing up at the pump.
steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Gas prices this week are the lowest they've been in two years for the Thanksgiving holiday. On average, prices around the state are $2.49 a gallon--12 cents lower than last week. That's according to a survey of 4200 gas stations by AAA Michigan.

Nancy Cain is a spokesperson for AAA. She says the low prices will help motorists budget their holiday travel.  "We got low crude oil prices and very ample supply, there's no gasoline shortages anywhere. So that's translating into good news at the pump," says Cain.


A new survey by C.S. Mott Children's Hospital suggests parents who decline flu vaccinations for their child are getting information from unreliable sources. Nearly a third of parents polled were not planning to have their children vaccinated for the flu.