Street Talk: Spreading the faith from all perspectives


“I happen to be a Christian myself, but I appreciate the various perspectives,” said David Bulkowski, who represents the city of Grand Rapids as a member of the Kent County Board of Commissioners.

The 19 members of the commission take turns inviting a different religious leader to give the invocation at the start of every regular meeting of the board, so for the Dec. 4 meeting, Bulkowski invited Imam Sharif Sahibzada of the Islamic Center of West Michigan.

Bulkowski, an attorney who works as the executive director of Disability Advocates of Kent County, has long been professionally involved with the Kaufman Interfaith Institute at GVSU, which emphasizes that in matters of faith, “all are welcome.”

The Muslim community in Kent County is growing, with at least two or three mosques in the region and a school in the planning stages. The hospitals and medical research facilities in Grand Rapids draw many highly trained professional staff from around the world, including the Middle East.

Bulkowski was asked if he received any negative comments about his choice for the invocation Dec. 4.

“None to me,” he said.

“I had a couple of commissioners come up and thank me afterward,” he added.

Was it a first for Kent County board?

“Over the past 19-plus years that I have been with the county, we have had a variety of invocations in a variety of different ways (readings, poems, etc.), so I can’t say with any certainty that this was the first time,” said County Administrator/Controller Daryl Delabbio in an email to the Business Journal. Later, he was informed by staff that a Muslim prayer previously had been offered at a county board meeting, but that occurrence may have been a decade ago.

Cyber bullies

Numerous major retailers experienced cyber attacks in 2014, according to Phil Catlett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan, reminding consumers of the dangers that exist online.

The West Michigan Better Business Bureau is partnering with Trivalent Group, a Grandville-based IT and managed services firm, to urge small businesses and consumers to take appropriate precautions to protect their information.

“More hacks are making headlines and, in turn, there are more copycat hackers competing for attention,” said Andy Syrewicze, a senior cloud services engineer at Trivalent Group. “The most common viruses we see today are copycat versions of CryptoLocker.”

The CryptoLocker virus comes in the form of a suspicious email asking the recipient to click on a link. Should the recipient do so, the virus installs software that encrypts all files on the device as well as all files accessible through a shared drive. As a result, a “cannot read file” error is displayed. If the file does open, symbols are shown in place of the information.

There are immediate steps small businesses and consumers can take to increase information safety and decrease cyber-attack vulnerability, he said. These include turning on network firewall protection, updating Java and Adobe Flash applications, and backing up data onto disc or cloud-based mediums.

Syrewicze said that 90.52 percent of worldwide hacks in 2013 were directed at some version of Java, referencing a security bulletin put out by Kaspersky Labs. “Businesses are often running old versions of Java because certain software is not compatible with the latest version. This is especially evident in the health care field. As a business, it’s up to you to put pressure on vendors and push them to use the most recent version.

“You may not always know you’ve been hacked, which is a scary thought — especially for a small business. The best way to rest assured your information is protected is to enlist the help of a third-party service to actively monitor your software.”

Dummy up

You might want to lay off the eggnog and cookies this holiday season.

According to a recent study from the University of California Berkeley School of Public Health and the Institute of Transportation Studies, obese drivers are up to 78 percent more likely to die in a car crash than normal-weight occupants. And, the study concludes, the higher their Body Mass Index, the more likely they will die in a crash. Nationally, the adult obesity rate was approximately 15 percent in 1980 but is closer to 40 percent today.

Humanetics Corp., a producer of crash test dummies with offices in Plymouth, Mich., has changed gears in an effort to help automotive suppliers improve safety for larger-sized occupants.

How large? Try Santa-sized.

“We’re still testing with a crash test dummy that weighs 170 pounds and was created with anthropometry studies from the 1980s,” said Humanetics CEO Christopher O’Connor in a press release. “Most systems in current automobiles are designed around these 1980's standards. With an obese population in the United States of 40 percent, this 170-pound dummy is no longer representative of the current driving population."

Instead, Humanetics has produced its “Obese Crash Test Dummy” based on the measurements of a 273-pound person with a BMI of 35.

"By offering an obese crash test dummy that represents a large proportion of the population, Humanetics fully supports the automotive safety industry in their design efforts to make automobiles safer for everyone."

The product has been tested and will be available for broad use in early 2015, he said. The dummy is built around an existing 50th percentile male crash test dummy's skeletal structure, but with unique flesh and additional mass in the upper and lower torso and upper legs, making it anatomically relevant to the obese driving population.

O’Connor said the preliminary analysis confirms the obese dummy's seated posture translates further forward on the seat compared to a non-obese occupant and changes the seat belt positioning, thereby creating new challenges for effective restraint countermeasures and knee impact protection.

Christmas past

For the first time in years, the Grand Rapids community can step back in time and see their favorite vintage decorations displayed in downtown Grand Rapids.

Fubble Entertainment’s Patrick Ziegler and Teresa Thome have partnered with DGRI, Grand Rapids Public Museum and Christmas Décor to revive original holiday decorations that adorned the streets of Grand Rapids in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. The decorations were scheduled to go up last Friday evening.

Monument Park has a replicated tree of lights in honor of the original that once hung on the exterior of Herpolsheimer's department store (Division Avenue and Monroe Center). Veterans Park has a replicated large candle in honor of the one that stood in the middle of the intersection of Fulton Street and Sheldon Avenue. Jefferson Avenue at East Fulton has overhead lights hanging from building to building and continuing with vintage colored lights in the trees and 8-foot hanging Christmas trees and other figures on the light poles. The old Public Museum, 54 Jefferson SE, has classic lights hanging from the top and Christmas windows that honor icons from past holidays.

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