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Ford in China
12:19 am
Fri October 14, 2011

Ford and the case of the Chinese official's hat

Want to know the real reason Ford isn’t one of the biggest car companies in China right now? 

Hats. 

That's right. David McKee says it’s because of hats. Here’s the story. 

In 1992, Ford Motor Company sent McKee to China to head a Ford components company. At the time, very few ordinary Chinese owned cars. Cars were a perk for bureaucrats. 

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courts
5:10 pm
Thu October 13, 2011

Snyder orders review of indigent defense

Joe Gratz flickr

Governor Rick Snyder has ordered a review of how Michigan ensures that people charged with crimes are properly represented in court – even when they cannot afford to pay an attorney.

The state's criminal justice system is often ranked among the worst in the country because it does not guarantee poor people get a proper defense. It's long been criticized for a patchwork of standards where every county pays for and handles its own indigent defense system. Too often, court-appointed defense attorneys are poorly trained, inexperienced, and too overworked to do a good job of representing their clients, says Shelli Weisberg of the American Civil Liberties Union:

“It depends on what county you live in as to whether you’re going to get good representation if you’re in the criminal justice system, and that’s just not fair.”

Weisberg says that means there are people in jail and prison who should not be and, in some cases, people who committed crimes remain free.

The ACLU filed a class action lawsuit against the state four years ago. The ACLU wants a judge to declare Michigan is violating the state and federal constitutions by denying defendants adequate legal counsel.

public transportation
4:57 pm
Thu October 13, 2011

Federal grants fund 11 public transportation projects in Michigan

The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority got money to buy clean diesel buses with hybrid-electric components to increase bus service on the busy Washtenaw Ave. corridor.
fabi k Creative Commons

Nine public transportation systems in Michigan have won competitive grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The grants announced Thursday total nearly $44 million.

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Politics
3:35 pm
Thu October 13, 2011

No-fault insurance changes passed by House committee

Update 3:35 p.m.

A state House committee has approved major changes to Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance.

The legislation would cap medical fees and restrict the kind of care people who are badly hurt in car accidents could get.

As it is now, if someone is catastrophically injured in a car accident, no-fault Personal Injury Protection pays for all necessary medical and rehabilitation expenses.

It’s unlimited, lifetime benefits if necessary.

This new bill would limit medical fees, and it would give motorists the choice to purchase $500,000, $1 million, or $5 million worth of coverage.

After that, you’re on your own.

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Lansing
3:05 pm
Thu October 13, 2011

Davenport University drops bid for Lansing's Oliver Towers

The blighted Oliver Towers complex in Lansing, Michigan.
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Davenport University says the process of acquiring an empty apartment complex in Lansing has gotten too ‘political’.    So Davenport is dropping its bid for the ‘Oliver Towers’.   

Davenport offered to swap its current downtown campus for the property just north of the state capital building, where it planned to build a new college campus.   But the Lansing City Council stalled the deal, to consider a competing offer from Lansing Community College.     

Davenport University President Richard Pappas says the deal is now off the table. 

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Sports
2:07 pm
Thu October 13, 2011

President Obama to attend MSU basketball game played on aircraft carrier

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson will host the Quicken Loans Carrier Classic on Veteran's Day.
Specialist 2nd Class Joel Carlson United States Navy

President Barack Obama will attend a basketball game between Michigan State University and North Carolina. The game will be held on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson on Veteran's Day (11-11-11).

The game is being branded as the "Quicken Loans Carrier Classic" and it's billed as the "first ever carrier to host a Division 1 college basketball game."

From the Washington Post:

Obama is expected to lay a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery in honor of Veterans Day and then travel to San Diego for the game.

“This Veterans Day, President Obama will honor our nation’s veterans by laying a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery and then by traveling to San Diego, California, to attend the Carrier Classic on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson,” the White House said in a statement. “He looks forward to a great game between Michigan State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.”

The nuclear powered aircraft carrier is famed for being the carrier from which Osama bin Laden's body was buried at sea. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.

transit
12:28 pm
Thu October 13, 2011

Massive cuts coming to Detroit-area bus service

Mysid Wikipedia

Southeast Michigan’s regional bus system is getting ready to make massive cuts to its service.

Declining tax revenues due to drops in property values, fewer federal dollars, and the SMART system’s inability to win concessions from its unions are the reasons behind the cuts.

The system is looking at a 22 percent cut to its service, affecting 30 of its 53 routes.

"Certainly this is a tragedy," said SMART’s Beth Gibbons. "It’s not going to be easy for the thousands of people who depend on our service every day to get to work and to school."

Public hearings on the proposed cuts are scheduled for the first week of November. The changes could take effect as early as December 12.

About 40,000 people a day ride SMART busses.

Economy
11:59 am
Thu October 13, 2011

Levin calls for end of offshore corporate tax breaks

U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, (D)-Mich.
Jeffry Simms Flickr

A U.S. Senate report says a 2004 tax break let American companies bring back billions of dollars in offshore earnings at a very low tax rate.

Senator Carl Levin of Michigan says companies including Coca-Cola, IBM and Pfizer got a windfall, but didn’t live up to their promises:

"There was no way to make sure that when they brought the money back they would use it for what they use it for – which was to create jobs and have more R&D – research and development,” Levin says.

Instead, Levin says the companies cut jobs and research, while executive pay went up.

He says if Washington repeats the offshore tax break, the treasury will lose up to $80 billion over ten years.

Other companies that took the repatriating tax break include Altria, Bristol-Myers Squibb, DuPont, Eli Lilly, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Oracle, and Procter & Gamble.

Politics
11:56 am
Thu October 13, 2011

Judge issues temporary injunction stopping Rep. Paul Scott recall

Rep. Paul Scott (R-Grand Blanc) urges lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to approve the Teacher Quality Package
Rep. Paul Scott's office

A judge in Ingham County has issued a temporary injunction which stops a recall effort against State Representative Paul Scott.   

Republican Paul Scott was targeted for recall by the Michigan Education Association. Scott is a supporter of cutting K-12 education funding and legislation which targets teachers unions. 

Changing Gears
11:49 am
Thu October 13, 2011

Nonprofit company uses science to turn ideas into jobs

Woody Cook, Battelle National Security, next to a pool that is used to test underwater robotic devices.
Niala Boodhoo Changing Gears

(We're having technical problems with the "audio processing" file above. To listen, please click on the second file.)

Steve Job’s death last week has reminded everyone firsthand the notion that everyone has ideas, and very few become actual products.

That’s because ideas need a push. In some cases, a big push from science to become reality.

It sounds obvious, but when we’re talking about actual products, that translate into actual jobs, and actual economic activity, it’s worth exploring.

That’s why I was so interested to learn more about Battelle Memorial Institute.

Innovation can strike in a variety of ways.

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Politics
10:39 am
Thu October 13, 2011

Michigan Campaign Finance Reforms, So Close and Yet?

They came so close and I was really hopeful for a while. But in the end, they just weren’t good enough.

I hope you were disappointed too. Wait a minute -- did you think I was talking about the Detroit Tigers?

I don’t know whatever gave you that idea. What I‘m talking about are the campaign finance reforms unveiled yesterday by Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson.

I have been complaining for a long time about our campaign finance laws. It’s bad enough that it often costs several times an official’s salary to run for office.

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Education
10:23 am
Thu October 13, 2011

Study says online sex offender info may do more harm than good

user rollingroscoe morgueFile

A new study suggests posting the names and addresses of sex offenders online increases the chance the offenders will commit new crimes.

According to the study by the University of Michigan Law School and Columbia Business School, posting sex offenders' information online makes life so difficult for the offenders they may commit new crimes because they no longer consider prison a threat.

U of M law professor J.J. Prescott co-authored the study. He says offenders are likely to re-offend when they have nothing to lose.

“We got to give them something to lose if they’re going to commit another offense. I mean, as it stands right now, they’re already pariahs in their community, they can’t get a job, it’s very difficult for them to live, prison doesn’t sound so bad," Prescott says.

The Sex Offender Registration Act of 1994 requires Michigan State Police to post the names and addresses of sex offenders online.

Allison Lyons

Medicine
8:52 am
Thu October 13, 2011

Kroger recalls Moose Tracks ice cream

Kroger is recalling ice cream because peanuts are not listed on the label. Peanuts can be dangerous to people who are allergic to them.
jppi Morguefile

CINCINNATI  --  Kroger is recalling ice cream sold in 10 states because it may contain peanuts not mentioned on the label.

The nation's largest grocery store operator says people with peanut allergies could have a serious or even life-threatening reaction if they eat the Private Selection Extreme Moose Tracks ice cream being recalled.

The recall involves only 16-ounce pints of the product with a sell-by date of June 18, 2012 and the UPC code 11110 52909. The ice cream was sold at Kroger stores in Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee, as well as the company's Jay C, Food 4 Less, Owen's, Pay Less and Scott's stores in Illinois and Indiana.

Kroger Co. says shoppers should return the product to supermarkets for a refund or replacement.

News Roundup
7:09 am
Thu October 13, 2011

In this morning's news ...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011
User: Brother O'Mara Flickr

V.P. Biden gets visit from "Occupy" protesters in Grand Rapids

People inspired by the “Occupy Wall Street” protests in New York showed up at a Democratic fundraiser hosted by Vice President Joe Biden Wednesday evening. Biden made stops in Flint and Grand Rapids to promote President Obama’s American Jobs Act before switching to campaign mode. Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith reports at least 50 protesters marched on the sidewalk outside the $500 per dinner private event. The event raised money for the 2012 presidential election.

Proposed U.S.-Canada bridge still a contentious issue

A proposal to build a second bridge between Detroit and Canada appears to be the cause of a fierce divide among Republicans in the state Senate. The chairman of the committee handling the proposal does not seem to have enough support among Republican colleagues to vote on the issue. State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville said if that’s the case he will most likely take on the issue in a committee he chairs and move it along quickly.

"We would still take a hard look at it and take some open testimony, but we’re not going to rehash everything that’s been done for the last nine months,”  Richardville said.

Secretary of State calls for no-reason absentee voting

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said Michigan should allow anyone to vote by absentee ballot without having to give a reason why they cannot make it to a polling place on Election Day. It’s one of several election proposals she outlined.

They also include cleaning voter rolls of dead people, those who have moved, and non-citizens.  Johnson said people should be allowed to cast absentee ballots without giving a reason why they cannot show up at a polling place on Election Day.

Politics
8:37 pm
Wed October 12, 2011

“Occupy Grand Rapids” group protests at Biden fundraiser

At least 50 people walked in front of the downtown restaurant where Biden held a campaign fundraiser Wednesday.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

People inspired by the “Occupy Wall Street” protests in New York showed up at a Democratic fundraiser hosted by Vice President Joe Biden Wednesday evening.

Biden made stops in Flint and Grand Rapids to promote President Obama’s American Jobs Act before switching to campaign mode.

At least 50 protesters marched on the sidewalk outside the $500 per dinner private event. The event raised money for the 2012 presidential election.

“We can get Mr. Biden’s attention,” Richard Ertl said. He’s wearing a sticker on the back of his head that reads “we are the 99%”. “We can get them to listen to us and know that we’re starting to gel up and become cohesive as a people,” Ertl said.

Ertl and other say they’re not protesting Biden but want to send a message. He says protestors want politicians to listen to one another and work together to solve the nation’s financial problems. 

“Occupy Grand Rapids" held its first big meeting over the weekend. They’re now camping out in a church parking lot (private property) downtown after spending several days in a public park near the Grand River.

He says they meet for general assemblies everyday at noon and 6 p.m.

Education
8:19 pm
Wed October 12, 2011

Vice President Biden says students would gain from “Jobs Act"

Vice President Joe Biden visited the more than 100-year-old Central High School in Grand Rapids Wednesday.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Vice President Joe Biden says he’ll work to get President Obama’s American Jobs Act through Congress piece by piece if lawmakers won’t take up the entire stimulus bill.

Biden says the bill would invest $25 billion to fix 35,000 schools across the country, including buildings like the one visited in Grand Rapids Wednesday.

Junior and seniors at Grand Rapids’ Central High School showed Biden around their science classroom, listened, and asked questions. He also saw a classroom they can’t use because of health concerns over chipping and peeling paint.

“They’re in a laboratory where they can’t turn on a burner because there’s no ventilation system,” Biden said. “They have microscopes that use mirrors – I mean it’s just totally out of date.” The science classroom is part of Grand Rapids Public Schools district’s School of Health Science and Technology; a “hub” school students can opt into. “Come on man,” Biden told reporters after the visits, “these are talented kids - they chose to come here to learn more.”

Biden says some GOP leaders would rather “do nothing” than pass parts of the bill he says they agree with.

Politics
5:17 pm
Wed October 12, 2011

Bridge debate creates a divide among Michigan Republicans

A proposal to build a second bridge between Detroit and Canada appears to be the cause of a fierce divide among Republicans in the state Senate.

The chairman of the committee handling the proposal does not seem to have enough support among Republican colleagues to vote on the issue.

State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville said if that’s the case he will most likely take on the issue in a committee he chairs and move it along quickly.

“I don’t think we would need to take as much time to go through all the detail, but we have been following the process, we’ve been following the information, so we would still take a hard look at it and take some open testimony, but we’re not going to rehash everything that’s been done for the last nine months,” said Richardville.

Richardville says misinformation floating around in television ads and brochures have made the bridge issue more confusing and frustrating than it should be. He says the Senate could vote on the proposal within a couple weeks.

Politics
4:41 pm
Wed October 12, 2011

Michigan Secretary of State outlines new election proposals

Michigan Secretary of State outlined new election proposals today.
Flickr

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said Michigan should allow anyone to vote by absentee ballot without having to give a reason why they cannot make it to a polling place on Election Day.

It’s one of several election proposals she outlined today.

They also include cleaning voter rolls of dead people, those who have moved, and non-citizens. 

Johnson said people should be allowed to cast absentee ballots without giving a reason why they cannot show up at a polling place on Election Day.

She said people who vote absentee would face the same identity requirements as people who cast ballots on Election Day.

"We need the same level of security in our elections whether it's absentee or it's people who come to vote at the polls. Michigan is a state where you must show an ID, a photo ID, or sign an affidavit of identity. We would require the same standard for the no-reason absentee," said Johnson.

Chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party Mark Brewer says the Republican’s election plans provide less ballot access than what’s being done in other states.

 "Many other states, including those run by Republicans, on a bipartisan basis are adopting reforms like early voting. They’re letting people register to vote on Election Day. All these are designed to make and have made it much easier for people to vote," said Brewer.

Brewer also said voting by non-citizens is not a big problem because they would risk deportation.

He said the effort to stop non-citizens from voting plays to racial fears.

Johnson does not favor early voting or Election Day voter registration as methods to spur more voter participation.

She has called for a federal law to give her office access to immigration and Social Security records that would help clear non-citizens off the state’s voter list.

She said going forward the state will also require people to promise they are U.S. citizens before they can vote.

Auto/Economy
4:38 pm
Wed October 12, 2011

UAW and Chrysler reach tentative contract deal

Chrysler and the United Auto Workers have agreed to terms for a four-year contract deal.

Chrysler is the last of Detroit’s three carmakers to reach a tentative agreement with the UAW.

The agreement follows some tense negotiations between the UAW and Chrysler, which is majority-owned by the Italian automaker Fiat.

Chrysler is smaller and more indebted than its fellow U.S. automakers, but the UAW sought a contract with similar terms to those it got from GM and Ford.

Like in the GM and Ford contracts, entry-level Chrysler workers will get a wage hike under this deal. Workers also stand to get more in bonus pay and profit-sharing.

“The overall framework, the overall labor cost agreement [compared to GM and Chrysler] is very, very comparable,” said UAW President Bob King. “We tweaked them, shifted them a little bit in each case, because of the specific needs of the individual companies.”

Also like the GM and Ford contracts, this agreement focuses more on creating and retaining jobs for U.S. workers than on boosting worker pay. Chrysler says it will invest $4.5 billion in U.S. production, and create 2100 U.S. jobs.

King thinks most of his members understand the focus on future investment.

“Our members overwhelmingly supported the goal of bringing more jobs into our plants,” King says.  “And our members understand overall that they can’t be secure unless there’s product and investment long-term in their facility.”

UAW officials hope to get Chrysler workers to ratify the deal within the next two weeks.

GM UAW workers ratified their contract by a roughly 2-to-1 margin. Ford workers are still voting.

Politics
3:36 pm
Wed October 12, 2011

No more cash assistance for 11,162 recipients, updated notices sent

Last week, U.S. District Judge Paul Borman delayed the cash-assistance cap for some welfare recipients in Michigan. (A new law caps cash-assistance payments from the state to a total of four years in a lifetime.)

The state sent out notices to recipients starting last month notifying them their benefits would cease, but Judge Borman said those notices were deficient. He issued a restraining order against the Michigan Department of Human Services.

Today, the agency sent new notices to 11,162 recipients telling them their cash-assistance payments will stop. The MDHS says the new notices are "in accordance with the ruling by U.S. District Judge Paul D. Borman."

From a MDHS press release:

The reissued notices cite the appropriate legal authority as well as more prominent language on the appeal process, as required in the ruling.

"We are moving forward with the welfare reform passed by the legislature," said Maura D. Corrigan, DHS director.  "These notices, the fourth that have been sent to recipients affected, follow Judge Borman’s directive."

Corrigan said the MDHS has not interrupted benefits to this group yet and continues to help them with job placement programs, food assistance, and help with rent.

The MDHS says that clients have 10 days to appeal the cut-off decision. If the decision is appealed within 10 days, recipients will continue to receive payments until their appeal is heard.

People affected by the cuts can call the Michigan Department of Human Services at 1-855-763-3677 with questions.

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