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User: Brett L / flickr

Beginning in October, the University of Michigan will run Wayne County's Medical Examiner's Office. 

The $16.7 million contract will be in effect for three years.

Wayne County's Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Carl Schmidt, says the partnership could allow the county greater access to pathologists, advanced lab facilities, and forensics through the University of Michigan.

“The vision is that we will gain more flexibility in hiring the people that we need. And because of the economies of scale that are provided by the university, we can do things that we used to do at a lower price,” says Schmidt.

The agreement is expected to save taxpayers at least $1.5 million. It's also expected to address criticism the county faced over understaffing and long waits for autopsies.

User: Marvin Shaouni / Urban Innovation Exchange

You might have heard of urban farming in Detroit, but do you know you can grow seafood in Detroit’s vacant homes?

Aside from the Heidelberg Project, do you know metro Detroit also has community art projects like Green Alley, Scarab Club’s art exhibits, and an upcoming Museum of Curiosity?

These are the kind of ideas Urban Innovation Exchange hopes to explore at its first national convention Sept. 24-26 in Detroit.

It's one in a series of citywide events jam-packed into the month of September to showcase small projects that are transforming the city, from Tour de Troit to Dlectricity.

LisaW123 / Flickr

This story was updated at 8:07 on 8/28/14.

Winter weather is still a few months away – we hope – but road agencies are already preparing for the season.

And they're dealing with a spike in salt prices. The statewide average for road salt is about $66 per ton. That's up nearly 50% from last year.

Michigan's County Road Association says high demand from last winter means vendors haven't been able to adequately restock.

Ed Noyola is the association's deputy director.

user: Jimmie / Flickr

A new bill in the state Legislature aims to make school supplies more affordable.

The legislation would give taxpayers a credit of up to $1,000 for qualified purchases of school supplies.

Materials that qualify for the credit would be things like books, computer programs, and science equipment.

State Sen. Jim Ananich, D-Flint, introduced the bill.

He says it's worth the investment.

The Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta sat down with the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Gary Peters this morning, to take questions from our statewide audience.

Peters is currently the U.S. Representative for Michigan’s 14th congressional district. He's served in Congress since 2009. The district includes the eastern half of Detroit, as well as the Grosse Pointes, Hamtramck, Southfield and Pontiac. As senator, Peters would represent the entire state.

Peter's Republican opponent in the race for U.S. Senator is Terri Lynn Land. She served as Michigan’s 41st secretary of state. Rick Pluta will interview Land on Friday, Oct. 3 from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A Flint nursing program is receiving a financial boost that aims to fill a health care employment gap.

The University of Michigan-Flint is one of three schools in the state to receive nearly $700,000 dollars from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The money is to support registered nurses becoming nurse practitioners.

The grant will provide about a third of the incoming students with enough money to pay for a year's tuition and fees.

Connie Creech is the director of Flint's graduate nursing program.

Gray wolves.
USFWS / Flickr

The Michigan Senate has adopted a citizen petition initiative to allow wolf hunting in the Upper Peninsula and overhaul wildlife management rules. It would let the Natural Resources Commission designate game animals, and make irrelevant two November questions before voters to decide the issue.

It cleared the Senate on a 23-10 mostly party vote.

The measure now goes to the state House, which could vote on it later this month.

*This post will be updated.

Ben Alman

Michigan cereal maker Kellogg announced a broad initiative today to tackle a number of environmental issues.

The company says its efforts will be focused in two areas:

  1. Responsible sourcing, and
  2. Conserving natural resources.

The company says it will “responsibly source its top 10 ingredients and materials by 2020, and validate compliance across all direct suppliers by 2015.”

They also say they will work to be more efficient with their packaging materials and will continue to work on reducing how much energy is used in making their products.

You can read more about all their “Global Sustainability 2020 Commitments” here.

Diane Holdorf is the the company's chief sustainability officer.

The company plans to educate and give resources to its suppliers to be more energy efficient as well as reduce water use and maintain healthier soil.

"We're really trying to look very holistically at the business and what makes sense, not just for us and what's right for the environment and society, but also for our consumers, our customers and our other stakeholders, knowing that not only is it what we expect of ourselves, but it's what others expect of us as well," Holdorf said.

More from John Flesher of the Associated Press:

Under the plan, the Battle Creek-based food products manufacturer will require key suppliers such as farms and mills to measure and publicly disclose their greenhouse gas outputs and targets for reducing them. The company said it will report annually on those emissions and include climate and deforestation policies in the company's code of conduct for suppliers.

Earlier this year, Oxfam International was critical of food companies for not doing enough to combat climate change. They called the Kellogg Company and General Mills "climate laggards."

Oxfam praised this latest effort by Kellogg. 

– Alyse Guenther, Michigan Radio Newsroom

*This post was updated.

Flickr/jnn1776

Michigan's female veterans can now take a survey to help policymakers develop services that will better fit their needs.

The Michigan Women's Commission is conducting the survey.

Susy Avery is the executive director of the commission. She says the main goal of the survey is identify service gaps, and fix them.

"I think awareness is critical," Avery said. "So many times when you're hearing a lot of stories about veterans, women are kind of left out of it because they just don't realize that there are so many of them."

www.detroitmi.gov/detroitdashboard / City of Detroit

The City of Detroit's website has launched a new performance measurement feature. 

The Detroit Dashboard tracks the progress and outcome of improvements across the city.

The data is gathered from various city departments such as the Lighting Authority or EMS. Each colored section of the infographic on the side of the page is a clickable link to a department's website or information page. 

User: 21innovate / Flickr

​LANSING – Several Michigan schools are expected to get money to help transition from the traditional school calendar to a year-round calendar as part of a pilot program.

MLive.com reports the State Board of Education is set to approve grant requests for four schools at next week's meeting and two additional schools received money through the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to help offset their costs.

The Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System is set to get $750,000; charter school GEE Edmonson Academy in Detroit will get $395,000; and Ypsilanti Community Schools will get $146,000.

Baldwin Community Schools and Madison District Public Schools each received $750,000 through the MEDC.

The MGM Grand Casino in Detroit
Mike Russell

Current and former employees of the Detroit MGM Grand Casino are suing the casino for unfair labor practices.

What could be up to 200 employees claim the casino refused to pay floor supervisors for overtime.

The Fair Labor Standards Act says certain employees who work more than 40 hours a week are entitled to overtime pay.

But the complaint claims the casino hasn't done that.

Megan Bonanni is a lawyer for the employees. She says what the floor supervisors are asking for is only fair.

People voting
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

When you step into the voting booth tomorrow, one of the things you’ll be looking at is Proposal 1.

The proposal asks voters to approve a tax policy change, but the language is very confusing.

Michigan Radio staff have been examining the proposal. Here's a brief summary of their reporting and analysis pieces, to answer questions you might still have before heading to the polls tomorrow.

Mark Brush explained Proposal 1 and tackled these questions:

  • What is the proposal all about?
  • What’s problematic with the language of the proposal?
  • What do “yes” and “no” votes mean?
  • What is "personal property tax"?
  • How will it affect local business and communities?
  • Who’s in favor of a “yes”/"no" vote on the proposal?
  • What will happen if the proposal wins/fails?

©Emantras Inc 2014

There's good news for Michigan students who don't want to dissect animals in the science lab.

The State Board of Education has adopted a policy that schools give students a chance to opt out of animal dissection.

Students who choose not to dissect real animals would instead follow with the class on a computer program.

It's a policy recommendation, not legislation.

John Austin is the president of the board. He said this could potentially save schools money. And he added that most medical schools don't use real animal dissections anymore to teach students.

Crego Park: Now open
User: Kevin Driedger / Flickr

​LANSING (AP) - Lansing's largest park is back open after more than a quarter-century.

The 200-acre Crego Park was closed in 1986 after industrial waste was found on the property.

The Lansing State Journal reports the city quietly reopened the park earlier this summer, but officially marked its rebirth at a ceremony Thursday.

Several current and former city officials, and more than a dozen relatives of ex-Mayor Ralph Crego took part in a ribbon-cutting.

City officials used a $500,000 grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund and $250,000 from Lansing's parks millage fund to add a parking area, a fishing pier and a launching facility for canoes and kayaks.

Crego Park was closed after 200 drums of paint sludge and other toxic waste were found on the grounds.

User: Enokson / flick

The school boards in Ann Arbor and nearby Whitmore Lake have voted to pursue Ann Arbor Public Schools' annexation of the much smaller school district to the north of the city.

Over the past few years, Whitmore Lake Public Schools has suffered steep enrollment drops as the community's population declined – and the district is moving grades out of its middle school building this fall to balance its budget.

Voters will decide the question in November. A "yes" vote in both communities would result in annexation next July.

J. Miguel Rodriguez / Flickr

International travelers may soon experience shorter wait times at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

New technology at the airport aims to make the U.S. customs process a little easier.

Thirty new Automated Passport Control kiosks will allow travelers to enter their information at computers, instead of filling out declaration cards.

Kris Grogan is with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. He says the new system will help the agency's officers be more effective at their jobs.

Courtesy of Children First

Recent reports show an early uptick in hand, foot and mouth disease.

The Kent County Health Department is seeing an increase of cases of the highly contagious virus, which normally occurs in August.

The virus is most common in children and is spread similarly to the common cold. Symptoms include fever, sore throat and sores on the mouth, hands and feet.

Lisa LaPlante represents the Kent County Health Department. She says the uptick could be attributed to public pools and playgrounds.

courtesy of FreeAmir.org

A Muslim advocacy group is asking the Iranian government to pardon a Michigan it convicted of spying for the U.S. government.

Amir Hekmati is a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen who served in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Three years ago, he traveled to Iran to visit his extended family. Hekmati is from Flint.

But when he arrived he was arrested and convicted of "cooperating with hostile governments." He's been in prison ever since.

Now, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and other other groups are asking the Iranian government to pardon Hekmati.

morguefile

A judge in Washtenaw County today dismissed a lawsuit to prevent oil drilling in Scio Township, near Ann Arbor.

Citizens for Oil-Free Backyards wants to stop West Bay Exploration from drilling. So it sued the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for what it calls an "unfair and faulty" permitting process.

But the judge ruled that he had no jurisdiction over the case. He said Ingham County is the appropriate court.

Arthur Siegal represents the non-profit group. He said West Bay could start drilling within a week.

NOAA.gov

Scientists are working to identify a cyanobacteria bloom near the Maumee River. It's a yearly event that occurs during the warm summer months.

Researchers at the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory confirmed that the cyanobacteria bloom has been intensifying over the last week.

Also known as blue-green algae, it can be harmful to the aquatic environment and to people. People shouldn't swim in a bloom- it can cause skin rashes or even severe stomach problems.

Tim Davis is a research biologist with the lab. 

Citizen groups are suing the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality over an air permit it granted to a Dearborn steel plant.

Two months ago, the MDEQ issued the permit to the Severstal plant. It allowed the facility to continue polluting at levels that had previously been cited by the state.

Gaurav Pandit

Feral cats have become a serious problem in Genesee County.

The cats can be seen all over the county's towns.

Cats can reproduce up to four times a year with an average litter of six. So officials and animal activists have been pushing residents to spay and neuter their cats. 

Jody Maddock is the program director for Adopt-a-Pet in Fenton. She said the problem has really gotten out of hand.

Renisha McBride.
Family photo

DETROIT (AP) - Jury selection starts today in Detroit in the trial of a 55-year-old man who shot to death a young woman who had been knocking on his door in the wee hours of the morning in November.

Prosecutors say Theodore Wafer grabbed his shotgun, opened the front door of his Dearborn Heights home and blasted 19-year-old Renisha McBride in the face.
 

McBride was drunk but unarmed when she had gone to get help after crashing her car.

Wafer claims McBride was aggressive and violent and that he acted in self-defense.

Detroit Historical Society

Detroit turns 313 years old next week. The Detroit Historical Society is celebrating with a week's worth of programming beginning tomorrow. 

July 24th marks the day when the French explorer Antoine Cadillac landed on what would later become the city of Detroit.

Each day the group will host a different event- including storytelling, a classic car show, and film screenings.

Bob Sadler is with the Detroit Historical Society. He said celebrating the city is especially important now.

"And based on Detroit’s history of being a hard-working, very creative and entrepreneurial town, I have every reason to believe that we’re reinventing ourselves again," said Sadler. 

Some of the events include: Arsenal of Democracy, Detroit is America’s Motor City, The Streets of Old Detroit, and one of the newer exhibits, the Gallery of Innovation. 

The Detroit Historical Museum is in Midtown Detroit. All of the week's events are free.

– Reem Nasr, Michigan Radio Newsroom

wikimedia commons

The number of younger men diagnosed with late-stage prostate cancer has been rising sharply over the past two decades.

Prostate cancer has generally been associated with aging. But researchers at the University of Michigan say it's time to rethink that.

Dr. Kathleen Cooney is professor of internal medicine and urology at the university. She said there could also be a genetic factor that makes some men more susceptible to the disease earlier in their lives.

Laura Robinson

Exploratory oil drilling could come to Scio Township, near Ann Arbor, soon. But a community group has a filed a lawsuit to try to prevent it.

Citizens for Oil-Free Backyards filed the lawsuit against the oil company, West Bay Exploration, and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

The group claims that DEQ did not follow its own rules meaningfully when considering the drilling permit.

Laura Robinson heads the group.  

Michigan Shakespeare Festival

This Thursday marks the opening night of the Michigan Shakespeare Festival.

The festival has been based in Jackson for its 20 years of performances.

But that will soon change.

The group has partnered with a theater in Canton, west of Detroit, to reach a broader audience.

Starting next year, the festival will expand to host three weeks of performances at The Village Theater at Cherry Hill.

Janice L. Blixt is the artistic director for the festival. She says they're excited to share these works with as many people as possible.

University of Michigan

A group of doctors and researchers is getting in on the Ann Arbor Art Fair fun this week. 

The program is called Bioartography. Faculty and staff across the university submit images of cells and tissue from their research labs.

The images are photoshopped to add bright colors and patterns. The winning prints are then sold. All proceeds go to help graduate students and post-docs travel to medical conferences.

Dr. Deborah Gumucio helped develop the fundraiser in 2005. She said roughly $40,000 to $50,000 has been collected over the past nine years. That's been enough to give more than 80 students $500 travel awards.  

"It’s really important to get out to the public to tell them about what we do," said Gumucio. "How our work with the fruit fly and work with yeast, for example, can make huge differences in human health."

The prints are a representation of the intersection between art and science. 

They will be sold at the Ann Arbor Art Fair this week. They're also for sale online. 

– Reem Nasr, Michigan Radio Newsroom

World Resources Institute

You might recall that earlier this year Michigan’s attorney general filed charges against two energy giants.

Encana Oil and Gas USA and Chesapeake Energy were accused of colluding to lower the price of land leases for oil and gas exploration.

Last Friday, a Michigan Cheboygan County District Court judge ruled that Chesapeake Energy Corp must face a criminal trial, citing evidence of a conspiracy between the companies.

Reuters quoted Judge Maria Barton of Michigan’s Cheboygan County District Court:

"The direct and circumstantial evidence established that the parties did in fact strike an agreement to bid-rig the State sale." 

Part of that evidence could have come from Encana Oil. That company struck a plea deal with the State of Michigan in exchange for its help in Michigan's anti-trust case Chesapeake Energy. Encana also agreed to pay a $5 million fine.

This past May, MPRN's Rick Pluta reported:

 If Encana lives up to its end of the bargain, the state will drop other criminal charges at a sentencing hearing in 11 months.

Chesapeake Energy is the nation’s second-largest producer of natural gas.

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