Transportation
2:05 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

Watch GM CEO Mary Barra testify before Congress

GM CEO Mary Barra prepares to give her testimony in front of a subcommitte of the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee.
screen grab U.S. House of Representatives

The new head of General Motors, Mary Barra, is on Capitol Hill today starting what will be two days of testimony.

She'll be questioned about a safety defect that's been linked to at least 13 deaths and has sparked a 2.6 million-vehicle recall.

At issue: What did GM know about the problems with ignition switches in its cars, and when did the company know it?

Watch it below:

Auto
12:42 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

The Long Road To GM's Ignition Switch Recall

Chevy Cobalts on the assembly line in Ohio in 2008. Documents show General Motors was aware of problems with the car's ignition switch years before, but failed to act.
Ron Schwane AP

Originally published on Tue April 1, 2014 12:08 pm

The new head of General Motors, Mary Barra, goes to Capitol Hill Tuesday to begin two days of testimony.

It's the first time she'll be questioned about a safety defect that's been linked to at least 13 deaths and has sparked a 2.6 million-vehicle recall.

At issue for the Detroit CEO is a classic question: What did GM know about the problems with ignition switch problems in its cars, and when did the company know it?

And just as important for GM and government regulators is the follow-up question: Why did no one act sooner?

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Arts & Culture
11:42 am
Tue April 1, 2014

Banjos will be banned at this year's Water Hill Music Festival in Ann Arbor

Five-string banjos, four-string, SIX string... it doesn't matter. They will all be banned.
user WolfgangW Wikimedia Commons

A collective sigh of relief was heard today in Ann Arbor when the organizers of the Water Hill Music Festival announced a ban on banjo playing during this year's fest.

From the Water Hill Music Fest:

Today Water Hill Music Fest organizers received a petition with over 500 signatures urging a ban on banjos at the festival.  

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The Environment Report
11:04 am
Tue April 1, 2014

Zebra mussel-killing bacteria could help native species in the Great Lakes

Zebra mussels on a Higgins eye mussel
Credit USFWS

You can hear Peter's story above.

A treatment that kills zebra and quagga mussels could soon be available for use in lakes and rivers. It’s very effective and safe.

But it is not likely to undo much of the ecological damage done to Michigan waters by invasive mussels.

It could be good news, though, if you’re a clam.

Read more
Politics & Government
9:25 am
Tue April 1, 2014

Students wait for tickets to see President Obama speak in Ann Arbor tomorrow

Students wait in line this morning for tickets to see President Obama speak.
Megha Satyanarayana Michigan Radio

President Obama will fly to Michigan tomorrow aboard Air Force One. He's scheduled to deliver a speech on raising the national minimum wage at around 3 p.m. on the campus of the University of Michigan in the Intramural Sports Building.

The event is open to those with tickets and the media.

Students on the campus of the University of Michigan started lining up last night for tickets. They had to wait overnight with their sleeping bags as the Michigan Union just started distributing tickets at 9 a.m. this morning.

MLive's Ben Freed spoke with students in line last night who told him that seeing the president speak is a "pretty unique opportunity." Janie Brown, Freed writes, was one of the first in line:

“I came down here to get food at about four and then I decided to just set up out here so that I wouldn’t get shafted and not get a ticket,” [Brown said]... 

“The last thing I waited this long for was the midnight showing of the last Harry Potter movie. I showed up more than 15 hours early for that and I was in full costume,” she said.

“But that was in daylight, and for a Harry Potter movie. Hopefully this is a bit more impressive.”

The president's last visit to Michigan was on Feb. 7, 2014 when he signed the Farm Bill into law on the campus of Michigan State University. This will be Obama's third trip to U of M while president. The Ann Arbor News' Kellie Woodhouse points out that no other president has visited more while in office.

Families & Community
6:07 am
Tue April 1, 2014

Report: Michigan's African-American children at serious risk

The latest Kids Count report ranks the well-being of Michigan’s African-American children at the bottom of the national survey, only slightly better than Mississippi and Wisconsin. One in six Michigan children is African-American.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A new report paints a bleak picture of the well-being of African-American children in Michigan.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation has studied the economic and societal challenges facing children for a long time.

The foundation’s latest study finds Michigan’s children face more challenges than most American children. 

But when the study breaks its findings down by race, Michigan's African-American children face substantially greater problems.

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Politics & Government
6:00 am
Tue April 1, 2014

Detroit City Council approves lease deal that closes the book on Joe Louis Arena

Credit Wikipedia

With a 5-4 vote, the Detroit City Council has narrowly approved a controversial lease deal for the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.

The lease is retroactive to 2010, and runs through 2015. It has five one-year extension options.

The deal will cover the Wings’ remaining playing days at the Joe. The city has already cleared the way for the team’s owners to build a new, $450-million arena complex elsewhere in Detroit.

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Politics & Government
5:11 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

U.S. Rep. Dave Camp says he won't seek re-election

Credit user republicanconference / Flickr

Michigan Congressman Dave Camp has announced he will not seek reelection this year. Camp joins a string of Michigan congressional veterans who’ve said they plan to sit out this year’s election.

Camp’s office sent out this statement:

“Today, I am announcing that I will not seek re-election to the United States House of Representatives.  This decision was reached after much consideration and discussion with my family.

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Stateside
5:10 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

Does the land of opportunity include gender equality?

Are women equal to men in the land of opportunity?
Credit pixabay.com

We often talk about the U.S. as being the land of opportunity. This is the country where you can fulfill your dreams; that is certainly the view of America from many other countries. But is that view justified? 

Here in Michigan, one in four kids lives in poverty. And are girls in Michigan really seen as equals to boys?

We may say, of course they are. But does that belief holdup to close scrutiny?

The BBC's Ros Atkins wanted to find out if there is anyplace in the world that girls and women are treated the same as boys and men.

He has produced a special hour-long documentary tracing the lives of four girls in four countries. It's called "All That Stands in the Way". 

We get Atkins' perspective on this, and we bring in Dustin Dwyer from Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project to look at how we talk about the American dream as this big grand idea – which may not work out that way in reality.

Listen to the full interview above. 

Health
5:01 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

Last day to enroll for health-care coverage under the Affordable Care Act

Today is the day.

If you don’t sign up for health-care coverage by midnight tonight, you might not be able to get coverage until next year. And if you choose not to get covered, you might get dinged on your 2014 taxes –also known as the "individual shared responsibility payment."

If you can afford health coverage, but you decide to do without, here's how much you might have to pay:

  • In 2014, it's 1% of your yearly income or $95 per person, whichever is higher.
  • In 2015, it’s 2% of your yearly income or $325 per person, whichever is higher.
  • In 2016 and later years, it’s 2.5% of your yearly income or $695 per person, whichever is higher. 
  • After 2016, the fee is adjusted for inflation.

To avoid any potential fees, you need to sign up by tonight.

There are exceptions.

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Arts & Culture
4:57 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

Graffiti: Is it art or a nuisance?

Graffiti inside Detroit's Fisher Body Plant.
user: memories_by_mike Flickr

When you drive through cities like Detroit, Pontiac, and Flint, graffiti can be found in unexpected and expected places.

The constant debate over graffiti is whether it should be seen as a nuisance, or as art. Does it signal signs of cultural revival? Is it that black and white?

Nancy Derringer explored those questions in a recent article for Bridge Magazine.

Listen to the full interview above.

Stateside
4:54 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

The benefits and costs of tax-exempt properties

Schools are examples of tax-exempt properties within a community.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

It's no overstatement to say that property tax revenues are really the lifeblood of local government.

So what do local leaders think about the tax exempt properties within their borders – the ones that take up municipal services, but are exempt from paying taxes? Examples of these properties are religious institutions and schools.

The Center for Local, State and Urban Policy at the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan made that the central question of its latest Michigan Public Policy Survey. Program manager Tom Ivacko joined us to discuss the survey.

*Listen to the audio above.

Politics & Government
4:46 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

VA: Vets won’t risk losing benefits for treating PTSD with medical pot

Credit bobdoran / Flickr

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says Michigan vets will not lose their federal benefits if they legally use medical marijuana. The VA’s statement is a response to the state’s decision to add post-traumatic stress disorder to its medical marijuana program.

Michigan Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) Director Steve Arwood approved the change a couple weeks ago. But he urged veterans to consult with a VA representative first. He said it was unclear whether using medical marijuana would put their federal benefits at risk.

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Politics & Government
4:40 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

Finding funding for damaged roads creates partisan streets

Drivers are swerving to avoid potholes left behind by this winter.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

State lawmakers like to say, "There are no Republican roads or Democratic roads" when speaking about Michigan's battered roads and bridges – battered to the point that Republican Gov. Rick Snyder wants more than $1 billion a year in additional road funding.

Chris Gautz, Capitol correspondent for Crain's Detroit Business, has been digging into that statement, and is wondering if it's true, particularly when it comes to the funding of road repairs. 

Listen to the full interview above. 

Sports
4:07 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

Listen to a poem in celebration of opening day for the Tigers

A statue of Ernie Harwell in Comerica Park.
Kevin Ward Flickr

On opening day, the late Ernie Harwell - the voice of the Tigers for 42 years - would recite the poem Song of the Turtle. It signaled spring and a renewed life and opportunities. For Tiger fans, it just wasn't opening day without hearing Ernie Harwell speak those words of that poem.

In memory of the late sportscaster, here's Michigan writer Terry Wooten reading his poem Old Ernie Harwell:

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Education
3:33 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

Michigan's public universities making decisions in private

The Michigan Union on the University of Michigan's main campus in Ann Arbor.
Credit Andrew Horne / Wikimedia Commons

When University boards meet to vote on certain issues, the vote almost always goes through smoothly with little discussion and even littler debate.

Read more
Environment & Science
12:44 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

No more oil in latest survey of BP oil spill in Lake Michigan

A shoreline assessment team made up of representatives from the Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency and BP surveys a beach area near the BP Whiting Refinery in Whiting, Ind., March 30, 2014.
Chief Petty Officer Alan Haraf Coast Guard

The Coast Guard says crews didn't find any more oil during the latest search of the Lake Michigan shore following last week's spill at BP's northwestern Indiana refinery.

Last Monday, BP's oil refinery in Whiting, Indiana south of Chicago spilled crude oil into Lake Michigan. The company estimates the spill to be somewhere between 630 and 1,638 gallons. The oil made its way into the lake through a malfunction in the refinery's cooling system. 

Read more
Auto
11:24 am
Mon March 31, 2014

General Motors CEO to face gauntlet before Congress

Mary Barra, GM's CEO for less than three months, has inherited a recall scandal. Here, she is listening in to customer calls about the recall at one of GM's Customer Engagement Centers.
Credit General Motors

This week, General Motors CEO Mary Barra will testify in Washington about last month's recall for a defective ignition switch. The defect is linked to at least 13 deaths and 30 injuries. GM has known about it since at least 2004.

Testifying will be a test of Barra's leadership – she's been in charge of GM a mere two and a half months. But Barra may be unable to answer the most haunting question: Why did GM delay the recall for so long?

The question is on the minds of lots of customers, as well as politicians.

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Opinion
10:25 am
Mon March 31, 2014

The Ilitch family seeks a monopoly on the backs of taxpayers

Jack Lessenberry talks about Detroit's deal with the Ilitch family.

I’ve talked before about the sweetheart deal that the city of Detroit gave Mike Ilitch in connection with the new hockey stadium and entertainment complex being built in downtown Detroit.

The city is giving Ilitch’s Olympia Entertainment all the land they need, absolutely free. The taxpayers are also kicking in most of the cost of the project.

In return, the city gets nothing – not one dime of the parking or pizza or ticket sales revenue.

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Education
9:00 am
Mon March 31, 2014

Some former Education Achievement Authority teachers, parents, paint a troubling picture

An EAA slogan outside Nolan Elementary-Middle School.
Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The state legislature is considering bills that would expand a state-led effort to turn around Michigan’s lowest performing schools.

Right now, the Education Achievement Authority is in charge of 15 schools, all of them in Detroit.

In this second half of a two-part series, we’ll hear from some people who’ve been inside the current EAA—and paint a less-than-rosy picture.

“Disrupting” traditional education?

Governor Snyder has long urged state lawmakers to create more policy options for turning around historically low-performing schools.

Read more

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