Prisons
5:02 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

Problems pile up for Jackson-area prison as state puts it under quarantine

150 inmates are sick with stomach flu at the Parnall Correctional Facility - the same prison where maggots were found in on the cafeteria food line last week.
Credit Matt / Flickr

Problems keep piling up at Parnall Correctional Facility near Jackson.

Last week, maggots were found on the serving line in the prison's cafeteria.

Over the weekend, inmates started getting sick with a stomach virus.

And the problems have gotten worse. Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan says the number of sick prisoners is now up to 150, and the prison's been put under quarantine.

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Environment & Science
5:01 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

State approves oil well permit for Scio Township

An oil well.
Credit morguefile

The state has approved a permit for a controversial exploratory oil well in Scio Township close to Ann Arbor.

The approval came despite fierce opposition from residents and Scio Township's board of trustees.

Adam Wygant is with the state Department of Environmental Quality.

He says because of the public comments, the state took two months to study the application - much longer than the 24 days it normally takes to approve a permit for an exploratory oil well.

Wygant says oil wells tend to be less disruptive than people fear, and often, they get used to them.

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Weekly Political Roundup
4:27 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

Weekly Political Roundup: Outside money targets campaign ads in Michigan

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

    

It’s Thursday, the day we talk Michigan politics with Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

We’re still about a month out from the primaries and four months out from the general election. Yet, the Michigan Campaign Finance Network this week reports that $18 million have already been spent in the Michigan gubernatorial and senate races. And such of this money is coming from outside groups.

Is it surprising that this much outside money is coming into Michigan so early or is this election politics as usual?

Health
4:21 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

State efforts to combat West Nile have reduced cases

West Nile is a virus transmitted by mosquitos. The virus often causes no symptoms in infected humans, but in some cases serious illness and death can occur.
Credit Centers for Disease Control

Michigan is making progress against West Nile.

600 people were infected with West Nile in 2002 when the mosquito-borne virus first appeared.

Last year, there were only 34 cases.

Angela Minicuci is with the state Department of Community Health.

She says many cities now regularly flush out the stagnant pools of water where mosquitos that carry West Nile  breed.

She says individual homeowners' efforts are also contributing to fewer cases.

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Education
4:15 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

Cooley Law School plans faculty and staff cuts after low enrollment

Credit Cooley Law School

The Thomas M. Cooley Law School is battling low student enrollment with faculty and staff cuts.

The Michigan-based law school said it needs to reduce expenses. That means it will also not enroll incoming first-semester students at its Ann Arbor campus this fall.

It hasn't yet determined just how many people it will let go.

That decision will come after the school does a systemwide review of all programs and facilities throughout its five campuses. Low enrollment, according to the university, is to blame. 

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Stateside
1:07 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

Why this Detroit-area man refuses to say nice things about his city

One of the photos archived on Dickson's blog. This graffiti, in Dickson's word, "does a pretty solid job depicting the city’s main roads."
Credit James David Dickson / Down I-94: a blog about Detroit

"Say Nice Things About Detroit."

That cheery slogan was first launched in the '70s by Emily Gail. She had a shop in downtown Detroit when it was the murder capital of the country, and she grabbed a lot of attention with that slogan.

Now it’s been revived, as Detroit has been under the spotlight of bankruptcy and the "Grand Bargain."

James David Dickson, a commentary editor at the Detroit News, believes the chirpy slogan isn't helping anyone in Detroit or the city itself. His opinion piece "Why I refused to say nice things about Detroit" was on the Detroit News blog.

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Opinion
11:21 am
Thu July 3, 2014

When it comes to representation in the Legislature and Congress, Michigan voters are still not equal

 

Tomorrow we will happily celebrate the Fourth of July, both because we see it as the anniversary of American Independence and maybe especially because this year it comes with a three-day weekend.

Actually, what we are commemorating is not really true independence; that came at the end of the Revolutionary War. What this day marks is the signing of the Declaration on Independence, the best-remembered line of which is, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Well, as you probably know, the men who wrote that document didn’t believe that as we do now. For one thing, they were all men. Women didn’t even get to vote for more than a hundred years.

Races other than whites weren’t equal, nor were the landless poor. But we like to think that isn’t the case anymore. After all, we have a black president, and may soon have a female one.

But when it comes to representation in the Legislature and Congress, Michigan voters are still not equal.

Legislative seats have to be roughly equal in terms of population. Congressional districts, exactly so. They redraw the boundaries every ten years. But politicians do the drawing, and last time, Republicans were in complete control of the process. That enabled them to give themselves total advantage.

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Environment & Science
10:45 am
Thu July 3, 2014

What should we do about the arsenic in our food? Experts say vary your diet, research ongoing

A rice farm in California. These test plots are being used by rice farmers to find ways to limit the amount of arsenic getting into rice.
FDA

All this week, we’ve been talking about the potential for elevated levels of arsenic in groundwater in Michigan.

The upshot of our reports:

  1. Arsenic levels in Michigan’s groundwater can be high.
  2. Arsenic is bad for you.
  3. Scientists are finding health effects at lower exposure levels.
  4. If you’re on a well, test it for arsenic.
  5. If the levels are high, you should consider doing something about it.

This one chart published by the Center for Public Integrity shows you why (the blue bar is arsenic):

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Michigan's Silent Poison (Part 4)
8:30 am
Thu July 3, 2014

These places in Michigan are still working on getting arsenic out of their drinking water

Sue Cherry, the director of Maple Tree Montessori Academy, said the school installed a reverse osmosis system to take out the arsenic. However, that system didn't meet EPA standards. The kids are told not to drink the water from the sinks.
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

There’s no way to tell if arsenic is in your water without testing it. Arsenic has no taste and no smell.

Certain parts of Michigan have higher than average levels of arsenic in groundwater. That’s especially true in the Thumb region and a few other counties in southeast Michigan. And that can be a problem if you’re on a private well.

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Politics & Government
6:00 am
Thu July 3, 2014

Aramark contract "up in the air" after more maggots found in prison food

Credit wikimedia commons

Aramark Correctional Services, the private company that provides food to Michigan prisons, is in trouble again.

Inmates at the Charles Egeler Reception & Guidance Center in Jackson found maggots while peeling potatoes Tuesday morning.

Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan says the warden was notified, and quickly moved to dispose of all the potatoes.

The kitchen was then thoroughly bleached. No resulting health problems have been reported.

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Environment & Science
5:31 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

Appeals court says no drilling in Pigeon River forest

Pigeon River State Forest
Credit michigan.gov

The Michigan Court of Appeals says state regulators were correct to deny a drilling permit to developers who want to put oil wells on private land surrounded by a state forest.

The developers said the state should either grant the permit, or compensate them for their lost investment. They want to put 11 wells on private property surrounded by the Pigeon River Country State Forest in northern lower Michigan. The state Department of Environmental Quality said the wells were either in designated no-drill zones, or were too close to water.

“The takeaway from this decision is that you can’t drill an oil well just any old place in the state of Michigan,” said DEQ spokesman Brad Wurful. “There are some areas that are off limits.”

And the decision says since that was clear up front, the developers don’t get a payback from the state.

“What the court said was, everybody knew this beforehand going into this and it was clear,” Wurful said. “Nobody got surprised here. They simply wanted to do something that was not allowed and the court upheld that. We’re pretty pleased with the decision, obviously.”

The developers can file a new permit request with plans to use different technology, like directional drilling. They can also take their case to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Stateside
5:20 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

The Civil Rights Act, 50 years later

Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act
Credit Wikimedia Commons

“Let us close the springs of racial poison. Let us pray for wise and understanding hearts. Let us lay aside irrelevant differences and make our nation whole.” – Lyndon B. Johnson

Today is the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The act outlawed discrimination against African Americans and women.

Leslee Fritz, deputy director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, joined Stateside to reflect on this moment in history and its connections to Michigan.

“It really is the foundational act of so much of the law that we rely on today,” Fritz said.

Fritz said John F. Kennedy really began the process, and Johnson saw it through. The Civil Rights Act led to the Voting Rights Act the following year, as well as the Fair Housing Act, and the Americans with Disability Act.

When the act became law, it was right in the middle of Freedom Summer, the effort to register black voters in Mississippi. Fritz said that the University of Michigan provided the largest number of volunteers for that effort.

Fritz added that Michigan has a proud history of being very progressive. There are a number of people who played key roles, both in the activist effort as well in the legal efforts to get the Civil Rights Act passed. Michigan voters in 1963 approved a new state constitution that set up the first civil rights commission in American history.

“We should be proud of that legacy and frankly, we should be doing a better job today of living up to it,” Fritz said. 

*Listen to the full interview above. 

- Bre'Anna Tinsley, Michigan Radio Newsroom. 

Stateside
5:08 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

Forget the Bahamas. Michigan is one of the best places to SCUBA dive

Credit Sonja Stark / Flickr

When it comes to great places to SCUBA dive, lots of people immediately think of the waters of the Caribbean or Mexico, with lots of amazing underwater life, beautiful coral, gentle warm water.

But there’s a hardy group of SCUBA divers who point to Michigan as one of the best places to dive.

In the Caribbean, you’re looking at coral and fish. But lakes have great shipwrecks that are over 150 years old.

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Stateside
4:33 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

A look at the history of the KKK in Michigan

KKK Picnic July 4, Baraga State Park, Michigan. Dated on back, 1923.
Credit user: Wystan / Flickr

The 90th anniversary of a Ku Klux Klan rally in Jackson, Michigan is approaching.

On July 4, 1924, 100,000 KKK members marched in a two-mile-long procession.

Joellen Vinyard, a professor of history at Eastern Michigan University, joined Stateside to talk about the history of the Klan in Michigan.

Vinyard said Michigan was fertile ground for Klan recruiters in the early 20th century. As the auto industry grew, white and black southerners traveled north for jobs. Immigrants also came into the state looking for jobs, and most of them were Catholic.

“The Klan in Michigan was as anti-Catholic as it was anti-black,” Vinyard said.

Vinyard said the Klan’s stated aim was to “keep America safe for Americans,” and its members viewed Catholics as a threat to democracy and the Protestant way of life they believed American was based on.

She added that Klan members were not ashamed to be affiliated with the group. Many marched without their hoods. Coca-Cola even openly sponsored one of their rallies.

However, as the country moved into the Great Depression, the Klan began to lose popularity. Scandals were unveiled, funding was being mismanaged, and people began to feel betrayed by some of their own.

Vinyard says we need to study the history of the Klan and understand who they were. 

“The Klan in Michigan in the '20s, it was a grassroots movement. It’s a reflection of democracy in action,” she said. 

*Listen to the full story above. 

–Bre'Anna Tinsley, Michigan Radio Newsroom.

Stateside
4:32 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

Road-funding trouble in D.C. could be bad for Michigan

Credit Wikimedia Commons

There was much anger and disappointment last month when state lawmakers failed to figure out a way to fund badly needed road repairs before leaving for their summer break.

And now there's road funding trouble ahead in Washington, D.C. Federal gas taxes go into the Federal Highway Trust Fund. The money is handed out to states in the form of road construction payments.

Michigan gets more than $1 billion a year from the trust fund. But that could come to a screeching halt before the summer is out.

Mlive's Jonathon Oosting wrote that the fund is running low due to declining fuel tax revenue, and could be fully depleted by late August or September.

“The federal government is already making plans to scale back payments to states such as Michigan, if Congress doesn’t figure out a way to replenish this fund,” Oosting said.

The fund is not collecting as much money as it used to from gas taxes, as people are driving more fuel-efficient vehicles, or opting out of driving in favor of public transportation.

*Listen to the full interview above. 

Arts & Culture
4:07 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

Michigan History Foundation to get $1 million grant

Credit Michigan Historical Center

A $1 million grant is going to the Michigan History Foundation.

It's from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and will help the Michigan Historical Museum revamp its 25-year-old exhibits.

But the grant is also meant to focus on racial equity. The money will be used for the museum's "Sharing Michigan's Untold Stories" project. Some of that will include stories of the indigenous tribes who where here before the Europeans came. 

Sandra Clark directs the Michigan Historical Center. She is working to incorporate diverse stories and voices into the museum.

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Politics & Government
1:40 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

Outside groups already spending big in Michigan's U.S. Senate and governor's races

Even though outside groups are hoping to sway Michigan voters in November with their political ads, the Michigan Campaign Finance Network's Rich Robinson says the benefit of such early TV ad spending is questionable for candidates and their supporters.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Nearly $18 million has been spent so far this year on political TV ads in Michigan’s U. S. Senate and governor’s races. Most of the money has been coming from national Republican, Democratic, conservative and liberal groups.

Rich Robinson is the executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. He analyzed TV ad buys by political groups in a half dozen television markets in Michigan. 

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Stateside
12:01 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

Where do auto museums flourish? Surprisingly, not in Michigan

All F1 Car story in Automobiles Museum of Turin
Credit Wikimedia Commons

There are many different auto museums – some dedicated to displaying cars with unique engineering and designs, and others dedicated to displaying the automobile’s impact on society.

Michigan's auto museums have had little success. Flint’s "Autoworld" theme park closed two years after opening, and the Walter P. Chrysler Museum closed its doors recently.

Europe has had a different experience.

Autostadt, which means “auto city” in German, is in Wolfsburg, Germany. It averages about two million visitors per year. BMW and Porsche also have notable museums in Germany.

Why do auto museums in Europe succeed, while those in the auto capital of the world have not?

“Europeans seem to have such a deep bond with their vehicles,” says Paul Eisenstein, publisher of  The Detroit Bureau. “They are seemingly more interested in the mechanicals and what have you. They have a tendency to be drawn to automotive exhibits, museums, parks, and everything at a much greater rate than Americans are.”

*Listen to our interview with Eisenstein at 3 p.m. today. We'll post the audio for that interview here around 4:30 p.m. 

Stateside
11:49 am
Wed July 2, 2014

"Autoworld" opened its doors in Flint 30 years ago

1913 Studebaker Type 35 Model AA, Autoworld Brussels
Credit Wikimedia Commons

30 years ago, "Autoworld" opened its doors on July 4, 1984 in Flint, Michigan.

It was an indoor theme park and museum dedicated to preserving and spreading automotive achievements.  

Bill Shea, editor and reporter for Crain’s Detroit Business, said that the attraction wasn’t that popular and visitors were confused about what Autoworld was.

Was it supposed to be a museum or a theme park?

This led people to ask why a group of people invested $80 million into the endeavor.

Organizers hoped Autoworld would revitalize the inner city of Flint, develop Michigan’s tourism industry, and preserve the automotive history in the city.

But, in 1987, the attraction closed its doors permanently. Here's a video of them imploding the building from ABC News:

*You can hear our interview with Bill Shea today at 3 p.m. We'll add the interview to this post at 4:30 p.m.

Opinion
10:57 am
Wed July 2, 2014

Terri Lynn Land was a good secretary of state, but she isn't up to date on issues

Okay, here’s today’s political trivia test: What do the following people have in common? 

Bob Griffin, Marvin Esch, Jack Lousma, Jim Dunn, Phil Ruppe, Ronna Romney, Bill Schuette, Rocky Raczkowski, Jack Hoogendyk, Spencer Abraham, Mike Bouchard, and Pete Hoekstra. That’s the complete list of Michigan Republicans nominated to run statewide for the U.S. Senate in the last 40 years. 
They have something else in common, too: Every one lost. How many Republicans won election to the Senate over the same period? Only one: Spencer Abraham, who won in 1994. Six years later, he was a loser, too.
That’s an incredible record of frustration. Twelve out of 13 losses. That’s especially strange, given that the GOP has held the governorship for most of that time, and the Legislature.
If you are 31 or younger, you weren’t even born the last time Democrats controlled the state Senate.

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