It's Just Politics
12:11 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

Spying on candidates may be unsettling, but is it really such a bad thing?

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

Cue the James Bond theme as we take up electoral espionage. We’re talking campaign black ops. Political spying.

We learned this week that Republicans here in Michigan sent two young operatives equipped with a tiny video camera in a pair of glasses to infiltrate a Mark Schauer for Governor campaign event -- looking for whatever they might find. And what did they get? Found out.

Our ace operatives bungled the job. Dropped the disc with the video where it was found by Democrats. Who, then, made it public, including their brief conversation with Dem lieutenant governor candidate Lisa Brown.

Republicans didn’t deny the operatives were theirs.

Democrats and the Schauer campaign cried foul calling it sneaky, dirty tricks. They got some newspaper headlines. Effective messaging helped along by the fact that it fit did neatly into a narrative courtesy of some missteps -- or what seemed to be missteps -- by Governor Rick Snyder’s campaign.

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Detroit
10:16 am
Fri July 18, 2014

Historic government building in downtown Detroit to be sold to New York buyer

Old Wayne County Building in downtown Detroit.
Sean_Marshall Flickr

I know what you’re thinking.

This building that once housed Wayne County’s administrative office is perhaps "one of the nation’s finest surviving examples of Roman Baroque Revival architecture, with a blend of Beaux-Arts and some elements of the Neoclassical style."

I was thinking the exact same thing.

Well, I was really thinking it’s a beautiful building in downtown Detroit and I hope it gets some attention.

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Politics & Government
7:00 am
Fri July 18, 2014

At Detroit conference, Biden tells activists the time is ripe to "bend history a little bit"

Vice President Joe Biden addresses the Netroots Nation conference at Detroit's Cobo Center.
Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Vice President Joe Biden told a crowd of activists Thursday that “we are at an inflection point in national and world history.”

Biden addressed the Netroots Nation convention at Detroit’s Cobo Center.

That group describes itself as a means to “amplify progressive voices by providing an online and in-person campus for exchanging ideas and learning how to be more effective in using technology to influence the public debate.”

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Arts & Culture
11:17 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

Flint's all-female poetry slam team goes to national competition

Sapphire Newby, right, practices with a teammate. The white board behind them lists the original poetry that needs to be memorized before the competition.
Credit Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

These girls are ridiculously talented. Hearing their poetry in their own voices is worth it. Press the play button to hear it.

The 17th annual International Youth Poetry Slam festival is in Philadelphia this week.

Flint is sending a team made up entirely of high school girls.

They’ve been practicing for months, writing poetry from their own lives about things like family, abuse, mental illness, and love.

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Stateside
5:59 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

GM CEO Mary Barra defends general counsel in congressional hearing

Credit General Motors

Today brought the fourth appearance for General Motors and CEO Mary Barra before angry members of Congress.

This time a Senate subcommittee took a deeper dive into the ignition switch recalls and didn't like what it saw in GM's legal department.

Michigan Radio's auto reporter Tracy Samilton followed the event.

According to Samilton, GM's chief counsel Michael Millikin was in the "uncomfortable Senate spotlight" today.

When senators asked why Millikin still kept his job, Barra said she "respectfully" disagreed with them, and she defended Millikin as a man of "incredibly high integrity."

She said Millikin "had a system in place." Unfortunately, in this instance "it wasn't brought to his attention."

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Stateside
5:56 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

Michigan’s foreclosure activity drops, as nationwide number hits lowest since 2006

Is America climbing out of the foreclosure hole dug during the Great Recession?

That's the question tackled in reports from Realty Trac, which keeps a close watch on real estate data. Its Midyear 2014 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report is out today.

The report shows that U.S. foreclosure activity in June decreased 16% from a year ago to lowest level since July 2006, the month before the housing-price bubble burst. In Michigan, the foreclosure activity was also back to a lower level than the number before the housing bust.

Daren Blomquist, a Vice President with Realty Trac, discussed three reasons behind this slowdown in foreclosures.

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Stateside
5:53 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

A closer look at Aramark and the troubles with privatization in prisons

Credit Kevin Rosseel / morguefile

Sex with inmates - maggots in the food - smuggling drugs to inmates - undercooked or spoiled food.

When is enough "enough" with Aramark, the food service company hired seven months ago to feed inmates in Michigan prisons?

The privatization was supposed to save the state more than $12 million a year. But it's been a Pandora's box of troubles for state prison officials ever since Aramark took over last December.

Paul Egan of the Detroit Free Press Lansing Bureau joined us today. He has reported on all the problems associated with the Aramark contract. Egan said that so far, things are not getting any better.

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Stateside
5:47 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

Michigan fish hatcheries, then and now

A state hatchery in Grayling, MI
Credit Don...The UpNorth Memor / flickr

In early July, state officials approved a significant expansion of a northern Michigan commercial fish hatchery’s operations after requiring additional measures to protect the cherished Au Sable River. It got us wondering: how important are fish hatcheries in the Great Lakes State and what is their role?

Gary Whelan joined us today. He is with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources where he's a Research Program Manager.

Whelan said the first hatcheries began in the early 1870’s. Even back then, fishery resources were in decline. The habitat loss was frightening. Fish were difficult to find, and commercial fishermen weren’t doing very well. One of the responses was to build fish hatcheries.

Today, there are six state hatcheries and three federal hatcheries in Michigan.

Whelan pointed out that fish hatcheries can help bring the lakes into balance.

“Using salmons in water where we have way too many prey species can make it into a balanced system that functions properly, ” Whelan said.

* Listen to our conversation with Whelan above.

Politics & Government
5:44 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

State attorney general’s office unveils law guides for vets and military personnel

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette introduces new legal guides for veterans and military families Thursday in Detroit.
Credit Jake Neher / MPRN

Michigan veterans and active duty military families now have new resources to help handle legal issues. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette released two new legal guides Thursday.

“Sometimes trying to help veterans in transition coming back from a deployment, it can get a bit complicated,” said Schuette.

“It could be anything from child custody to divorce to employment issues, what have you. And so what we’re trying to do is put out a practical guide to try to help veterans across Michigan.”

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Environment & Science
5:40 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

DEQ says “no” to pet coke along the Detroit River

Pet coke piles on the Detroit River, before they were relocated.
Credit James Fassinger Stillscenes

State environmental officials have rejected a plan to allow piles of petroleum coke to be stored at a location along the Detroit River.

Pet coke is an oil refinery by-product that’s used as an industrial fuel.

The state Department of Environmental Quality said the proposal by Detroit Bulk Storage did not address problems with blowing black dust.

Complaints about dust plumes were among the reasons why Detroit ordered the open piles of pet coke removed from a riverfront location in the city.

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Law
5:31 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

AG Schuette won’t give details on his opposition to medical marijuana bills

Credit bobdoran / Flickr

The state attorney general is not saying why he opposes bills that would ease restrictions on medical marijuana in Michigan. Some top lawmakers are now urging Bill Schuette to detail his concerns.

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Arts & Culture
5:30 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

Broadway dame and Detroit native Elaine Stritch dies at the age of 89

Stritch was an actor, dancer, singer, and comedian well into her 80's.
Credit Henri Louis Hirschfeld

Let's all raise a strong drink and take off our pants in honor of the one and only Elaine Stritch.

The 89-year-old Broadway legend died today in Birmingham, Michigan, according to media reports.

A native Detroiter with unabashed talent, humor, and a love of good booze, she gained new fame in her 80's for playing Alec Baldwin's mom on "30 Rock."

You only have to hear a snippet of that wry voice to picture her: the white pouf of hair, the bowler cap, the silk shirt over black stockings - and only black stockings.

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Weekly Political Roundup
5:19 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

How are leaders in Lansing reacting to Aramark problems?

Credit Thetoad / Flickr

Every week, we take a look at what’s happening in 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.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Aramark, the company that provides food services for Michigan prisons, which has come under a lot of criticism.

Prisons have complained of food shortages and maggots have been found in prison kitchens. There have also been a number of issues with Aramark employees smuggling contraband into prisons and just this week, four Aramark staffers were fired for having inappropriate contact with prisoners.

According to Demas, when the state of Michigan decided to privatize the food services in prisons, the objective of the governor and the Legislature was to save money and increase efficiency, but so far it has been marred with problems.

Meanwhile, Sikkema explains that when the initial discussions were taking place about the most effective ways to save money, privatization was more of a priority for certain legislators, and not necessarily that of the Department of Corrections. Sikkema elaborates that the operational costs have gone up significantly over the past several decades, and as a result, legislators have called for some form of privatization to scale back the spending.

After issues began to surface with Aramark following the contract, Demas asserts that the response of the state has been keeping tabs and trying to correct the mistakes, but so far, there has been no push to try and eliminate the contract.

“I do think it clearly raises a question, whether the savings, which are estimated to between $12 to $16 million a year in a $2 billion budget, are worth the problems that they’ve encountered: food issues, sanitation issues, high turnover of staff, sexual misconduct, smuggling of contraband like marijuana into the prisons; I don’t see the contract surviving if these problems continue” says Sikkema.

Omar Saadeh - Michigan Radio Newsroom

Health
5:06 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

More younger men diagnosed with late-stage prostate cancer

A microscopic look at prostate cancer.
Credit 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.

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Families & Community
5:03 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

Community group near Ann Arbor tries to stop new oil drilling

Citizens for Oil-Free Backyards announced the lawsuit to the Scio public on Wednesday night.
Credit 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.  

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Auto
3:08 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

GM says it has replaced 491,000 ignition switches

Credit NHTSA

DETROIT - General Motors says it has replaced faulty ignition switches on just under 20 percent of 2.6 million small cars that are being recalled.

The company has repaired just over 491,000 cars that are covered by the recall announced in February.

Switch maker Delphi Automotive says it has produced over 1 million parts and expects to have made 2 million by the end of August. GM says it expects all parts to be made by late October.

Delphi CEO Rodney O'Neal tells lawmakers his company has added three lines to speed up production.

Some car owners have complained it's taking too long for GM to finish repairs.

The switches can slip into the accessory position and unexpectedly shut off engines. That has caused crashes that killed at least 13 people.

Environment & Science
2:58 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

Public hearings on proposed "fracking" rules wraps up, ballot campaign could follow

Member of the public with a “No Fracking” sticker on her clothes as she testifies before a panel of environmental regulators.
Credit Rick Pluta

State environmental regulators will put the finishing touches on new rules regarding “fracking” now that public hearings have wrapped up. They expect to have the new rules adopted by the end of the year, but the state’s rules may not be the final word on the controversial drilling process

“Fracking” is a drilling method that pushes water and chemicals into wells to force out oil and gas deposits.

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Politics & Government
1:22 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

Detroit clerk, Michigan Democrats debut online absentee ballot application

Detroit voters will now be able to access, sign and submit absentee ballot applications on their smartphones.

Detroit city clerk Janice Winfrey and Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lon Johnson announced the new initiative Wednesday.

Winfrey said it’s simply a matter of meeting voters where they tend to be these days—online.

“So why not? Why not be able to use their smartphone to request an absentee ballot?” Winfrey asked.

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Stateside
1:07 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

Detroit's bankruptcy, one year later

Credit JSFauxtaugraphy/Flickr

Tomorrow afternoon at 4:06 is the one-year anniversary of the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history.

Detroit News Business Columnist Daniel Howes has been talking with top business leaders in Detroit for a "temperature check" on how this first year has gone.

He said that the kind of leadership and coalescence that happened in the past year was something he’s never seen before in this community.

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The Environment Report
11:38 am
Thu July 17, 2014

Climate change fueling increase in pollen, allergies

http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/images/indicator_downloads/ragweed-download1-2014.png

Today's Environment Report examines the link between allergies and climate change

If even hearing the word “ragweed” makes your eyes water, you might be one of the nearly 45 million Americans with seasonal allergies. Researchers say climate change is fueling the rise in allergies and asthma.

Jenny Fischer has been taking over-the-counter medication for allergies for a long time. Without it, she suffers cold-like symptoms: a runny nose, sneezing and congestion. An allergy pill usually made it better. But a couple of years ago, things started to get worse.

“I’d be out at 5:30 in the morning walking my dog, and it would just be huffing and puffing. And, you know, I couldn’t catch my breath. It's scary," she said.

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