Offbeat
7:59 am
Fri February 24, 2012

Michigan lawmakers take the plunge... polar plunge, that is

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley takes the polar plunge yesterday outside the Capitol building to raise money for Special Olympics Michigan
Photo courtesy of the Governor's office

Almost 30 Michigan lawmakers jumped into a cold pool yesterday outside of the state's Capitol building. They raised some $20,000 for Special Olympics Michigan. "Proceeds from these plunges help support year-round sports training and athletic competition for more than 20,670 children and adults with intellectual disabilities in Michigan," the Special Olympics Michigan website explains.

After Lt. Governor Brian Calley jumped into the chilly waters  yesterday afternoon, Governor Snyder (@onetoughnerd) tweeted: Who knew @briancalley had such mad hops?

And, just in case you want to see it to believe it, the Michigan Information and Research Service posted this video of many of the lawmakers (many dressed in costumes) taking the plunge:

Election 2012
7:09 am
Fri February 24, 2012

In Michigan, Obama Team Builds On 2008 Foundation

Originally published on Fri February 24, 2012 4:50 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now, when Mitt Romney speaks today at the Detroit Economic Club, he will be met by protesters and a banner that reads: Romney Said Let Detroit Go Bankrupt. That was the headline on a 2008 opinion piece that Romney wrote opposing a taxpayer bailout for two of the Detroit car companies, GM and Chrysler.

And Democrats are missing no opportunity to remind voters of that, as we hear from Michigan Public Radio's Rick Pluta.

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Sports Commentary
7:00 am
Fri February 24, 2012

A sad step backward in Michigan football history

Willis Ward and Gerald Ford. "Willis was probably my closest friend on the football team," Ford once said. "We were the leaders." Ward was forced to sit during a 1934 game against Georgia Tech.

When Ann Arbor's own George Jewett, an African-American, made Michigan’s football team in 1890, he would not have predicted it would take more than four decades for another black player to follow him.

The biggest reason was Michigan’s head coach from 1901 to 1926, Fielding H. Yost, who had unequaled ambition and ego, and six national titles to back it all up.

But he also had a blind spot: he was a racist.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised.  His dad fought for the Confederates, after all.  But Yost was surprised decades later when his discriminatory decisions created a national controversy.

It started when he named Harry Kipke Michigan’s next head coach.

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Winter Weather
6:39 am
Fri February 24, 2012

Storm brings snow, slippery roads to S. Michigan

Sami Flickr

A winter storm is bringing wet snow and slippery roads to southern Michigan, with up to 9 inches
forecast in part of the state.

The National Weather Service says winter storm warnings were in effect for much of the southern Lower Peninsula on Friday. About 5 to 8 inches was expected in areas including Grand Rapids, Lansing, Kalamazoo and Battle Creek. Parts of southeast Michigan could get up to 8 inches. The weather service says areas closer to Detroit and southwest of the city toward the Ohio border could get 2 to 5 inches. Crews were on the road early Friday to put down salt.

The storm comes after parts of Michigan, including the Detroit area, haven't seen a lot of snow so far this winter.

Education
11:34 pm
Thu February 23, 2012

Highland Park school board backs down from emergency manager fight

The Highland Park school board has cleared the way for Governor Snyder to quickly re-appoint an emergency manager.

The board chose not to appeal the state’s finding of a financial emergency in the district.

It was the second time a state review team made that finding. But the emergency manager Governor Snyder had already appointed, Jack Martin, had to step down to comply with a court ruling that voided the appointment process.

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Politics
11:29 pm
Thu February 23, 2012

Mitt Romney courts Tea Party groups in Milford

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney stumped for primary votes in Milford last night, at an event sponsored by eight different Tea Party groups.   

Wes Nakagiri is the founder of one Tea Party group called Retake Our Gov.  Nakagiri says all Tea Party members share some common beliefs.

"We believe that piling mountains of debt on our children and grandchildren is immoral and absolutely wrong," he told the crowd in a short speech, before introducing Governor Romney without fanfare.

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Politics
11:07 pm
Thu February 23, 2012

Commission hopes to offer alternatives to emergency managers

Opponents of Michigan’s emergency manager law say they’re ready to tackle the problems underlying the financial distress of many Michigan communities.

Members of the  Financial and Academic Reinvestment Commission (FARC) met in Highland Park Thursday night.

State Senator Bert Johnson, who helped launch FARC last month, says they have a plan to help communities fix fiscal problems without emergency managers.

Johnson says the point is to draw attention to what he calls the “real, human issues” underlying communities in financial crisis.

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Politics
5:39 pm
Thu February 23, 2012

Emergency legislation to keep kids in school, Highland Park school board meets tonight

The Highland Park school district is almost out of cash. The state is working on a solution to keep kids in school.
user alkruse24 Flickr

Lawmakers at the state Capitol have approved a proposal to make sure students from Highland Park schools are able to attend classes next week.

The school district is on the brink of immediate shutdown after the district’s state-appointed emergency manager was removed.

A circuit court judge ruled the district’s financial review team violated the Open Meetings Act and must begin its work over again.

Ari Adler is the spokesman for state House Speaker Jase Bolger. He said the emergency legislation is necessary to protect students.

“We’re trying to set this up so parents and students will have a choice; they will have some options of where they can continue their education for the school year. Speaker Bolger has drawn a clear line of distinction between the Highland Park district and the Highland Park students. We’re done trying to save the Highland Park school district, we don’t believe it can be saved, but we are trying to save the students,” said Adler.

Adler said a payless payday tomorrow appears to be a foregone conclusion for employees in the destitute district.

Republican leaders say they are not willing to forward more money to the district while the school board remains in control of its finances.

Democratic House Minority Leader Rick Hammel said the Republican plan to provide money for kids to attend other public or charter schools in the area will hurt the students of Highland Park.

Hammel thinks a local intermediate school district should be allowed to take over Highland Park schools until a more permanent solution is found.

"The number one thing is those kids stay in that school – that’s the number one thing for us," said Hammel. "Now, the devil’s in the details. And we have taken an opportunity to just fund Highland Park schools through a responsible source, and created law with lots of stuff that goes in there that doesn’t have anything to do with taking care of Highland Park.”

The Highland Park school board will meet tonight to decide its next move.

Education
5:10 pm
Thu February 23, 2012

Muskegon Heights schools face dramatic cuts and wait for emergency manager

A new plan to eliminate a running deficit at Muskegon Heights Public Schools would close schools and cut teacher pay by 40-percent. That means a teacher with a PhD and 20 years of experience would make around $40,000 a year. New teachers would make around $20,000.

But school leaders admit the plan is still unlikely to work.

Unions haven’t even voted on the concessions. But interim superintendent Dave Sipka had to submit the plan anyway to get the money the district needed from the state in order to make payroll.

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Education
4:49 pm
Thu February 23, 2012

EMU to offer new degree in Jewish Studies

Eastern Michigan University students who want to immerse themselves in Jewish history and culture will now be able to get credit for it; the school now offers a minor in Jewish Studies.

Marty Shichtman is director of Jewish Studies at EMU. He says classes will range from the history of Judaism to the Holocaust to the state of Israel and the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

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health care
4:48 pm
Thu February 23, 2012

Holland wins $1.6 million in Blue Cross Blue Shield lawsuit

An Ottawa County Circuit Court judge is ordering Blue Cross Blue Shield to pay the City of Holland $1.6 million. Holland is one of dozens of communities that sued Blue Cross over variable fees charged on insurance claims filed by employees.  The city claims the insurer didn’t tell them about the fees for 17 years.

Blue Cross Blue Shield spokesperson Helen Stojic says the fees were not hidden.“As the lawsuit proceeds to the appellate courts we’re confident that the legal process will result in a finding that our access fee were known to our customers,” Stojic said.

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Economy
4:00 pm
Thu February 23, 2012

Five Michigan cities stand to lose mail processing centers

U.S. mail processing centers in five Michigan cities could close this May.    The U.S. Postal Service says the closings are necessary to help the struggling mail service with its mounting budget deficit.

Mail facilities in Lansing, Kalamazoo, Jackson, Saginaw and Iron Mountain have been on the bubble since the postal service announced last year that it wanted to shut down more than 260 processing centers.   The reason?  Postal officials believe closing the processing centers will save a billion dollars.  

The Postal Service had agreed to put the final decision on hold until May to give Congress time to work out an alternative.   But the chances of a Congressional solution appear increasingly dim.

John Marcotte is the president of the Michigan Postal Workers Union.     He says there’s still time for people to demand Congress and the postal service stop the closing plan.

“Get on the phone.  Tell’em you don’t want this," says Marcotte,  "Tell them you want the jobs in Michigan…you don’t want the mail slowing down."

Marcotte says if the mail processing centers close first class mail delivery will slow dramatically in Michigan.

Politics
3:18 pm
Thu February 23, 2012

U.S. Postal Service: Expect big cuts starting in mid-May

WASHINGTON (AP) - With no financial relief in sight, the Postal Service is pushing ahead with cuts to more than 260 mail processing centers around the nation.

It's part of a billion-dollar cost-cutting effort that will slow delivery of first-class mail.

In a statement, the cash-strapped agency says it completed a review of closings to mail processing centers that were announced last fall. Based on community input and other factors, the post office says it will move forward, beginning in mid-May.

The consolidations are expected to result in a loss of roughly 35,000 jobs.

The agency described the move as a necessary cost-saving measure. Mail volume is declining as people and businesses switch to the Internet in place of letters and paper bills.

Science/Medicine
3:07 pm
Thu February 23, 2012

Chemical in bathtub refinishing products blamed in 13 deaths

A chemical used to refinish bathtubs has been linked to 13 deaths – three of them in Michigan.

More people are having their bathtubs refinished or doing it themselves to save money. Many are using products that contain methylene chloride, available at home improvement stores and on the Internet.

The chemical is marketed to the aircraft industry, to strip paint from airplanes. It's also used as a degreaser.

Methylene chloride is colorless, highly volatile and toxic.

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Politics
3:07 pm
Thu February 23, 2012

Weighing in on the primary

Rick Santorum is one of eleven Republican candidates who want your vote in Michigan's Republican presidential primary on Tuesday.
Gage Skidmore Flickr

We are five days away from Michigan’s Presidential Primary. It is next Tuesday, February 28th.

Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White is joined by Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants, to discuss where the Republican presidential candidates stand today in the state.

Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are in a statistical dead heat. Sikkema says, “It’s a very fluid situation….and anything can happen on Tuesday.”

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Politics
2:45 pm
Thu February 23, 2012

Feds plan to spend $51.5 million on 2012 Asian carp fight

Searching for Asian Carp in the Great Lakes. The Obama Administration released its carp strategy today.
U.S. Coast Guard

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - The Obama administration plans to spend $51.5 million this year in its continuing battle to protect the Great Lakes from destructive Asian carp.

Federal officials announced their carp strategy for 2012 on Thursday. It includes first-time water sampling to determine whether bighead and silver carp have reached vulnerable sections of Lakes Michigan, Erie and Huron.

Other planned measures include stepped-up netting and trapping of Asian carp in the Illinois River. Also high-tech monitoring to determine if an electric barrier near Chicago is adequately blocking the carp's path to Lake Michigan.

Authorities also plan field tests of an acoustic underwater gun that could scare carp away and pheromones to lure them to places where they could be captured.

Environment
1:30 pm
Thu February 23, 2012

Republican presidential candidates on the environment

Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney face off during the Republican debate last night. We look at some of the stances on environmental issues.
YouTube

The Republican candidates for president have taken their messages of energy independence on the road in Michigan. The state’s primary is just a few days away.

Rick Santorum has been the most vocal candidate about energy and environmental issues on his campaign stops in Michigan. He says “radicals” are blocking energy independence and economic growth in the country.

At a campaign stop in west Michigan this week Rick Santorum was asked for his stance on man-made global warming. He responded:

“There is a radical ideology of radical environmentalists, who, in fact, do put the earth above the needs of man, and see them in conflict with each other.”

Santorum says the federal government should focus on the needs of people first – such as the need for more jobs. He says when people have their needs met they are better able to take care of themselves and, in turn, the earth. He says ultimately the responsibility of environmental stewardship is on the individual. But Santorum says radical environmentalists are using global warming to manipulate the federal government.

“And so I never signed on with global warming. I realized…[applause]”

And then Santorum clarified—

“Let me be specific so I’m not taken out of context—manmade global warming. I do believe the Earth warms, I do believe it cools.”

Santorum rejects the science of climate change – though the vast majority of scientists agree that climate change is real and caused mostly by people.

Santorum also says the federal government needs to stop hoarding and protecting the country’s bountiful natural resources. He says natural gas and coal could be used to enrich the United States, lower fuel costs at the pump, and establish energy independence. His rival, Michigan-native Mitt Romney, agrees.

“Coal, oil, gas, nuclear, solar, wind, ethanol – use all those resources, so we have an ample supply of energy ourselves, and don’t have to send hundreds of billions of dollars buying energy every year. And by the way, put in place that keystone pipeline. That’s a no-brainer.”

But environmentalists in Michigan say the proposal to install an oil pipeline from Canada, through the middle of the U.S., is not a no-brainer for Michiganders. The Enbridge pipeline ruptured in the Kalamazoo River two summers ago.

“Yeah, I think Michigan has seen the dangers firsthand that communities around the country face.”

That’s Jordan Lubetkin with the Michigan chapter of the National Wildlife Federation.

“Pipeline spills are not a rare occurrence. In fact they happen hundreds of time per year.”

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Offbeat
11:34 am
Thu February 23, 2012

Garrison Keillor sticks a big “Obama” sign on the lawn of Lake Wobegon

 “Well it’s been a quiet a week in my hometown…”

Fans of A Prairie Home Companion will recognize those words as the opening to Garrison Keillor’s weekly monologue about the fictional town of Lake Wobegon. But this week the real life of Garrison Keillor was probably more exciting than the tales from “the little town that time forgot,” because this week, Garrison Keillor hosted a fundraising event for President Obama’s re-election campaign.

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Commentary
9:09 am
Thu February 23, 2012

Kids in Poverty

Three hundred and forty-one thousand. That’s the number of children in our state living in what is officially known these days as “areas of concentrated poverty.” Our ancestors would have called where they lived “the worst slums.”

We are talking about homes that sometimes lack heat and light, that are surrounded by crack houses and other houses that have burned down, places where life is too often nasty, brutish and short.

Two-thirds of all children in Detroit live in such neighborhoods, streets like the one where a nine-month-old baby was killed by a bullet from an AK-47 assault rifle Monday.

But most poor children don’t live in Detroit. Some live in rural poverty, in Roscommon or Chippewa Counties up north, where alcoholism is high. Yes, a few of these children will escape, thanks to the efforts of a parent, teacher or mentor.

Somehow they will get a halfway decent education, a job and a better life, though that is becoming increasingly hard to do. But most won’t, just as most kids whose dreams are based on a basketball won’t make it to the NBA. Instead, the numbers of the desperately poor are swelling. According to a new report funded by the Annie E, Casey Foundation, there were a hundred and twenty-five thousand more poor kids in our state in twenty-ten than ten years earlier.

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Election 2012
8:15 am
Thu February 23, 2012

Five days to go before the Michigan presidential primary

We're down to five days, now. Five days before the state holds its all-important presidential primary, and two new polls show a tightening race between front-runners Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.

"An NBC News/Marist Poll released Wednesday shows 37 percent of 1,147 likely Michigan GOP primary voters backing Romney, 35 percent Santorum and 13 percent Ron Paul. Eight percent support Newt Gingrich, and 4 percent are undecided," the Associated Press reports. And, "a new EPIC-MRA poll of 400 likely voters shows Santorum with 37 percent, Romney 34 percent, Paul 10 percent and Gingrich 7 percent. Twelve percent were undecided," the AP notes.

The four Republican candidates debated last night in Arizona, possibly the last debate of this 2012 primary.

About 30 minutes into the debate, a subject close to many Michiganders hearts and pocketbooks - the auto bailout - was brought up.  The AP reports:

All of the GOP presidential candidates say they oppose President Barack Obama's decision to bail out failing automakers... Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul all say they'd have refused giving government money to General Motors and Chrysler. Gingrich says it wouldn't have been a tough decision -- he says that other operations in the auto industry outside of Detroit were doing fine. Romney says that his own approach to the auto industry calling for a structured bankruptcy would have been better. He says that some of the money used in the bailout was wasted.

Paul says he opposes all bailouts and says just because a bailout was successful doesn't mean it should have been done.

Just in case you're craving more post-debate analysis this morning, you can check out the stories below. And, is it just me, or is there a whole lotta fightin' words in these headlines ("duels," "attacks," "jabs," "draws fire")!?

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