Commentary
11:25 am
Thu February 16, 2012

Snyder Endorsing Romney

Last night we all learned that today would be the day when Governor Rick Snyder endorsed Mitt Romney for president.

This is a time-honored ritual, not all that different in some ways from waiting to see if Billy will ask Katie to the prom. But what nobody ever seems to ask is, what effect this all has?

I mean, will Joe Sixpack or Susie Salarywoman come home tonight, throw open the door and say, “Honey, did you hear the news?   Snyder endorsed Romney.  I guess that settles it for us.“

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GM profit
10:25 am
Thu February 16, 2012

GM makes record profit of $7.6 billion despite losses in Europe

General Motors posted a record profit of $7.6 billion in 2011, although its losses in Europe were very high -- $700 million.

In a conference call with analysts, GM CEO Dan Akerson  called Europe a "rather challenging market, not only for GM and Opel, but also for our competition."

GM also lost $100 million in South America.

Most of the money GM made came from sales in North America.  GM made $7.2 billion before taxes in the region.

GM plans to make major structural changes in Europe to reduce its persistent losses there.  

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Environment
10:23 am
Thu February 16, 2012

A pig ban gets muddy

A Mangalitsa pig at a farm in McBain, Michigan.
Peter Payette/Interlochen Public Radio

Wildlife officials took aggressive action last year to keep pigs from running wild on the landscape. Certain kinds of pigs were declared an invasive species. But farmers and ranchers say the move was too extreme. They’re challenging the science of the ban.  On today's Environment Report, Peter Payette explains that distinguishing between pigs can be complicated. 

Peter visited Stuart Kunkle at his small farm south of Traverse City.  He has ten pigs.

“We have a mix and some purebreds here. We have two mulefoots which are the black pigs. That’s Rosabelle and down there is Trinity at the end… then we’ve got a mixture of what we believe is Russian boar and Mangalitsa.”

All these pigs are hairy and the Mangalitsas are almost as dark as the mule foots.

Kunkle got into pigs for a few reasons. One is: he has a day job and pigs are less work than other animals. And he says the market for pastured pork is growing and chefs have become interested in some of the unusual breeds.

But his pigs might soon be illegal. Kunkle isn’t certain but he has the list of characteristics the state will soon use to identify illegal pigs.

“They have erect ears, which I have heard that the erect ear is something associated with the Russian boar. But you know, I want to say except for certain breeds, I want to say a lot of the pigs I’ve ever seen have erect ears.”

Stuart Kunkle is not exactly who the state was targeting when it banned feral swine.

Wildlife officials have been talking for years about the dangers posed by hunting ranches that sell wild boar hunts. They say the animals sometimes escape and there are now thousands living in the wild.

One top official has referred to them as four-footed Asian carp.

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Environment
9:30 am
Thu February 16, 2012

Dow Chemical agrees to clean dioxin-tainted properties in Midland, Michigan

A map of the properties in Midland, Michigan eligible for Dow's voluntary purchase program.
Dow Chemical

John Flesher of the Associated Press reports Michigan environmental regulators have reached a deal with Dow Chemical to clean up around 1,400 residential properties in Midland. The soil in these areas is contaminated with dioxin.

From the AP:

The state Department of Environmental Quality said Thursday it agrees with the company on cleanup plan framework. Dow will fill in the details and submit them to the state for review next month.

Dow has acknowledged polluting 50 miles of rivers and floodplains in Michigan with dioxin for much of the past century. Negotiations and studies with state and federal agencies on how to fix the damage have dragged on since the mid-1990s.

The Midland agreement follows a deal reached last fall on cleansing a three-mile stretch of the Tittabawassee River near the plant.

The company issued a statement about the agreement noting they will also offer a land purchase program to around 50 land owners near its Michigan Operations manufacturing site in Midland.

The properties are in the area where Dow and the state agreed to the clean-up and remediation deal.

A map of the affected properties is show above.

From Dow's press release:

Dow is offering this incentivized property purchase program to give property owners in the immediate area north and east of Michigan Operations (see map) the option to move out of an industrial/commercial area to a residential area, if they so choose. The program will also offer relocation support for those who rent their homes, if the property owner participates in the program.

"We see this as an opportunity to address land use near our manufacturing site and give people still living in this industrial/commercial area the choice to move elsewhere," said Rich A. Wells, vice president and site director for Dow's Michigan Operations.

Dow says they will donate the acquired the properties to Midland Tomorrow, a "nonprofit economic development entity serving Midland County."

News Roundup
8:53 am
Thu February 16, 2012

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Governor Snyder endorses Romney, but will it help?

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder officially endorsed Mitt Romney for president. In an opinion piece in the Detroit News, Governor Snyder wrote:

The American economy as a whole remains in difficult straits. Our next president must understand how markets work and know how to get our nation back on track. Mitt Romney is the man for the job.

Polls show Romney trailing Santorum in Michigan. If Romney loses here, Matt Viser writes in Boston.com, it would be a big blow to his campaign:

A Romney loss in Michigan - the state where he grew up, the state his father governed, the state he says he loves - would not only breathe further life into Santorum’s campaign but could derail Romney’s.

Federal prosecutors charge top Wayne County employee

Tahir Kazmi, Wayne County's Chief Information Officer, has been charged with extortion and obstruction of justice.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reports that federal prosecutors charged Kazmi "with pressuring a county vendor to lie to FBI agents investigating possible corruption in Wayne County government."  Kazmi is also charged with extortion for allegedly demanding cash and expensive trips in exchange for awarding county contracts.

The federal investigation in Wayne County began after the Turkia Mullin severance scandal broke last October.

Detroit Mayor Bing wants to cut bus service from 1 to 4 a.m.

Detroit's beleaguered bus system is facing more cuts. Layoffs were recently announced, now Mayor Bing's office said it want to cut early morning service.

More from the Detroit Free Press:

Bing's office said it will propose ending bus service between 1 and 4 a.m. citywide and reduce service times and lengthen waits between buses on dozens of routes. The cuts would take effect March 3.

Coupled with the reductions, Detroit will institute a "truth in scheduling" pledge that buses will arrive at times posted on new city bus schedules as officials work to right the bus system as part of Bing's strategy to avoid a state financial takeover, Detroit Chief Operations Officer Chris Brown told the Free Press on Wednesday.

Politics
8:04 am
Thu February 16, 2012

Actress Lisa Chan apologizes for role in Hoekstra Super Bowl ad

Images from the Pete Hoekstra Super Bowl ad.
Mark Brush images from YouTube

The actress featured in Pete Hoekstra's Super Bowl ad that sparked charges of racism has apologized.

Hoekstra, who is vying for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate, first attempted to defend the ad, but later pulled it down after the outcry.

Lisa Chan posted the apology yesterday on her Facebook page:

"I am deeply sorry for any pain that the character I portrayed brought to my communities. As a recent college grad who has spent time working to improve communities and empower those without a voice, this role is not in any way representative of who I am. It was absolutely a mistake on my part and one that, over time, I hope can be forgiven. I feel horrible about my participation and I am determined to resolve my actions."

Hoekstra, the front runner for the Republican nomination, was hoping the ad would draw attention to his campaign. It did - just the wrong kind of attention. The Hill reports the  "Democrat-leaning Public Policy Polling, shows Stabenow up 51 percent to 37 percent. That's an increase over the 9-point lead she held in their July poll."

Politics
7:10 am
Thu February 16, 2012

Romney gets Snyder's support

Wikipedia

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is backing Mitt Romney's bid for the Republican presidential nomination, calling the former Massachusetts governor "the man for the job."

Snyder announced his support for the Michigan native in an op-ed column published today by The Detroit News. Snyder says Romney "has what it takes to build a foundation for America's success in this global economy."

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Environment
6:44 am
Thu February 16, 2012

New Enbridge pipeline leak found in northern Michigan

A company responsible for a 2010 pipeline rupture that spilled more than 800,000 gallons of oil in southern Michigan says it has discovered a small leak in an oil pipeline in the northern Lower Peninsula.

WOOD-TV reports that damage to the pipeline was discovered Tuesday in a section near the Arenac County community of Sterling. The pipeline runs through the eastern part of the state to the Upper Peninsula.

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Economy
1:01 am
Thu February 16, 2012

Michigan's home foreclosure rate improving

Home foreclosure filings in Michigan continued to slide last month.   

Realty Trac reports one in every 354 Michigan homes were in the foreclosure process in January.     That’s a 23% improvement over January, 2011.

Daren Bloomquist is with Realty Trac.   He’s been expecting Michigan’s foreclosure numbers to get worse for more than a year, but instead the numbers have been getting better each of the last 15 months.

“You can’t complain about that trend," says Bloomquist,  "we’re headed in the right direction.”

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Politics
5:28 pm
Wed February 15, 2012

Oakland County redistricting loses in court

A judge has overturned a state law that scrapped Oakland County’s new commission map and gave Republican elected officials the power to draw a new one.

The challenge was filed by Democrats who say the law was simply a GOP power grab.

The ruling is the latest chapter in a struggle for political power in the former Republican bastion that’s now a battleground county.

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Politics
5:11 pm
Wed February 15, 2012

Top Wayne County employee charged with extortion and other charges

A top aide to Wayne County executive Robert Ficano is facing federal extortion and bribery charges

Tahir Kazmi is Wayne County’s Chief Information Officer.   He’s been in that job since 2008, though he is currently on leave.

Federal prosecutors charged Kazmi this week with pressuring a county vendor to lie to FBI agents investigating possible corruption in Wayne County government.   Kazmi also allegedly demanded cash and expensive trips in return for county contracts.  

Kazmi and another Wayne County employee are charged with obstruction of justice as well. 

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Science/Medicine
5:09 pm
Wed February 15, 2012

"New-car smell" could be hazardous to your health

bluescreen Morguefile

An environmental watchdog group has released a report about toxins found inside new cars. It says that “new-car smell” can be harmful to your health. 

The Ecology Center in Ann Arbor says the interiors of the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander, Chrysler 200 S and the Kia Soul had the highest level of hazardous chemicals.

The Honda Civic, Toyota Prius and Honda CRZ had the lowest level of chemical hazards.

Jeff Gearhart of the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor says flame retardants and chemicals in plastics generate gases that can cause health problems.

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Education
4:37 pm
Wed February 15, 2012

Detroit students launch new talk radio show for teens

user mzacha morgueFile

A new talk radio show hits the airwaves tonight. It's called "Can U Relate?" and it's produced by and for Detroit Public School students.

Ania McKoy is a junior at Detroit School of Arts, and is one of the handful of DPS students working on the new show. She says each episode of "Can U Relate?" will tackle a different topic - like teen pregnancy, bullying, homophobia.

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Science/Medicine
3:32 pm
Wed February 15, 2012

University of Michigan students holding bone marrow registry drive tomorrow

Tomorrow's bone marrow registry drive will take place in the Anderson room of the University of Michigan Union from 10am to 4pm.
AndrewH324 Flickr

University of Michigan students are harnessing the power of Facebook to promote a bone marrow registry drive to take place tomorrow at the Michigan Union.

A Michigan student who recently became ill with a severe bone marrow disease could potentially find the bone marrow donor he needs at tomorrow’s event.

Daniel Lee, a junior at the University of Michigan was diagnosed with aplastic anemia just over a month ago. His condition means his bone marrow no longer produces enough blood cells and he needs an emergency bone marrow transplant.

University of Michigan junior, Jessica Kaltz began planning the bone marrow drive several months ago. She organized the event in partnership with her sorority, Sigma Kappa, and DKMS, a non-profit organization that recruits bone marrow donors.

Kaltz, who says she was unaware one of her classmates might benefit when she came up with the idea, says, “It’s amazing to see how many people care when you put a face to the cause.”

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Economy
3:02 pm
Wed February 15, 2012

Fewer new homes available for buyers in southeast Michigan

Two of the attendees at today's Building Industry Association of Southeast Michigan conference in Sterling Heights
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

There is a growing shortage of new homes in southeast Michigan.     That could be good news to the region’s home builders who have been struggling since before the recession began.

New home construction bottomed out in southeast Michigan in 2009 when few people were in the market for a home, new or not.

Last year, the number of home construction permits tripled, but still demand for new homes outstripped the supply.

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Your Family Story
1:19 pm
Wed February 15, 2012

Esperanza’s Rock en Español playlist is way cooler than your Spanish textbook

Most Americans have ethnic and cultural roots outside of the U.S. We're asking you to share cultural traditions that are still important to you.

Changing Gears is looking for stories, recipes, songs, and pictures. We'll be collecting these stories  on the Your Family Story page. They'll also appear at changinggears.info and we'll even put some on the air. You can share your story here.

A lot of second and third generation Latinos have the idea that Mexico is this huge farm with cactus, but that is just a small part of Mexico. When your concept of Mexico is based on the stories that your grandparents tell you, your vision is so limited. 

I begged my parents for a satellite dish to watch popular music in Spanish to keep up with my cousins. I didn’t want them to know the lyrics to the songs we loved better than I did. My parents did cave and got the satellite. It opened a window to today’s Mexico. 

It was a very out there thing that many of my fellow Latino friends didn’t even know about. I wasn’t in California or Texas, I was way up in Michigan, so this was quite groundbreaking!

-Esperanza Rubio Torres, Michigan

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Politics
12:47 pm
Wed February 15, 2012

Michigan AG Schuette still pushing for 1,000 new cops

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette hopes lawmakers will make room in the budget for his plan to hire 1,000 new police officers. Gov. Rick Snyder did not include Schuette’s plan in his executive budget proposal.

Schuette says state officials need to be forward-thinking with public safety.

“We have to be decisive, we need to be solution-oriented in this new Michigan, and that means in terms of this linkage between economic growth and public safety.”

Schuette would also like the state Legislature to toughen sentencing guidelines for repeat violent felons. Governor Snyder plans to deliver a special message on public safety next month.

Politics
12:09 pm
Wed February 15, 2012

Ruling puts Michigan's Highland Park schools emergency manager in limbo

Jack Martin is the emergency manager of Highland Park public schools. The judges ruling puts his authority in question.
US Dept. Ed

Update 4:44 p.m.

From Michigan Radio's Rick Pluta

A judge has ruled that state-appointed review teams looking into the finances of the city if Detroit and the Highland Park school district broke Michigan’s open meetings law. The judge says review teams that can recommend state takeovers of local governments and school districts are public bodies that must operate in the public eye.

The ruling by Judge William Collette says the state needs to re-launch its review of the Highland Park school district, and do so in public. But there are no immediate plans to remove the state-appointed emergency manager who was placed in charge of the district two and a half weeks ago. The ruling also says future meetings of the Detroit review team – which has yet to make a recommendation -- must take place in public.

The lawsuit was filed by Highland Park school board member Robert Davis.

“This is a monumental victory for democracy,” Davis said.

It’s not clear what affect the ruling might have on the emergency managers already running four cities and the Detroit Public Schools. The state could appeal the ruling.

The emergency manager law is also facing a separate court challenge as well as a petition drive that seeks to put a referendum on the November ballot.

12:10 p.m.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - An Ingham County judge has voided decisions made by a review team whose recommendations led to the appointment of an emergency manager in the Highland Park public
school system.

The decision Wednesday by Ingham County Circuit Judge William Collette says the review team violated the state's Open Meetings Act.

The suit was filed by Robert Davis, a Highland Park school board member. Davis said the ruling means that Gov. Rick Snyder's appointment of an emergency manager for the district last month is wiped out.

Messages were left with the Snyder administration seeking comment. A spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office said the ruling would be reviewed.

Collette has ruled that the state-appointed review teams should be subject to the state's Open Meetings Act.

Snyder's administration disagrees.

Politics
11:56 am
Wed February 15, 2012

Voters' rights groups oppose Michigan's election law changeup

Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson called for some new election rules to discourage vote fraud.
usesr muffet Flickr

The state Senate has approved some prospective changes in Michigan voting laws.

The measures would require training for people who register voters, and make people who pick up absentee ballots show a photo ID or sign an affidavit affirming their identity.

Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson called for some new election rules to discourage vote fraud.

“Michigan has a good election system, a very good election system, but we want to improve that even more,” said Ruth Johnson’s spokesman Fred Woodhams.

The measures have raised concerns with voter-rights advocates.

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Commentary
10:46 am
Wed February 15, 2012

Romney and the Bailout

Usually, journalists are sent press releases before political events, because the organizers want reporters to cover them. Monday, I got one about an event that was already over.

That would normally strike me as a trifle unusual, until I saw that it was from the Green Party of Michigan. They had a meeting last weekend in Bay City which they said was “charged with enthusiasm.“

What did they talk about? Well, among other things, quote “the unrest palpable among the lower echelons of society.” and the “once-dismissed voters who opted to eschew either,” major party nominee.

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