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")!?

Asian Carp
7:26 am
Thu February 23, 2012

Feds spend $50 million on carp fight

The Obama administration will spend about $50 million this year on protecting the Great Lakes from greedy Asian carp, including first-time testing to see if the fish have reached Lakes Michigan and Erie.

Federal officials tell The Associated Press the government has updated its strategy for battling bighead and silver carp that have infested the Mississippi River watershed and are closing in on the Great Lakes.

Scientists say if the carp take hold in the lakes, they could threaten the $7 billion fishing industry by gobbling up plankton at the base of the food web.

Among new initiatives will be searching southern Lake Michigan and western Lake Erie for signs of carp DNA.

Also planned is stepped-up trapping and netting to remove Asian carp from tributary rivers.

It's All Politics
7:16 am
Thu February 23, 2012

Pro-Obama SuperPAC Hits Romney On Auto Bailout

Originally published on Wed February 22, 2012 3:54 pm

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Politics
7:01 am
Thu February 23, 2012

House panel to begin medical marijuana hearings

A state House panel is expected to begin hearings at the state Capitol today on a series of bills that would add regulations to the state’s medical marijuana law.

The bills before the state House panel would add regulations to how medical marijuana ID photos are taken and how the IDs are distributed. They would also add requirements for transportation of medical marijuana in a car. Several state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have said the medical marijuana law is too vague and needs some clarification.

But supporters of the law say it was approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2008, and lawmakers should not tamper with it. Similar public hearings to the one scheduled this week have attracted hundreds of medical marijuana supporters – many of them in wheelchairs and suffering from chronic disease or pain.

Education
9:04 pm
Wed February 22, 2012

Financial emergency declared in Highland Park schools--again

A state review team has again declared a state of financial emergency in the Highland Park school district.

But the district may not be able to keep its doors open long enough to see its former emergency manager reinstated.

Governor Snyder had already appointed an emergency manager, Jack Martin, for Highland Park schools.

But a court found that the financial review process violated the state’s Open Meetings Act, forcing the emergency manager to step down.

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Politics
8:43 pm
Wed February 22, 2012

Detroit introduces new transportation director as cuts loom

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says a new CEO and new fleet of buses will help turn around the city’s struggling transportation department.

The Detroit Department of Transportation has been struggling for months to put enough buses on the streets.

In what the city calls a bid to both improve service and cut costs, they’ve brought in a private contractor to manage the bus system.

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Politics
5:03 pm
Wed February 22, 2012

Michigan school system almost out of cash, legislators work to keep kids in classes

Governor Rick Snyder and leaders in the Legislature hope to begin voting tomorrow on a plan to keep Highland Park students in school when the district runs out of money this week.

Control of the district reverted to the school board after Snyder removed the emergency manager to comply with a court ruling.

House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) said the district won’t get any more money while the school board is in charge.

He said the district is guilty of mismanaging its funds.

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Politics
5:02 pm
Wed February 22, 2012

Michigan Senate passes tax on roll-your-own cigarette shops

A bill to increase taxes on Michigan’s roll-your-own cigarette retailers was passed today by the State Senate. 

The bill would require the shops to pay a $2 per-pack state tax – the same as packaged cigarettes.

It would also classify the shops as manufacturers.

Patrick Brazil owns the “That’s How We Roll” tobacco shop in Lansing.

He says the bill will cost jobs and lose revenue for the state.

Brazil also says such a law would force him out of business  because he couldn’t become a manufacturer, even if he wanted to.

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Politics
4:36 pm
Wed February 22, 2012

High stakes for Romney and Santorum in tonight's Republican debate

The four remaining GOP contenders at last month's debate in Florida.
Screen grab from video guardian.co.uk

The four remaining Republican presidential candidates are set to take the stage tonight for what could be the final debate of the primary season.

While they will likely face a lot of questions from Arizona voters during the event, scheduled to be broadcast from Mesa, the candidates' performances have the potential to make a big impact in Michigan as well.

Once considered to be an electoral cakewalk for mitten-state native Mitt Romney, next Tuesday's Michigan primary has turned into a tight race between Romney and ex-Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.

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Politics
2:51 pm
Wed February 22, 2012

Michigan Senate passes bill blocking union vote by university graduate assistants

Graduate student research assistants picketing on UM's Ann Arbor campus.
GEO

Yesterday, Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reported on state legislation that would block graduate student research assistants at public universities from forming a union.

Today, the full Senate passed that measure.

From the Associated Press:

The measure was passed Wednesday by a 26-12 vote along party lines. The legislation advances to the Republican-led House.

The legislation specifies that graduate student research assistants would not be considered public employees as related to collective bargaining rights.

The bill (S.B. 971), sponsored by State Senate leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe), was officially opposed by the University of Michigan Board of Regents in an "emergency meeting" called yesterday.

The vote to oppose the bill fell along party lines - six Democrats for, two Republicans against.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra reported U of M Regent Laurence Deitch (D) said because the Michigan Employment Relations Commission is in the middle of deciding about the union vote, "adoption of this law would be tantamount to changing the rules of the game in the middle of that game." Deitch also said the bill infringes on the University’s internal decision making processes.

Some graduate research assistants have been trying to form a union at the University of Michigan for decades.

The University of Michigan administration has long contended that the graduates assistants are students and not employees, and therefore do not have a right to form a union.

However, last May, the University of Michigan Board of Regents voted to recognize the graduate assistants as employees - moving the possibility of a vote to form a union one step closer.

Such a vote would have to be approved by the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC).

But if the Senate-passed bill is signed into law, a decision by the MERC would be moot.

Politics
2:01 pm
Wed February 22, 2012

Michigan Tea Party groups meet this weekend to pick their choice for Republican US Senate race

Tea Party activists from across Michigan will gather this weekend to pick a consensus candidate for U.S. Senate.

A crowded field of Republicans are on the August primary ballot.   The winner will face incumbent Democrat Debbie Stabenow in the November general election.

Cindy Gamrat is the organizer of Saturday’s convention in Mt. Pleasant.  She says they hope to pick a candidate to support now in hopes it will help Tea Party members to organize to defeat Senator Stabenow. 

"If we wait to really get behind a candidate after the primary, we only have a few months," says Gamrat, "That doesn’t give you much time to put an effective ground, grassroots campaign together.” 

Gamrat says the straw poll results will not be binding on Michigan’s Tea Party members to follow, but she hopes it will be enough to convince some candidates to drop out of the race. 

Gamrat says the group also hopes to hear from candidates in next week’s Republican president primary at their convention this weekend.

Rural
1:55 pm
Wed February 22, 2012

38 horses killed and one worker injured in Michigan barn fire

A barn fire at Campbell Stables in Grass Lake Township killed 38 horses and sent one worker to a hospital with burns, according to authorities.

The Jackson Citizen Patriot reports the fire began after 10 p.m. Firefighters from five area departments fought the blaze. Grass Lake Township Fire Chief Greg Jones said the injured barn worker was taken to an Ann Arbor hospital with burns to his hands and legs.

The Jackson Citizen Patriot spoke with a neighbor of the stables, Rob Dunkley:

Dunkley called 911. He could see vehicles from the farm's house rush to the burning barn. From the road, he could hear the horses trapped inside.

"That's the part that hurt the most," he said. "You could hear the horses kicking the stalls and being very loud.

"It went fast. It burned so fast it was horrible."

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

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