Developing
5:05 pm
Tue August 23, 2011

Earthquake reports in the East and Midwest

USGS image showing the location of the earthquake.
USGS

Update 5:05

NPR's Two-Way has some video of the quake striking Washington D.C. You can see security rush the roof of the White House when the quake strikes.

2:48 p.m.

They're calling it a 5.9 magnitude earthquake. The Associated Press reports on the damage near the epicenter:

The quake, the largest in Virginia since May 5, 1897, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, shook buildings and employees were ordered outside across Richmond and other cities in Virginia. Within minutes, Richmond police began receiving calls about possible property damage.

Those calls included a possible stairwell collapse along North First Street downtown, a possible wall collapse along East Broad Street in the city's East End and a possible wall collapse at a structure along Hioaks Road in South Richmond.

2:36 p.m.

NPR's the Two-Way reports on the epicenter:

A 5.8 magnitude earthquake rattled the east coast of the United States, today. The tremor was felt at least as far north as New York and at least as far south as Virginia.

The United States Geological Survey puts the epicenter nine miles south of Mineral, Virginia and happened 6 kilometers deep.

At NPR headquarters in Washington, the building swayed for a few seconds and buildings in the neighborhood were evacuated.

No word yet on how far northwest the quake was felt, but if our Michigan Radio Facebook fans are any gauge, it was felt in the Mitten state.

Fans reported they felt the quake in Birmingham, Battle Creek, Bay City, Sterling Heights, Troy, Ann Arbor, Flint, Lansing, Ypsilanti, and Grand Rapids.

And one report of "cats going crazy" in Muskegon.

Read more
Politics
5:04 pm
Tue August 23, 2011

Appeals to the federal court that struck down affimative action ban

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission is fighting state Attorney General Bill Schuette in court.

Schuette wants to restore the voter-approved ban on affirmative action in university admissions.

The commission has filed a brief with a federal appeals court saying the court made the correct decision.

A panel of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the ban on affirmative action in admissions policies last month.

The Michigan attorney general is now asking the entire court to reconsider and reverse that decision.

He says the court should give deference to the wishes of Michigan voters who approved the ban in 2006.

The Civil Rights Commission is an independent agency. The members of the commission were all appointed in recent years by Democrat Jennifer Granholm when she was governor.

The brief filed by the commission says universities, not voters, should be trusted to make decisions in the best interests of their students, and it was unconstitutional to single-out admissions policies dealing with race and gender diversity on the ballot.

There is no word on when the court may decide whether to reconsider the decision.

Politics
4:47 pm
Tue August 23, 2011

Human services advocate hopes Snyder will put breaks on cash assistance cap

Human services advocates say many families still don’t know whether they will lose their cash assistance if the Legislature approves a four-year lifetime cap on benefits.

Legislative analysis estimates more than 12,000 cash assistance cases would be closed on October 1 if lawmakers approve the cap.

Judy Putnam of the Michigan League for Human Services says the state should look more closely into who would be affected by that cap.

“Two-thirds of the caseload on assistance are children, and the average age of a child on assistance is seven," says Putnam.

"That’s a second grader.”

Putnam says the state has not provided enough information to families who would have their cash assistance cut off October 1.  

“If it passes, this will give us the harshest time limits in the Midwest," Putnam says.

"Indiana cuts families off after two years on assistance, except that they only subtract the money for the adult. They still give the money for the kids."

Putnam says many people who receive cash assistance are unaware or confused about how they would be affected by the change.

Putnam hopes Governor Rick Snyder will change his mind and step in to at least phase out cash assistance, rather than cut it off.

"As it is we’re just saying ‘No more cash assistance, you’ve had enough.’ The problem is is that there aren’t jobs available. That might make sense if there were a lot of entry-level jobs available, with transportation to get to those jobs. But we all know that that’s not the case."

Snyder called on the Legislature to approve the measure, which would save the state an estimated $65 million dollars in the coming fiscal year.

Politics
4:24 pm
Tue August 23, 2011

Michigan legislature to vote on changes to healthcare benefits

The legislature will vote on changes to health care benefits for public employees tomorrow.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Thousands of teachers and local government employees will have to pay more for their health care benefits under a plan to be voted on tomorrow at the state Capitol.

The plan limits what school districts and local governments can pay for health benefits.

A legislative committee approved the measure today. It's expected to be voted on tomorrow by the House and the Senate.

It will require local governments to pay no more than 80 percent of their employee health care costs, or limit the payment to $15,000 a year per family.    

Read more
Science/Medicine
3:23 pm
Tue August 23, 2011

Did the earth move for you too?

People all across Michigan say they felt today’s earthquake in Virginia .  Perhaps the most common question today in Michigan was   "Did you feel that?" 

Within minutes of the 5 .9 tremor in Virginia, social media started buzzing.   Michigan Radio’s listeners chimed in quickly.   

Read more
Education
3:09 pm
Tue August 23, 2011

Fact finding hearing dates set for Central Michigan University dispute

Hearing dates have been set to help settle the dispute between the CMU Faculty Association and the CMU administration.
CMU

The Central Michigan University Faculty Association organized a work stoppage on the first day of classes yesterday after they said the CMU administration was not bargaining with the union in good faith.

CMU officials filed in injunction and a judge ordered the faculty members back to work (state employees are not allowed to strike under state law).

The dispute is over cuts to salary and benefits.

Now, a fact finder has been assigned to help the parties resolve the dispute. From a CMU press release:

The Michigan Employment Relations Commission has appointed Barry Goldman to oversee the fact finding process involving the CMU Faculty Association and Central Michigan University.In addition, hearing dates of Sept. 7, 9 and 13 have been accepted by both parties. Fact finding is a process in which an impartial party is assigned to hear both the university’s and the FA’s positions and then render a recommendation on a collective bargaining agreement. Both the FA and CMU filed petitions for fact finding July 14.   

CMU spokesman Steve Smith says Goldman will listen to both sides on the hearing dates and will later issue a recommendation.

Politics
2:52 pm
Tue August 23, 2011

Bars, restaurants fight smoking ban with lawmaker ban

SuperFantastic flickr

A group of bar and restaurant owners in Michigan plans to ban lawmakers from drinking or dining in their establishments, beginning September First.

It’s a campaign to protest Michigan’s smoking ban, which took effect last May. A group called Protect Private Property Rights of Michigan is circulating pictures of the state’s lawmakers, and about 500 bars and restaurants are expected to enforce the ban.

The group’s executive director, Steve Mace, says many of its members have lost a great deal of business as a result of the smoking ban:

Read more
Environment
1:02 pm
Tue August 23, 2011

How to kill invasive species aboard a Great Lakes freighter

Two of the Indiana Harbor's 10 ballast tanks were treated to kill invasive species. The real-world test was conducted with the cooperation of the American Steamship Company.
James Marvin Phelps Flickr

Invasive species introduced into the Great Lakes by the shipping industry have caused enormous economic and ecological damage. Some estimates put the costs of invasive species in the Great Lakes at billions of dollars annually.

Quagga mussels, round gobies, and spiny waterfleas have spread all over the place in the Great Lakes, disrupting the food chain.

The question is, how do you get rid of these critters that can hide in the nooks and crannies of a ship's ballast tanks?

The critters get in when a ship pumps in ballast water in an overseas port. They hitch a ride across the Atlantic or Pacific and get dumped in U.S. waters.

Today the EPA requires ships to "swish and spit" before entering U.S. ports. That means international ships have to flush out their ballast tanks with salt water from the open ocean before coming in.

It's a sanitizing method that several states and environmental groups say is inadequate, and they're pushing the EPA to do more. But nobody knows what kinds of ballast water treatment systems will work AND will be cost-effective to shipping companies.

The Duluth News Tribune has a story today about an effort that is thought to be the first "major-scale test on the Great Lakes" of a ballast water treatment system.

It's being tested on a 1,000 ft. Great Lakes freighter. Freighters that stay in the Great Lakes don't bring the invasive species in, but they can help spread invasives from port to port around the region.

They Tribune reports the researchers treated 1.8 million gallons of ballast water in the ship with lye - a caustic chemical often used as an industrial cleaning agent. Before the ship reached it's destination port, they neutralized the treated water with carbon dioxide before releasing it.

One of the biggest challenges in combating invasive species in ballast tanks, is how best to sanitize such a large amount of water sitting in the complex maze of a ship's hull:

“The good news is that we were successful in delivering the biocide at this huge level for a 1,000-foot laker, then successfully delivered the neutralizer, all while the Indiana Harbor was on the job,” Phyllis Green, superintendent of Isle Royale National Park and the instigator behind the effort, told the News Tribune.

The Tribune reports that research into the real-world test is ongoing. Water samples from the ballast tanks will show whether the lye killed organisms "and whether the treated water was then successfully neutralized to prevent environmental harm."

Results of these tests should be available next month, the paper reports.

Offbeat
12:04 pm
Tue August 23, 2011

Kellogg defends Toucan Sam logo from an archaeology group

A screenshot of the Maya Archaeology Initiative's logo. The group wants to trademark the logo. Kellogg says it will be confused with Toucan Sam.

Kellogg Cereal Company is asking a non-profit archaeology group to reconsider its bid to trademark a toucan logo.

From the Associated Press:

Kellogg Co. is asking a group working to defend Mayan culture to reconsider its logo, saying consumers can confuse it with Toucan Sam, the mascot of its Froot Loops cereal.

An attorney for the world's largest cereal maker has sent a letter to the nonprofit Maya Archaeology Initiative saying Kellogg opposes the group's bid to trademark the logo. The attorney suggests a settlement that would limit the group's use of the image.

The Maya Archaeology Initiative, based in San Ramon, says there is little similarity. It says its logo is based upon a realistic toucan native to Mesoamerica, while Toucan Sam is a cartoon character with the coloring of Froot Loops.

The organization says that it hopes can resolve the matter with Kellogg, which is based in Battle Creek, Michigan.

So, what do you think? Does Kellogg have a legitimate gripe? Here's a little Toucan Sam to refresh your memory:

Economy
10:42 am
Tue August 23, 2011

The Future of Michigan Railroads

A few weeks ago, I talked about efforts Michigan is making to improve passenger rail service between Detroit and Chicago, efforts which include buying and upgrading a portion of the track.

That prompted some enthusiastic response from people who said they were eager for more passenger rail service.

Not just to Chicago, that is, but everywhere. Some were older listeners, who had fond memories of Pullman cars and traveling the nation by rail back in the day. Others were romantics or environmentalists or people not in love with automobiles.

There do seem to be a lot of us who are tired of fighting roads and traffic jams and paying four dollars a gallon for gas. This got me to wondering whether railroads are in fact mostly a part of our romantic past, or an important segment of our transportation future.

Read more
News Roundup
8:54 am
Tue August 23, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, August 23rd
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Judge Orders Professors Back to Work

An Isabella County Circuit Court Judge has ordered Central Michigan University professors back into their classrooms. The order comes just a day after the CMU Faculty Association began a work stoppage. CMU and the professors’ union have been unable to negotiate a new contract. CMU Administration officials say the work stoppage is illegal because public employees are not allowed to strike under state law. A court hearing is scheduled for Friday.

Voters Unhappy with Snyder

A new poll shows Michigan voters remain disenchanted with Governor Snyder. From the Associated Press:

In the survey released Monday by Lansing-based EPIC-MRA, 33 percent gave the GOP governor a positive job rating while 62 percent gave him a negative rating and 5 percent were undecided. The results were virtually unchanged from EPIC-MRA's July poll. Forty-two percent of those polled last week said they have a favorable opinion of the governor, while the same percentage have an unfavorable opinion. Thirty-one percent say the state is headed in the right direction, while 54 percent say it's on the wrong track and 15 percent are undecided, similar to July's findings.

MI Congressman: Secure Weapons in Libya

Michigan Congressman Mike Rogers says as the Muammar Gadhafi regime loses power in Libya, the United States needs to make sure Libya’s weapons stockpiles don’t fall into the wrong hands. “Rogers chairs the House Select Intelligence Committee and was among a group of Republicans who supported stronger military support of the rebels in Libya, including a U.S. enforced “no-fly zone.” He says as Gadhafi loses power, the U.S. must move quickly to safeguard Libya’s advanced and chemical weapons,” Vincent Duffy reports.

Investigative
7:51 am
Tue August 23, 2011

Collapse of the salmon economy (Part 1)

Headed out to go salmon fishing on Lake Michigan near Grand Haven.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

To understand why salmon are so important to the Great Lakes and the Michigan economy, you first have to understand some history.

It used to be the lake trout was the fish to catch.  It was big.  It was tasty.  But, by the late 1950s, that fish and others had been severely over-fished.  And, an eel-like, blood-sucking parasite called the sea lamprey further reduced lake trout numbers.

Those weren’t even the worst problems for lake trout.  A fish called the alewife invaded the Great Lakes through manmade canals.  Lake trout starting feeding on alewives.  But  alewives caused a thiamine deficiency in lake trout.  A lack of vitamin B-1.

Mark Gaden is with the Great Lakes Fishery Commission

“The thiamine deficiency that the alewives cause is one of the top reasons why natural reproduction has been very slow to occur over the decades in the Great Lakes of these species.”

Catching a lake trout became rare.

Read more
Politics
7:39 am
Tue August 23, 2011

Snyder scheduled to make first international trip as governor

Governor Rick Snyder (R-MI)
Michigan Municipal League Flickr

Governor Snyder will travel to Asia late next month. “Snyder's office said Monday the Republican governor is expected to arrive in Tokyo on Sept. 25. The trip is expected to include stops in Japan, China and South Korea. Snyder is scheduled to return to Michigan on Oct. 1. The international trade trip would be Snyder's first as governor,” the Associated Press reports.

Geralyn Lasher, the Governor’s Communications Director, told the Detroit News that the Governor will be, “talking to … businesses about why investment in our state is such a sound idea.” From the News:

Snyder is to be accompanied by MEDC CEO Mike Finney, Agriculture Director Keith Creagh and four economic development officials, MEDC spokesman Mike Shore said. He could not provide a cost estimate for the trip, but said no general fund money would be used. Airfare will be paid by the Michigan Economic Development Foundation, supported by donations, and other costs will be paid by the group's corporate funds, most of which come from a tax on American Indian casinos, he said.

Snyder is scheduled to arrive in Tokyo on Sept. 25 for the 43rd annual joint meeting of the Midwest U.S.-Japan Association and the Japan-Midwest U.S. Association. He also plans to meet with Michigan-based companies in Beijing, attend trade-related functions in Shanghai and travel to Seoul before leaving for home on Oct. 1.

Election 2012
7:04 am
Tue August 23, 2011

Conyers not saying if he's swapping seats with Clarke

U.S. Representative John Conyers (D)
Photography Courtesy of www.conyers.house.gov

U.S. Rep. John Conyers is remaining mum on whether he'll run for re-election in the redrawn 13th District now that fellow Democratic incumbent Hansen Clarke says he'll run in Conyers' new district.

The two congressmen currently represent districts made up mostly of Detroit. Both were drastically redrawn by Republicans to add minority voters outside Detroit to make up for the city's shrinking population.

Democrats have said the new districts are examples of gerrymandering and are threatening to sue in federal court.

But Clarke spokeswoman Kim Bowman said Monday that Clarke had decided to switch districts rather than waiting. She says the 14th District includes more of the voters Clarke now represents.

Conyers' office is declining comment on whether the 82-year-old will swap districts with the 54-year-old Clarke.

Economy
6:39 am
Tue August 23, 2011

Report: Traffic crashes add up to $4.8 billion a year in economic costs

ChazWags Flickr

A new State Police report says traffic crashes in Michigan carry a price tag of $4.8 billion dollars a year. The report says the cost of traffic crashes in Michigan exceeds the cost of crimes.

Researchers used data from 2009, when the human toll of traffic crashes was 937 deaths and more than 70,000 injuries. They put the economic damage for those crashes at $4.8 billion dollars. That includes the cost of medical care, property damage, and lost earnings, among other things.

The institute also used data on jury awards to put a value on pain and suffering caused by traffic crashes, which put the number over $9 billion dollars. The study compared the dollar loss from crashes to the cost of violent and property crimes that are tracked by the state, and found the costs of crime are dwarfed by the costs of traffic crashes.

The report was commissioned by the state Office of Highway Safety Planning and was conducted by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

Lansing
11:45 pm
Mon August 22, 2011

Lansing facing big projected shortfall in next year's city budget

Two months into the fiscal year, Lansing city leaders are being warned of a looming multi-million dollar budget shortfall.  Lansing City Finance Director Jerry Ambrose told the city council last night that current budget projections suggest the capital city could be looking at a projected $12 to $15 million budget shortfall next year. 

Council president A’Lynne Robinson says given the past few years, the news isn't unexpected. She hopes a ten month head start will help the city council and mayor deal with the budget problem.  

“We are trying to learn from some of the things we have learned have not been very successful…as far as how we have worked together with the administration…and I think we’ve made some progress.”  

Robinson predicts the administration may want to ask voters for a millage increase to deal with next year's expected budget shortfall. Lansing voters rejected a millage increase in May. That forced deep budget cuts and layoffs in public safety this year.

Lansing
11:38 pm
Mon August 22, 2011

Lansing voters will decide future of eastside parkland

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Lansing voters will decide in November if the city can sell 12 acres of city parkland for future private development. A divided city council last night agreed to put the question on the ballot. There's no developer or actual plan on the table yet for the Red Cedar golf course land. 

Bob Trezise is the president of the Lansing Economic Development Corporation. He says the making the land available will help the city market it to potential developers.  

“It strikes us as a great area to try to develop."  

Several city council members questioned whether the city should focus on getting previous economic development plans working before starting new ones. Councilman Eric Hewitt voted against moving the parkland sale before the voters. He says the city's track record in similar projects is not good.  

"We’ve had all these other ‘visions’…we’ve had lots of ‘gateways’…but none of them have seemed to come about.”

Mayor Virg Bernero says the proceeds of the sale of the Red Cedar land could be channeled into improving Lansing's other city parks.

Politics
5:46 pm
Mon August 22, 2011

Fewer town hall meetings, less face time with lawmakers

kelbycarr / flickr

Town hall meetings give voters the chance to come face to face with the politicians who represent them. Recently, most of Michigan’s seventeen U.S. Senate and House members have been steering clear of town hall meetings.

Instead some Congressional members are turning to tele-town hall meetings where they can talk over the phone with constituents. In these settings people can also send emails or use social media such as Twitter to ask questions or give comments.

In this interview Kathy Barks Hoffman, Lansing Correspondent of the Associated Press says:

I think a lot of Congressional members know that voters are not happy with them, that's what the polls show, and I think they are a little reluctant to go head to head [with voters].

Read more
Politics
5:18 pm
Mon August 22, 2011

Rogers warns US must secure weapons in Libya

Michigan Congressman Mike Rogers says as the Muammar Gadhafi regime loses power in Libya, the United States needs to make sure Libya’s weapons stockpiles don’t fall into the wrong hands.

Rogers chairs the House Select Intelligence Committee and was among a group of Republicans who supported stronger military support of the rebels in Libya, including a U.S. enforced “no-fly zone.”

He says as Gadhafi loses power, the U.S. must move quickly to safeguard Libya’s advanced and  chemical weapons.

"Unfortunately we know through intelligence that Al-Qaeda is trying to take advantage of the chaos and obtain those weapons systems or at least components of them or incomplete weapons systems or all of those things. They are making that effort."

President Obama says the United States will be a friend and partner to help a democratic Libya emerge in the post-Gadhafi era. He says U.S. assistance will continue to be part of a multinational effort to help Libya.

Economy
5:09 pm
Mon August 22, 2011

Michigan farmers talk about the future of agriculture industry

Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) speaks with Jim May inside his barn in Sparta Monday afternoon.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Senator Debbie Stabenow visited a farm in West Michigan Monday to discuss how to expand the agriculture industry.

Stabenow is chairwoman the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

“We all have a stake in our farmers doing well because we all have a stake in having food security, in making sure we have wholesome, American grown, Michigan grown food for us.”

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