Environment
3:08 pm
Wed October 5, 2011

Environmental group asks Holland not to expand coal plant

A group rallies near the Holland Farmer's Market Wednesday morning. Most are wearing shirts that read 'beyond coal'.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

People rallied in Holland today to ask officials not to expand the city-owned coal-fired power plant.

Holland took the state to court get an air quality permit that would allow it to replace a more than 60-year-old boiler with a more efficient one. City officials haven’t decided if they will replace it yet or not.

Tia Lebherz is with the Sierra Club in Holland. She and about twenty others held protest signs outside the Holland farmer’s market demanding the city move “beyond coal”.

Read more
Education
12:21 pm
Wed October 5, 2011

U of M to invest in its own startup companies

User: penywise MorgueFile

If you’re on faculty at the University of Michigan and you have an idea for a startup company…you’re in luck. If you can get outside funding, U of M will match that funding up to $500,000.

U of M President Mary Sue Coleman says "if you can convince a venture fund to invest in you, you just automatically get an investment from us. So we’re not picking winners and losers, and that’s what I like about the program."

Read more
Changing Gears
12:16 pm
Wed October 5, 2011

Help Wanted: Why manufacturing temps are in demand

Becky Hall and Shannon Burkel of Staffing Inc. say hiring is off the charts.
Kate Davidson Changing Gears

Here are four very bad words you hear a lot these days:

There.  Are.  No.  Jobs.

But it turns out, that’s not entirely true.

Yes, the manufacturing sector lost six million jobs last decade.  But now, staffing agencies that place temporary workers in manufacturing say business is booming.

Read more
Politics
11:37 am
Wed October 5, 2011

Michigan Senate passes measure ending lifetime benefits for lawmakers

The Michigan Senate voted to end lifetime benefits for lawmakers.
user cedarbenddrive Flickr

The state Senate has approved a measure that would end lifetime benefits for incoming state lawmakers.

Fewer than half of current lawmakers would be exempt from the change. But all but two sitting senators would still get their retirements. No incoming lawmakers would be offered the retirement benefits.

The Detroit Free Press reports:

The Senate voted 37-1 on the measure, with Sen. Coleman Young Jr., D-Detroit, voting against the bill.

The House passed a bill that would have ended retiree health benefits for legislators who took office after Jan. 1, 2007. But the Senate version puts that date at Jan. 1, 2013.

The difference means that while some sitting legislators would have been eligible for the benefits under the House plan, many more sitting legislators will be eligible under the Senate plan.

Members of the House and Senate need only serve six years to be 100% vested in the retiree health care benefits. But members who don't have six years in by 2013, which mean members in tbe House who were elected in 2008 and 2010, and two state Senators - Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton and Vince Gregory, D-Southfield - would be ineligible for the benefits. All the rest of the Senators and third termers in the House will get the retiree health benefits.

The measure now goes back to the House for final approval.

Auto/Economy
11:06 am
Wed October 5, 2011

Ford and the UAW

There’s a fair amount of grumbling in union ranks over the new four-year contract the United Auto Workers reached with Ford.

Some workers are unhappy that they failed to gain back concessions, and that there is nothing new for the retirees, who overwhelmingly outnumber those still working on the line.

Ford workers also thought they deserved more than those at GM and Chrysler, mainly because their automaker was the only one not to declare bankruptcy. They get a little more, but not much.

Read more
Law
10:52 am
Wed October 5, 2011

U.S. Supreme Court to hear case involving Michigan church today

Arguments involving a church in Michigan will be heard today in the U.S. Supreme Court.
wikimedia commons

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case between the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School in Redford, Michigan and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

At issue, according to the SCOTUS blog (SCOTUS stands for the Supreme Court of the United States) is whether the U.S. government can be involved in church activities. From the blog:

Courts have generally believed that federal employment discrimination statutes do not apply to church employees performing religious functions. The question is whether this ministerial exception applies not simply to religious leaders, but also to teachers at a religious elementary school.

The Associated Press has more on the arguments from the church school employee:

Cheryl Perich got sick, then tried to return to work. Still, the school, now closed, fired her. She complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which sued the church.

Religious groups say the case should be thrown out. The Americans With Disabilities Act has an exception to prevent government involvement between churches and ministerial employees.

But a federal appeals court said Perich’s job as a teacher was secular, not religious, so the exception blocking the lawsuit didn’t count.

Arts/Culture
10:46 am
Wed October 5, 2011

Cuban hip-hop culture comes to Michigan

The Cuban hip-hop group Obsesion is in Ann Arbor this week.

Alexey Rodriguez Mola and Magia Lopez Cabrera mix African and Cuban rhythms with hip-hop and world beats. They will perform on Thursday, October 6 at the Michigan League Underground.

Here’s a song titled Tu con tu ballet from their current album “El Disco Negro de Obsesion."

Rapper Magia Lopez says her Afro-Cuban culture is what inspires her.

“The hip-hop culture is very much rooted in the 'barrios,' and in Cuba the majority of people are black, although we have mixed races, so we talk a lot about race issues, what we see and our reality as Afro-Cubans," says Lopez.

Read more
News Roundup
8:43 am
Wed October 5, 2011

In this morning's news...

In this morning's news, Wednesday, October 5th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Judge Stops Cut to Cash Assistance

U.S. District Judge Paul Borman issued a restraining order yesterday that stops a round of cuts in cash benefits for Michigan welfare recipients. Rick Pluta explains:

Cash assistance welfare payments will go out today to thousands of families that were about to lose them as the state prepared to enforce state and federal time limits on the program. A federal judge ruled the state Department of Human Services failed to properly notify the families why their benefits were about to be cut off. DHS says new notices will be sent this week that comply with the ruling. And they say the state’s four-year time limit on cash assistance will officially begin in mid-October instead of at the beginning of the month.   

Count Day

Today is ‘Count Day’ at all of Michigan’s public schools. “The tally of students who show up at each school district is a major factor in how much money a district gets from the state. There are two count days each year; one in the spring and one in the fall. The Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency estimates changing the count day formula will save the state $15 million this year. That also means districts with declining student enrollment will get less money,” Lindsey Smith reports.

Money Talks (and Wins Elections)

U.S. Senate candidate and former Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra says he raised $1 million in the third quarter in his campaign to become the Republican nominee to challenge Democrat Debbie Stabenow in the 2012 election. The Associated Press reports:

Hoekstra's campaign said in a statement Wednesday that the former congressman's contributions came from more than 3,500 donors. The campaign for the Holland Republican has said he didn't loan it any money. On Tuesday, Clark Durant said he's raised more than $750,000. Durant's campaign says the charter schools executive didn't loan it any money. Also running are former Kent County Judge Randy Hekman, Roscommon businessman Peter Konetchy, former Libertarian Scotty Boman of Detroit and Gary Glenn of Midland, president of the American Family Association of Michigan.

Politics
8:02 am
Wed October 5, 2011

Do we really learn anything from political memoirs?

Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and her husband, Dan Mulhern, have a new book out titled, "A Governor's Story: A Fight for Jobs and America's Economic Future." Christina Shockley spoke with Granholm and Mulhern about their book last week and it got us thinking:

What can you really learn from a political memoir? Are they filled with honest introspection or just self-congratulatory drivel? To help us answer these questions, we called up Craig Ruff, Senior Policy Analyst with Public Sector Consultants.

Read more
Election 2012
7:48 am
Wed October 5, 2011

Snyder signs Feb. 28th GOP primary date

Cle0patra Flickr

It’s official: Michigan’s 2012 Republican presidential primary will be held February 28th. After both the state House and Senate passed legislation designating the date, Governor Snyder signed it into law yesterday. The date means Michigan will be one of the earliest states in the nation to hold a primary, but it also means it could lose half of its nominating delegates according to Republican National Committee rules. So, why all the fuss about the presidential primary date? Political explains:

Both national parties are struggling to keep the national nominating schedule from imploding as state after state tries to move earlier than the next to have more say in picking the presidential nominee. Typically, the later the primary the less influence a state has in the nomination.

Under rules set by both national parties, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina are the only states allowed to hold primaries or caucuses in February and no other state can hold a nominating election prior to March 6, which is likely to be a "Super Tuesday" with multiple contests.

As Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry explains, “Michigan, of course, wants to make a bigger splash, wants more attention, [but] it’s blunted because Mitt Romney is seen as Michigan’s favorite son and the Michigan primary is only important if Mitt Romney doesn’t win [the primary].”

Meanwhile, Michigan Democrats aren't planning a presidential primary in 2012 as President Obama is believed to be the only Democratic candidate who would be on the ballot. Instead, they'll pick their 2012 presidential delegates at state meetings.

Education
6:00 am
Wed October 5, 2011

Today is “count day” for students at all public schools in Michigan

Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

The tally of students who show up at each school district is a major factor in how much money a district gets from the state.

There are two count days each year; one in the spring and one in the fall. This year state lawmakers changed the formula so that the fall count day is even more important. The number of students a district has is determined by a blend of the two count days. The fall day makes up 90-percent of that blend, the spring only 10-percent.

Read more
Politics
5:25 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

Judge blocks Michigan welfare cut-offs

A federal judge has stopped a major round of cuts in cash benefits for Michigan welfare recipients, saying the notices were deficient.

It's a significant decision. Republicans who control the Legislature and Governor Rick Snyder had approved a stricter four-year cap on cash payments, effective Oct. 1.

U.S. District Judge Paul Borman issued a restraining order today that prevents people from being cut from the program. He says the Michigan Department of Human Services did not meet the requirements under law when it sent notices to thousands of people.

The judge ordered new notices, which would give people the right to a hearing to determine if they would lose cash assistance from the state.

Read more
Abdulmutallab trial
5:21 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

Jury selection in "underwear bomber" case begins

U.S. Marshals

Update 5:15 pm:

Judge Nancy Edmunds has recessed today's proceedings. The count so far: 20 jurors made it into the pool of potential jurors and will proceed to the final round of jury selection - 16 women, and four men. Seven were excused - three of them for bias. Two were excused for job-related reasons, one for mental health. The final juror who was excused has a wife with medical needs and expressed some frustration with his previous experiences with the courts.

The 13 jurors who were not questioned today will be questioned tomorrow, and 27 more jurors will also be called. Judge Edmunds is looking to have about three dozen prospective jurors in the pool for the second, final phase of jury selection - tentatively set for Thursday afternoon.

1:12 pm:

The first phase of jury selection is under way for the man accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas 2009.

So far five of the 17 jurors questioned have been excused.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab shouted, "Sheik Anwar is alive!" upon entering the courtroom. He also said "I will defend Muhammad," and likened the U.S. to a "cancer."

Judge Nancy Edmunds urged Abdulmutallab to change out of his prison clothes to make a better impression on potential jurors. After a brief back-and-forth, the defendant was escorted downstairs and returned wearing a dark blazer over a tan robe with white gym socks and wing tips.

Three of the jurors who were excused said they would have trouble putting aside their belief that Abdulmutallab is guilty.

"I shouldn't be this way, but this one just bothers me," said one. "I just have this guilty verdict in me."

Politics
5:15 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

Michigan Budget Director, John Nixon on state finances

Michigan State Budget Director, John Nixon.

We are now just a few days into the state’s new fiscal year. State Budget Director, John Nixon gives us an update on the state of Michigan’s finances.

Nixon says many states relied on federal stimulus money, and now it's time to look at other options.

“We had a huge infusion of stimulus money and then there was a big cliff because once that stimulus money went away all the states are scrambling saying, “oh my gosh how do we keep our programs whole?” Well that’s what we’ve done. We cut a billion and a half dollars of spending out the budget and we balanced the budget.”

Detroit
4:30 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

New attack on proposed new Detroit-Windsor bridge

A view of downtown Detroit and the Ambassador Bridge from about a mile downstream, near the proposed site of the new international bridge.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The owners of the Ambassador Bridge are once again attacking Governor Snyder’s  push to build a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.  

The company says experts it hired say the proposed bridge would not attract the billions in federal money promised by the governor and would end up costing Michigan taxpayers money.  

Matt Moroun is the vice chair of the Ambassador Bridge company.   He says "building a new bridge to Canada will not garner any more federal funds for highways in Michigan…then what Michigan gets ordinarily from the feds every year.”  

Read more
Environment
4:18 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

Dow's solar shingles to hit U.S. to markets

Dow's solar shingles will be released in limited markets starting this month.
Dow Chemical

Dow Chemical first unveiled its solar shingle two years ago, with plans for a limited release in mid-2010.

Now the company announced that the shingles will be available to some customers starting this month. The company says they're starting in the strongest markets for solar this month. The shingles will first be available in Colorado, and a "rolling launch" will occur in markets from California to the "East Coast."

In a press release, Dow said the shingle "protects the home like a standard roofing shingle while providing energy that saves the homeowner money":

Dow can now serve the need of homeowners who want to go solar, but aren’t willing to accept the complexity and sub-optimal aesthetics currently offered by bulky, rack-mounted systems.

Booth Mid-Michigan reports that Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris called Dow's solar shingle "a game changer that will address an estimated $5 billion market by 2015."

From Booth Mid-Michigan:

Dow hasn't reported a price for the shingles, but said the cost to homeowners will be set by the channel to market, and will depend on the size and configuration of the home and desired power generation. Dow officials said the cost of solar shingles can be thousands of dollars less than solar panels installed on top of a roof.

Education
3:50 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

White House report: Obama's jobs bill would support 11,900 teaching jobs in Michigan

Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

A new White House report claims President Obama’s $447 billion American Jobs Act will save or create 11,900 teaching jobs in Michigan.

According to the "Teachers Jobs At Risk" report, about 300,000 education jobs across the country have been cut since 2008, and another 280,000 teaching jobs are in jeopardy.

Read more
Travel
3:19 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

New airport screening measures start today at some airports

No need to de-shoe for some.
user redjar Flickr

Keep your shoes on.

No need to take off that belt or jacket.

And keep that laptop and your toiletries in your bag.

That's the new reality for some passengers going through security today at Detroit Metro Airport.

Detroit Metro is one of four airports where new screening measures are being tested by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (Atlanta, Dallas, and Miami are the other airports).

The new system pre-screens passengers who volunteered for the program. Information on these passengers is cross-checked with other databases by the TSA to determine their risk level.

From the TSA's press release:

“As TSA moves further away from a one-size-fits-all approach, our ultimate goal is to provide the most effective security in the most efficient way possible,” said TSA Administrator John S. Pistole. “By learning more about travelers through information they voluntarily provide, and combining that information with our other layers of security, we can focus more resources on higher-risk and unknown passengers. This new screening system holds great potential to strengthen security while significantly enhancing the travel experience whenever possible for passengers.”

The Detroit Free Press reports that passengers have already seen the benefits, some passing through security in less than one minute.

Some frequent fliers with Delta and American Airlines were contacted and asked to sign up for the pilot program. Members of the "Trusted Traveler Program" with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection can also participate.

TSA officials say the program might be expanded in the future.

If you would like to participate in the pilot, you can contact Delta or American Airlines (if you participate in their frequent flier programs) and try to opt-in , or you can try signing up for the "Trusted Traveler" program online.

Environment
2:31 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

More ups and downs for salmon in the Great Lakes

Dale Wilkinson with his salmon.
Photo by Lester Graham

By Tom Kramer for The Environment Report

Charter fishing in Michigan represents a $20 million a year industry. But the number of charter trips on Lake Huron declined by almost 50 percent in the last decade – as the salmon fishery on the lake took a dive. And now the state has decided to end Chinook salmon stocking in most rivers along Lake Huron. Starting next spring, Chinook, or king salmon, will be stocked in just a few places in the northern part of the lake.

Salmon are not native to the Great Lakes.

They were introduced from the Pacific Ocean in the late '60s and quickly became the most popular sport fish in the region.

Dramatic changes in the food web in Lake Huron caused by too many salmon and other exotic species like invasive mussels brought about the demise of the fishery around 2003.

That has been a huge economic blow to tourist towns along the coast but state officials say there's nothing they can do to bring it back at this point.

One place the state hopes to keep a decent sport fishery for kings is in the Cheboygan River.

Todd Grischke manages Lake Huron for the Department of Natural Resources.

He says there might be more food for salmon out in the Straits of Mackinac.

“So there is a possibility that those fish that are planted there are finding forage that is not available to other parts of the lake to the south.”

But while Lake Huron is seeing the continuing collapse of its salmon fishery, it’s shaping up to be a banner year for salmon fishing in Lake Michigan.

Read more
Politics
2:19 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

Michigan no-fault insurance testimony before large crowd

An overflow crowd at the House hearing.
Chelsea Hagger Michigan Public Radio Network

Advocates hoping to keep the Michigan No Fault Personal Injury Protection auto insurance told members of the Michigan House of Representatives Insurance Committee that it would be a mistake to change the law. 

The hearing was packed with an overflow crowd spilling into other rooms to watch the proceedings on TVs. 

Read more

Pages