Arts/Culture
2:54 pm
Tue September 20, 2011

MacArthur "Genius" Awards given out to 3 U of M researchers

The MacArthur Fellowship was given to 22 people this year, including three who teach at the University of Michigan. The 2011 Fellows run the gamut - from science to journalism to the arts.

Here's a list of the U of M winners:

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Auto/Economy
2:31 pm
Tue September 20, 2011

Details of UAW's new contract with GM emerge

General Motors Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson (left) shakes hands with United Auto Workers President Bob King at the beginning of the UAW/GM talks last August.
gmmedia.com

Update 2:31 pm:

This story was clarified at 2:00 pm to say that the $5,000 bonus was for ratification of the contract.

Pay raises for entry-level workers, five-thousand dollar bonuses for ratification, and better profit sharing. Those are among the highlights of the four-year contract local UAW leaders will recommend to General Motors’ 48,500 hourly workers.

UAW President Bob King says the union bargained a “great framework” for all three Detroit automakers.

    "They’re in different states of financial health, different states of debt. We’re hoping that this country bounces back and the European situation gets resolved – they all could be impacted by that. And we think we’ve got an agreement that helps us get through those periods of time, because we didn’t add many fixed costs to this agreement."    

The tentative contract promises to add or save 6,400 workers. Nine hundred of those are at Michigan plants.

It also provides for a $5,000 dollar ratification bonus, and raises for entry-level workers. UAW President Bob King says those workers will also see generous health care provisions – including free emergency room and urgent care visits.

"What worker being hired at any employer today starts out with the kind of health care plan that workers hiring into General Motors will have? What workers have unlimited doctor visits, $25 co-pay? Nobody."

The contract also calls for $10,000 dollar bonuses for eligible employees who retire in the next two years. Skilled tradesmen who retire between November First and the end of March would qualify for additional $65,000 bonuses.

Ratification is expected at the end of next week.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett is at the United Auto Worker's press conference in Detroit today.

She's reporting on some details of the UAW's new contract with General Motors:

  • Entry level wages will be bumped up to $19.28/hr over the life of the contract plus a $5,000 ratification bonus.
  • Unlimited doctor appointments with $25 co-pay.
  • $10,000 bonus for eligible employees who retire within the next two years.
  • Additional $65,000 bonus for skilled trades who retire between November 1, 2011 and March 31, 2012.
  • Jobs will be added in Michigan at facilities in Warren, Saginaw and Romulus.

UAW President Bob King says the next target for negotiations has not yet been determined.

From the Associated Press:

Union leaders from General Motors factories around the country have endorsed a new four-year contract with the company.

They are recommending that GM's 48,500 factory workers approve the deal in votes during the next week.

The agreement reached Friday includes a $5,000 signing bonus and improved profit-sharing instead of hourly pay raises for most of the workers. About 2,400 entry-level workers will get raises. They now make $14 to $16 per hour, about half the pay of a longtime UAW worker.

Profit-sharing will be a minimum of $3,500 next year.

The union now will focus on negotiations with Chrysler, and Ford will be next.

Since Chrysler isn't making as much money as GM, workers there probably won't see as good of a deal.

 

Environment
2:09 pm
Tue September 20, 2011

The future of southeast Michigan's drinking water (part 2)

A wastewater treatment plant.
Photo courtesy of Birmingham Public Schools

Detroit’s water department has been under federal oversight for almost 35 years. Recently, the city tried to get that oversight lifted. But the federal judge who monitors the department shot that effort down, and he ordered stakeholders to find a way to fix the system’s decades-long problems--within two months. Some people wonder about that short timeline—and whether some of the Judge’s suggestions hint at a possible takeover. 

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Economy
2:01 pm
Tue September 20, 2011

Michigan proposal targets taxes on Internet sales

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan lawmakers are renewing a push to require more businesses selling items over the Internet to collect the state's 6 percent sales tax.

Legislation dealing with the issue was detailed Tuesday at the state Capitol.

The Michigan Retailers Association says some out-of-state, online-only retailers use legal loopholes that allow them to avoid collecting state sales tax at the point of sale. The retailers association says that gives the online retailers an unfair price advantage and hurts Michigan businesses that have storefronts and collect the sales tax.

Bills to be introduced by Republican Rep. Eileen Kowall of Oakland County's White Lake Township and Democratic Rep. Jim Ananich of Flint would move online-only retailers under the same sales tax collection laws under which brick-and-mortar businesses operate.

Offbeat
12:40 pm
Tue September 20, 2011

Glasses stolen off of Ernie Harwell statue at Comerica Park in Detroit

The Ernie Harwell statue in Comerica Park (before his glasses were removed).
Kevin Ward Flickr

Someone has stolen the bronze glasses off of the Ernie Harwell statue inside Comerica Park. Officials from the Detroit Tigers noticed the missing glasses last July.

Neal Rubin, columnist for the Detroit News, writes "if you wouldn't use a crowbar on Ernie Harwell's face, you shouldn't use one on his statue, either.":

Someone pried the glasses from his sculpture at Comerica Park, a theft both brazen and bronzen.

A new pair should be welded into place by Thursday, when the Detroit Tigers play Baltimore in the opener of a seven-game home stand, but please:

Can't we keep our hands and levers to ourselves?

Given his status as both an idol and an artwork, you'd think Harwell would be immune to vandalism.

Artist Omri Amrany says the new glasses will be attached "as strongly as possible."

Rubin writes that Amrany "once had to replace bronze broadcaster Harry Caray's stolen microphone in Chicago."

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Education
11:32 am
Tue September 20, 2011

U of M halts book digitization project after copyright questions surface

The University of Michigan admits to committing some serious errors in its project to digitize books whose copyright holders cannot be identified or contacted.

U of M officials have stopped their "Orphan Works Project" five days after a lawsuit was filed against the university, according to AnnArbor.com:

a lawsuit filed by the Authors Guild and two other literary guilds, one Canadian and the other Australian, maintains that many works deemed orphans by U-M have living authors or author relatives that still claim copyright rights but do not know about the digitization project.

Aside from U-M, four other HathiTrust participating schools were named in the lawsuit: The University of California, the University of Wisconsin, Indiana University, and Cornell University.

The HathiTrust is a a partnership between dozens of research institutions and libraries "working to ensure that the cultural record is preserved and accessible long into the future."

The University of Michigan digitizes all the material that is ingested into the HathiTrust.

The University of Michigan Library issued a statement on the Orphan Works Project explaining their decision to halt the project:

The close and welcome scrutiny of the list of potential orphan works has revealed a number of errors, some of them serious. This tells us that our pilot process is flawed.

Having learned from our mistakes—we are, after all, an educational institution—we have already begun an examination of our procedures to identify the gaps that allowed volumes that are evidently not orphan works to be added to the list.

University officials say "once we create a more robust, transparent, and fully documented process, we will proceed with the work."

Arts/Culture
11:04 am
Tue September 20, 2011

Art Prize starts tomorrow in Grand Rapids

"Nessie" floats in the Grand River during the 2009 ArtPrize.
Steven Depolo Flickr

The third annual ArtPrize will kick off tomorrow in Grand Rapids. Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith will have an update for us later today.

From the Associated Press:

ArtPrize begins Wednesday and runs through Oct. 9. Organizers say this year's show will host artists from 39 countries and 43 states displaying their work in 164 venues within three square miles of the city's downtown.

While the winners of most art competitions are decided by a few professionals, ArtPrize allows any adult to enter and any attendee to vote for the winners.

Founder Rick DeVos says the event is more about the process than the finished product - giving artists permission to embrace creativity and succeed or fail.

Auto/Economy
10:57 am
Tue September 20, 2011

Auto Talks: Far From Over

There’s a great deal of celebration going on over the fact that General Motors and the United Auto Workers union have reached tentative agreement on a new, four-year contract.

In the old days, what this would have meant was speedy ratification, followed by a similar settlement with Chrysler within perhaps two weeks, and then Ford maybe a month later.

That was the era of pretty much one-size-fits all pattern bargaining agreements. But that was before the near-death and the resurrection of Chrysler and GM, and it’s now a different world.

I spent some time yesterday with one of the best industry analysts around -- Kristin Dziczek, who heads the labor and industry group at CAR, the non-profit Center for Automotive Research based in Ann Arbor. Dziczek knows the management spokesmen and the economists, and has friends and relatives who are in the UAW. She eats, breathes, and sleeps this stuff.

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Environment
10:36 am
Tue September 20, 2011

2 Cass County deer diagnosed with viral disease

A DNR official says epizootic hemorrhagic disease outbreaks are happening more frequently in Michigan, possibly because the biting flies that transmit the disease are pushing further north.
Jerry Oldenettel Flickr

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan wildlife biologists say two deer in Cass County have been diagnosed with an often-fatal viral disease.

The deer tested positive for epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD.

The Department of Natural Resources said Tuesday the disease is transmitted by a biting fly. It causes extensive bleeding. Infected deer lose their appetite and fear of humans, grow progressively weaker, develop a high fever and finally lose consciousness.

It's not believed that humans can get EHD.

DNR wildlife chief Russ Mason says there is no known way to treat or control the disease. Michigan has had several deer die-offs from EHD as far back as 1955. The latest covered six counties last year.

Mason says outbreaks are happening more frequently, possibly because climate change is driving the biting flies farther north.

News Roundup
9:07 am
Tue September 20, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, September 20th
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Dems Want School Fund Constitutionally Protected

A group of Democratic lawmakers at the state Capitol is continuing a push to constitutionally protect money in the state’s school aid fund. Laura Weber reports:

Democrats in the state House say voters should be allowed to decide how the state spends its education dollars. They’re calling for a constitutional amendment that would specify that School Aid Fund money be spent only on K-12 schools, and not on universities and community colleges. Democratic state Representative Barb Byrum says Republicans have proposed diverting $900 million from K-12 schools for the fiscal year that starts in October. Byrum says she thinks parents would be eager to organize a campaign to get a ballot question before voters. Republican lawmakers say schools have taken a less drastic cut in the budget than most areas of government, which demonstrates the state’s commitment to education.

Detroit Could Cut 40 Percent of Teachers

A deficit-elimination plan for the Detroit Public Schools district includes cutting nearly 40 percent of its teachers in the next four years, according the to the Detroit News. “The Detroit News reports… that under the plan, the state's largest district would cut more than 1,500 teachers by fall 2015, including nearly 1,100 next fall. The cuts next fall would come as the district moves its weakest schools into a new state system to run Michigan's lowest performing schools. Some Detroit teachers could be employed by the new school system. Detroit's school district has a $327 million budget deficit and its finances are overseen by Roy Roberts, an emergency manager appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder,” the Associated Press reports.

FBI Ranks Flint Crimes

The FBI is calling Flint the most dangerous city in the United States. The FBI released a report yesterday that shows Flint had the highest violent crime rate in the nation last year among cities with 100,000 people or more. According to the report, the city recorded a record number of murders in 2010.  "Other violent crimes also increased, as budget cuts forced the city to reduce its police force. Detroit, Saginaw and Pontiac also posted crime rates last year that are among the worst in the nation", Steve Carmody reports.

Politics
7:33 am
Tue September 20, 2011

Flint getting more in-depth review of finances

Sean Marshell Flickr

Flint's finances are getting a more in-depth review by the state after what's described as probable financial stress was found in its finances.

The Flint Journal reports that the state treasury office told Mayor Dayne Walling last week about the finding. A panel is expected to report to Gov. Rick Snyder within about two months whether there's a financial emergency in Flint.

In August, Michigan officials ordered a preliminary review of Flint's finances, the first involving a Michigan city since the state revised its emergency manager law early this year. The process could lead to the state appointing an emergency manager.

Walling says he believes the appointment of an emergency manager can be avoided.

Michigan has emergency managers in place in the Detroit public school system and three cities.

Education
9:47 pm
Mon September 19, 2011

Grand Rapids wants help defining "superintendent profile"

Superintendent Bernard Taylor quizes kids' math and spelling skills at a district-sponsored 'park party' in August. Taylor has agreed to resign by next summer.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The search for the next superintendent of Grand Rapids schools is underway. The school board voted unanimously to work with the Kent Intermediate School District and the Michigan Association of School Boards to develop traits the district needs in a new leader; a “superintendent profile”.

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Politics
6:36 pm
Mon September 19, 2011

Snyder hails Detroit-based partnership as job training model

Governor Snyder says the partnership between a Detroit non-profit and an automotive supplier can serve as a “groundbreaking model” for job placement and workforce development.

Android Industries began leasing space at Detroit’s Focus: HOPE about two months ago. There, employees trained by the Detroit non-profit churn out parts for the Chevy Volt, which is manufactured at the nearby Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant.

Android CEO Jerry Elson says his company was only interested if the partnership made business sense. He’s now convinced it does.

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Education
6:01 pm
Mon September 19, 2011

Campaign to pass school millage in Grand Rapids kicks off today

Grand Rapids School board trustee Jon O'Conor (left) and resident Michael Tuffelmire talk about the campaign following a press conference this afternoon.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

A group of parents and school leaders in Grand Rapids is kicking off a campaign to pass a property tax increase to pay for improvements at more than 30 school buildings.

The proposed increase would cost an owner of a home worth $100,000, $54.20 a year. It would pay to replace worn-out roofs, heating systems, and windows. It would also pay to get rid of asbestos and replace old fire alarms.

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Education
5:36 pm
Mon September 19, 2011

Democrats want constitutional amendment to protect school money

Democrats in the state House say voters should be allowed to decide how the state spends its education dollars.

They’re calling for a constitutional amendment that would specify that School Aid Fund money be spent only on K-12 schools, and not on universities and community colleges.

Democratic state Representative Barb Byrum says Republicans have proposed diverting $900 million from K-12 schools for the fiscal year that starts in October.

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Health
5:32 pm
Mon September 19, 2011

Focusing on Healthy Habits

user: Ed Yourdon / flicker

Gov. Rick Snyder outlined his plan for making Michigan a healthier state. The plan includes the utilization of technology to help track health statistics and to guide people into making healthier choices.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White talks with Victor Strecher, Professor at the University of Michigan’s Center for Communications Health Research. Strecher has been working with Gov. Snyder on developing the new health initiative and talks about health issues in Michigan and changes residents can make to improve their health and well-being.

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Politics
5:21 pm
Mon September 19, 2011

Justice's recusal sought in emergency manager case

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Stephen Markman
Michigan Supreme Court

A group that’s filed a legal challenge to Michigan’s emergency manager law wants one of the state Supreme Court justices to recuse himself from the case.

Attorneys for the Sugar Law Center say Justice Stephen Markman has a conflict of interest that should keep him from deciding the emergency manager case.

At issue is Markman’s wife. She’s a lawyer for the state Attorney General’s office. And she’s helping to defend the same law against a legal challenge in a separate, federal case.

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Environment
5:00 pm
Mon September 19, 2011

Good news for rare songbird in Michigan

The Kirtland's warbler primarily nests in just a few counties in Michigan. The bird's population has been steadily increasing over the last 30 years in Michigan due to intense management practices.
USFWS Midwest

Kirtland's warblers are moving south to their winter home in the Bahamas (lucky devils), but before they left Michigan, researchers counted 1,805 singing males.

That's less than the high in 2009 (1,826 singing males) but more than last year's count (1,773 singing males), and researchers say it's a sign of a healthy population.

From the Associated Press' Environment Writer, John Flesher:

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Crime
4:30 pm
Mon September 19, 2011

Violent crime rising in some Michigan cities

Flint Public Safety director Alvern Lock (file photo)
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 Flint is being called “the Most Dangerous City in America.”   The FBI released a report today that shows Flint had the highest violent crime rate in the nation last year among cities with 100,000 or more people.   

Flint recorded a record number of murders in 2010.  Other violent crimes also increased, as budget cuts forced the city to reduce its police force.

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Environment
3:38 pm
Mon September 19, 2011

Number of Michigan farms operated by women doubles in 30 years

There are more women managing farms in Michigan these days.
Maureen Reilly Flickr

The number of women running farms in Michigan is growing, according to a report in today's Lansing State Journal:

The number of Michigan farm acres managed by female principal operators has more than doubled in 30 years, from 252,980 acres in 1978 to 552,075 acres in 2007, the most recent date available from the United States Department of Agriculture's Michigan Field Office.

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