Indictment
1:56 pm
Wed September 28, 2011

Three corporate executives indicted in compressor price-fixing case

A refrigerator compressor. The thing that makes your refrigerator cold. Three executives have been indicted by a Detroit federal grand jury on charges of conspiring to fix the price of compressors.
Dave Matos Flickr

The U.S. Department of Justice announced that a federal grand jury in Detroit has indicted three former executives from a Whirlpool Corporation subsidiary, a Panasonic Corporation, and a Tecumseh Products Company subsidiary for conspiring to fix prices on refrigerant compressors.

The compressors are used in refrigerators and freezers.

From the DOJ's press release:

The indictment, returned today in U.S. District Court in Detroit, charges Ernesto Heinzelmann, former president and chief executive officer of Empresa Brasileira de Compressores S.A. (Embraco), a division of Whirlpool S.A.; Gerson Veríssimo, former president of Tecumseh do Brasil Ltda., a subsidiary of Tecumseh Products Company; and Naoki Adachi, general manager of global sales & SE group, refrigeration devices division at Panasonic Corporation, with conspiring to suppress and eliminate competition by coordinating price increases for refrigerant compressors to customers in the United States and elsewhere.

Sharis A. Pozen, Acting Assistant Attorney General from the DOJ's Antitrust Division said:

“Cracking down on international price fixing cartels has been and will continue to be among the most significant priorities for the Antitrust Division. Our investigation into the refrigerant compressors industry has already resulted in two companies – Panasonic and Embraco North America – pleading guilty and paying a total of $140.9 million in criminal fines. Our investigation is continuing.”

The three are being charged for price fixing under the Sherman Act. The maximum penalty they each face is 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

The DOJ reports that their investigation led to guilty pleas in 2010 from Panasonic and Embraco North America Inc:

On Nov. 15, 2010, Panasonic Corporation pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $49.1 million criminal fine, and on Dec.16, 2010, Embraco North America Inc. pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $91.8 million criminal fine.

Trade Mission
12:12 pm
Wed September 28, 2011

Snyder: Tokyo visit welcome chance to show support

Gov. Rick Snyder meets with Takamichi Matsushita, president of Eco Research Institute of Tokyo (center). Pictured with Snyder is Carol Miller, right, of Midland Tomorrow, and ERI leadership officials.
Governor Snyder's office

Governor Rick Snyder has left Japan, and is now in China. Beijing is the second stop on his four-city Asian trade mission.

Snyder said the Tokyo visit was a welcome chance to show some support for Japan.

"Because they're still recovering from March 11thin terms of the tsunami and earthquake, and they're a great people, and they really appreciate the outpouring of support from Michigan after that happened," said Snyder.

Michigan already has about 500 Japanese companies doing business in the state.

Snyder said there are even more opportunities to increase trade with Japan. That's in part because some Japanese companies are considering an increase in overseas production after the tsunami.

Snyder goes to Shanghai next, then Seoul, before returning to Michigan on Saturday.

Commentary
11:43 am
Wed September 28, 2011

Food Assistance: Losing the Lottery

My favorite new magazine is nice to look at, isn’t printed on paper, and has eye-opening new information about our state twice a week. It’s called Bridge, and it is published online by the non-partisan, non-profit Center for Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Best of all, it’s free. The title comes from the magazine’s purpose, which is to inform citizens in both peninsulas about the serious issues facing our state -- but do so in an interesting, well-written way, according to Center for Michigan founder Phil Power.

Read more
News Roundup
9:16 am
Wed September 28, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Palisades nuclear power plant remains shut down

The Palisades Nuclear Power Plant 55 southwest of Grand Rapids is still shut down.

From the Associated Press:

Operators of the plant said in a statement Wednesday that the plant remains out of service after an electrical breaker fault automatically prompted the shutdown Sunday.

Repairs were being made this week. New Orleans-based Entergy Corp. owns Palisades and says no one was hurt in the shutdown...

It was shut down Sept. 16 because of a loss of water in a cooling system, then brought back on the grid last week.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspected the plant in August after a water pump component failed.

Michigan Republicans continue education policy debate

The Associated Press reports that Governor Rick Snyder's administration and Republicans in the legislature will continue to push their education overhaul proposals this week. From the AP:

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley is scheduled to discuss the administration's education proposals Wednesday at a Lansing conference hosted by The Center for Charter Schools at Central Michigan University.

The Republican leaders of committees dealing with education policy also are scheduled to attend.

The conference comes as lawmakers are debating multiple bills related to education policy in the state Legislature. A package of bills in a Senate committee would let students transfer to other schools more easily and have a broader choice of charter schools and online learning options.

Michigan State University to test "Head Start on Science" for preschoolers

MSU will test a new program aimed at teaching preschoolers science. The effort is funded by the National Science Foundation. From an MSU news release:

The five-year effort, called Head Start on Science, is funded by a $2.6 million grant from the National Science Foundation. It’s designed to get educators more comfortable teaching science to 3- to 5-year-olds – a task that’s especially important for low-income and minority children who often start school with less preparation for science learning than affluent students, said lead researcher Laurie Van Egeren.

Arts/Culture
7:00 am
Wed September 28, 2011

North Woods: Artists set up shop in Calumet

As part of our series, Stories from the North Woods, we head to Calumet in the Keweenaw Peninsula. The town has been struggling to re-discover itself ever since the area's copper boom died out more than 50 years ago.

The town that time forgot

Artist Ed Gray remembers when the last mine closed in Calumet in the late 1960s:

"A lot of people moved to Detroit, a lot of people moved to various areas where there was employment. The town wasn’t really a ghost town, I wouldn’t say, but...it stood still."

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government
7:45 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

Talks about Grand Rapids, Kent County merger will go on

Grand Rapids City Hall and the Kent County building sit next to each other next to Calder Plaza downtown.
Steven Depolo Creative Commons

Discussions about a proposal to merge the City of Grand Rapids and Kent County into a single unit of government will move forward despite numerous concerns about the final outcome.

Earlier this year a group of business leaders launched the “One Kent Coalition”. They didn’t really inform the city or the county of their plan ahead of time so initially there was a backlash against it. Many government leaders, like Grand Rapids City Commissioner Dave Shaffer, remain cautious.

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Politics
6:39 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

Clarke pushes for Detroit "trust fund"

Hansen Clarke

Congressman Hansen Clarke wants Detroiters to stop paying taxes to the federal government, that money should be put aside as a trust fund to help re-build the city.

Clarke made the case for his Detroit Jobs Trust Fund before the Detroit City Council Tuesday. That’s legislation he’s introduced that would divert the money Detroiters pay in federal taxes over five years.

Some would go to erase the city’s—and its school district’s—debt burden.

Read more
Politics
6:26 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

7 charged in Romulus police corruption scandal

Kym Worthy announces charges in Romulus police corruption case
Sarah Cwiek Michigan Radio

The Detroit suburb of Romulus is at the center of a massive police corruption scandal that includes the city’s ex-police chief.

Officials say in 2008, a “highly placed” Romulus police official asked Michigan State Police to investigate corruption allegations within the department.

Read more
Politics
5:39 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

Legislature expected to send abortion bills to Governor this week

A state Senate panel has approved a measure designed to make it more difficult for a pregnant minor to have an abortion. The proposal would prevent young women from so-called “judge-shopping” if one court denies her request to have an abortion without parental consent.

Mary Pollock is with the National Organization for Women. She says the proposal works against pregnant teens who don’t want to have a baby.

"Some teens fear that if their parents are told of their pregnancy, they will take actions to prevent the procedure and force them to complete the pregnancy," says Pollock.

Pollock says some teens will hurt themselves as they try to end pregnancies on their own.

The Legislature is also expected to send a ban on a controversial later-term abortion procedure to Governor Rick Snyder for his approval.

Politics
5:33 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

UM nurses to voice concerns at "State of the Health System" address

user meddygarnet Flickr

Nurses at the University of Michigan Health System have been working without a contract since July 1.

Officials at the University of Michigan Health System and the 4,000 registered nurses who work there have been unable to reach an agreement on issues such as pay, health insurance, and benefits.

The nurses marched to a University of Michigan Board of Regents on September 15 with their demands.

Now, the nurses say they will voice their concerns at tonight's "State of the Health System" address.

From a Michigan Nurses Association press release:

Nurses will attend the annual University of Michigan Health System “State of the Health System” address on Tuesday, September 27 at 5:15 pm in the Ford Auditorium in University Hospital.

The nurses will be representing the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council (UMPNC) in a visible show of solidarity for safe patient care at UMHS. Approximately 4,000 nurses are currently working without a contract rather than settle for an agreement that will diminish benefits and increase costs, leading to substantial nurse to patient staffing issues.

Politics
5:26 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

A conversation with Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell

In 2010, Grand Rapids was named the most sustainable mid-sized city in the U. S., by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business Civic leadership Center and Siemens Corp. When he took office in 2004, Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell implemented what he calls a “triple bottom-line sustainability planning process. ” He talks with Michigan Radio's Jennifer White about what it takes to create a long term sustainable future for the city.

Economy
5:18 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

Postal workers hold rallies across the state

Dozens of postal workers rally in downtown Lansing
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 Postal workers delivered a message at more than a dozen rallies across Michigan today.   

Postal workers say they have a solution to the multi-billion dollar budget deficit that is threatening the future of the U.S. Post Office.  Postal officials say they are looking at closing hundreds of local post offices and mail processing centers as a way to reduce the red ink.  

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Politics
5:12 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

No-fault insurance coverage could not cover medical marijuna under Michigan bill

People injured in auto crashes would not be allowed to use their no-fault coverage to pay for medical marijuana to treat chronic pain under a bill approved by a legislative committee.

The measure is one of several proposed new restrictions to Michigan’s medical marijuana law.

The law was enacted by voters in 2008.

Peter Kuhnmuench is with the Insurance Institute of Michigan, which supports the measure. He says insurance coverage was not supposed to be part of the medical marijuana law.

"So I think it’s pretty clear, yes, they want to utilize this is as a medical procedure, but at the same hand, not force any carrier to cover it as a covered service."

Kuhnmuench  says the bill would not prohibit someone from buying additional coverage that might pay for medical marijuana.

Medical marijuana patients say the law should not specifically ban one treatment for people facing chronic pain from an injury.

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Politics
4:56 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

Bill would circumvent light bulb efficiency standards

Federal policies will begin the phase out of the energy inefficient incandescent bulb in 2012.
user whizzer's place creative commons

The state House could vote soon to let Michigan companies ignore new federal efficiency standards for incandescent light bulbs. But they could ignore the law only if they sell the bulbs exclusively to Michigan customers.

That’s because the federal government regulates interstate commerce.

The new federal standards for incandescent bulbs will start to phase in next year.

State Representative Tom McMillan says if his bill passes, it might mean Michigan manufacturers will jump into the incandescent bulb business.

"So I think there's a chance. There's no chance if we don’t pass this. If we do, I think there's a very legitimate chance."

There are currently no factories making incandescent bulbs in Michigan. There is at least one making the new energy-efficient bulbs.

*Correction - This story has been corrected to clarify that the new federal efficiency standards do not ban the sale of incandescent bulbs. The new standards will, however, phase out the common incandescent bulb as we know it.

Politics
4:12 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

Another Michigan lawmaker facing a recall effort

Brandon Dillon is one of dozens of Michigan lawmakers facing recall efforts this year.
House Democrats

Organizers are expected to begin collecting signatures to recall State Representative Brandon Dillon of Grand Rapids. A panel of Kent County officials approved the recall language Tuesday. That’s despite the fact that the claim laid out in the petition is untrue.

The petition claims Dillon voted against a bill aimed at investigating unemployment fraud. Dillon voted against one of the amendments, but voted for the actual bill.

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Politics
3:48 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

Bill would require residency for medical marijuana

USFWS

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Two Republican state senators say they're planning legislation that would require people to live in Michigan for one year before getting state permission to use marijuana for
medical purposes.

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker and Sen. Rick Jones say Tuesday it's an effort to stop out-of-state marijuana growers from setting up shop in homes rented in Michigan. The proposal would join at least a dozen other bills aimed at changing the state's medical marijuana law approved by voters in 2008.

Michigan State Police say they have had instances where out-of-state residents rent homes in Michigan, then get a driver's license and a state-issued medical marijuana card.

The out-of-state residents grow pot in the rental homes and return occasionally to check on the crop, selling the drug in their home states.

Trade Mission
3:09 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

New Michigan-Japanese partnership to add jobs in Michigan

Gov. Rick Snyder meets with Takamichi Matsushita, president of Eco Research Institute of Tokyo (center). Pictured with Snyder is Carol Miller, right, of Midland Tomorrow, and ERI leadership officials.
Governor Snyder's office

On his trade mission to Asia, Governor Snyder praised a business partnership between a Japanese company and the Michigan Molecular Institute (MMI).

The partnership between Japan's ECO Research Institute (ERI) and MMI is expected to bring around 30 new jobs to Midland.

Snyder made his comments at the Japan Midwest U.S. Annual Conference today praising the partnership "as an example of the economic and technological benefits that Michigan and Japan stand to gain through greater cooperation."

The two companies will form a new company called ECO Bio Plastics Midland Inc. The new company will produce bio-plastic pellets made of compound  mixes of plastics and micron-sized dry powder made from shredded paper.

These pellets will be used as packaging materials, food service products, heat insulation applications, and toys.

The Midland Daily News quoted James Plonka, president and CEO of Michigan Molecular Institute:

Plonka noted EBP has chosen a site for the new Midland facility, with the expectation to break ground before November and to begin production next summer.

“Midland is a good location for the demonstration facility for a couple reasons,” Plonka said. “First, because of the paper shredding services provided by the Arnold Center, Midland, is an excellent source of paper feedstock. And secondly, some of the most innovative plastics research in the world occurs in Midland. It’s a natural fit.

The plan calls for the initial paper-plastic composite production facility to produce 10 million pounds per year, with the ability to grow to 100 million pounds per year, Plonka said.

Education
2:55 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

Expanding computer skills training in Lansing

Students attending a class at ITEC's new headquarters in Lansing's Foster community center
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 A Lansing-based non-profit that works to improve the computer skills of teens and  young adults is getting a new home.  Local dignitaries were on hand to cut the ribbon officially opening ITEC’s new headquarters on Lansing’s eastside. 

ITEC stands for Information Technology Empowerment Center.  ITEC  works with Michigan State University and local I-T firms to provide instruction that will help young people hone their skills.  

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Station News
1:38 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

Maintenance work on WUOM signal tonight

WUOM 91.7 will be going off the air at midnight in order to allow our engineers to safely perform some maintenance work. The work should take about two hours. This overnight repair work will only effect our 91.7 signal in southeast Michigan.

Environment
12:21 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

University of Michigan commits $14 million to environmental improvements

University of Michigan officials say they will purchase seven new hybrid buses as part of their $14 million push to improve the University's environmental footprint.
Corey Seeman Flickr

University of Michigan officials say they are committing $14 million to cut greenhouse gas emissions, reduce solid waste sent to landfills, protect local water supplies, and support local food supplies.

In a speech, University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman said the changes are a new chapter for the university, "one that will alter the face of our campus and, more important, the character of our teaching, research and impact as a global leader."

Officials listed goals they hope to meet by 2025 in a press release:

  • Cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent, the equivalent of removing nearly 42,000 cars from the road.
  • Make the university transportation system more efficient – decreasing vehicle carbon output by 30 percent for every person in the car, truck or bus.
  • Shrink the amount of waste sent to landfills by 40 percent.
  • Protect the Huron River through best-in-class storm water control strategies and by applying 40 percent fewer chemicals to campus landscapes, and ensure that at least 30 percent of stormwater runoff does not flow into the Huron River.
  • Promote sustainable foods while supporting more Michigan farmers and producers. From the residence halls to the unions and hospitals, the university is introducing new purchasing guidelines and making a commitment that at least 20 percent of U-M food comes from local and sustainable sources.

Officials say some of changes on campus will be noticed "almost immediately": the purchase of 37 hybrid vehicles (including buses), a solar panel installation on North Campus, a geothermal system for the Weisfeld Family Golf Center, and newly renovated or constructed dining halls will go "trayless" (so students don't pile on food they end up tossing in the garbage).

The Associated Press reports the $14 million the University is committing to sustainability augments other sustainability spending by the University:

That's in addition to $64 million in energy-efficient construction activity and $20 million supporting on-campus sustainability efforts.

The university says its plan is among the broadest of its kind, though efforts are under way at many campuses, including Michigan State University, Miami University in Ohio, University of Oregon
and University of Utah.

Donald Scavia, the director of UM's  Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute and an advisor to President Coleman on sustainability,  says the commitments and goals are important, "but more impressive to me is the emerging culture shift on campus. I believe the high levels of focus, energy, and collaboration now in place throughout the university are the most significant steps in driving progress toward all of our sustainability goals -- in education, research, and operations."

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