Arts/Culture
1:18 pm
Thu May 26, 2011

The making of the Grand Rapids lip dub (video)

Rob Bliss (in the green shirt) and crew set up for another take of the Grand Rapids lip dub on Sunday afternoon.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Rob Bliss is known around Grand Rapids for putting on some crazy events. World record Zombie Walks, giant community pillow fights, water balloon fights, the ‘world’s largest inflatable water slide’, electronic music festivals, sidewalk chalk floods…I’m sure I’m forgetting one or two.

The latest is a professional lip dup video featuring at least a thousand people from the Grand Rapids area.

Here's a video we put together on the making of the lip dub:

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Commentary
12:54 pm
Thu May 26, 2011

Canada and the Bridge

We live in highly polarized times. But even by those standards, it is remarkable how much those who support a new bridge over the Detroit River, and those who oppose it, differ.

Differ not just on the merits of a new bridge, but on the most basic facts. Those who oppose the new bridge claim that Michigan taxpayers could be stuck for a hundred million dollars a year. Those who oppose the new bridge - mainly, those who work for the owner of the Ambassador Bridge - Matty Moroun - say that traffic has been declining and another structure isn’t needed.

But they say Moroun is willing to build one anyway, at no cost to the taxpayers, and that this is best left to private enterprise. Those who want a new bridge say it is very much needed, that this is not “socialism” but a public-private partnership. They say the old bridge is wearing out, there is no backup, and that a new one will be desperately needed if Michigan is to be economically competitive.

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Environment
12:21 pm
Thu May 26, 2011

New requirements for 'fracking' in Michigan

Yesterday, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality announced new requirements to address public concern about potential pollution connected with horizontal fracturing (fracking) for natural gas.

From the DEQ news release:

The requirements, issued as New Permitting Instructions by the state Supervisor of Wells, include:

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Food
11:47 am
Thu May 26, 2011

Five recipes for the morel mushroom hunting season

Morels in Michigan. May and June are the morel hunting months in Michigan.
user ladydragonflycc Flickr

I've heard people talk about the thrill of morel hunting in Michigan, but have never stalked one myself. My neighbor recently gave us a few morels she plucked from her backyard.

So now that we've got some in the house, what to do with them? Eat them, or course, but what's a good way to prepare them?

Here are five moral recipes to try out this season:

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Environment
11:09 am
Thu May 26, 2011

Transporting tar sands oil (Part 2)

The Kalamazoo River on July 30, 2010, after the Enbridge pipeline broke.
Photo courtesy of the State of Michigan

The Enbridge pipeline that broke and spilled into the Kalamazoo River last summer was carrying raw tar sands oil.

Enbridge spokesperson Lorraine Grymala says the company ships both conventional crude, and tar sands oil through its pipelines. She says in recent years they’ve been getting an increasing amount of tar sands oil.

“Because there’s being more produced (sic), and there’s more of a demand for it in the United States.”

This increase in tar sands oil transport worries environmentalists and pipeline safety advocates.

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News Roundup
9:03 am
Thu May 26, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, May 26th
Brother O'Mara Other

Wet Weather Continues

Rain and storms are expected to continue in many parts of the state today. Most of the region is under some type of flood advisory, watch, or warning during the morning hours. Yesterday, rain caused flooding throughout the Southeast. Yesterday, "thunderstorms... dumped more than 4 inches of rain on parts of southern Michigan, causing widespread flooding of streets, expressways and basements,” the Associated Press reports.

State Senate Completes Budget

The Michigan Senate handed a state spending plan over to the state House yesterday, Laura Weber reports. From Weber:

That leaves just a couple more steps before the budget bills go to Governor Rick Snyder for his approval. The arguments on both sides of the aisle in the Legislature have been cyclical in recent weeks; Republicans have offered up departmental spending plans with deep cuts, and Democrats have said the cuts help businesses and hurt working poor families and children. Overall the complaints of Democrats have had little impact on the budget process. The party lacks enough votes to get in the way of a budget that has thus-far rolled quickly through the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Foreclosures Hurting Michigan's Real Estate Market

Foreclosed homes continued to drag down home sale prices in the state in the first quarter of the year, Steve Carmody reports. “Realty Trac reported nearly 32 percent of homes sold in Michigan in the first three months of 2011 were repossessed homes. The average price for a foreclosed home was just a little more than $70,000. That price is about a third less than similar homes on the market. A Realty Trac spokesman says that is keeping home prices from appreciating. Michigan is among a dozen states where foreclosed homes accounted for at least 25 percent of the homes sold during the first quarter of the year,” Carmody notes.

Weather
7:10 am
Thu May 26, 2011

Thunderstorms bring roadway flooding to Michigan

Flood warnings are being posted in southern Michigan.
Tom Grundy Flickr

Update: 5/26/11 6:52 a.m.

DETROIT (AP) - Thunderstorms have dumped more than 4 inches of rain on parts of southern Michigan, causing widespread flooding of streets, expressways and basements. The National Weather Service says 4.15 inches of rain fell in a 12-hour period Wednesday in Detroit, while 3.12 inches fell in Ann Arbor and 3.1 inches in Wayne County's Canton Township. Flood warnings were in effect across several southeastern counties Wednesday night.

You can view photos and video of the storms at these links below:

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Presidential Visit
6:49 am
Thu May 26, 2011

Obama to visit Chrysler plant in Toledo next week

President Obama will visit a Chrysler plant in Toledo, Ohio next Friday, June 3rd.
The U.S. Army Flickr

President Barack Obama will visit a Chrysler plant in Toledo, Ohio, next week to discuss the car maker's repayment of a federal loan that saved the company from financial disaster two years ago.

The White House says Obama will visit the auto plant on June 3.

Chrysler announced Tuesday the repayment of $5.9 billion in U.S. loans and $1.7 billion in loans from the governments of Canada and Ontario. It covers most of the federal bailout money that saved the company after it nearly ran out of cash in 2009 and went through a government-led bankruptcy.

The company recently posted its first profit in five years and has bolstered its lineup of Jeeps and cars.

State Politics
6:44 am
Thu May 26, 2011

Snyder signs tax restructuring... Now what?

Governor Rick Snyder (R) signed a sweeping tax overhaul for Michigan yesterday.
Photo courtesy of the Snyder Administration

Two-thirds of Michigan businesses are in line for a tax rollback next year. The rest will pay a six percent tax on profits. Pensions in Michigan will be taxed for the first time. An income tax reduction will be delayed to save money to help balance a budget that reduces spending on schools, local governments, and higher education.

These are all details of a sweeping tax overhaul signed into law yesterday by Governor Rick Snyder.

Snyder made cutting and simplifying the taxes paid by businesses his marquee campaign promise, and he got to fulfill that promise just a few days short of five months in office.

“It will create jobs. I’m confident of that.”

The governor says Michigan’s business tax plan will be simpler, and fairer. Only a third of Michigan businesses – those with lots of shareholders and registered as “C” corporations under the tax code – will pay the six percent tax on profits after expenses.

The governor acknowledged some parts of the plan are controversial – especially taxing pensions. Next year, someone living on a $50,000 pension can expect to pay about $1,400 in state income tax.

Snyder says extending the income tax to people born after 1946 with pension income exceeding $40,000 means that share of the burden won’t be shifted to younger people.

“That’s going to help on that issue of keeping our young people right here in Michigan.”

And the governor – a former tech company CEO and venture capitalist -- says the state’s new business tax system should be solid enough to endure for another 50 years.

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Economy
1:01 am
Thu May 26, 2011

Foreclosed homes weighing down Michigan real estate market

Foreclosed homes continued to drag down Michigan home sale prices in the first quarter of the year.  Realty Trac reports nearly 32% of  homes sold in Michigan in the first three months of 2011 were repossessed homes.   

The average price for a foreclosed home was just a little more than $70 thousand.   The price is about a third less than similar homes on the market.  

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Politics
5:17 pm
Wed May 25, 2011

School cuts likley as budget rolls through Legislature

The budget is on track to be signed next week.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

The Michigan Senate handed a complete state spending plan over to the state House today.

That leaves just a couple more steps before the budget bills go to Governor Rick Snyder for his approval.

The arguments on both sides of the aisle in the Legislature have been cyclical in recent weeks; Republicans have offered up departmental spending plans with deep cuts, and Democrats have said the cuts help businesses and hurt working poor families and children.

When talking about the K-12 schools budget, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer said:

"Amidst a long day of voting on bad budgets, we find ourselves looking at the absolute worst of the worst."

The K-12 schools budget makes additional cuts in per-pupil funding with the possibility of offsetting those cuts by consolidating services and by encouraging other Republican-proposed “best practices.”

Overall the complaints of Democrats have had little impact on the budget process. The party lacks enough votes to get in the way of a budget that has thus-far rolled quickly through the Republican-controlled Legislature.

It appears any debate on this budget will be over by early next week.

Auto/Economy
4:02 pm
Wed May 25, 2011

Congressman Peters invites McCain to see auto recovery himself

In 2009 McCain did not support the auto bailout.
User: Wigwam Jones Flickr

Now that Chrysler paid off its debt six years ahead of schedule, Michigan congressman Gary Peters is inviting Senator John McCain to see the automotive industry recovery for himself. In 2009 McCain said he’d like to meet anyone who believed Chrysler would survive.

Peters says he wants McCain to see the progress Chrysler has made in two years.

Politics
3:10 pm
Wed May 25, 2011

Sweeping changes to Michigan's tax laws, will jobs follow?

It's official.

Governor Snyder has just signed "the most sweeping tax change in the state since 1994," according to the Associated Press:

It cuts overall business taxes by about $1 billion in the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 and $1.7 billion the following year and replaces the Michigan Business Tax with a 6 percent income tax on corporations with shareholders. Some of those companies will pay more, but most companies won't pay the tax.

In the Detroit Free Press, AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney said the tax overhaul won't create jobs.

Gaffney questioned whether a small coffee shop owner who receives a tax cut would hire someone. He said that depends on more business, and more business depends on customers having more disposable income.

"I hate to think Michigan is going to be the next experiment in supply-side economics," he said. "There's a reason they call it trickle-down, it's a trickle."

The Governor's mantra has been that cutting taxes will lead to more jobs in Michigan.

When MPRN's Rick Pluta asked the Governor for empirical evidence how he knows lower taxes will lead to jobs, Snyder said, "It's basic economics in terms of cost structures. There was some polling done by the Small Business Association that actually went out and asked their members about what would you be doing with these resources and they got good feedback to say that a lot people would be looking at creating jobs."

The unemployment rate in Michigan stands at 10.2% right now - that number doesn't count the chronically unemployed - people who have fallen off the unemployment rolls.

Sports
1:32 pm
Wed May 25, 2011

U of M announces men's and women's lacrosse as varsity sports

University of Michigan lacrosse jersey and helmet.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio Staff

The University of Michigan is elevating the men’s and women’s lacrosse clubs to varsity status. Dave Brandon is the Athletic Director at U of M. He says the announcement Wednesday is “the worst kept secret in America.”

Brandon says lacrosse is the fastest growing sport in the nation. Michigan high school programs have grown from 50 to 180 in the past ten years.

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technology
12:46 pm
Wed May 25, 2011

Myths about online threats impact computer security

Who you fear online determines how you protect yourself against them.
mconnors morgue file

A new study from Michigan State University found people have very different ideas about what poses a threat to their computer security.

Rick Wash is professor at Michigan State University. He says most people know about hackers. But many believe hackers are mischievous teenagers looking for attention:

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Auto/Economy
12:36 pm
Wed May 25, 2011

Were the auto bailouts worth it? (poll)

The 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee has won awards and is one of the vehicles contributing to Chrysler's resurgence. The company announced that it paid off it's TARP loans yesterday. Today, a public radio program is asking whether the bailouts were worth it.
Steve Carmody

It's your turn to chime in on the auto bailouts - online or on-air.

Today, in the second hour of the public radio call-in program Talk of the Nation, host Neal Conan will ask the question "was the auto industry bail out worth it?"

It will air on Michigan Radio today at 3 p.m.

Here's how the show's producers phrase the question:

When taxpayers bailed out GM and Chrysler, many complained it was waste of money, and not the right role of government. Now, Chrysler pays off the last of its $10 billion loan with interest. After GM paid down billions that it borrowed from the US treasury. The auto industry bail out-- was it worth it? Next Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

You can call the program at (800) 989-8255 - and here's the inside scoop on how best to get on the air. You can also send the show's producers comments or questions online.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett reported that U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner recently said the the government will most likely lose money on its investment in the domestic auto industry, but making money on the investments was never the main goal - Geithner said they had two objectives:

"One is to get these companies back in private hands as quickly as we can, it makes no sense for the government to be in there a day longer than is necessary, but we also want to recover as much of the taxpayers’ money as possible."

So what do you think? Were the bailouts worth it?

Education
11:53 am
Wed May 25, 2011

Michigan Senate approves school funding reductions

The Michigan Senate approved cuts to the state's public schools.
user cedarbenddrive Flickr

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Republican-led Michigan Senate has approved a bill that would cut funding for the state's public schools.

The measure approved 21-16 mostly along party lines Wednesday would cut per student funding by an additional $300 per pupil in the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. A portion of those cuts would be offset by money to help schools pay employee retirement system costs. Some districts also could get about $100 per student if they meet certain so-called "best financial practices."

The cuts will come on top of a $170 per student cut that's already in place and would be carried over into next fiscal year.

The bill will be sent to the House, where it will be folded into a larger budget bill and likely approved this month.

Commentary
11:47 am
Wed May 25, 2011

McCotter for President?

There was a fair amount of attention paid yesterday to the news that Thaddeus McCotter, a 45-year-old Congressman from Livonia, is seriously considering running for president. There are certain problems with this. First, outside his district, almost nobody has ever heard of him, even in Michigan.

He hasn’t been a very effective fundraiser, for himself or others, and he has a quirky sense of humor.

He does play a mean guitar - President George W. Bush, who had trouble remembering his name, used to call him, “the rock n’roll dude.” McCotter’s played before the troops in Iraq with a pickup Congressional band called the Second Amendments.

All of which is very nice. But… President? The last House member to be elected President was James Garfield, back in 1880, an era when party bosses picked the nominee.

Several congressmen and women have tried in recent years, and pretty much either sunk without a trace, or hastily pulled out in time to get renominated for Congress.

Just a few days ago, McCotter declined to take on U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow next year, something that would be a much more logical step for a congressman. So - where did this presidential boomlet come from? When I first asked this, people told me there was this great column by S.E. Cupp, touting McCotter for president.

That was even more puzzling, because I had never heard of Cupp. Turns out she is a conservative columnist for the New York Daily News, who saw McCotter in Iowa last month autographing copies of his book, “Seize Freedom! American Truths and Renewal in a Chaotic Age.” Cupp was impressed by a sign McCotter had put up, saying: “Unsigned, twenty dollars. Signed ,fifteen dollars.  No haggling.“  Now you’ve got to admit, that’s cute.

But Presidential?

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Environment
11:44 am
Wed May 25, 2011

Government unveils new fuel economy labels for cars and trucks

The new EPA label will have more information about fuel economy, and will rate cars and trucks on smog and greenhouse gas emissions. The labels will be on model year 2013 vehicles.
epa.gov

It's probably the second sticker you look at (the first being the price sticker).

The new fuel economy and environment labels will take effect with model year 2013 cars and trucks. The EPA is calling the new labels "the most dramatic overhaul to fuel economy labels since the program began more than 30 years ago."

The new labels show more information about fuel economy, such as predicted annual fuel costs (based on $3.70 per gallon), and how much in fuel you would save compared to an average car (an "average" car's mpg is set at 22 mpg). The labels also give a greenhouse gas rating, and a smog rating.

And it wouldn't be an updated label without a way to load it into your smarty-pants phone. Here's a video from the EPA on how that works:

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Economy
10:51 am
Wed May 25, 2011

Snyder signs legislation backing up plan to pay Ecorse's debt with bonds

As Micawber said in the Charles Dickens novel David Copperfield:

"Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery."

The city of Ecorse ran into misery when it spent more than it was taking in.

An emergency manager appointed to oversee Ecorse's finances in late 2009 found the city was overspending. To make up for the overspending the city spent $2.4 million in revenues collected from the Ecorse Public Schools, and $4.2 million collected on behalf of Wayne County.

In 2010, a judge told the city that the money had to be repaid - a prospect that would have forced the city to raise taxes significantly and "devastated the local economy," according to Governor Snyder's office.

Now, Governor Snyder has signed legislation which supports the city in its plan to sell bonds to pay off the debt overtime.

In a press release, the Governor said:

“Ecorse didn’t get into financial trouble overnight.  Trying to undo years of mismanagement in one fell swoop would create an overwhelming burden on city residents and businesses that are already struggling,” Snyder said.  “The goal is to get Ecorse back into financial health in a responsible way.”

The Governor's office said the city could have issued bonds without state approval, but the new legislation "gives greater assurance of repayment to those who will purchase Ecorse’s bond debt."

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