Politics
5:03 pm
Tue April 19, 2011

Johnson delivers first-ever "State of the Secretary of State" speech

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson.
rick4mi.com

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson delivered what she says was the first-ever "State of the Secretary of State" speech in Lansing.

It's a speech Johnson says she plans to deliver the speech every year she is in office, "because I think there’s so much information and so many good things that are happening and I want people to know where we’re at, and where we’re going," said Johnson, "so you can judge – are we doing a good job or not?"

In the speech, Johnson said she is cutting costs in the Department of State.

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Education
4:42 pm
Tue April 19, 2011

Senate budget panel scales back K-12 cut

Cuts are in the works for Michigan's K-12 public schools.
user frank juarez Flickr

A state Senate budget subcommittee has rolled back the size of Governor Rick Snyder’s proposed cut to K-through-12 schools.

The Senate subcommittee recommendation would still cut school funding by $170 per student, but that’s less than the $300 per student cut called for by the governor in his budget proposal.

State schools superintendent Michael Flanagan says more money for K-through-12 education is always welcome, but Flanagan says he’s concerned about what might have to be cut to make up that money.

"I don’t want to see pre-natal care for moms go at the expense of a couple of bucks in the formula, so that we actually have a bigger problem than we would have had, and I hope that’s what we can start to get people to think about is the continuum of services for kids – not just the K-12 issue."

The full Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to vote on the budget recommendation tomorrow, along with budgets for universities, community colleges, and state agencies.

The governor has set a goal of wrapping up the entire state budget by June first.

Education
4:30 pm
Tue April 19, 2011

MSU finds one of its education professors guilty of plagiarizing

MSU Education Professor Sharif Shakrani has been found guilty of 'research misconduct'
Jane M Sawyer morgue file

Michigan State University has found one of its education professors guilty of plagiarism in a 2010 report about school consolidation.

The Booth newspaper chain commissioned MSU professor Sharif Shakrani to do a study about school consolidation. Shakrani’s study found Michigan could save more than $600 million by consolidating school districts.

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Politics
4:25 pm
Tue April 19, 2011

First legal challenges to emergency manager law

Robert Bobb, Detroit Public Schools emergency financial manager, says the new emergency manager law has already helped him in his role.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

The controversial emergency financial manager law gives broad powers to state-appointed officials who are brought in to help struggling cities and school districts.

It was signed into law last month by Governor Rick Snyder, now, as MPRN's Rick Pluta reports, two Detroit pension fund boards have filed a lawsuit challenging the state's emergency financial manager law. They say the law "illegally threatens contracts and collective bargaining agreements."

Under the law, emergency managers can strip power from locally elected officials and dissolve union contracts.

Pluta spoke with the emergency manager in charge of the Detroit Public Schools, Robert Bobb. He says these legal challenges won't help: 

"Because the legislation as it is is to kind of help escalate the resolution of problems and issues in localities and in school districts and any type of prolonged litigation does not really help advance what needs to be advanced to right the ship," says Bobb.

The Detroit News reports that the lawsuit was filed by Detroit's General Retirement System and the Police and Fire Retirement System:

The law "represents an imminent threat to the constitutional rights of plaintiffs and other members of the Detroit Retirement Systems," the funds' lawyer Ronald A. King wrote in the lawsuit.

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Economy
4:03 pm
Tue April 19, 2011

Autos and food processors get state tax breaks

Michigan Economic Development Corporation

Five companies will get tax breaks from the state of Michigan to expand their businesses and create nearly 1,400 new jobs. The businesses received tax incentives from the state Tuesday in exchange for the jobs and around $163 million dollars in private investments.

The tax breaks went to two primary industries; automotive manufacturing for companies near Detroit and Flint and food processing for companies in West Michigan.

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Auto/Economy
3:25 pm
Tue April 19, 2011

Toyota announces more production cuts at North American plants

Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, after the earthquake. Toyota announced more production cuts today.
Takashi Nakano vis user tex texin Flickr

Parts shortages from Japan continue as Toyota announces more production cuts - from the Associated Press:

Toyota is extending production cuts at its North American factories through May because of parts shortages from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

The company says production will be suspended in North America on Mondays and Fridays from April 26 through June 3. During the same period, plants will run at half capacity on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Toyota also said Tuesday that U.S. production will be suspended the week of May 30 after the Memorial Day holiday. Canadian production will be suspended the week of May 23 in conjunction with Victoria Day.

Plans after June 3 will be announced later. Toyota says no workers will be laid off.

The company last week announced Monday and Friday suspensions from April 15 to 25.

Detroit has the "Big Three," but Japan has the "Big Five" (Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Suzuki, and Mazda).

This info-graphic from the Globe and Mail captures how interconnected the Japanese auto economy is to the rest of the world.

Politics
2:59 pm
Tue April 19, 2011

President Obama's invite to a townhall meeting hosted by Facebook

President Obama inviting people to join his town hall meeting hosted by Facebook
screen grab of YouTube video

In an attempt to reach people who are hanging out online, President Obama is holding an "online town hall" meeting at the headquarters of Facebook in Palo Alto, California. There he'll discuss his ideas for bringing down the deficit, and take questions posted on the White House Facebook page.

Here's the invite from the President released this morning:

Carla Marinucci on the Politics Blog of the San Francisco Chronicle writes:

...only a few lucky invitees and reporters will actually be allowed inside the headquarters of Facebook to see the town hall...White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer told reporters last week in a conference call that Obama isn't necessarily aiming for the youth demographic with his event. "It is an attempt to reach people who may not get their news through traditional news sources like newspapers and the network news,'' he said. "And we want to go to where people...congregate online and communicate with them there. And Facebook is certainly one of the premiere places to do that."

Offbeat
2:22 pm
Tue April 19, 2011

Graduation "Flash Mob" on the University of Michigan's Diag

The "mob" builds on the front steps of the Hatcher Graduate Library at the University of Michigan.
screen grab of YouTube video

flash mob - n - a group of people who organize on the Internet and then quickly assemble in a public place, do something bizarre, and disperse; also called inexplicable mob

Cindy Heflin at AnnArbor.com spotted this one - a "flash mob" performance on the University of Michigan's Diag:

The performance was coordinated by students and sponsored by online graduation announcement company GoEnnounce.com.

About 70 students danced to Rusted Roots' "Send me on my way," GoEnnounce said in an e-mail...The performance was choreographed by Erik Heitz, a musical theater major.

Hard to say whether 70 dancers constitutes a "mob" - which according to Websters is a crowd "bent on riotous or destructive action."

Seems more like a "flash dance" to me, but that name's been taken.

Commentary
2:01 pm
Tue April 19, 2011

GOP Losing Streak

For many years, Michigan has had a strong two-party tradition. During the nineteen-eighties and early nineties, Michigan voters came closer than any other state to mirroring the national presidential results. But we don’t just go with the winners.

We’ve also had one of the oldest and strongest traditions of ticket-splitting in the nation. Back in 1964, Democrat Lyndon Johnson carried the state by more than a million votes, something never seen before or since. But seven hundred thousand of those voters crossed over to give Republican George Romney a landslide as well.

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Politics
1:53 pm
Tue April 19, 2011

Flint Mayor reacts to news reports on Flint crime

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling (right) and police Chief Alvern Lock.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling took issue with two reports on crime in Flint and police layoffs: an article published in the New York Times; and a WJBK Fox 2 news report.

Both were by reporter Charles LeDuff.

Here are some excerpts from Walling's letter posted on votewalling.com:

...I am deeply disturbed by yet another cheap shot at the City of Flint.

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Crime
12:00 pm
Tue April 19, 2011

Kalamazoo police officer killed in the line of duty

Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley addresses the media
live WoodTVStream

Update 12:00 p.m.

Wood TV is carrying the press conference of the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety live.

The slain officer was identified as Eric Zapata a 10 year veteran of the force. He had three children.

The police chief was visibly emotional when identifying Zapata as the officer who lost his life.

It was the first time the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety has lost an officer in the line of duty.

Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley said the loss has shaken the department:

"We're a small group... We have to look out for each other. You become very close.. and when things like this happen, it hits hard."

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Auto/Economy
10:57 am
Tue April 19, 2011

General Motors hiking car and truck prices

Prices of new cars will be going up.
Emilio Labrador Flickr

Higher commodity prices are translating into higher prices for cars and trucks.

GM announced their prices will go up - joining Ford and Toyota.

From the Associated Press:

General Motors says it will raise car and truck prices by an average of $123 per vehicle to make up for its increased oil and metal costs.

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Borders
1:01 am
Tue April 19, 2011

Borders Books liquidation sales coming to a close

The sale is already over at this former Borders location in Ann Arbor
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The company handling the liquidation sales at more than 200 Borders bookstores says most of those stores will close by this weekend.  The liquidation sales have already been completed at many of the stores, including one in Ann Arbor. 

Rick Kaye is a spokesman for Hilco Merchant Services, the company handling the liquidation sales.  

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Auto/Economy
11:51 pm
Mon April 18, 2011

Hydrogen fuel cell cars fight possible funding cuts (video)

Battery electric cars like the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt count the federal government as a good friend these days.  The government has spent two and a half billion dollars in just a few years to boost battery technology. 

But there’s another way to propel an electric car– with hydrogen.  And proponents are making a last-ditch effort to convince the Obama administration that fuel cell cars are ready for prime time.  

Take Honda’s fuel cell electric car, the FCX Clarity.  It can go about 240 miles on a tank of hydrogen fuel.  About 60 miles to the gallon if you want to compare it to gasoline.  The only emission from the car is water so pure you could drink it

(Here's a video of me taking the FCX Clarity for a test drive)

There are emissions from the process used to create hydrogen, from natural gas.  But the emissions are about 60% less than comparable emissions from cars using internal combustion engines.

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Environment
11:45 pm
Mon April 18, 2011

Deer baiting ban to be lifted?

Baiting deer (often with corn, apples, sugar beets or carrots) has been banned for three years in the Lower Peninsula.
(Photo by Scott Bauer - USDA)

Baiting deer is the subject of lots of debate in Lansing this month. There’s a ban on feeding deer in the Lower Peninsula that could be lifted in June. The restriction was a response to the discovery of chronic wasting disease in one deer in 2008. But as Peter Payette reported for The Environment Report no more sick animals have been found and the pressure is growing to let hunters bait wild deer.

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Politics
10:58 pm
Mon April 18, 2011

Community rallies to protest immigration enforcement

United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement

A standing-room-only crowd packed a union hall in Dearborn tonight for a rally to protest what they call harassment by immigration officials. Hundreds of people poured into UAW Local 600 to hear activists and politicians discuss allegations of wrongdoing by Immigration and Customs Enforcement – or ICE – agents.

Complaints include warrantless searches, racial profiling and enforcement actions near schools and churches.

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Politics
5:58 pm
Mon April 18, 2011

Detroit, Wayne County officials protest State Police "about-face" on crime lab

Kym Worthy

Detroit and Wayne County officials say they feel like Michigan State Police have “stabbed them in the back."

That’s because State Police have backed off a plan to put a full-service crime lab in a former casino the city plans to turn into its new police headquarters.

But the state later decided that wasn’t the best use of money. They say Detroit Police need more help handling and submitting evidence.

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Offbeat
5:50 pm
Mon April 18, 2011

Citizen gun advocates host "open carry" dinner in Detroit

"Open carry" dinner held in Detroit
user westsideshooter Flickr

Gun rights advocates will gather at a Detroit restaurant Monday night for an “open carry” dinner.

Organizer Rick Ector runs Rick’s Firearm Academy in Detroit and the blog Legally Armed in Detroit.

Ector says the dinner is a “family-oriented” event meant to make “law-abiding” Detroiters aware of their right to openly carry guns in many public places.

“There’s a significant percentage of people that do open carry in Detroit. But primarily when you hear about open carry, it’s done outside of the city limits. And for those individuals who are really specifically inside of Detroit proper, I wanted to be the voice out there sharing this information.”

Michigan law doesn’t explicitly permit open carry, but doesn’t forbid it either. Those carrying openly must have a registered weapon “clearly displayed,” be at least 18 years old, and stay out of designated “pistol-free zones.”

The Bluepointe restaurant on Detroit’s east side is hosting the dinner, which Ector says he initially thought would draw about 50 people.

But he says the event has gotten so much attention he now has “no idea how many people will show up.”

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Medicine
5:37 pm
Mon April 18, 2011

New health insurance options for people with preexisting conditions

Michigan Health Insurance Program is offering more options to people with pre-existing conditions.
user striatic Flickr

People with pre-existing medical conditions now have the option of paying lower premiums and higher deductibles if they enroll with Michigan’s Health Insurance Program.

State officials are trying to get more people to take advantage of the program that is a precursor to national health care reforms taking effect in 2014.

Eric Schneidewind, president of the Michigan chapter of AARP, says only a few hundred people have enrolled with the program so far.

“I think it’s a new program, for one thing, and they just don’t know it exists. And so they aren’t aware of it, they haven’t taken advantage of it, and so it’s really potentially a very good deal for a person who has a chronic condition of health—bad health.”

Schneidewind hopes offering the lower premium and higher deductible will encourage thousands of people to enroll. He says hundreds-of-thousands of people in Michigan are eligible.

"I’ve run across members who have tragic stories about themselves or their children who really probably died prematurely because they couldn’t get adequate health care for a chronic condition. What I’m telling our members at AARP and elsewhere, there now is an option, it is affordable."

The health care company that runs the pool recently got federal approval for a plan to bring down rates that can still be hundreds of dollars a month. The new plan allows people with preexisting conditions to pay higher deductibles and lower premiums than were previously offered.

Michigan is one of a group of states suing the federal government to opt out of national health care reform.

Offbeat
5:09 pm
Mon April 18, 2011

Airport in Sturgis, Michigan flooded by callers seeking tax advice

Search for IRS in Google Maps and you find the airport in Sturgis, Michigan.
Google Maps

Don't have the phone number? Just Google it.

That modern day phenomenon led callers seeking information from the Internal Revenue Service to accidentally dial a small airport in Sturgis, Michigan.

The FAA airport code for Kirsch Municipal Airport in Sturgis is "IRS."

If you type in a search for IRS on Google Maps, you'll get the airport's phone number.

Andrian Chen wrote about the mix-up on Gawker.com:

"The phone calls started two months ago, and it was just a trickle at first. Since then it's grown to a deluge of "20 to 50 calls a day" from people with tax questions, according to a weary-sounding office manager named Becky who took the time to talk to us this afternoon...

The calls haven't been a huge issue, Becky says, but she's getting sick of them. "It's just irritating," she said. "Most of them calling aren't the most intelligent, calling us at 7pm on the weekends. And it's like, do you seriously think the IRS is going to answer their phone at 7 on a Sunday?"

Becky will be glad when tax day ends at midnight tonight.

She may, or may not know, that if you need to file an extension, form 4868 is the paperwork you seek.

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