Auto
5:39 pm
Wed July 9, 2014

Europe auto industry faces headwinds....but more recalls not one of them

Ford sales in Europe rose 6.6% in the first half of 2014
Credit Ford Motor

The auto industry in Europe may be on the way back up, after hitting rock bottom last year, but its woes are by no means over, says Ford's head of Europe, Middle East and Africa, Stephen Odell.

Overcapacity is a persistent concern, he says.   Some European factories are still operating at about 70% of their capacity, although Ford itself has taken steps to reduce its factory and labor costs - having closed one Ford plant in the U.K. and soon to close another in Belgium.

Odell says the biggest factor depressing car sales is the 20 to 25% unemployment rates in southern European countries like Spain and Greece.

"I think the biggest inhibiters is probably employment levels," Odell told a roundtable of journalists in Dearborn.  "Which is why, in our forecast, we have a sort of modest and slow recovery for the next four to five years."

Odell says Ford does expect to regain profitability in Europe next year.

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Offbeat
5:37 pm
Wed July 9, 2014

This Michigan-bred musician did zero out of 29 celebrity impressions. I was punked.

Credit screen grab from Rob Cantor on YouTube, Microsoft Paint by Dustin Dwyer

I should have known. 

Two weeks ago, I was making a rare visit to our Ann Arbor office (I live in Grand Rapids), and I stumbled across a video I thought would be great for our website. The video featured a singer named Rob Cantor as he performed – or at least claimed to perform – 29 celebrity impressions in one song. And they were good impressions, crazy good. 

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Detroit bankruptcy
5:15 pm
Wed July 9, 2014

Report: DIA collection worth as much as $4.6 billion

The Wedding Dance, by Peter Bruegel the Elder, is one of the most valuable works at the DIA.
Credit Detroit Institute of Arts

A New York art investment firm says, on paper, works at the Detroit Institute of Arts could be worth as much as $4.6 billion. But the report by ArtVest Partners says the artwork could go for a lot less, if it's liquidated as part of the city's bankruptcy.

An earlier appraisal of the DIA's collections by Christie's auction house looked only at works bought with city money, and said selling those would bring in no more than $866 million.

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M I Curious
4:04 pm
Wed July 9, 2014

What explains Michigan's large Arab American community?

A photo of the Arab American Festival in Michigan.
Credit The Arab American News.com

Michigan Radio is launching M I Curious - a news experiment where we investigate questions submitted by the public about our state and its people.

Our first installment of M I Curious originated with Jeff Duncan, a firefighter from Sterling Heights. He submitted this question:

Why is there such a large Arab American community in southeast Michigan?

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Stateside
3:54 pm
Wed July 9, 2014

M I Curious: Why is there a large Arab population in Southeast Michigan?

Credit Wikimedia Commons

The M I Curious project is headed up by Michigan Radio’s Mark Brush.

“This is our chance to kind of pull back the curtain on news production and actually go out into the public and find out what the public is curious about,” Brush said.

We are inviting you into the editorial process of developing, producing and airing a story.

You can go to micurious.michiganradio.org and post your question for us.

Three questions will be chosen for a vote by listeners each month. If your question is selected, you can participate in producing the story with us.

This month’s question comes from Jeff Duncan. His question:

What brought people of Arabic/ Middle Eastern decent to Michigan?

Michigan Radio’s Sarah Cwiek investigated and answered that question.

Cwiek said southeast Michigan has drawn so many Arabs because of two reasons. One the auto industry, specifically Henry Ford.

“There is apparently a legend that in the local Yemenite community that Henry Ford once met a Yemenite sailor and told him about these jobs in an auto factory that paid $5 a day,” Cwiek said.

The sailor passed on the word to others in Yemen and around the Arab world.

Cwiek said that though the first immigrants from the Arab world came in the nineteenth century, the explosion of Arab culture really started in the twentieth century.

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Stateside
3:51 pm
Wed July 9, 2014

The Michigan Department of Community Health chimes in on the state's arsenic issue

Credit Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Michigan Radio's "The Environment Report" has just wrapped up a week-long series called Michigan's Silent Poison.

Reporter Rebecca Williams worked in partnership with the Center for Public Integrity and the public radio show Reveal to explore the problem of arsenic in well water.

Williams said Michigan has a serious problem with arsenic in private wells that can lead to major health issues.

Public water supplies have federal limits to regulate arsenic levels in water, however, private wells are not regulated.

The Thumb region in Michigan has the largest problem with high arsenic levels in private wells. Levels are as high as 20 times more than the federal accepted limit for arsenic in public water.

During the series Michigan’s Silent Poison, Williams made efforts to talk with someone from the Michigan Department of Community Health, but no one was made available. After the series aired, the Department said they would make someone available to speak.

Jennifer Gray is a toxicologist with the Michigan Department of Community Health. She answered some of the questions on Stateside today.

*Listen to full interview above. 

Business
2:13 pm
Wed July 9, 2014

The rise and fall of Michigan's Stroh family

Photo of a can of Stroh's beer taken in 2008.
Credit Kyle Freeman / Flickr

Many of us are more than a little curious about the lives of the rich and famous. 

In the mid-1800s, Bernard Stroh came to the U.S. and began selling beer in Detroit.

The business grew and prospered, but around 150 years later, the family company was bought and broken up.

Kerry A. Dolan of Forbes chronicles the rise and fall of the family in her piece, How to blow $9 billion: The fallen Stroh family.

From Dolan's story:

The Stroh family owned it all, a fortune that FORBES then calculated was worth at least $700 million. Just by matching the S&P 500, the family would currently be worth about $9 billion.

Yet today the Strohs, as a family business or even a collective financial entity, have ceased to exist. The company has been sold for parts. The trust funds have doled out their last pennies to shareholders. While there was enough cash flowing for enough years that the fifth generation Strohs still seem pretty comfortable, the family looks destined to go shirtsleeves-to-shirtsleeves in six.

Frances Stroh, a fifth generation family member, is working on a memoir about the family.

h/t Lester Graham

Families & Community
1:31 pm
Wed July 9, 2014

Do you judge people based on the way they speak?

Credit user: dbphotography / Flickr

This week, State of Opportunity's Jennifer Guerra explored language and discrimination. She talked to Robin Queen, a linguist who teaches a class about it at the University of Michigan.

From Guerra's story:

Queen says people often think there's one right way to speak, what linguists call Standard American English, or "The Standard," and everyone else is doing it wrong.

"Who gets to decide they can police someone else's language?" asks Queen. "I mean, when did we get to this point that shaming people for their language is fine?"

Remember the George Zimmerman trial last year? You probably read headlines about it somewhere, or maybe watched coverage of it on TV.

If you got to hear any of the testimony, you may remember Rachel Jeantel. She's a young, African-American woman who was the primary witness for the prosecution, and was on the phone with Trayvon Martin on the day he died. 

When Jeantel began speaking, people both in and out of the courtroom focused on the way she spoke.

Why? 

Check out Guerra's piece. You can watch testimony from the Zimmerman trial and read about a study from MSU on language and discrimination that has some surprising results. 

-- Lucy Perkins, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Stateside
1:23 pm
Wed July 9, 2014

Michigan will receive $115 million to fix roads

Credit Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

Michigan will receive is $115 million in special state funding this year for 124 specific road projects in certain districts.  This includes 38 projects in the metro Detroit region.

Crain’s Business Reporter Chris Gautz said most of the money will go to districts that are represented by Republicans, and about $41 million went to some districts represented by Democrats.

“For somebody in another part of the state that isn’t getting any money -- maybe if they are represented completely by Democrats -- they’re not going to see anything and they are wondering why their roads aren’t as important,” Gautz said.

Click here for a full list of the projects.

Guatz said there will also be about $1.5 million dollars for the Secretary of State’s office to help combat insurance fraud. 

*Listen to full interview above. 

Stateside
1:11 pm
Wed July 9, 2014

A new book takes a closer look at marijuana prohibiton

Credit anewleafbook.tumblr.com

 

Investigative journalists Alyson Martin and Nushin Rashidian present a book that explores the new landscape of cannabis in the United States in a book called A New Leaf: The End of Cannabis Prohibition.

Voters in 22 states, including Michigan, have said yes to medical marijuana laws. In November 2012, voters in Colorado and Washington legalized recreational use of marijuana.

Public opinion continues to shift toward policies that favor legalizing cannabis.

Yet, 49.5% of federal government drug-related arrests involve the sale, manufacture, or possession of cannabis.

In their book, Martin and Rashidian interviewed patients, growers, entrepreneurs, politicians, activists, and regulators in nearly every state with a medical cannabis law.

They analyze how recent milestones toward legalization will affect the war on drugs both domestically and internationally. The book is a unique account of how legalization is manifesting itself in the lives of millions.

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Politics & Government
12:06 pm
Wed July 9, 2014

The week in Michigan politics

Credit Kevin Rosseel / morguefile

Week in Michigan Politics interview for 7/9/14

This Week in Michigan Politics, Emily Fox and Jack Lessenberry discuss Michigan's ruling on how juvenile lifers will not get a chance at parole, pay raises for city leaders in bankrupt Detroit, and what role Michigan could play in housing undocumented minors crossing the Mexico border.

Politics & Government
11:43 am
Wed July 9, 2014

Activist groups complain that Michigan Legislature circumvents petition drives, elections

The group "Keep Michigan Wolves Protected" gathers signatures.
Credit Keep Michigan Wolves Protected / Facebook

A coalition of activist groups is trying to make an issue of the Legislature passing laws to bypass petition drives and ballot measures.

The groups say Republicans at the state Capitol have circumvented voters on questions including the emergency manager law, the minimum wage, and wolf hunting. In each of those cases, the Legislature passed laws that ran contrary to the results of an election or a petition drive.

Danielle Atkinson is with the campaign to increase the state minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. She says the Legislature acted legally, but violated the spirit of the Michigan Constitution’s power to use the ballot to initiate or challenge laws.

“This is not what the drafters of the state constitution intended when they gave people the right to petition their government.”

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Opinion
10:32 am
Wed July 9, 2014

MI Supreme Court's ruling on juvenile lifers is stupid, expensive and will be overturned

There is a long-established principle that whenever state law conflicts with a federal law, the federal law prevails. That’s been established by a long string of U.S. Supreme Court decisions, plus a little event called the Civil War.  

This is why, for example, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes could rule that the pensions of Detroit city workers and retirees could be cut, even though Michigan’s state constitution says they can’t be. Federal bankruptcy law prevails.

If this weren’t the case, it would mean that anything Congress or the U.S. Supreme Court did could be overruled by any state legislature, and our nation would become no more than a collection of 50 countries united in name only.

That’s something we all learned in civics class -- which makes the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision yesterday on life sentences for minors completely baffling.

Two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional to automatically sentence juveniles to life without the possibility of parole. However, some politicians who want to be seen as tough on crime, claimed this decision was not retroactive.

And yesterday, in a four to three vote, the Michigan Supreme Court agreed with them. The justices ruled that minors who were sentenced in Michigan to life without the possibility of parole still have no chance of a hearing – if they were sentenced before the nation’s highest court’s ruling.

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Education
10:22 am
Wed July 9, 2014

Michigan's superintendent predicts institutions will lose authority to create charter schools

A classroom.
Credit user LizMarie_AK / Wikimedia Commons

The statement comes a day after state Superintendent of Schools Mike Flanagan said he’s ready to use his authority to revoke that ability from charter school authorizers. That’s if they fail to meet new standards for transparency set by state education officials.

Flanagan says he met with authorizers in February about issues involving charters. He says he’s not convinced all of them will be able to meet the new, tougher standards.

“If I had to guess, just because of the candor at the February meeting, there’s probably some that we won’t extend their ability,” Flanagan said Tuesday. “But I don’t want to pre-judge that too much. That’s only hearing the anecdotal stuff.”

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Politics & Government
7:00 am
Wed July 9, 2014

Detroit officials get pay raises

Credit State of Michigan / Michigan.gov

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr has given the city’s leaders a pay raise.

Orr signed an order hiking city appointees and elected officials’ pay by 5% on June 30th. It went into effect July 1.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan seemed genuinely surprised to hear that news on Tuesday.

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Politics & Government
11:32 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

Duggan: We'll start seizing drug houses

Mike Duggan
Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is expanding his program to seize houses that violate the city’s nuisance abatement laws—and this time, he’s going after drug houses.

On Tuesday, Duggan announced an initiative to seize and auction off homes that have been raided twice for drug activity.

Duggan says more than 300 homeowners have already been put on notice—and that starting next week, their neighbors will start getting notices in the form of postcards, too.

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Environment & Science
6:03 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

Environmental groups say another Enbridge pipeline could be disaster in waiting

Environment groups fear the possibility of another big oil spill, this time in Lakes Michigan and Huron.
Credit U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

A "who's who" of environmental groups say a 67-year-old pipeline in the straits of Mackinac  could be a serious threat to the Great Lakes.

The pipeline is owned by Enbridge.  

Howard Learner is head of the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

"It's an old aging pipeline," says Learner.  "We can't afford to have happen in the Great Lakes what happened with the Enbridge pipeline and the oil spill in the Kalamazoo River.  You know, it's already been a couple of years and we are still cleaning it up.  "

In 2010, more than a million gallons of oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River after an Enbridge pipeline rupture.

Lerner's group, along with 16 other major environmental groups in Michigan, have sent a letter requesting an urgent meeting with Governor Snyder about the pipeline.

Learner says Enbridge may not be maintaining the pipeline properly, including not installing enough supports for the pipeline. 

And he says the company may be sending oil through it under too much pressure, but there's no way to know until the state forces the company to disclose the information.

There's also a question whether state  regulations written more than 60 years ago meet current standards.

*Correction - A previous version of this story said "more than a million barrels of oil spilled." It was more than a million gallons. Story corrected above.

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Politics & Government
5:02 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

Some Michiganders protest against unaccompanied minors coming here

Dozens of Vassar residents and people from out of town gathered in front of city hall Monday evening.
Credit Michelle Huan / Michigan Radio

Things got pretty heated in Vassar this week. But there's also a ton of misinformation out there.

Some of the chaos at the U.S. and Mexican border has made its way to Michigan.

About 75 protesters turned out last night in in the tiny, mid-Michigan town of Vassar, population roughly 2,600. 

That's where a juvenile center is in talks to potentially house some of the unaccompanied minors flooding into this country from Central America.

Michigan Radio's Kate Wells sent us this field report. 

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Breaking
4:46 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

Michigan Supreme Court rules juvenile lifers not entitled to re-sentencing hearings

Credit user FatMandy / flickr

The Michigan Supreme Court says felons sentenced as juveniles to life without parole won’t get new sentences.

That’s despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that says it’s cruel and unusual punishment.

The question was whether the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Miller vs. Alabama applies retroactively in Michigan to more than 300 inmates sentenced as juveniles to life without parole, or if it only applies to future cases.

A four-to-three majority on the state Supreme Court says it would present too many financial and logistical barriers to go back and find lost witnesses and evidence for new sentencing hearings.

The Miller decision says mandatory life sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional because they don’t take into account each child’s circumstances.

States have split on how to handle the Miller decision, which suggests the issue could yet be headed back one day to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Stateside
4:32 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

College tuition is expected to rise in Michigan

Credit Wikimedia Commons

Everyone who writes a tuition payment check has one question: Is tuition going up?

Jake Neher, Lansing reporter for Michigan Public Radio Network said that tuition is going up all over the state.

There is a limit to the increase at 3.2%, otherwise institutions will lose state aid.

“Most major universities, other than U of M and MSU, are going right up to that cap in this year’s tuition increases,” Neher said.

Neher said budget leaders and the Legislature may not be too happy about the increase, given that the governor just signed the largest increase in state aid for higher education in years.

The new budget increases higher education spending by about 5.9%.

Neher added that Michigan State University is using a two-tier tuition increase. Tuition for juniors and seniors will go up more than freshmen and sophomores. Neher said that MSU did this because it costs more money to educate seniors.

Funding for the Michigan Tuition Grant Program will also increase 5.9%. This affects students who are in financial need who want to go to private colleges. 

*Listen to full interview above. 

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