Arts/Culture
11:02 am
Thu May 5, 2011

Origins of Cinco de Mayo

A celebration of Mexican heritage.
user SCA Flickr

We were curious in the newsroom this morning, how did we come to celebrate Cinco de Mayo? A little digging gave me the answer...

"I know I owe you money, but you're going to have to wait."

Imagine if the U.S. government declared to its debtors that it wasn't going to pay on its loans for two years.

Countries like China, Japan, and the United Kingdom probably wouldn't be too happy - they might even send warships to the U.S. coasts demanding their money.

O.k., totally far-fetched, I know. But similar events in the 1860s led to the celebration of Cinco de Mayo.

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Election 2012
10:58 am
Thu May 5, 2011

Land won't run for Senate in 2012

Terri Lynn Land, Michigan's former Secretary of State, has decided she will not run for the U.S. Senate in 2012. Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow is up for reelection next year. The Associated Press reports:

Land said Thursday in a statement on her Facebook page that she has decided against joining the Republican field to take on Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow. Stabenow is running for her third six-year term. She reported last month that she has $3 million on hand so far for her 2012 campaign.

Only one Republican candidate has entered the race so far. Former Kent County Judge Randy Heckman announced he would run for the seat earlier this year.

Former West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra, who some speculated would run, announced last month that he would not run against Stabenow.

Stabenow has held the seat since 2000.

Environment
10:56 am
Thu May 5, 2011

Study: flame retardant chemicals affect development in frogs

Flame retardant chemicals help keep foam and plastics from catching on fire. They’re called PBDEs. That stands for polybrominated diphenyl ethers.

They’re in our couches, our office chairs and the padding under our carpet.

The problem is... they don’t stay put. Scientists have known for a while that the chemicals leach out of products and get into our bodies. Americans have the highest levels of anyone in the world.

Hundreds of peer-reviewed studies are suggesting links to problems with brain development, changes to thyroid systems, and fertility problems.

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Environment
10:49 am
Thu May 5, 2011

Aircraft chemical found in Great Lakes fish

Researchers from Environment Canada found a chemical used in aircraft fluids in lake trout in the Great Lakes.
Photo courtesy of Michigan Sea Grant

New research finds that fish in the Great Lakes are contaminated with a chemical used in aircraft hydraulic fluids.

Researcher Amila DeSilva works for Environment Canada, which is like the EPA in the U.S.

She says there have been studies on a number of perflourinated chemicals. They’re used to make textiles, upholstery, paper, and many other things. Studies have shown these types of chemicals can have toxic effects in humans. But not much is known about a chemical called perfluoroethylcyclohexanesulfonate - or PFECHS for short.

DeSilva says no one has really studied whether it's toxic.

She wanted to see if PFECHS was in the environment, so she and her colleagues sampled water and fish in the Great Lakes, specifically lake trout and walleye:

“We were really, really surprised to find it in fish. Because, just based on the structure and our chemical intuition we thought, ‘okay, it would be more likely to be in water than in fish’ so when we found it in fish, when you find anything in fish, it’s a whole other ballgame because humans consume fish.”

DeSilva says other perflourinated acids are endocrine disruptors. That means they create hormone imbalances in humans, and they have other toxic effects. She says once these chemicals are released into the environment they don’t degrade, they just build up. That’s why use of some chemicals in this class is highly restricted in the U.S. and Canada.

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Economy
9:47 am
Thu May 5, 2011

No progress for Midwest's housing market

Photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Things continue to look bad for the Midwest housing market. Seven of the lowest performing major markets in the nation are from the Midwest and Detroit leads the pack. Sean McSweeney is with Clear Capital, a national real estate valuation company. McSweeney says while Detroit faces many challenges, there are still reasons Detroit home owners should be hopeful. 

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News Roundup
8:40 am
Thu May 5, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, May 5th, 2011

GM Sales

General Motors has released its first quarter-net income… and it’s good news for the automaker.  The Associated Press reports:

General Motors says its first-quarter net income more than tripled on strong car sales in the U.S. and China. The company's first-quarter net income totaled $3.2 billion… one of its best performances since the SUV boom in the early 2000s. It was GM's fifth straight quarterly profit since late 2009, the year it emerged from bankruptcy. Quarterly revenue rose 15 percent to $36.2 billion. Worldwide sales climbed 12 percent, including a 25-percent jump in the U.S.

House Votes on Budget

The state House passed a $33 billion budget bill yesterday. As the Associated Press reports, the measure covers spending for everything except education. From the AP:

Lawmakers were deeply divided Wednesday on the measure, which closes prisons, drops 12,600 families from welfare and cuts senior services.

Majority Republicans say the budget puts the state on sound financial funding without using one-time fixes.

Minority Democrats say the bill cuts important services such as job training.

It includes $7 billion in general fund spending and passed 62-48, largely along party lines.

The bill must be reconciled with spending bills already passed by the Senate.

DPS Gets a New EM

Governor Rick Snyder has appointed a new Emergency Financial Manager for the Detroit Public Schools. Snyder announced the appointment of former GM Executive Roy Roberts to replace current Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb yesterday. Michigan Radio’s Sarah Cwiek reports, “Roberts has had a distinguished career in business and is considered a pioneer for African-Americans in the auto industry. Snyder says he chose Roberts because he’s a ‘successful businessman and team builder.’ Roberts says he’s genuinely ‘excited’ to tackle the daunting task of improving Detroit schools.” Bobb’s contract expires at the end of June.

Sports
10:17 pm
Wed May 4, 2011

Darius Morris to leave Wolverines for the NBA draft

Darius Morris is leaving the University of Michigan for the NBA draft. Morris broke the school's assist record with 235 assists last season. He helped to lead the team to the third round of the NCAA tournament.
University of Michigan

A key part of the offense for the University of Michigan men's basketball team will leave the team for the NBA draft.

The school reports that Darius Morris has decided to forego the remainder of his college eligibility.

From the Associated Press:

The sophomore point guard had declared for the draft but could have returned to the Wolverines if he'd withdrawn by May 8. Instead, he'll forgo his remaining eligibility, meaning Michigan will have to replace one of its most important players as it tries to build on last season's impressive finish.

"There have been long discussions with my family, friends and my Michigan coaches," Morris said. "In the end I decided to go with my heart. Playing professional basketball has always been a dream for me. I feel this is the right time for me to pursue that goal. It will be hard to leave the University of Michigan. However, I truly believe the basketball program is moving in a very positive direction."

Education
5:20 pm
Wed May 4, 2011

Governor Snyder appoints new financial manager for Detroit schools

Governor Snyder introduces Roy Roberts Wednesday
Sarah Cwiek Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder has appointed former GM Executive Roy Roberts to take over as the Detroit Public Schools’ Emergency Financial Manager.

Roberts has had a distinguished career in business and is considered a pioneer for African-Americans in the auto industry.

Snyder says he chose Roberts because he’s a “successful businessman and team builder.”

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Environment
5:16 pm
Wed May 4, 2011

Feds want states to manage wolves around the Great Lakes

The federal government wants to turn management of gray wolves in the western Great Lakes over to the states.
USFWS

The U.S. Department of Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service today announced that it plans to remove the western Great Lakes gray wolf population from the Endangered Species list.

These are wolves found in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and areas adjoining these states.

Acting Service Director Rowan Gould was quoted in today's press release:

“Gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes are recovered and no longer warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act. Under this proposed rule, which takes into account the latest taxonomic information about the species, we will return management of gray wolves in the Great Lakes to state wildlife professionals. We are confident that wolves will continue to thrive under the approved state management plans.”

There will be a sixty-day comment period before the rule is finalized.

Mary Detloff, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, says the state supports the decision and is ready to take over management of the species:

"The most recent estimate that we have of the minimum winter population for wolves in Michigan is around 687 animals which far exceeds our recovery goal here in the state. Our recovery goal was around 200-300 wolves."

Detloff says delisting the wolf would allow the state to deal with problem wolves.

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Politics
5:07 pm
Wed May 4, 2011

Dad: Latest anti-bullying bill not strong enough

Matt Epling of East Lansing committed suicide weeks after an assault by a group of older students in 2002.
Courtesy Epling family

A measure that would require Michigan schools to have anti-bullying policies has taken a small step forward. But one father says lawmakers are taking too long and doing too little.

Matt Epling was 14 years old when he was lured to an East Lansing park where he was assaulted and pelted with eggs by a group of older boys in 2002.

Officials called the incident “hazing.”

Kevin Epling says his son had been a confident, creative kid, but the public humiliation was too much. Matt took his own life a few weeks after the attack.

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Education
5:05 pm
Wed May 4, 2011

As DPS makes charter push, study shows high turnover rate for charter leaders

More than 70% of charter school leaders surveyed expect to leave their schools in five years, according to a study by the Center on Reinventing Public Education.
Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools district is moving forward with its plan to turn dozens of its schools into charters. It’s part of current emergency manager Robert Bobb’s Renaissance 2012 plan. Just this week, 18 organizations put in bids to take over 50 DPS schools and convert them into charters.

At the top would be a charter leader who does everything from fundraising to student recruitment to academic planning. But a study out late last year by the Center on Reinventing Public Education shows charter leaders have a high turnover rate.

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Politics
4:06 pm
Wed May 4, 2011

Conservatives win, New Democrats scramble

Jeff Smith Flickr

Canada's historic election--check out this excellent commentary by Jack Lessenberry for his thoughts on coverage of the event in the United States--happened earlier this week, resulting in Stephen Harper's Conservative Party increasing their share of the Canadian government.

The Conservative government will be the first majority government in seven years.

The results are good news for Rick Snyder, as Harper and his party are expected to maintain their previous offer of $550 million to defray costs surrounding a new Detroit-Windsor bridge, which the governor supports.

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Education
3:51 pm
Wed May 4, 2011

Poverty Role-Playing Game

A poverty-simulation workshop, in action.
Poverty Reduction Initiative

1.4 million people live in poverty in Michigan, according to the federal government. But not many people realize what that number actually means. A group in Kalamazoo thinks one of the ways to address the issue of poverty is with a game.

 

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Politics
3:07 pm
Wed May 4, 2011

Federal government selling property in Michigan

The federal goverment wants to get rid of what they say are 12 thousand "excess" properties.
Bruce Tuten flickr

The federal government wants to make money selling real estate. The government has released an interactive map of about 12 thousand federal “excess” properties, including 55 in Michigan.

The government says most of these properties have little market value. But, President Obama wants legislation to increase the number of properties and the speed of sales. He wants the government to use a process similar to that used to decommission old military bases.

Daniel Werfel is the United States Controller

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Politics
3:00 pm
Wed May 4, 2011

Governor Snyder names new emergency manager for Detroit schools

Governor Rick Snyder

Update:

Robert Bobb, the outgoing emergency manager for Detroit Public Schools, has released a statement regarding Roy S. Roberts, the man who will replace him in that position:

Roy Roberts is an exceptionally strong choice to continue the heavy lift of restructuring and reforming the interconnected finances and academics of Detroit Public Schools.

His position as an icon in the African American community and in the City of Detroit will be of huge benefit to DPS and also a role model for DPS students.

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Politics
2:21 pm
Wed May 4, 2011

Bin Laden photos will not be released

President Obama and his administration have declined to release photos of Osama bin Laden's dead body.

There are worries, voiced by the White House, that the images could "inflame sensitivities."

CBS originally broke the story, and according to NPR's Two-Way blog, White House spokesman Jay Carney just confirmed that the photos will not be released.

From the BBC:

US officials have been discussing whether to publish pictures of Bin Laden's body to counter conspiracy theories that he did not die.

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Environment
2:04 pm
Wed May 4, 2011

Forecast: A cool, rainy May

The National Weather Service says May in Michigan will be a cold, damp month.
emilydryden.wordpress.com

There’s good news for people who enjoy cold, damp weather.  For the rest of you,  don’t put away your sweaters just yet. 

Remember how it snowed in early December and just kept on snowing – for months?

Remember how the calendar said spring had arrived, but we just got more snow -- and then lots of cold, rainy days?

Rich Pollman is with the National Weather Service in Detroit. He says things probably won’t improve much in May.

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Offbeat
1:31 pm
Wed May 4, 2011

'The Book of Mormon' gets 14 Tony Award nominations

"The Book of Mormon" official website

The broadway musical "The Book of Mormon" led the field of Tony Award nominees with 14 nominations.

The musical, written by "South Park" creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, may seem like a surprising choice, considering its liberal use of profanity and controversial religious content.

The Associated Press (via MLive) reports:

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Auto/Economy
11:53 am
Wed May 4, 2011

Driving habits remain as gas prices break records

Commuting in Chicago. Gas prices are rising, but driving habits don't seem to be changing as drastically as they did in 2008.
Phillip Capper Flickr

Gas prices continue to climb in Michigan. They reached a new record today hitting an average of $4.26.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Gas prices continue to climb in Michigan, with the average cost per gallon of regular gasoline jumping to $4.26 today from $4.22 on Tuesday.

Previously, the record price had been set in summer 2008. Tuesday's price broke that record.

A year ago, the average price per gallon in the state was $2.94.

In 2008, when gas prices shot up, demand for gasoline dropped as Americans adjusted their driving habits.

Some experts say that's not likely to happen this time around as Americans are not as shocked by the high gas prices.

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Commentary
11:34 am
Wed May 4, 2011

May 3rd Election

The voters sent an important message yesterday, to themselves and their communities, and indirectly to the politicians in Lansing. It’s a message the governor and legislature need to hear.

Specifically, the people said that they are willing to pay more for services  important to them. They aren’t necessarily happy with the way things are going or with the people running things. In West Michigan area, they tossed out a boatload of school board members.

Yet the same voters renewed a number of millage proposals, often by wide margins. Sometimes they even voted to increase their taxes, when they were convinced services were necessary.

Grand Rapids narrowly voted to increase a rapid transit millage. Hudsonville voted millions to upgrade the school system.

This trend was especially strong in Southeast Michigan. Struggling, older blue-collar suburbs like Ferndale and Hazel Park have been hard hit by declining property values and a steep drop in state revenue sharing.

Yesterday, they asked their hard-pressed citizens for new money to keep up services.

These aren’t people who have a lot of money, and many no longer have jobs. But they said yes. In tiny Clawson, the people voted more money for their library, a year after the voters in the neighboring and more affluent city of Troy voted to close theirs.

By far, the biggest story was in Southfield, a city of office towers and mostly well-maintained split-level and ranch homes north of Detroit. Seventy percent of its seventy thousand residents are African-American -- mostly middle-class families.

City leaders laid it on the line. They needed a five mill property tax increase, mostly for police and fire services, and they needed it now. Otherwise, they would have to lay off half the city’s police and firemen. Residents knew what that could mean.

They voted the additional taxes by a margin of five to one. Now, these results do not mean that the voters are in a wildly spending mood. They seemed discerning. In Flint, they voted money to keep policemen on the job, but turned down a request for new funds to reopen it the city jail. In blue-collar Garden City, home of iconic rocker Mitch Ryder, officials asked for a twelve-mill increase. Voters said that was too much. They also were reluctant to combine services, such as police and fire. They said no to that in cities as different as Jackson and Harper Woods.

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