Republican candidates hoping to unseat U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow in 2012 held an unofficial debate in West Michigan this week. The Gerald R. Ford Republican Women’s Club hosted the event. The “Ford Women” of the club aren’t set on which man will make the best candidate.

An Ohio woman said Tuesday that she endured nearly four hours in police custody that included being forced off an airplane in handcuffs, strip-searched and interrogated at Detroit's airport on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks _ all, she believes, because of her Middle Eastern appearance.

user ewan traveler / Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder will ask Michiganders to quit smoking, lose weight and eat better in a health care message tomorrow that’s expected to focus on wellness and disease prevention.

The speech is expected to focus as much on identifying the problems as outlining solutions that won’t cost taxpayers a lot of money.

The Governor is expected to acknowledge there is not a whole lot government can do to make people live healthier lives.

The next two months will be crucial in determining the long-term future of Detroit’s water and sewerage system.

Detroit owns and operates the municipal system that serves more than three million people in southeast Michigan. It’s been under federal oversight for wastewater violations since 1977.

Parents and students in Detroit say problems with city buses and school bus passes are keeping some kids out of school.

The school district gives out free bus passes to many students. But some students say they never received application forms, and the schools don’t have enough passes.

District policy says all Detroit students can ride for free in September with last year’s bus passes. But many students lost those over the summer.

Governor Rick Snyder will deliver a health reform message tomorrow. He’s expected to ask Michiganders to take control of their health by exercising and eating better, and to ask smokers to quit. He’s expected to acknowledge there are not many things government can do to force people to live healthier. But he will ask the Legislature to outlaw smoking at beaches in state parks.

A ban on smoking at beaches would make them more family-friendly, and improve the environment, says the governor's policy chief, Bill Rustem:

Kate Davidson / Michigan Radio

The city of Detroit is in the news very often and rarely with good news. Declines in population, and a troubled school district are just two of the stories that are plastered across newspapers and reported on in the national media.  At the same time, stories about young people and artists moving into the city have also gained national attention.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White spoke with Mayor Bing about what he's doing to help brighten the city's future.

"The recurring story about the plight of Detroit is something that we are not going to fix overnight.”

Mayor Bing says, "Detroit is coming back." He adds new companies are moving into the downtown and midtown areas, and he says the Riverfront is a great asset. Bing also says there is too much focus on the negative. He hopes people will look at the positive things happening in the city, and he invites people to come see for themselves.

Chelsea Hagger / Michigan Public Radio Network

Former congressman Pete Hoekstra has been accepting endorsements and campaign donations to run for the U.S. Senate for weeks, but today Hoekstra formally launched his statewide campaign for the Republican nomination.

Hoekstra says he is glad to have the endorsements of some of his former rivals. They include former state Attorney General Mike Cox, who ran against Hoekstra in the Republican primary for governor.

Hoekstra says he and Cox may not have gotten along during that race, but they have buried the so-called hatchet.

 "Whatever hatchet there was, we’ve agreed to work together to make sure Michigan has a new senator. He and I have talked a number of times over the last few weeks, we’ve had great conversations. If there was a hatchet, it’s gone."

Hoekstra has also been endorsed by Governor Rick Snyder, another former rival.

Hoekstra says if he were elected to the U.S. Senate he would work to repeal "No Child Left Behind" school mandates and the new national health care regulations.

Hoekstra says he has met with many small business leaders who would rather see the federal government focus on deregulation than on tax breaks. 

"We need to get the economic engine going again, which is taking a look at the regulatory reform in Washington, it’s taking a look at repealing Obama-care and putting in place smart reforms for health care, and it is allowing for energy exploration in the United States," said Hoekstra.

Hoekstra is running in the Republican Senate primary against anti-gay activist Gary Glenn, businessman Peter Konetchy, former judge Randy Hekman, and school-choice advocate Clark Durant.

The winner of that primary will run against Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow.

The man known as the “underwear bomber” will get a look at about 300 potential jurors in federal court in Detroit tomorrow.

The jurors will hear about the case against Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from Judge Nancy Edmunds, then fill out questionnaires. The idea is to speed the jury selection process set to start next month by finding out whether any jurors have obvious biases.

It’s also the day when Judge Edmunds will hear arguments on some unresolved pre-trial issues. Those include Abdulmutallab’s request to change the trial’s venue.

Annie Green Springs / Flickr

The Michigan ACLU filed a lawsuit in federal court today asking a judge to nullify a state law that prohibits panhandling in public places.

The lawsuit names Michigan state attorney general Bill Schuette, the Grand Rapids Chief of Police Kevin Belk, and Grand Rapids police officer Gregory Bauer as defendants.

The state law in question defines a "disorderly person" in part as a person who is "found begging in a public place."

ACLU of Michigan representatives say between January 1, 2008 and May 24, 2011, the Grand Rapids Police Department "produced 399 incident reports of individuals prosecuted under the unconstitutional state statute" - prosecutions that ACLU representatives say say led to 1,641 days in jail and $60,000 in expenses to taxpayers.

More from the ACLU of Michigan's press release:

“Anti-begging laws that punish that most vulnerable segment of our society are not only harsh, they are unconstitutional,” said Miriam Aukerman, ACLU of Michigan staff attorney. "Removing the reminders of poverty from our sight is not the answer to Michigan’s economic woes. We need laws and practices that provide compassionate solutions for our growing homeless population.”

ACLU lawyers filed the lawsuit on behalf of two Grand Rapids residents, James Speet and Ernest Sims.

The lawsuit indicates the two have been "repeatedly arrested or ticketed by police for violating the state’s blanket ban on begging in public."

“I see people holding up signs throughout the city advertising restaurants or protesting and they don’t get arrested or ticketed,” said Speet. “I don’t understand why my sign is any different just because I’m homeless and looking for a job.”

U.S. Census Bureau

The U.S. Census Bureau released more data today cataloging the nation's median household income, poverty rate, and the percentage of people without health insurance coverage.

Census officials say this data represents the first full calendar year after the December 2007-June 2009 recession.

For health insurance coverage, the differences between 2009 and 2010 were not significant. It's estimated that 16.3 percent of the population is without coverage - about 49.9 million people.

Real median household income in the U.S. in 2010 was $49,445, - a 2.3 percent decline from the 2009 median.

Not surprisingly, the nation's poverty rate was up. "Poverty" is defined by the number of people in a household vs. their income. For example, a family of four that includes two children is considered in "poverty" if  their income is below $22,113.

From the U.S. Census Bureau:

The nation's official poverty rate in 2010 was 15.1 percent, up from 14.3 percent in 2009 ─ the third consecutive annual increase in the poverty rate. There were 46.2 million people in poverty in 2010, up from 43.6 million in 2009 ─ the fourth consecutive annual increase and the largest number in the 52 years for which poverty estimates have been published (emphasis added).

This information covers the first full calendar year after the December 2007-June 2009 recession. See section on the historical impact of recessions.

The Detroit News broke down what the numbers mean here in Michigan. They point out that more numbers will be out next week, which could drive the numbers higher:

For Michigan, the numbers hint at a substantial rise in poverty. In 2010, the survey showed 15.5 percent of Michigan residents in poverty, up from 14 percent in 2009. Compared to all states, Michigan's poverty rate is 20th, same as last year.

However, the poverty numbers released Tuesday are from the annual Current Population Survey (CPS) of 100,000 households in the country. Although state-level poverty numbers are being released, more accurate statistics at the state level will come out next week with the release of the 2010 American Community Survey (ACS), which surveys 3 million nationwide. Last year, the CPS indicated that 14 percent of Michigan residents were living in poverty; the ACS revealed that far more, 16.5 percent, were.

Over the last five years, Michigan's poverty numbers from the ACS have trended higher than the CPS.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Attendance rates for Detroit Public Schools have jumped dramatically since last week – when only about two-thirds of kids expected for the first day of classes actually showed up.

Close to 56,000 students were in school on Monday. That’s about 12,000 more than the week before.

School district spokesman Steve Wasko says over the past week teams of attendance agents and volunteers have been going door-to-door to find out why students are missing. He says in many cases there’s some obstacle.

"Whether that’s a transportation concern, something we’re frankly finding more and more, and it’s an unfortunate thing, and in some cases parents saying I’m planning on sending my child to school but I have to be honest with you I can’t afford the school uniform, so we’re trying to make ends meet and grab a few dollars for that."

The school district needs to hit 75 percent of its enrollment target in order to avoid financial penalties from the state. Wasko says Monday’s attendance was a solid 85 percent.

Photo by Lindsey Smith

Grand Rapids, Adrian and Ann Arbor are taking part in a tree study that could help other Michigan cities assess their own urban forests. The goal is to make a tree assessment more accurate and affordable for cities.

Grand Rapids spent tens of thousands of dollars to find more information about the city’s trees. They came away with valuable information like how much greenhouse gases and water runoff the trees absorb. But city owned trees make up only a tiny portion of the overall urban forest in Grand Rapids.

Tyler Stevenson is the city forester. He says they discovered more than half of Grand Rapids’ trees are maples.

“Is that true for the entire community? We don’t know. And it’d be interesting information and it would also help to increase the awareness of the public on how valuable the trees on their property are.”

Federal officials will use the data from the study to enhance existing software. Other communities in Michigan will be able to use that software for free to calculate data about their own trees.

Officially, this is still summer, even though the first leaves are tumbling from the trees and the light looks more like fall.

Politically, however, it is clear what season it is: Silly season. Yesterday’s news included one candidate for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate, Pete Hoekstra, happily accepting the endorsement of a man, Mike Cox,  whom he openly despised and reviled barely a year ago.

Also, a state legislator announced she’d challenge one of the nation’s longest-serving incumbent congressmen. The oddest thing about this is not the David and Goliath aspect. It is that the congressman doesn’t even live in that district.

She does, but most think he will be a heavy favorite anyway. Meanwhile, in Lansing, the Republicans who control the state senate are moving closer to setting a date for a presidential primary.

Photo by Rebecca Williams

Here in Michigan, we have the world’s largest collection of dead fish. At least, the world’s largest collection that’s based at a university.

There are about 3.5 million fish in this collection. It belongs to the Museum of Zoology at the University of Michigan.

Bill Fink is the director of the Museum of Zoology and Curator of Fishes.

He’s offered to take me on a guided tour. We take the elevator to the basement... where there’s row after row of shelves full of glass jars... full of fish.

“These specimens are from Japan and they were collected in 1920s – we have specimens that are well over a hundred years old now and they look fine.”

Bill Fink says these fish have been collected from all over the world, sometimes at great risk to the scientists. He points out the box of jars from Vietnam.

“They were collecting during war, the Mekong River Survey. They were shot at and captured and escaped and there were lots of adventures.”

Bill Fink is not just the curator here... he also goes out in the field. He says some of the fish themselves are dangerous for the collectors.

“We also have a huge collection of piranhas right here...I’ve been there when people have been bitten but I personally have not been bitten. I’m really careful.”

Fink shows me some amazing fish... like the tiny anglerfish with its appendage that glows in the dark at the bottom of the ocean.

user brother o'mara / Flickr

Tougher school testing standards set for approval today

The state Board of Education is meeting today to set increased scoring standards for Michigan's public schools. The vote to increase the standards came last February. Today, the board will consider specifics. More from the Associated Press:

The board today is scheduled to consider new so-called "cut scores" for the Michigan Educational Assessment Program tests taken by elementary and middle school students and the Michigan Merit Exam taken by high school students.

The board voted in February to raise the scoring standards to better reflect students' preparedness for careers and college. The specific cut score levels could be considered today.

Fewer students in Michigan are expected to be categorized as "proficient" after the cut scores are raised.

Ford CEO worries about consumer demand in Europe amid crisis

Europe's financial crisis is heating up. Paul Krugman, opinion columnist for the New York Times, said of the crisis "this thing could come apart in a matter of days."

The crisis has prompted Ford's European CEO to call for action. From the Associated Press:

Ford Europe CEO Stephen Odell is calling on European politicians to make painful decisions sooner rather than later to help the economy recover from an increasingly volatile financial crisis.

Odell said Ford is pressing ahead with new product launches at the Frankfurt Auto Show because the market will need products when the spiraling sovereign debt crisis clears and consumer confidence is restored... Odell told reporters on the sidelines Tuesday that politicians have so far not been able to resolve the issue, and urged them to apply even painful remedies "quickly and robustly."

Get ready for crisp, cold weather this week

It might be time to break out the coats. A blast of arctic air is coming our way. The Weather Underground's Shaun Tanner says a storm will move through the state later today:

A... storm will move into the Great Lakes region late in the day, renewing rain and even the slightest chance of early season snow in the Upper Midwest.

The... storms will precede a blast of Arctic air that will stream into the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest. This Arctic air will not be as cold as in the Winter, but a definite cooling trend will sweep through much of the northern tier of the country during the second half of the week.

The deadline for Detroit automakers and the United Auto Workers’ union is fast approaching. 

But contract talks could be extended past the deadline of this Wednesday – especially at Ford. 

Ford is the only company that faces the possibility of a strike this time, because of agreements made during GM and Chrysler’s bankruptcies.

UAW President Bob King says a strike is not the goal.

But some union dissidents think a strike could happen.

Gary Walkowicz  is a bargaining committeeman at UAW Local 600 in Dearborn.

Governor Snyder will travel on his first trade mission later this month.  The Governor will travel to Japan, China, and Korea, to encourage Asian companies to invest and expand in Michigan. 

Snyder says the China part of his trip in particular is long overdue. 

Snyder will be the first Michigan governor to go to China since the Engler administration.

He says Chinese companies may not be aware that a lot has changed for the good in the state since then, like the elimination of the Michigan Business Tax, and a new approach to regulation.

The owner of a Lansing medical marijuana clinic faces 90 days in jail or a 500 dollar fine for an alleged attempt to trade pot for votes in city council elections.

Shekina Pena’s clinic offered a small amount of pot or a marijuana-laced treat to medical marijuana card holders as part of a voter registration drive. At the same time, the clinic advocated for city council candidates who opposed a restrictive local medical marijuana ordinance.

John Sellek is the spokesman for state Attorney General Bill Schuette. He says the law does not allow anything of value to be offered in an effort to influence a vote.

"The voters of Michigan when they enacted the Michigan medical marijuana law, they intended that marijuana to be used for a narrow group of people who are seriously ill," said Sellek. "They did not intend for it to be used basically as a door prize to encourage somebody to do something, and that’s what they were doing in this instance."

Pena did not respond to a phone message left at her clinic. Schuette led the campaign against the 2008 statewide medical marijuana ballot question, and supports efforts to add restrictions to the voter-approved law.

Michigan’s attorney general is considering an appeal in a case against two men involved in a project to convert an old GM plant located in Walker into a film studio.

Joe Peters and Jack Buchanan Jr. tried to get $10 million in state film incentives for a big studio project. But the film office rejected their application and the deal fell through. They got no taxpayer money.

screen grab from Nielsen report

My colleague Michigan Radio reporter Steve Carmody passed along this study from the Nielsen Company:

State of the Media: The Social Media Report (Q3 2011)

So how are we spending our time online? (hint: you "like" it). From the report:

Americans spend more time on Facebook than they do any other U.S. website.

Here's the top ten:

  1. 22.5 percent of our online time is spent on social networks and blogs
  2. 9.8 percent online games
  3. 7.6 percent e-mail
  4. 4.5 percent "portals"
  5. 4.4 percent videos/movies
  6. 4.0 percent search
  7. 3.3 percent instant messaging
  8. 3.2 percent software manufacturing
  9. 2.9 percent classifieds/auctions
  10. 2.6 percent on current events and global news

Nielsen reports that Tumblr is an emerging social network nearly tripling its unique U.S. audience over the last year.

Does the Tumblr design look somewhat familiar to you?

user frank juarez / Flickr

According to Michigan State University researchers, many educators in the state are not using some of the most effective teaching methods  when working with the more than 15,000 Michigan students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Summer Ferreri, an MSU assistant professor of special education, and Sara Bolt, an MSU associate professor of school psychology conducted the study.

Using data from more than 200 school professionals, 34 parents of students with ASD, and classroom observations, the researchers found that more than 40 percent of the educators were not using techniques known as "Applied Behavior Analysis", and "Social Stories" (a method for teaching social skills to children with autism).

They also found it difficult to "access statewide data on students with ASD" and "concluded that better access is crucial to determine whether the services schools provide are actually helping students succeed."

From the MSU press release:

Suzanne Wilson, a University Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Teacher Education at MSU, said autism education is one of the most pressing issues facing educators today.

“While autism rates have rapidly increased, many new and experienced teachers have little to no experience working with children with autism,” Wilson said.  "Without the appropriate education, new teachers could, at worst, marginalize these students and, at best, be supportive but not effective.”

The researchers also found that 26% ASD students in Michigan "never or rarely had learning opportunities that reflected the general education curriculum."

And "one-third of the 194 Michigan teaching professionals responding said their students with ASD wouldn’t meet any grade-level achievement standards."

The findings of the research will be presented to the State Board of Education tomorrow (September 13). The study was conducted with funding from the Weiser family, the Kellogg Foundation, and the Skillman Foundation.

(courtesy of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources)

Michigan’s tourism and fishing industries will discuss how to form a united front against Asian carp during a conference Tuesday in Lansing.  John Goss, the Obama Administration’s "carp czar," will be the keynote speaker at the  conference.  

Asian carp present a threat to the Great Lakes’ multi-billion dollar sport fishing and tourism industries, according to Steve Yencich, president of the Tourism Industries Coalition of Michigan.  The coalition is organizing the carp summit.   

DETROIT (AP) - Online retail mortgage lender Quicken Loans Inc. says it plans to hire 500 new workers, mostly based in Detroit.

The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News report the company plans to kick off the hiring effort with a job fair Saturday at its downtown Detroit headquarters. The company wants to hire immediately for several areas including mortgage banking, marketing and technology.

The event runs form 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. Job listings are posted online.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Today, the doors will close for the final time at the Borders bookstore in Ann Arbor. It’s a significant milestone marking the final days of the Ann Arbor-based bookseller. 

“Well it's so sad….we’ll miss’em…great store,” one longtime Borders customer said as she walked out the door of the bookseller's flagship store. That is the feeling of many people who stopped by the Borders store in Ann Arbor on its last day.    

An aide to former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has pleaded guilty to criminal charges in federal court. It’s part of a case that alleges Kwame Kilpatrick and others turned city hall into a criminal enterprise.

Derrick Miller was the chief administrative officer in the Kilpatrick administration. As part of the deal he’s expected to cooperate with prosecutors.

Michigan and the nation just finished a weekend commemorating the September 11th terrorist attacks ten years ago. But I think we should take a moment to think about those we don’t normally think about who were also touched by the tragedy.

Last week a former student reminded me what I did that day, when I had a large lecture class in Detroit  that morning. “Who here lives in Canada?” I asked.  Half a dozen hands shot up.

“Go home, now. Right now,” I said. They were startled. They knew I never let them out early. “But I have another class after this one,” somebody said. “If you don’t go now, you may not get home,“ I answered. I thought they would close the border.

They actually didn’t, but by that evening, the wait time was many hours. Then, things got worse after a story in the Boston Globe incorrectly said some of the hijackers came through Canada.

DETROIT (AP) - Plans are coming together for a new festival showcasing Detroit's creative community.

The Detroit Design Festival takes place Sept. 21-28. Online retail mortgage lender Quicken Loans Inc. announced Monday that it will be the "premier sponsor" for the event, which will feature fashion shows, exhibitions, lectures, installations and studio tours, performances.

With the sponsorship, the Detroit Creative Corridor Center will be able to provide grants to local designers and creative professionals to showcase their work.

user brother o'mara / Flickr

Negotiations between UAW and automakers might go down to the wire

Contracts between the UAW and Detroit automakers expire this week. The sides have been negotiating for the past month and will likely continue to negotiate through the middle of this week. The Detroit Free Press reported that "GM's agreement... is likely to add thousands of jobs at U.S. plants, offer buyouts for skilled trades workers and enhance the profit-sharing formula.":

Chrysler has been in lockstep with talks at GM and out-of-state union leaders were told that they might need to travel to Detroit soon to review a tentative deal.

Talks were continuing at Chrysler over the weekend. CEO Sergio Marchionne said in Canada that he would be involved in the talks, even though he was traveling from Calgary, Alberta, to Detroit and then to Frankfurt, Germany, over the course of the weekend.

Meanwhile, talks lag at Ford, where economic issues have barely begun being discussed.

State to decide whether to increase testing standards this week

The state Board of Education might decide to raise school testing standards at a meeting tomorrow, according to the Detroit News. If the scores are raised, fewer schools in Michigan will be found to be proficient in key subjects:

Education officials say the changes are necessary because existing standards reward students for average work and have disguised dismal ability levels. For instance, just 10 percent of third-graders are not proficient in reading, according to last year's Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP) tests. State Superintendent Mike Flanagan said the newer scores will show that more than 60 percent are not proficient.

F-16s scrambled to follow a passenger plane on 9/11

Two passengers behaving suspiciously raised concerns of terrorism on a Frontier flight from Denver to Detroit yesterday. More from WXYZ.com:

People on the plane tell Action News the two men in question spent long periods of time in the plane’s lavatories. It's not clear how the woman was involved.

“They were going back and forth through the aisle,” passenger David Mungia said, describing the behavior of the two men who were taken away by police.

“One of the guys was in the bathroom for at least ten minutes,” Mungi said.

Authorities are not saying what was going on inside the lavatories but ABC News is reporting the unidentified passengers were making out.

 

Update 11:47 a.m.

The Detroit Free Press reports that reports of amorous activity on the flight are false:

Three passengers detained at Detroit Metro Airport Sunday after the crew reported suspicious activity were actually just using the rest room, according to an FBI spokeswoman in Detroit.

FBI Detroit spokeswoman Sandra Berchtold said reports about sexual encounters taking place in the rest room are false, describing them as "stories spinning out of control."

Every Monday morning, we take a look at groups around the state that are trying to improve things in Michigan. Today, we hear from Samantha Schiebold, a third year undergrad at the University of Michigan who is also the project manager of the Student Sustainability Initiative at U of M. The group works to increase awareness of ways students can protect the environment.

One of the Initiative’s biggest successes was hosting a zero waste U of M basketball game last year.

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