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Politics & Government
2:07 pm
Thu August 21, 2014

Married Michigan same-sex couples seek recognition

Credit user dbking / Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - A lawyer has urged a judge to order Michigan to recognize same-sex marriages performed in March, saying the unions are valid even if a higher court reinstates the state's gay marriage ban.

More than 300 couples were married before an appeals court suspended a decision that had overturned the ban. The American Civil Liberties Union insists those marriages are legitimate. But Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, unlike the federal government, won't recognize them while the legality of gay marriage remains contested in court.

ACLU attorney Julian Mortenson says a marriage performed when gay marriage was legal can't be broken by the state. He urged federal Judge Mark Goldsmith to issue an injunction Thursday.

Michigan wants Goldsmith to wait. A Cincinnati-based appeals court recently heard arguments in cases from four states.

Law
12:31 pm
Thu August 21, 2014

Dude, check out all the military equipment that has been transfered to Michigan's police departments

Pulling up next to the Saginaw County Sheriff's Department MRAP.
Joe Santini YouTube

The Saginaw County Sheriff's Department received a "Maxx Pro" Mine Resistant Ambush Proof vehicle from the U.S. Army in order to "prepare for something disastrous," according to Saginaw County Sheriff William Federspiel.

Brad Devereaux wrote about the department's decision to acquire the MRAP for MLive:

The truck's passenger compartment is bulletproof and designed to withstand a mine blast with a v-shaped undercarriage. 

"The V shape resists mine blasts away from the cab. It's very good at what it does," Undersheriff Robert Karl said, noting he found several videos online demonstrating the function.

At the time, Sheriff Federspiel said people shouldn't be concerned about "a military state" because he wouldn't let that happen.

But the giant MRAP makes an impression, and sends a message, whether intended or not.

Here's what these two dudes in Saginaw thought of it (language warning, these dudes are speaking candidly):

Devereaux now reports that the Saginaw County Sheriff's Department is planning to get rid of the vehicle. Federspiel said the plans were made prior to the department being criticized on HBO's Tonight with John Oliver.

This is just one military style vehicle transferred to police departments across the state.

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Stateside
12:21 pm
Thu August 21, 2014

TV's star veterinarian talks about life, Michigan, and why never turn your back on an Angus cow

Hold your horses, because new episodes of The Incredible Dr. Pol begin this Saturday on National Geographic Wild.
Credit User: The Incredible Dr. Pol / facebook

One of TV's most endearing and unlikely reality show stars is Dr. Jan Pol.

He's a veterinarian with a country practice in mid-Michigan, near Mount Pleasant.

He is also the star of the National Geographic Wild series The Incredible Dr. Pol. The show begins its fifth season Saturday.

Pol is telling his story in a new autobiography Never Turn Your Back on an Angus Cow: My Life as a Country Vet.

He says he learned the lesson to never turn your back on an Angus cow the hard way when he was growing up on a dairy farm in the Netherlands.

“You don’t turn your back. You cannot outrun the cow. You cannot outrun the horse. You cannot outrun almost every animal on the planet.”

Pol opened his veterinarian practice in 1981. In his more than three decades of practicing in Michigan, he has seen big changes in farming in the state.

“When we started here, there were two or three family farms every mile. Those have disappeared. Farms got bigger, but it doesn’t mean cows got better care,” says Pol.

* Listen to our conversation with Dr. Jan Pol at 3:00 pm. We'll post the audio clip at around 4:30 pm.

Opinion
11:42 am
Thu August 21, 2014

Canada's new consul general is determined to build a new Detroit River bridge

I had a conversation yesterday with Douglas George, the Canadian government’s new consul general in Detroit.

For Canada, this area is an economic region important enough to merit a mini-embassy. Ottawa has a vast suite of offices in the Renaissance Center, and a large staff, some busy with immigration matters, and the rest primarily with economic and trade questions.

One indication of how important Canada sees Detroit is that Consul George was most recently their ambassador to Kuwait, and before that was a major trade negotiator who at various times headed both their government’s tariff and intellectual property divisions.

Here, he is responsible for trade and other issues involving a five-state area economically vital to Canada.

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The Environment Report
11:20 am
Thu August 21, 2014

Critics say new Ohio law isn't enough to protect Lake Erie from fertilizer runoff

Credit Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The Environment Report for Thursday, August 21, 2014 — Farmers and new Ohio phosphorus law

The recent Toledo water crisis has farmers in Michigan and Ohio on the defensive. They’re pointing to a number of voluntary efforts they’re making to reduce phosphorus runoff to Lake Erie. That runoff is the main food source for the blooms of a kind of cyanobacteria that release a toxin that led to the water shutdown. But farm groups and environmentalists say a new state law in Ohio that will certify the use of fertilizers doesn't go far enough or happen fast enough. 

"Basically, the new law will require that all farmers and certified crop advisors who spread chemical fertilizer on fields go through a certification process where they will learn how to spread the fertilizer in the right place, at the right rate, at the right time of year," says Karen Schaefer, an Ohio reporter who is covering this issue. "And the problem with it is: right now it does not include manure and the law does not go into effect until 2017."

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Culture
10:08 am
Thu August 21, 2014

Former Detroit Archbishop and Vatican City governor Szoka dies at age 86

SM Giovanni and SM Angela with Edmund Cardinal Szoka.
Credit Felician Sisters of North America / Flickr

DETROIT - Cardinal Edmund Szoka, the former governor of Vatican City and the head of the Detroit archdiocese, has died. He was 86.

The Archdiocese of Detroit says Szoka died of natural causes Wednesday night at Providence Park Hospital in Novi, Michigan.

Pope John Paul II made Szoka a cardinal in 1988. Not long after, he became the Vatican's point man for finance. By 1998, he was running the Vatican City, one of the world's smallest countries.

Since his retirement from active ministry in 2006, Szoka had been living in the Detroit suburb of Northville.

Arts & Culture
7:15 am
Thu August 21, 2014

3 things struggling historical groups can do to attract more people

Guests at a Romanian wedding reception in Detroit in 1936.
Credit Metro Detroit Ethnic Communities Collection/Walter P. Reuther Library

There’s a joke that historical organizations are stuck in the past when it comes to how they do things. You know, like they don’t have a grasp on using social media, and their museums and events are outdated and uninspiring.

And that joke might extend to the people who run historical organizations – many of whom are senior citizens and have often run their group in the same way for a long time.

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Health
5:51 am
Thu August 21, 2014

Michigan lawmakers score poorly in report on dealing with cancer

The American Cancer Society-Cancer Action Network’s annual “How Do You Measure Up” report says Michigan state lawmakers should be doing more to reduce cancer risks.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan state lawmakers need to do more to help protect people from cancer. That’s the finding of a new study by the American Cancer Society.

The American Cancer Society says 58,610 people in Michigan will be diagnosed with cancer this year;  20,800 will die.

Nationwide, the society estimates 1.6 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in 2014, and 580,000 will die from the disease. 

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s annual “How Do You Measure Up” report says Michigan state lawmakers should be doing more to reduce cancer risks.

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Education
5:37 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

State approves loan for Detroit Public Schools requested by emergency manager

Credit Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

A state emergency loan board  agreed to lend the Detroit Public Schools $111 million to make up for a funding shortfall, on the same day state schools superintendent Mike Flanagan approved the district's new deficit elimination plan.

The state expects to lend about 200 school districts money to help them start the school year. That is normal in Michigan, which doesn’t send its first school aid payments until October.

But in Detroit, the process has pitted the school board in the state’s largest district against its emergency manager.

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Families & Community
4:55 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

This one thing meant the world to a runaway teen

Veronica Riddle ran away from home as a teenager. She wants people to know that spending time and talking with troubled youth can be a big deal. Here's why.

Stateside
4:45 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

New book explores Civil War re-enactments in Michigan

American Civil War re-enactment
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Michigan embraced the Union cause before the first shot at Fort Sumpter was ever fired. And Michigan soldiers and sailors were involved in virtually all of the campaigns and battles of the Civil War.

A new book looks at the ways Michiganders were a part of the Civil War through photographs of some of the 10,000 Civil War re-enactors in Michigan.

It's called "American Civil War Years: The Michigan Experience (The Reenactors' Telling)."

“We really wanted to pay tribute to these people who are out there in 100-degree weather in wool,” said iMichigan Productions’ Donna Ullrich, the editor of the book.

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Stateside
4:44 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

Will Detroit be able to pay its bills after bankruptcy?

Credit JSFauxtaugraphy/Flickr

Bridge Magazine writer Mike Wilkinson recently wrote a piece that explored the dollars-and-cents of Detroit, post-bankruptcy and beyond.

It's titled “Can Detroit Pay Its Bills Post-Bankruptcy?”

Wilkinson said though Detroit has been cash strapped for a while in terms of debt, it does generate a lot of money. It has the highest income tax and property tax in the state. It is the only city in the state allowed to levy a utility tax. And it has an averaged $179 million in casino taxes.

“It’s raising more money than Cincinnati, Chicago, Kansas City, Orlando, in terms of per person,” Wilkinson said.

Assuming that Kevyn Orr’s Plan of Adjustment is approved by Judge Rhodes, will this revenue be enough to pay the bills? Wilkinson wrote in his piece, “Revenues alone do not a budget make.”

And Eric Scorsone, an MSU professor and expert on city finances, said in order to answer that question, we must ask what will Detroit spend the money on?

“The truth is it would be very easy to overspend again as Detroit has in most of its history, and that’s going to be the real challenge for the political leadership of Detroit.” Scorsone said.

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Stateside
4:43 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

Will we see candidate debates this fall?

Credit CALI - Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction / Flickr

We're about two and a half months away from the November general election and two big statewide races – the race for Governor and U.S. Senate.

We're seeing plenty of advertisements in the campaigns, but no debates between the candidates.

Jack Lessenberry, Michigan Radio’s political commentator, said the reason for this is that front runners of the elections don’t want to give their opponents a shot to upstage them.

Lessenberry said Governor Snyder doesn’t want a debate for this very reason, as it would give his opponent, Democrat Mark Schauer, a chance to win the public over.

However the same is not said for the Senate candidates. Republican Terri Lynn Land is falling behind Democrat Gary Peters in polls. Normally Land would want the debate and Peters would not, but in this case, it's the opposite.

Lessenberry said he expects at least one debate in the governor's race, but it is unclear whether there will be one for the Senate race.

*Listen to the full interview with Jack Lessenberry above. 

Law
2:15 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

Court agrees that male guards can sue over jobs at women's prison

Outside the Women's Huron Valley Correctional Facility in Ypsilanti.
Credit Michigan Department of Corrections

PITTSFIELD TOWNSHIP – The Michigan Court of Appeals  has cleared the way for a class-action lawsuit by dozens of male guards who say they've been denied overtime and job assignments at the state's only prison for women.

In a 3-0 opinion released Wednesday, the court affirmed the decision of a Washtenaw County judge.

The lawsuit centers on employment rules at the Huron Valley prison for women. In response to allegations of sexual abuse at the prison, the Civil Service Commission approved job qualifications that put only women in certain jobs.

The lawsuit claims the Michigan Department of Corrections is violating the civil rights of male officers at the prison.

The appeals court says officers have cleared the threshold for a class-action lawsuit, based on the number of plaintiffs, common issues and other factors.

Education
1:17 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

DPS to get bridge loan; Benton Harbor schools in financial emergency

Credit Sharon Drummond / Flickr

A state loan board will choose between two competing proposals to give a short-term bridge loan to the Detroit Public Schools. One is from the district’s emergency manager. The other is an alternative proposed by the school board.

The district is under the control of an emergency manager while it digs out of a deficit. The district’s teachers are opposing a plan to close 24 schools and cut their pay by 10%. This would be the second round of pay cuts for Detroit teachers.

Gov. Rick Snyder says the district’s troubles require tough choices.

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Stateside
12:22 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

Pinkerton Security is moving its headquarters to Ann Arbor

Allan Pinkerton, the founder of Pinkerton Security, circa 1861.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

The Pinkerton security firm is one of the legendary brand names in American history. It was founded by Allan Pinkerton in 1850.

Pinkerton protected President Lincoln – even discovered a plot to assassinate him in 1861. Sadly, Pinkerton's men were not with Lincoln on that fateful night at Ford's Theatre.

Pinkerton men tracked down Butch Cassidy and the Hole-In-The-Wall Gang and pursued Jesse James. Pinkerton agents were also a part of the historic Battle of the Overpass at the Ford River Rouge Plant in 1937.

Now, the 164-year-old security company is moving its global headquarters from New Jersey to Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The Midwest is home for Pinkerton.

Jack Zahran, the president of the company, said that was a deciding factor for the move. Another factor was access to employees with high technological skills, as the company is focusing more on online security.

“We’re not on horseback anymore, and so we are protecting things in a digital space now,” Zahran said.

*Listen to the full interview with Jack Zahran above.

Economy
12:13 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

Work to clean up Detroit's Packard Plant could start soon

Image of the Packard Plant in Detroit. Crews could start cleaning the site soon.
Credit user memories_by_mike / Flickr

The Detroit Free Press sat down for an interview with the Packard Plant's new owner, Fernando Palazuelo.

He told the Freep that he had to negotiate with former owners of the plant to get a free and clear title. Now that he has that, he says they'll start cleaning up the site in the coming weeks:

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Education
11:16 am
Wed August 20, 2014

Detroit Public Schools to cut teachers' pay in upcoming school year

Outside Bagley Elementary in Detroit.
Credit DPS

Michigan education officials approved a plan by Detroit Public Schools to cut teachers' pay by 10%.

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan announced today that he signed off on the district's five-year deficit elimination plan.

The Detroit Public School district has been in financial trouble for quite some time. DPS currently has a $127 million deficit.

The Detroit News’ Jennifer Chambers reports that school closures are also part of the plan:

The pay cut, which will impact all teachers and administrators starting Oct. 1, came after the district was forced to make budget cuts to offset expected revenues from a failed countywide tax millage. The wage concession for teachers would generate $13.3 million in savings. District wide, the savings will be $21.1 million.

The district’s financial plan also calls for the closure of 24 schools or buildings over four years, starting with the 2015-16 academic year.

In addition to the cuts, Chambers reports the state’s Local Financial Assistance Loan Board approved a plan that will allow DPS to borrow $111 million in state aid notes to pay its bills.

Politics & Government
10:36 am
Wed August 20, 2014

The week in Michigan politics

Credit gophouse.com

This Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry and Emily Fox discuss possible teacher pay cuts and school closings for Detroit Public Schools, if there will be broadcasted debates with candidates for governor and the U.S. Senate, and what to expect at the Republican and Democratic conventions this weekend.

Week in Michigan politics interview for 8/20/14

Opinion
10:15 am
Wed August 20, 2014

It's OK to support a candidate even if you don't agree with their every position

Both major political parties have their state conventions this week. Republicans are meeting in Novi; Democrats in Lansing.

There’s always an element of the high school reunion about these conventions; people, including the press, look forward to them in part because they get to see old friends.

However, there are also squabbles.

Most of this year’s focus has been on the Republican gathering, where Tea Party insurgents are attempting to throw Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley off the ticket.

Democrats, however, have their own struggle behind the scenes.

In case you are new to this, these conventions actually nominate most of each party’s candidates for statewide office.

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