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Environment & Science
6:07 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

Groups say Fermi 2 nuclear plant license shouldn't be renewed

Fermi 2
Credit NRC

Several environmental and citizens groups argued today against extending the life of DTE Energy's Fermi 2 nuclear power plant in Monroe.

The groups presented multiple safety and environmental concerns about the plant to the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board. They had been granted permission to intervene in DTE Energy's application for a 20-year extension of its license to operate the Fermi 2 nuclear reactor.  

DTE wants permission to keep the plant open until 2045. Its current license expires in 2025.

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Politics & Government
5:47 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

State Representative who lost bid for state Senate by 59 votes wants a recount

Credit Official photo / House Democrats

A state Representative from Kalamazoo says he wants the votes from November’s election recounted.

Democrat Sean McCann ran against Republican State Rep. Margaret O’Brien for the state Senate. He lost by 59 votes. That’s less than one-tenth-of-one-percent of the total votes cast.

“We really want to make sure that everyone’s vote counted. We heard of some people with problems at precincts – some tabulators jamming,” McCann said.

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Weekly Political Roundup
5:30 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

The politics behind changing Michigan's Electoral College votes

State Capitol
Credit Joe Dearman / Flickr

Each week, Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, join me to talk Michigan politics.

This week, we talked about a plan in the State House that would change how Michigan distributes its Electoral College votes.

You can listen to our conversation below.

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Politics & Government
5:13 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

Prison policy activists see opportunity in “lame duck” to cut correction spending

Credit Kevin Rosseel / morguefile

Bills that seek to reduce prison spending in Michigan seem to have momentum going into the last weeks of the Legislature’s 2014 session.

Michigan spends about $2 billion every year on prisons. The legislation seeks to reduce the length of some prison stays and provide more supervision for people after they are released from prison.

The most widely supported proposal would create a commission to oversee sentencing guidelines and discuss other corrections policies.

“It creates a forum for exploring all this. And it’s something Michigan badly needs,” said Barbara Levine with the Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending.

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Stateside
5:03 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

A few surprises might await new members of Congress as they move to Washington

U.S. Capitol Building

Freshman year in Congress isn't that different from freshman year in college.

Michigan has five new "rookie representatives-elect" that now have to worry about making new friends, finding a place to live, and even taking part in a freshman orientation before they can begin their work.

We talked to Sheryl Gay Stolberg, author of the New York Times piece After Victory Laps, Settling In As Rookies, about what new Congressional members go through during the transition to Washington.

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Families & Community
4:11 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

Metro Detroit community raises orphaned baby deer

Baby the deer in Pleasant Ridge.
Tawni Grosman Lambroff

Not much happens in the tiny Detroit suburb of Pleasant Ridge, Michigan -- I would know, because I grew up there. 

But last spring, an unlikely visitor came to town: a mother deer who was pregnant with a fawn.

People were surprised that the mother deer would choose Pleasant Ridge, because the town is wedged between Woodward Avenue and 10 Mile Road, both busy streets.

After giving birth, fears for the safety of the deer were realized. The mother deer was killed by a car on Woodward, leaving behind her fawn, now known as "Baby."

People in Pleasant Ridge wanted to be sure that the same cruel fate wouldn't befall Baby, so they began taking care of her.

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Transportation
4:05 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

Not enough pipelines leads to natural gas brownout in Thumb

Farmers in the thumb were drying wheat later than usual when cold weather moved in
Credit Mr. Bologna/Flickr.com

Consumers Energy says there's plenty of natural gas.

But in the thumb of Michigan, there are not enough pipelines - and that led to an unusual request from the company on  Thursday.

Consumers asked farmers who use natural gas-fueled blowers to dry their grain to temporarily hold off on the activity during daylight hours.

Consumers Energy spokesman Dan Bishop says an unusually late harvest combined with an unusually early cold snap to create the spike in demand.

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Weather
12:51 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

Some vehicles need escort across Mackinac Bridge today

The Mackinac Bridge on a warmer day.
Credit Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Strong winds are sweeping across the state today leading the Mackinac Bridge Authority to take some precautions. Workers will escort some larger vehicles across the bridge. 

From MDOT:

Currently we are experiencing winds of sufficient force in the Straits area to require an escort of certain "high profile" vehicles across the Mackinac Bridge.

Examples of high profile vehicles include pickup trucks with campers; cars with small boats, bicycles or luggage attached to the roof; Ryder or U-Haul trucks; any vehicle pulling a boat; semi-tractors with enclosed trailers and all trailers with side walls over two feet in height. High profile vehicles must be escorted.

Motorists are asked to reduce their speed to 20 miles per hour as they approach the bridge and be prepared to stop. Bridge personnel are stationed at both ends of the structure to provide instructions regarding how and when to proceed across the bridge.

Since the bridge first opened, only two vehicles have gone over the edge, according to the Associated Press and MLive's Fritz Klug. The strong winds can lead to accidents on the bridge. 

Check out the wind map for a visual on how the winds are blowing today.

Opinion
11:06 am
Thu November 20, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving. Now get off our lawn

I saw a poster the other day on the Internet that I really wish I could have framed and put on the wall. It said something like “Illegal immigrants refuse to learn our language, yet still get food assistance.”

What it showed was the first Thanksgiving.

What it could have added was that those same undocumented aliens were often guilty of tremendous violence against the native population.

Today, the descendants of those illegal immigrants have been wrestling with what do to about those who followed in their footsteps, centuries later.

The fact is that there are millions of so-called undocumented aliens in this country, maybe 100,000 in Michigan, and that our economy depends on them.

These immigrants, by and large, do the jobs nobody else wants, working hard for little money. When they do become legal, they tend to be tremendous job creators. Gov. Rick Snyder knows this; that’s why he has asked Washington to make more visas available for immigrants with special skills to come to Detroit.

There are legal immigration routes, complex and bureaucratic. But there are also millions who came without papers, or were brought here as children.

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The Environment Report
11:03 am
Thu November 20, 2014

Great Lakes invaders go digital

UW-Madison sophomore Alex Idarraga carefully feeds a paper sheet holding a delicate dried plant into a light box. He is photographing the specimen for an online database of Great Lakes invasive species.
David Tenenbaum UW-Madison News

More than 2,500 species of plants, fish and mollusks will be invading the internet soon.

It’s an effort by more than 20 museums and universities around the Great Lakes region (including the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Central Michigan University). They’re teaming up to digitize their collections of species that are not native to the Great Lakes.

Ken Cameron directs the Wisconsin State Herbarium at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and he’s leading the project. He and his collaborators will be pulling fish and mollusks out of jars and taking dried plants out of drawers, taking photos of them, and uploading them to the online collection along with data about the species. He and his colleagues around the region will be doing this for 1.73 million specimens.

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The Environment Report
10:15 am
Thu November 20, 2014

Army Corps considers more barriers to block Asian carp

A bighead carp.
Credit Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is figuring out new ways to try to block two species of Asian carp — bighead and silver — from getting into Lake Michigan. The Corps also wants to block other aquatic nonnative species from getting into the Lakes from the Mississippi River system.

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Education
10:11 am
Thu November 20, 2014

Flint School Board passes revised deficit plan, but teachers balk at pay cut

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Flint Community Schools Board of Trustees approved a revised deficit elimination plan last night. 

But the district’s unions haven’t signed off on a key part of the plan. 

To make the plan work, district officials factored in a 15% pay cut for employees. District officials suggest without the contract concessions, the Flint school district could potentially start down the road to a state takeover.

Ethel Johnson is president of the United Teachers of Flint. She says they’ve already given up too much. 

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Education
6:58 am
Thu November 20, 2014

Audits show mixed results for school districts under state oversight

Benton Harbor schools are under higher state oversight because of financial problems.
Credit Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Three of the five school districts that face more scrutiny from Michigan’s Department of Treasury have reduced their general fund deficits last school year. That’s according to independent audits recently filed to the state. But some still face serious, ongoing problems. Here’s a breakdown of how the districts ended the 2013-14 school year.

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Politics & Government
9:21 pm
Wed November 19, 2014

Detroit ramps up $100 "side lot" program

Betty Hagedus in front of her southwest Detroit home. She plans to plant flowers and trees on her expanded lot.
Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

More Detroiters living next to vacant lots will get a chance to buy them.

The city is ramping up a program to sell “side lots” to neighboring homeowners for just $100. The Detroit City Council recently transferred thousands of properties to the Detroit Land Bank Authority, which is running the program.

The land bank currently has a little more than 7000 properties in its inventory, says spokesman Craig Fahle.

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Stateside
5:29 pm
Wed November 19, 2014

A history of President Truman's national healthcare plan

Credit Lord Mariser / Flickr

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear yet another challenge to the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.

The case, King v. Burwell, argues that because of the wording in a clause of the ACA, people who get insurance through a federal exchange and not a state-run exchange should not be entitled to tax credit subsidies.

As the Obamacare battle continues, Dr. Howard Markel, physician and medical historian from the University of Michigan, thinks it might be helpful to look back -- 69 years back, to this exact day, November 19, in 1945. That’s when President Harry Truman spelled out a ground-breaking idea: a “universal” national health care program. 

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Stateside
5:21 pm
Wed November 19, 2014

Economic importance of Gov. Snyder's trip to China

Credit Rick Snyder / Flickr

Governor Snyder leaves for China today on his fourth trade mission to Asia. Tom Watkins has spent many years, in many different roles, campaigning for stronger ties between China and Michigan.

Watkins says Governor Snyder has two goals for this trip: promote Michigan goods and services, and attract foreign direct investment (FDI). China has plans to invest $1 trillion around the world, so it is important for Governor Snyder to attract FDI in order to create new jobs and opportunities within the state, says Watkins.

Watkins says there is a chance to develop a good relationship with China, as Chinese car companies have set up several R&D plants in southeast Michigan.. There are also a number of international students from China at state universities here. But Watkins warns it's not quick or easy work. "Doing business in China is not an economic one night stand," said Watkins. "You can’t just do one trip there.” Listen to our conversation with Watkins below:


Stateside
5:19 pm
Wed November 19, 2014

A history of Bissell Inc.

Credit Internet Archive Book Images / Flickr

Sometimes it’s a persistent annoyance that leads to a great solution. In this case the annoyance was cleaning up sawdust. It led to the creation of one of the most enduring ‘Made in Michigan’ brand names: Bissell. If you’ve ever shampooed or vacuumed your carpet with a Bissell machine, you can thank sawdust back in 1876. Mark Bissell is CEO of the Grand Rapids based company that bears his name.

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Business
3:56 pm
Wed November 19, 2014

Nine major Michigan businesses get top scores on LGBT equality

Credit user Marlith / Flickr

Nine major businesses based in Michigan got top scores for workplace equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual  and transgender workers.  That's according to the 2015 Corporate Equality Index released today by the Human Rights Campaign Fund, a leading national LGBT civil rights organization.

The Detroit 3 automakers were among those ranked highest - along with Kellogg, Steelcase, Whirlpool and Dow Chemical.

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Opinion
3:52 pm
Wed November 19, 2014

People don’t hold journalists or lawyers in very high esteem, to put it mildly

When it comes to maintaining trust in government, possibly the most important thing is the integrity of the courts. As a journalist, I spend a lot of time talking about what’s wrong with government, but today I want to talk about something that seems to work pretty well, which is the relationship between the press and the people in charge of our justice system.

Surveys show that people don’t hold journalists or lawyers in very high esteem, to put it mildly. Judges do better, but in recent years the bench has also been touched by controversy and scandal, from the Michigan Supreme Court justice who went to federal prison to the Wayne County judge who had sex in his chambers.

Recently I presided over two panels, completely open to the public, that were designed to explore how the press covers the courts. The sessions were mostly on the record, no holds barred, and were jointly sponsored by the State Bar of Michigan and the Society or Professional Journalists.

Last week’s panel featured two of Michigan’s top prosecutors, Barbara McQuade, the federal attorney for the eastern half of Michigan, and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.

Last night, it was U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds, who presided over the long and media-intense Kwame Kilpatrick trial. Topic A was what they thought of the press and how they felt the press covered the legal process and the courts.

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Law
3:44 pm
Wed November 19, 2014

Judge allows challenge to emergency manager law to move ahead

Credit (photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A federal judge in Detroit has refused to toss out a legal challenge to Michigan’s emergency manager law. Judge Joseph Caram Steeh will allow a trial on the claim the law violates equal protection rights in the U.S. Constitution.

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