News

Goldom / Wikimedia

DETROIT - Ford says it's expanding a recall for faulty driver's side air bag inflators to the entire U.S. as demanded by the government.

The move adds 447,000 Ford vehicles to the list of those recalled due to driver's inflators made by Japan's Takata Corp. The inflators can explode with too much force, spewing shrapnel into drivers and passengers.

Ford's action puts pressure on BMW and Chrysler, the only two automakers that haven't agreed to national recalls. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration made the demand, saying the inflators are dangerous.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit retirees face some big cuts in 2015—and hundreds of them packed two area churches to hear more about it Wednesday.

Detroit’s non-uniform retirees will take 4.5% direct pension cuts as a result of the city’s bankruptcy restructuring plan, which took effect Dec. 10.

Governor Rick Snyder plans to sign an executive order this morning to create a new state department with a focus on improving the state's workforce. It will be called the Department of Talent and Economic Development.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation will be moved into it. So will the state's unemployment agency. Governor Snyder says developing talent will give Michigan an edge over other states and countries in attracting employers.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Flint teachers union has agreed to layoffs and a seven year wage freeze to avoid a deep pay cut. 

The Flint Board of Education approved a plan last night that includes cutting around 70 jobs through layoffs and consolidation.  

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint firefighters’ next contract will be decided by a state board.

Last night, the Flint city council approved an alternative contract to the one the city’s emergency manager wants to impose on Flint firefighters.

Chestnut Growers, Inc.

During this holiday season, we hear Nat King Cole crooning about those chestnuts again. Did you know that Michigan leads the nation in chestnut production?

Yet most of us have never eaten a chestnut. That is something Dennis Fulbright wants to change. He's a plant pathologist and professor with Michigan State University.

LGBT flag.
Guillaume Paumier / Flickr

In Michigan, you can be fired or denied housing for being gay. That's because there are no LGBT protections in the state's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

The story of  teacher Gerry Crane illustrates that. Crane, a gay high school music teacher, was outed by his students, forced to resign, and several months later died of a stress-related heart attack. 

Christine Yared, an attorney from Grand Rapids, is writing a book about Crane's life. The book will be called "Gay Teacher: A Story About Love, Hate, and Lessons Yet To Be Learned."

Persons with Fungal Infections Linked to Steroid Injections, by State
CDC

UPDATE: This story was updated on 12/18/14 at 9:48 am

Fourteen people face federal charges for mishandling tainted drugs that caused a nationwide meningitis outbreak.

A co-owner of the New England Compounding Center and the supervisory pharmacist face the most serious charges of causing the deaths of 64 people; 23 of those victims were from Michigan.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says his office helped in the federal investigation and he’s pleased to see it led to serious charges.

Ron Kagan has been head of the Detroit Zoo for more than 20 tumultuous years. During that time, he fought off an effort by Detroit City Council to close the zoo and helped win its independence years before the city’s bankruptcy gave the art institute its own near-death experience.

He’s also led a transformation of the zoo from a somewhat tired park to a leader in worldwide conservation efforts and a much more exciting place.

The zoo’s Arctic Ring of Life is the nation’s largest polar bear exhibit; next year, a new penguin conservation center and wolf habitat will open. Attendance has swollen so much that Kagan is now facing the unwelcome chore of planning a new parking structure.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The state Senate may vote in the next day or so on major changes to Michigan’s medical marijuana law.

The bills would create a framework for licensing dispensaries and regulating edible forms of marijuana. 

Critics say the legislation is too vague.  

“I think it’s the equivalent of Obamacare in terms of not being vetted properly,” says Terrence Jungel, with the Michigan Sheriff’s' Association. 

But supporters say the legislation has been under development for years and is not being rushed through in the final days of the Legislature’s lame-duck session.

One thing we’ll miss after Rep. John Dingell retires at the end of this year will be his “jingles.”

Dingell releases these jingles each year for the holidays. The longest serving member in U.S. Congress  kills it on Twitter. And today he announced - via Twitter, of course - that his annual jingle is ready:

Released by the family

Update 4:30 pm: 

Congressman Dan Kildee, who represents Flint's disrict,  says news of Hekmati's hunger strike is worrying, but:

"I understand that he’s sitting there in the lonely and quiet of his own cell feeling like he’s isolated, where he can't see all the ongoing efforts on his case, where he would feel like he could do something to call attention to his case. He’s doing what I think he thinks he can do.

"We literally work on this case every single day. Our main goal, and hopefully Amir hears this, our main goal is to keep his case in frontal lobe of everyone who is paying attention to Iran, so that if a moment occurs when Iran see it’s in their interested to make a gesture towards the international community, they will see that the release of Amir Hekmati would be a tangible gesture that demonstrates that they are truly serious about becoming a member of the international community. "

Michigan Radio has learned that Amir Hekmati, the US citizen and former Marine who has been imprisoned in Iran for 3 years on charges of spying, which he denies, has sent a letter to President Obama describing his fading hopes for release and begging that his own fate not be tied to nuclear negotiations. 

His sister Sarah Hekmati has confirmed to Michigan Radio that he has also launched a hunger strike. 

The full letter is below: 

user Kcdtsg / wikimedia commons

This week, Jack Lessenberry and Emily Fox discuss the final days of lame duck, including the hold up on a plan to fix the roads, a pair of Senate-approved abortion coercion bills, and a bill that would impact online purchases made in Michigan.


Mark Brush

 

About 10 years ago, a weird chemical started showing up in the drinking water in St. Louis, Michigan.

It was a byproduct of DDT. The insecticide is now banned in the U.S., but DDT was manufactured in St. Louis for 20 years.

Now, the city is working to get a new source of drinking water. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The state of Michigan is handing out $75 million to help a dozen cities deal with blighted homes.    $50 million is going to Detroit.

Mary Townley is with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.    She says the federal grant dollars are intended to remove dilapidated homes and help neighborhoods.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Gas prices in part of Michigan have fallen below two dollars a gallon.

Gasbuddy.com reports motorists in Greenville and Lowell, near Grand Rapids, are paying $1.99 a gallon. 

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

UPDATE: This story was updated on 12/17/14 at 3:36 pm 

State officials are reporting what they say is a small natural gas leak in a pipeline in the Upper Peninsula that’s owned by Enbridge Energy.

Brad Wurfel of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says the leak near Manistique was discovered, reported, and fixed by Enbridge. He says there was a small amount of liquid natural gas released, but it quickly evaporated.

“The good news is there’s no lingering environmental damage to discuss with this incident,” he said.

State Capitol
user aunt owwee / Flickr

A couple hundred people showed up outside the state Capitol to protest House Bill 5958, which would create a Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“Five-nine-five-eight is a license to discriminate!” the group chanted on a march around the Capitol and through downtown Lansing.

Bob Pratt of East Lansing was one of the protestors. He says it’s aimed at enabling discrimination against LGBT people.

“There’s no reason for a bill like this. And to then call it the religious freedom bill when it really is a license to discriminate,” he said. “It’s the freedom to discriminate against people that you don’t like and then hide behind religion for it.”

via Think Detroit PAL

DETROIT — A $33 million plan to build apartments and retail shops on the city-owned site of the old Tiger Stadium and a second proposal for a Detroit youth sports headquarters on the land are moving forward.

The Detroit Economic Growth Corp. board approved the plans Tuesday for the fabled corner of Michigan and Trumbull.

Bloomfield Hills-based Larson Realty Group wants to construct a 4-story building that includes retail space and 102 apartments in a project called The Corner. Two dozen town houses also are planned.

Jake Neher / MPRN

A group of semi-truck drivers made some noise Tuesday outside the state Capitol.

Several 18-wheelers circled the building with horns blaring to protest legislation that would increase fines and fees for overweight vehicles. It’s likely to be part of a compromise plan to increase funding to fix Michigan’s roads.

State Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, says too many lawmakers are blaming truckers for poor road conditions.

“What are some of the folks here doing? They’re pointing fingers at them as if they’re the problem – and, ‘Go get ‘em!’ I think they’re frustrated with that and I think they’ve had enough,” said Casperson.

Gov. Rick Snyder.
Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

Michigan has faced and tackled many issues in 2014. Zoe Clark talked to Gov. Rick Snyder about the past year, and what he'd like to achieve in the future.

A bill allowing suspicion-based drug testing for people on welfare has passed the Michigan House and Senate and is awaiting the governor’s decision.

Snyder says he still needs more time to review the bill in detail. A number of states have already passed similar policies, and Snyder says he is paying close attention to their effects.

FCA

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is changing the name of its American division.

Chrysler (actually Chrysler Group, LLC) is now FCA US LLC.  Or FCA US for short.

FCA explained the change this way:

the nyerges family
Courtesy of Jane-Ann Nyerges

It's been over 40 years since the Michigan Chemical Corporation/Velsicol made a catastrophic mistake that affected millions of Michigan residents.

The company from St. Louis, Michigan, shipped a toxic flame retardant chemical to the Farm Bureau Service instead of a nutritional supplement. That chemical was PBB or polybrominated biphenyl.

PBB was mixed into livestock feed, but it took a year to discover the accident. Millions of consumers ate contaminated milk, meat, and eggs during this time.

Jane-Ann Nyerges was one of the farming families whose lives were changed after the PBB contamination.

School Bus
Nicolae Gerasim / Flickr

The American Academy of Pediatrics says teens need to sleep later. The Academy is challenging America’s schools to not start high school classes until at least 8:30 a.m.

Michigan State Police

Detroit-area residents are getting a reported $246 million in federal recovery money after the August floods.

FEMA has approved $141 million in grants, while businesses will get another $104 million in low-interest loans.

But others are still waiting.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The long-vacant Strathmore Hotel in Midtown Detroit  is reportedly being rehabbed to become an apartment complex, opening in 2016. The eight-story building at 160 West Alexandrine is being gutted and cleaned up right now.

Kellogg logo
Flickr user EthelRedThePetrolHead / Flickr

Lobbyists aren't the most well liked people, but George Franklin, attorney and former lobbyist who became the Vice President of World Wide Government Relations for the Kellogg Company, would like to change your perception of them.

Franklin is currently the head of Franklin Public Affairs in Kalamazoo and recently wrote a memoir about his time in Washington entitled "Raisin Bran and Other Cereals: 30 Years of Lobbying for the Most Famous Tiger in the World."

Four years ago, Michigan voters were asked if they wanted to summon a convention to write a new state constitution.

We said no, by a two-to-one margin. Nobody collected signatures to put that on the ballot, by the way. Under the current constitution, we’re automatically asked every 16 years if we want a convention to write a new one.

We’ll be asked again in 12 years.

But I now think the voters made a mistake in 2010. We may well need a new constitution, because there’s increasing evidence the old one, written in the early 1960s, no longer works.

An ailing robin fledging in Teri Kniffen's yard in St. Louis, Michigan in June of 2013.  Some of the highest levels of DDT ever recorded in bird livers and brains were found in this neighborhood.
Teri Kniffen

All this week we're bringing you stories about the chemical company responsible for the PBB tragedy in Michigan. Michigan Chemical accidentally contaminated the state’s food supply in the 1970s, but the legacy of that company is still very much with us today.

Michigan Chemical – which later became Velsicol Chemical – made more than just PBB, and it left these toxic chemicals behind in St. Louis, Michigan.

One woman insists something is wrong with the birds

user MoBikeFed / flickr

Criminal incidents are on the decline in the Detroit Public Schools, according to new data from school officials.

“Serious incidents” such as assault and weapons possession dropped from 456 in the first three months of last school year, to 343 during the same time frame this year—a nearly 25% decline.

“It’s a larger ongoing trend,” said DPS police chief Stacy Brackens. “We’ve had a downward trend since 2010.”

Pages